Centennial of 1876

I hear a lot about the Bicentennial these days, the 200th anniversary of our country. All kinds of plans and programs are being prepared to do justice to this grand occasion. But today I want to take you back to the celebration of the American Centennial, the 100th anniversary of American independence.
Where was the Centennial? In Philadelphia. The year was 1876. It was the first world’s fair to be staged in this country, and all the world was invited to come and participate. Many foreign countries took part in the celebration. England, France, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Austria and even Japan had an exhibit. Every kind of American product was on display. Some recently invented items were seen for the first time by the people in attendance—the Pullman car, the sewing machine, typewriter, Mr. Bell’s telephone and the telegraph that had just brought about the stringing of wires to the west coast and putting the Pony Express out of business.
Over 8 million people paid their 50 cents and attended the Centennial in the six months it was open—from May 10th to November 10th. One out of every 15 Americans came and marveled at the sights and the evidence of the coming of the industrial and machine age. They were fascinated by one of the principal exhibit at “Machinery Hall,” where a giant steam engine provided the power to drive all of the various machines on display. American inventive genius was on the move and the Centennial gave direction and incentive to this typical American drive.
Lets take a look at America 100 years ago. The population of New York City was 2 million, Philadelphia, 850,000; Boston, 350,000; Los Angeles, 10,000; Seattle, 3,000. Cities like Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Arizona, and Miami were not even on the map.
Other happenings in 1876: “Wild Bill” Hickock was killed in a gun battle in a bar. Custer made his last stand on the Little Bighorn, and Jesse James and his gang robbed a Missouri Pacific train and made off with $17,000. A man named Mark Twain released his book Tom Sawyer and Henry Martyn Robert published his little book called, Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies. No publisher would publish this book so Robert had 4000 copies printed at his own expense. They were sold out in six weeks. This book is still the parliamentarian's bible, Robert's Rules of Order.
Although the Civil War had been over for eleven years, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina were still under Federal control, so in spite of the huge success of the Centennial there were still pockets of bitterness that would take years to erase.
Now here is the most interesting fact of the Centennial. The year 1876 also had its Watergate scandal that reached into the White House. General Grant was serving his 2nd term as President and naturally he was invited to the opening day of ceremonies. Here is how one reporter recorded the scene: “The President of the United States came, spoke and went without applause. Only a few scattered cheers. Let the truth be told. There were more groans and hisses than cheers when he finished his brief speech.”General Grant’s lack of popularity was because of public disclosure of an illegal whiskey ring. High placed men on Capitol Hill were suspect and final disclosures led right into President Grant’s Cabinet and his own personal office in the White House. General John McDonald, Collector of Internal Revenue, William Avery, Chief Clerk of the United States Treasury, Col. Orville Babcock, Grant’s confidential secretary,were all indicted and convicted of accepting bribes.
As these three men were closely associated with President Grant (they were all old army buddies), the President was suspected of being in on the whole deal, so the public lost their great admiration and respect for the former hero general of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Does history repeat? I leave the answer to you.

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