Sesquicentennial Memories at Strawberry Mansion

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Sesquicentennial Memories at Strawberry Mansion

2012-01-18 16:31

The Sesquicentennial International Exposition, held in Philadelphia in 1926, is widely considered to be a monumental flop. Hoping to recreate the success of the Centennial Exposition of 1876, funders pumped a veritable fortune into building a temporary city on what is now Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. For goodness’ sake, the first bridge between Philadelphia and New Jersey (today known as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge) was built in greedy anticipation of hordes of paying customers. But the hordes didn’t come, and, embarrassingly, the Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association was placed in equity receivership in 1927 for its inability to pay off its debts.

In the midst of this disappointment and scandal, one exhibit stood out as a rare success: “High Street of 1776.” Organized by the Women’s Committee of the Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association, the street reproduced the look of High Street (present-day Market Street) as it was around the time of the Revolution. Visitors strolled through the streets of replica homes, shops, and other structures, surrounded by docents in period costume. To cover a portion of the expense, the Women’s Committee secured the participation of local businesses and groups (such as the Daughters of the American Revolution), to sponsor a building and furnish its interior. The overall effect was as desired, and word-of-mouth publicity was good: to the extent that anyone flocked to the Exposition, they flocked to High Street.

After the close of the Sesquicentennial Exposition, the Women’s Committee was still riding high on their success. They parlayed that enthusiasm into forming the Committee of 1926, which was composed of many members from the dissolved Women’s Committee. The Committee of 1926 accepted stewardship of Strawberry Mansion, owned by the City of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Commission. They furnished and refurbished the historic property, turning into a museum, and continue to operate Strawberry Mansion to this day. Strawberry Mansion is the repository for several archival collections, including the records of the Women’s Committee, the Committee of 1926, and even a tidy number of John Lukens letters (Surveyor-General of Pennsylvania from 1961-1989).

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Submitted by Kathy Wick (not verified) on

I am looking for a recording from the Philadelphia Susqucentennial l in 1926 where my grandfather, Jerome Mack, played WIlliam Penn. Do you know of any such recordings or can you put me in touch with someone who might know? Thanks so much!

Submitted by Lesa Myers (not verified) on

In the process of assisting a client move from her home, we found an original Sesquicentennial booklet from 1926. It is in very good condition! My client would be happy to donate it to your organization if you are interested.

Feel free to contact me at
Best regards,

Submitted by on

Hi Lesa,

Thanks for your comment. The HCI-PSAR project only visits small archival repositories, such as Strawberry Mansion, and surveys their archival collections. If you are interested in making a donation to Strawberry Mansion's archival collections, you need to contact them directly. For more information about Strawberry Mansion and its archival collections visit its website at Email or call (215)228-8364. “Like” them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for updates.



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