Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Transportation at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition!

Yesterday, I had a chance to talk with Stacey Swigart, who is the Curator of Collections here at Please Touch Museum. I was wondering how all of those people made it to and from Memorial Hall during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. Stacey had a lot of information for me and I want to share it all with you!

Over 10 million people were in Philadelphia during the six month span that the 1876 Centennial Exhibition was open! “Center City” Philadelphia was several miles away and it took a bit longer to get to Fairmount Park then, than it does today. How did people get to the Fair? Many walked. Major transportation included railroads, street cars, steamboats, and vehicles—horse drawn wagons and carriages. The carrying capacity of passengers, per hour, for each was:

Street Cars—12,180

That means an average of 21,930 passengers were moving around an hour at any given time during the day! Fares from downtown Philadelphia to the Exhibition gates ranged from 9 cents for street cars to $3.00 for closed carriages! Most horse-drawn vehicles could travel the distance in about forty-five minutes. Local owners of carts and wagons retrofitted them with temporary seats so that they could make some cash transporting people themselves. Most traffic converged on the Girard Avenue Bridge—causing huge traffic tie-ups!

On the river, rowboats, tugboats and sailboats looked for the closest landings—and trains—the most popular mode of transportation, dropped and picked up passengers outside the gates every five minutes. At the Pennsylvania Railroad Depot, built especially for the Fair just outside the fairgrounds, excursion trains were dropping people off every thirty seconds from all points north, south, east and west!

Cabs (carriages) sit outside the main
entrance gates of the Centennial Exhibition
waiting to pick up passengers.
(Please Touch Museum Collection)

A Pennsylvania Railroad “trade” card,
advertising the places and amenities the railroad
company provided to passengers visiting the World’s Fair.
(Please Touch Museum Collection)

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Join Pinky, one of Please Touch Museum's resident puppets, on an inside look into all the fun, educational things happening at Philly's Children's Museum. This blog is not just about what we do at the museum, but about the educational philosophy behind why we do what we do.