Newly sworn President, Franklin Pierce was in attendance when the first New York World’s Fair opened on July 14, 1853.  Called the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, it was held in what is now Bryant Park in New York City.  There had been a highly successful Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and this event in 1853 aimed to showcase the new industrial achievements of the world and also to demonstrate the nationalistic pride of a relatively young nation and all that she stood for.   Jacob Aaron Westervelt, at that time Mayor of New York, was the President of the exhibition-committee. The general superintendent was Admiral DuPont.

The fair was seen by over 1.1 million visitors before it closes on Nov. 14, 1854. The fair featured its own glass and iron exhibition building – the New York Crystal Palace – directly inspired by London’s. The Palace was destroyed by fire on October 5, 1858.

Walt Whitman, an American poet wrote “The Song of the Exposition”:

… a Palace,
Lofter, fairer, ampler than any yet,
Earth’s modern wonder, History’s Seven out stripping,
High rising tier on tier, with glass and iron facades,
Gladdening the sun and sky – enhued in the cheerfulest hues,
Bronze, lilac, robin’s-egg, marine and crimson
Over whose golden roof shall flaunt, beneath thy banner, Freedom.

Adjoining the Crystal Palace was the Latting Observatory, a wooden tower 315 feet (96 m) high adjoining the Crystal Palace, allowed visitors to see into Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey. The tower, taller than the spire of Trinity Church at 290 feet (88 m), was the tallest structure in New York City from the time it was constructed in 1853 until it burnt down on August 30, 1856.

Today, the expo is also remembered as the place where Elisha Otis demonstrated an elevator equipped with a device called a safety, which would kick in if the hoisting rope broke.

Otis free-fall safety demonstration in 1853.

Otis free-fall safety demonstration in 1853.


This addressed a major public concern regarding the safety of elevators. Three years later, Otis installed the first passenger elevator in the United States in a New York City store.



My post from one year ago today: Bastille Day



One response

  1. Birgit says:

    Too bad they caught fire, but knowing how North America is, it would have been torn down. Wonderful invention with the elevator safety-truly needed