Tricounty News

Centuries of Progress opens

March 1 - May 10, at Stearns History Museum & Research Center

What do the telephone, the Ferris Wheel, a 28,000-pound typewriter, and nylon stockings have in common? They were just a few of the thousands of products, curiosities, and inventions that made their debut at one of 17 international festivals on American soil.

The exhibition Centuries of Progress: American World's Fairs, 1853-1982 presents a remarkable overview of more than a century of American World's Fairs. Visitors will enjoy more than 125 objects, photographs, and ephemera that detail progress, promotion, and public response. Beginning with the 1853 Crystal Palace exhibition in New York through the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tenn., World's Fairs have emphasized the technological, cultural, and political advances that form the American society that we enjoy today.

History of the fairs is related through six thematic categories: Progress as a Way of Life introduces the rationale for the creation of World's Fairs. Marketplace of Ideas demonstrates the immense opportunity manufacturers had to market new technologies, while Consumerism depicts fair-goers as an eager audience for innovative goods, from Juicy Fruit to Wonder Bread and Dr. Pepper. Art, Architecture, and Music and Popular Amusements illustrate the vast entertainment options available to fair-goers, from colossal buildings and sculptures to carnival rides and exhibitions of "exotic" lands and cultures. Finally, Remembering the Fair includes souvenirs and commemorative items. After all, who could go home empty-handed after experiencing the wonders of a World's Fair?

The exhibition is organized by the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, Del., and is toured by ExhibitsUSA, a national program of Mid-America Arts Alliance. ExhibitsUSA sends more than 20 exhibitions on tour to more than 100 small- and mid-sized communities every year. Mid-America is the oldest nonprofit regional arts organization in the United States. More information is available at and