Still cloudy and rainy. Visited the Franklin Institute again this evening. There is such a variety of articles to look at it would take a good many visits to see all. Besides in the evenings there are so many beautiful faces to be seen.
In the mid-nineteenth century, American political and business leaders pushed for manufacturing independence. In the public’s mind, quality meant imported, but American manufacturers and those interested in promoting American goods aimed to change that. There were economic motivations for this, to be sure, however, pride and patriotism were also key factors.
The Franklin Institute’s Annual Exhibition of American Manufactures was held at the Museum Building at 9th and Chestnut Streets. It was a combination trade show and competition with medals awarded by the Institute. All manner of manufactured goods were on display at what the North American called the “Noah’s Ark of the industrial world.” The newspapers marveled at the compact sewing machine which would have conjured notions of witchcraft not all that long ago. Additionally, there were bells played with automated, mechanical hammers, steam engines, gas works, boat propellers, shovels, stoves, tools, chandeliers, pianos, life boats, gas fixtures, fine printed muslin, shawls, coverlets, paintings, soaps, carpets, leather goods, and much, much more.
Displays of daguerreotypes, now a ten-year-old technology, were prevalent. The Messrs. Langenheim, photographists, had a display of one thousand or so portraits taken with the Talbottype process, a competing photographic process developed by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800–1877).
Nathan was not the only person to notice the beautiful people attending the exhibition. The anonymous reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer waxed poetic on the lovlies in the glow of gaslight.
“Arts and Manufactures.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 17, 1849.
“The Franklin Institute Fair.” (Philadelphia) North American, October 17, 1849.