The Sesquicentennial Exposition of 1926


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In 1926, Philadelphia hosted a celebration commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the United States. This Sesquicentennial Exposition drew exhibitors from around the world and featured speeches, sporting events, a military camp, and an 80 foot tall replica of the Liberty Bell covered in 26,000 light bulbs. The main entrance of the Sesquicentennial was located at the intersection of Broad Street and Packer Avenue and most of the grounds covered the area that is now the site of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park and various stadiums on the south side of the city. A map of the Exposition grounds is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sesquicentennial_Exposition.  

Despite a heavy rain, the New York Times estimated that 200,000 people traveled to the stadium located on the festival grounds to hear President Calvin Coolidge officially open the Sesquicentennial Exposition on July 5, 1926. [1] After speeches by both President Coolidge and Mayor Kendrick, the President attended a luncheon and then visited Independence Hall, Christ Church, and Camden, New Jersey. Various other celebrities and political figures would visit the Sesquicentennial over the next month.


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The rain that plagued the opening ceremonies, however, would continue throughout much of the Exposition. For a variety of reasons, the Exhibition failed to make a significant amount of revenue and faced extreme financial difficulties. Eventually, several vendors brought legal action against the Exhibition for lack of payment and the entire festival was placed into equity receivership by the United States District Court on April 27, 1927. [2]

The Philadelphia City Archives contains a collection of print images taken of the Sesquicentennial. Many of the prints were removed from scrapbooks several years ago and stored in archival quality boxes to prevent deterioration and fading of the images. The prints are now in the process of being digitized and placed on PhillyHistory.org. Including photographs of everything from the construction of the Sesquicentennial grounds to an Industrial Parade underneath the Liberty Bell replica to a variety of athletic events, the Philadelphia City Archives Sesquicentennial Collection provides stunning images of events that captured the attention of the City during the summer of 1926.  

To view the photographs, go to www.phillyhistory.org and select DOR Archives- Sesquicentennial from the list of Collections on the Search page. Check back often as additional photographs from the Exhibition will be added on a weekly basis!  


[1] New York Times. “Coolidge Invokes Founders’ Ideals as Guide to Nation.” July 6, 1926. p. 1.

[2] Philadelphia City Archives, Record Group 232, Sesquicentennial Exhibition Association.

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