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Dean Howells, click
A SENNIGHT OF THE CENTENNIAL
The Centennial is what every one calls the great fair now open at Philadelphia. "Have you been at the Centennial?" "How do you like the Centennial?" Some politer and more anxious few struggle for logical precision, reflecting that you cannot go to a Centennial, any more than you can go to a Millennial. These entangle themselves in International Exhibition, or talk of the Exposition. The English, who invented it, and have a genius for simplicity (in some things), called the first international exhibition the World's Fair. But this simple and noble name does not quite service for us, since our World's Fair means the commemoration of our hundredth national anniversary; and so, at last, Centennial is the best name, in spite of its being no name at all.
The Centennial is so far peculiar in other ways that one may fitly give one's self the benefit of a doubt whether it is wholly advantageous to have seen other world's fairs in order to the intelligent appreciation of this; whether, in fact, it were not better never to have seen anything of the sort before. We will assume, for the present writer's purpose, that this is so. We may even go a step further and suppose that one's acquaintance with the Centennial is to be most fortunately formed upon a dull, drizzling day, somewhat cold and thoroughly unpleasant, like the 17th of May, for example. On that day, a week after the opening of the show, the first impression was certainly that of disorder and incompleteness, and the Centennial had nothing to do but to grow upon the visitor's liking. The paths were broken and unfinished, and the tough, red mud of the roads was tracked over the soft asphalt into all the buildings. Carts employed in the construction came and went everywhere, on easy terms alike with the trains of the circular railway whose engines hissed and hooted at points above the confusion, and with the wheeled-chairs in which ladies, huddling their skirts under their umbrellas, were trundled back and forth among the freight cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad. At many points laborers were digging over the slopes of the grounds and vigorously slapping the sides of the clayey embankments with the flat of their spades; and ironical sign-boards in all directions ordered you to keep off the grass on spaces apparently dedicated to the ceramic arts forever. Even if these grassless spots had been covered with tender herbage, there seemed not enough people present to justify the vigilance that guarded them; but I think this was an illusion, to which the vastness of the whole area and its irregular shape and surface contributed. There were probably fifteen thousand visitors that day, but many thousands more dispersed over the grounds and scattered through the different buildings would have given nowhere the impression of a crowd. With my simple Bostonian experiences as ground of comparison, I had been diffidently thinking that Mr. Gilmore's Jubilees possibly afforded some likeness to the appearance of the spectators at the Centennial; I am bound to say now that the Centennial at no time and in no place gave any such notion of multitude. From day to day the crowd sensibly increased, but it never struck one as a crowd, and it hardly ever incommoded one, except perhaps in the narrow corridors of the Art Hall, and the like passages of the Annex to that building; these were at times really thronged.
If we had been the most methodical of sight-seers we could hardly have systematized our observations on a first day. It was enough if we could form a clear idea of the general character of the principal features and their position. Even this we did not at all do. We wandered quite aimlessly about from one building to another, and, if we ever had anything definite in view, gave ourselves the agreeable surprise of arriving at something altogether different. Nevertheless from these desultory adventures some distinct impressions remained, such, namely, as that of a great deal of beauty in the architecture. The Agricultural Hall we did not see till next day, and we therefore did not see what I believe is considered the best of the temporary structures; but the Main Building has a lightness, in spite of its huge extent, which is as near grace as it might hope to come; and the Machinery Hall has the beauty of a most admirable fitness for its purpose. The prospect of the interior is very striking, and much more effective than that of the Main Building, where the view from the floor at least, is more broken. The Art Hass, which is otherwise conventionally well enough, is disfigured by the colossal bronzes at the entrances:-
"Non regionism di lor, ma guarda e massa."
The show of sculpture within seems to have been almost entirely left too the countrymen of Michelangelo, who are here reposing, for the most part, upon his laurels. One of them has posted in the most conspicuous place in the rotunda his conception of Washington, - Washington perched on an eagle much too small for him. The group is in plaster; the eagle life-size and the Washington some six feet high from the middle up; having no occasion for legs in the attitude chosen, Washington thriftily dispenses with them. The poor man who made this thing is so besotted with it as to have placarded his other works, "By the sculptor of the Washington." This is not his fault, perhaps, and I am not so sure after all that his Washington is as bad as the bronze statue of Emancipation (I suppose), a most offensively Frenchy negro, who has broken his chain, and spreading both his arms and legs abroad is rioting in a declamation of something (I should say) from Victor Hugo; one longs to clap him back into hopeless bondage. Then there is the wax Cleopatra in the Annex: an image to bring tears to the eyes of the legislative gentleman who lately proposed to abolish the study of the nude in our State drawing-schools. It will not do to describe the extreme dishabille of this figure; it is enough to say that it is Cleopatra coming to meet Antony (the delightful printed explanation handed you by the attendant says Caesar) in her barge, fanned by a black slave, and attended by a single Cupid, whose ruff, as he moves his head, shows the jointure of his neck; a weary parrot on her finger opens and shuts it wings, and she rolls her head alluringly from side to side and faintly lifts her right arm and lets it drop again - for twelve hours every day. Unlike many sculptures this has no vagueness of sentiment, and it explicitly advertises a museum of anatomy in Philadelphia. For the last reason it might be fitly expelled, but a large number of visitors of every age and sex would miss it; certainly it has a popularity which the other two Disgraces of the Art Hall have not.
After the three objects I have mentioned, I think the room devoted to the German paintings is most disagreeable. The pictures are indifferent good and bad; the taste, the gross and boastful vanity, the exultant snobbishness, of the show is intolerable. Of course portraits of the imperial family, in all attitudes of triumphant warfare, abound, but there is one picture, the Surrender of Sedan, which ought not to have been admitted except for extraordinary artistic merits; and these it has not. On the brow of a hill stand Wilhelm, Bismarck, and the other Chiefs of Police, swollen with prodigious majesty and self-satisfaction, while a poor little Frenchman, with his hat in one hand and a paper in the other, comes creeping abjectly up the slope, half bowed to the earth and not daring to lift his eyes to the imperial presence. It is a picture to make any Frenchman "bound" with rage, if be happens not to laugh, and I do not see how we are to escape our share of the outrage offered in it, by the singularly offensive despotism from which it comes, to our ancient friend and sister (or say step-sister) republic. When I think of it, I am ready to justify the enormous charges at the restaurant of the Trois Grreres Provencaux (so called because each of the Brothers makes out his bill of Three Prices, and you pay the sum total), as a proper reprisal upon us; but I would fain whisper is the ears of those avengers that not all Americans are guilty. These is nothing else among the works of art that I can recollect, calculated to wound any one's national sensibilities. To be sure, Mr. Rothermel does not spare a huge slaughter of rebels in his Battle of Gettysburg, but I head it said that this picture was not a work of art. I do not know about such things myself. I had a horrific interest in the spectacle, almost as large as the canvas, which covers the whole end of one room; and I thought the rebels were fighting hard, and, if they were dying, were dying bravely.
The rooms devoted to the English pictures were most delightful. There were many works of their masters; they had sent us of their best, and not of their second-best, as the French had done, and there was a kindliness of intent and a manifest good feeling toward our fair, if not toward our nation, to which every generous American must at once respond. Not only had they sent us of their best, but their best pictures are for our pleasure and not their profit; they are owned by Englishmen who risk everything that may happen to their treasures in the voyage over-seas, and gain nothing but the satisfaction of doing a gracious and graceful thing. To courtesy of which we cannot be too sensible we owe the sight not only of famous Gainesboroughs, Reynoldese, Wests, and Lawrences, but also the works of the great modern painters, Landseer, Leighton, Millais, Alma Tandema, and the rest. I may be wrong in stating that no other nation has done anything like this, but I certainly recollect nothing else of the kind; and the English have added to the favor done us by having distinctly lettered on the frame of each picture the name of the painter and the owner, as well as the subject of it, thus sparing the spectator the fatigue and trouble of referring to the catalogue. By all odds theirs is the most satisfactory department of the Art Hall; and they have not only done us a great pleasure, but have done themselves great honor. Here, is nowhere else, one is conscious of modern mastership in painting; here is the sense of a strong and definite impulse which in all its variety has a unity expressed in very work; one would know these strikingly characteristic pictures for English art anywhere and everywhere; one might like them or not, but one could not mistake them; and with any refinement of literary taste, one quite ignorant of the technicalities of art may enjoy them. It may be a fault in painting to be so literary; nevertheless it is pleasant to see pictures painted by poets - by men who have evidently had ideas to express, and have thought and felt and wrought poetically. These great Englishmen have not merely painted well, but they have painted about something; their pictures tell stores, and suggest stories when they do not tell them. I leave to skilled criticism the discussion of their comparative artistic merits, and speak as one of the confessedly unlearned in art, when I say that their pictures interested me far beyond any others. We had certainly no cause, considering all things, to be ashamed of the show of American paintings in comparison even with many of the English, and still less with those of other nations. There were not many positively poor, and there were many strikingly good, especially landscapes painted with sympathy, and portraits painted with character; but they showed a distracting variety of influences, and they did not detain you and call you back again and again to tell you something more, and to add yet this suggestion and that. Some did so, but most did not; a perception of their merely artistic qualities exhausted them - the point at which the English pictures began more deeply to delight. They were too often unstoried like our scenery, without our scenery's excuse. You felt that American art had made vast advances on the technical side, but that it lacked what English art has got from its intimate association with literature; that it was not poetical; that generally its subjects were seen, not deeply felt and thought; it wanted charm.
Of the French pictures the most striking were the horribly fascinating Rispah defending her dear Sons from the Vulture, - and powerful achievement of ghastly fancy, painted with prodigious realism and knowledge, - Carlus Duran's deliciously fascinating portrait of Mademoiselle Croisette (of the Theatre Franceaise) on horseback. Comparatively few of the pictures were yet in position, and the display had nothing of the strongly distinctive quality of the English. Whole rooms devoted to the French were barred against the public, but enough was visible to emphasize the national taste for the nude. When one caught sight of this in paintings just unpacked and standing against the wall, it was as if the subject had been surprised before they had time to dress for the Centennial, so strongly is the habit of being clothed expressed in the modern face. In the Austrian room were some needless exposures, for which the vast and rather cumbrous gorgeousness of the [???of Venice to Queen Catharine ???] hardly atoned, with all its overdressing. But that is an interesting picture.
The Belgian rooms were very incomplete, and not very characteristic. Among the Swedish pictures were some beautiful landscapes, full of the cold northern sentiment, with the dark water and the birchen shade. From Mexico and South America there were curious specimens of the theatrico-historical, such as used to please us fifty years ago, and some portraits of national statesmen, interesting for their evident faithfulness. Italy had sent no pictures that commended themselves to special remembrance. Her strength - or her weakness - was her sculpture, which had at its best the character of illustration. I believe there were few things ideal, and with all the exquisite execution and pleasing fancifulness of conception, the capricious and the absurd intolerably superabounded. Indeed, England alone of all the foreign countries had sent of her best art to the Centennial. At almost any sale of French pictures in Boston you see the work of more famous painters; here there was not one first-rate name; and this was true of the Continent generally. The show impressed one as that of pictures that had not succeeded at home.
The Horticultural Hall, whither we went from the Art Gallery, is one of the buildings which are to remain, and its lovely architecture, in which the light arabesque forms express themselves in material of charming colors, merits permanence. It is extremely pleasing, and is chiefly pleasing as architecture; for the show of plants is not very striking to the unbotanized observer, who soon wearies of palms and cactuses and unattainable bananas, and who may not have an abiding joy in an organ played by electricity, with a full orchestral accompaniment similarly operated. Far more beautiful than anything in the hall was the great bed of English azaleas near it, as delicate and tender and rare in color as the lovely English pictures. At the fact that these and a houseful of rhododendrons could be safely brought so far and made to bloom so richly in our alien air, one my fitly wonder not a little.
We had time that first day for hardly more than a glance at the different buildings. We went next to the Machinery Hall, through the far extent of which we walked, looking merely to the right and left as we passed down the great aisle. Of that first impression the majesty of the great Corliss engine, which drives the infinitely varied machinery, remains most distinct. After that is the sense of too many sewing machines. The Corliss engine does not lend itself to description; its personal acquaintance must be sought by those who would understand its vast and almost silent grandeur. It rises loftily in the centre of the huge structure, an athlete of steel and iron with not a superfluous ounce of metal on it; the mighty walking-beams plunge their pistons downward, the enormous fly-wheel revolves with a hoarded power that makes all tremble, the hundred life-like details do their office with unerring intelligence. In the midst of this ineffably strong mechanism is a chair where the engineer sits reading his newspaper, as in a peaceful bower. Now and then he lays down his paper and clambers up one of the stairways that cover the framework, and touches some irritated spot on the giant's body with a drop of oil, and goes down again and takes up his newspaper; he is like some potent enchanter there, and this prodigious Afreet is his slave who could crush him past all semblance of humanity with his lightest touch. It is, alas! what the Afreet has done to humanity too often, where his strength has superseded men's industry; but of such things the Machinery Hall is no place to speak, and to be honest, one never thinks of such things there. One thinks only of the glorious triumphs of skill and invention; and wherever else the national bird is mute in one's breast, here he cannot fail to utter his pride and content. It would be a barren place without the American machinery. All that Great Britain and Germany have sent is insignificant in amount when compared with our own contributions; the superior elegance, aptness, and ingenuity of our machinery is observable at a glance. Yes, it is still in these things of iron and steel that the national genius most freely speaks; by and by the inspired marbles, the breathing canvases, the great literature; for the present. America is voluble in the strong metals and their infinite uses. I have hinted already that I think she talks too much in sewing-machines, but I dare say that each of these patents has its reason for being, and that the world would go mostly unclad without it. At least I would not like to try to prove the contrary to any of those alert agents or quick young lady attendants. Nevertheless, a whole half-mile of sewing-machines seems a good deal; and is there so very much difference between them?
Our first general impressions of the different buildings were little changed by close acquaintance. What we found interesting in the beginning, that we found interesting at the end, and this is an advantage to those whose time is short at the Centennial. You know and see continually more and more, but it is in the line of your first enjoyment. This is peculiarly the case in the Main Building, where the contrasts are sharpest, and the better and worse most obvious. In the case of some of the nations (notably Russia, Turkey, and Spain) no judgment could be formed, for there was as yet nothing to look at, when we first came, in the spaces allotted to them. A few amiable young Spanish workmen loitered smiling about, but neither Turk nor Russ was visible. Before the end of the week the Muscovite had developed a single malachite table, but the Ottoman had still done nothing. But by this time the vigor of Spain was surprising: her space was littered with unpacking goods, and already many things were in place, though the display had not yet the order that could make it easily enjoyed. The people who had been most forward were the Norwegians, the Swedes, the Danes, the Egyptians; and to the last I found pleasure in this superior readiness of their departments. The Chinese, whom we found in disorder and unreadiness, pushed rapidly forward during our stay, and before we left, the rich grotesquery of their industries had satisfactorily unfolded itself. We were none the less satisfied that there should be still a half-score of their carpenters busy about the showcases; their looks, their motions, their speech, their dress, amidst the fantastic forms of those bedeviled arts of theirs, affected one like the things of a capricious dream. It would be interesting to know what they thought of us spectators. We saw but one Jap in his national costume: a small, lady-handed carpenter, who wrought with tools of eccentric uses upon one of the show-cases, and now and then darted a disgusted look through his narrow eye-slits at the observer; he had his name neatly lettered on the back of his coat, and it is the fault of my ignorance that I cannot give it here. The other Japanese were in our modification of the English dress; they all had that gentlemanly air of incurious languor which we know in students of their nation at the Cambridge law-school, and that unease in our dress, which they had evidently but half subdued to their use. It is a great pity not to see them in their own outlandish gear, for picturesqueness' sake; the show loses vastly by it; and if it is true that the annoyances they suffered from the street crowds forced them to abandon it, we are all disgraced by the fact. It would have been better to give each Jap a squad of soldiers for his protection everywhere, than lose his costume from our fair for such a reason. There is a lamentable lack of foreignness in the dress at the Centennial. The costumed peoples have all put on European wear. To be sure, the still, sphinx-eyed young Egyptian whom we saw scorning our recentness from a remote antiquity in his department wore a fez, but a fez is very little; at the Hungarian wine-booth the waiters were the superb Hungarian dress, but this seemed somehow in the way of trade, and I suspect their name was Schulze, they spoke German so well. One Turk we did indeed see, in most consoling bagginess of trousers, crimson jacket, and white stockings, but we like quite as well the effect that so many Quaker bonnets on dear old Quaker ladies gave the crowd. One hears that you find nothing characteristically Quaker at Philadelphia, any more, and perhaps these ladies were from the country. At any rate they were frequently to be seen in their quaint bonnets and dresses of drab, often with quiet old gentlemen in broad-brims and shad-bellied coats, who would have been perfect if their cloth was drab instead of black, though one must still thank them for the cut of it.
We saw them not only at the Centennial, but also on the trains going to and from the lovely country-place in which our favored lines were cast during our sojourn. New England has so many other advantages that one may freely own she is but a barren stock in comparison with the fertile Pennsylvanian country. With us, even Nature is too conscientious to waste anything, and after our meagerness the frolic abundance of that landscape was not less than astonishing. The density of the foliage, the heavy succulent richness of the herbage, the look of solid comfort and content about the farms, spoke of both pleasure and profit in the country life; whereas our farmers seem (and with reason) to hate their thankless and grudging acres. There were great barns and substantial homesteads of brick and stone, kept with a scrupulous neatness; the pretty, tasteful stations were of stone, and all day long and all night long the incessant trains came and went upon that wonderful Pennsylvania Railroad, bearing the prosperity of the most prosperous commonwealth to and fro. From the passenger's point of view it is the best managed road in the country. I have heard Mr. Scott spoken of as a railroad despot, and I have felt it my duty to hate him. I now make him my apology - if it is he who has been able to teach all those amiable and efficient young men in charge of his trains to treat the public not only with civility but respect; to be polite, to be prompt, to call out intelligibly the name of the next station after that you have just left; to be cleanly uniformed, and to be a joy instead of abomination to travel. I say from a conscience blameless of free passes that such a man has a right to enslave the public, and I wish that all the conductors and brakemen throughout the land might go and sit at the feet of his employees, and learn their kindness and quickness. Perhaps, however, they must all be Pennsylvanians to do this. Nothing at the Centennial strikes you more agreeably than the good manners of the public functionaries of every grade and service. They listen patiently and answer clearly (in that Philadelphian accent which has its charm), and one may accost them without the least fear of being snubbed out of countenance. They might not improve on acquaintance, but I came away friends with all the Philadelphians I saw in any sort of office. When one thinks of how many officials in other parts of the country he has (in imagination) lain in wait to destroy, this seems a good deal to say.
Our second day at the Centennial began in the Main Building where after a glance at the not very satisfactory Italian department we found ourselves presently amid the delicate silver-work, the rich furs, the precious and useful metals, the artistic representations of national life of Norway. It was be far the completest department in the building, and for that little country, winter-bound in paralyzing cold and dark for so great a part of the year, the display of tasteful and industrial results was amazing.
The Viking race is not extinct, but the
huge energies are refined and directed by the modern spirit to the production
of things that may take the mighty West and the delicate South equally
with surprise. The silver jewelry was as airily pretty and elegant in device
and workmanship as the famous filigree of Genoa, which it so much resembled;
and the iron-workers had indulged their stalwart poetry in an iron ship,
fashioned like the old Viking craft,, and all equipped with iron, at whose
prow stood the effigy of Leif Ericsson:
"His helmet was of iron, and his gloves
Of iron, and his breastplate and his [greaves]
And [tassets] were of iron, and his shield;
In his left hand he held an iron spear,"
And his ship, with a touch of that sentiment painfully lacking in so many of the foreign departments, was called the Vinland. The show of furs and feathers, of luxurious wraps and quilts of [eider-down], was surpassingly rich, and the mark of an artistic taste was observable in the preparation and arrangement of these, as in everything else. The most interesting things in this and the Swedish departments were, of course, the life-size figures illustrative of present costumes and usages, the work, I believe, of a distinguished Norwegian sculptor. It was like reading one of Bjornson's charming stores, to look at these vividly characteristic groups, all of which were full of curious instruction. In one place an old peasant and his wife sit reading in a cottage room; in another a bereaved family surround the cradle of a dead child; here is a group of Laps; there some Swedish peasants stand over a stag which one of the hunters has shot; yonder are a Norwegian bride and groom in their wedding-gear, the bride wearing a crown and ornaments of barbaric gold, - which in this case were actual heirlooms descended from mother to daughter in one peasant family through three hundred years. All was for sale. "We will even separate husband and wife, and sell the bride away from the groom," laughingly explained the commissioner. The very pavilion itself, built of Norse pines, and ornamented in the forms of the old Norse architecture, was to be sold; yet there was nothing of the offensiveness of a mere mart in this, as there was in other departments, notably in the extremely shoppy show of the Austrians. The Norwegians had not merely contributed their wares, but had done us an honor and a pleasure by the thoroughly artistic character of their exhibition. So had the Swedes; so had in less degree the Danes, who showed some interesting figures illustrative of the Danish military service, actual and historic, and whose display of exquisite pottery, shaped and colored in the most delicate spirit of antique art, Greek and Egyptian, was certainly one of the most charming features of the fair. So had the Khedive of Egypt, whose section was in perfect order, and who has superbly commanded, it is said, that nothing shall be returned to him and nothing shall be sold, but that all his contributions shall be appropriately given away in this country: despotic splendor that one could more admire if one did not know that the Khedive's march of improvement has been through the blood and tears of his subjects, and that his prosperity is in reality the pomp of a successful slave-driver,
The Italian department, to any one who knows what Italy's wealth in objects of art is, seems - with some signal exceptions - a rather poverty-stricken effort of brie-a-brackishness. It presents a huddled, confused appearance; it is a shop where the prices asked are worthy of the Trois Freres themselves. The spirit of the Brazilian exhibition is in pleasant contrast. The things shown are sincere evidences of the national industry and illustrative of the national civilization; moreover, they are displayed in a [Saracenic] pavilion that pleases the eye, and are tastefully and intelligibly ordered.
It was not possible, when we saw it, to judge the French department as a whole, and I ought not perhaps to speak of it at all, since so much of it was incompletely arranged. Yet, with all the richness and infinite variety of material the general effect was of shoppiness. The British show was in a more generous spirit, and it was far more interesting. It represented, of course, in English and colonial exhibits, a whole world of varied arts and industries, among which the [missing word] observer would be most taken with the contributions from the Indian empire, and with that wide and beautiful expression of the artistic feeling in household decoration in which England is now leading the world. We Americans could long ago show machinery whose ingenuity and perfection surpassed anything the insular brain had conceived, and now we show in the utilitarian application of the metals, as in tools, and the like, an easy equality, but we cannot yet approach the English in the subjection of material to the higher purposes of both use and pleasure. Their show of tiles, of brasses, of artistically wrought steel and iron, of pottery, of painted glass, was wonderful. We ought, however, to take credit where it is due; in artificial teeth and all the amiable apparatus of dentistry, nothing could approach us; and I must except from a sweeping confession of inferiority the style and workmanship of several large American displays of gas-fixtures: as the most gas-burning people in the world, we were here fitly first; and we were first too, I thought, in the working of silver. The shapes and ornamentation's be the different great silver-working houses did justice to the nation which owns the Nevada mines; it proved our capacity for rising equal to an advantage. In glass, however, after the rich colors and manifold lovely forms of the foreign exhibits, we were cold and gray, and in all manufactured stuffs dull and uninteresting: we may have been honest, but we looked poor. I say nothing of our supremacy in a thousand merely ingenious applications and adaptation: that goes without saying; and I say nothing of the display of the publishing houses: books were the last things I cared to see at the Centennial. But I heard from persons less disdainful of literature that the show of bookmaking did us great honor.
The Main Building is provided with many fountains of the soda sort, and one large fountain for the unsophisticated element, all of which were pretty, and contributed to that brightness of effect which was so largely owing to the handsomeness of the show-cases and pavilions. The finest of these were American. We were thought to have sometimes dimmed the lustre of our jewels by the brilliancy of the casket, but the general display gained by this error. In the middle of the building a band played many hours every day, and over all, with his baton and both arms extended, perpetually triumphed the familiar person of Mr. Gilmore, whom one fancied partially consoled for his lost [Colis?] by the bigness of the edifice and the occasion; though, as I said before, the multitude was in nowise comparable to that of our Jubilees. The sparseness of the visitors was more apparent than real, as seen from the organ loft at the end of the building or from the galleries overlooking the central space, but it was worth while to suffer the illusory regret produced by this appearance in order to enjoy the magnificent [coup d'?] which was to be gained only from those heights.
In the afternoon we made the tour of the State buildings, of which, generally speaking, it is hard to detect at once the beauty or occasion. Doubtless the use could be discovered by public or representative bodies from the various States. The most picturesque building is that of New Jersey; that of Massachusetts was comfortable and complete, which most of the others were not. The Michigan building promises to be handsome; the Ohio building has some meaning to being of Ohio stones, and it is substantially gracefully designed; the West Virginia building is observable for its exterior display of native woods. But really the most interesting of these not apparently well-reasoned structures is the Mississippi house, which is wholly built of Mississippi woods, the rough back logs showing without, and the gables and porch decked with gray streamers of Spanish [missing word]. A typical Mississippian, young in years but venerable in alligator-like calm, sits on this porch (or did they sit on the afternoon of our visit), with his boots on the railing and his hat drawn down over his eyes and sheltering his slowly moving jaws as they ruminate the Virginian weed. He had probably been overquestioned, for he answered all queries without looking up or betraying the smallest curiosity as to the age, sex, or condition of the questioner. Being tormented (I will not name the sex of his tormentress), concerning the uses of a little hole of pouch (it was for letters, really) in the wall near the door, he said that it was to receive contributions for a poor orphan "I," he added, "am the orphan;" and then at last he looked up with a faint gleam in his lazy eye which instantly won the heart. This Mississippian was white; another black, however us civilly and intelligently through the house, which was very creditable every way to the State, and told us that it was built of seventy different kinds of Mississippi wood. We came away applauding the taste and sense shown in the only State building that seemed to have anything characteristic to say for itself. But in a country where for the most part every State is only more unrepresentative in its architecture than another, it is very difficult for the buildings to be representative.
In their neighborhood were the foreign buildings, the most noticeable of which were the English, Japanese, and Canadian. The English were stuccoed without, showing the wooden anatomy of the building to some extent, and suggesting the comfort of country or suburban homes; the Japanese was like the pictures of all Japanese houses; the Canadian was a sturdy stroke of poetry. It was all built of Canadian timber and lumber. Rough saw - logs formed the stalwart pillars of the portico; boards and planks piled upon each other defined the shape of the building, which had something immensely gratifying and impressive. To be sure, no Canadian could go there for entertainment, but no Canadian could look at this great lumber lodge without thinking of home, which the profuse tiles of the New Jersey house or the many-shingled sides of the Massachusetts building could never suggest to a native of those States.
Massachusetts, through the poetic thoughtfulness of one of her women, had done far better in the erection of the Old Colony House of logs, which we found thronged by pleased and curious visitors. Without, it looks much like the log cabins with which any dweller in the Middle West is familiar, but it is of three rooms instead of one; and within it aims at the accurate commemoration of Plymouth in its arrangement and furnishing. There are many actual relics of the Pilgrim days, all of which the crowd examined with the keenest interest; there was among other things the writing-desk of John Alden, and at the corner of the deep and wide fireplace sat Priscilla spinning - or some young lady in a quaint, old-fashioned dress, who served the same purpose. I thought nothing could be better than this, till a lovely old Quakeress, who had stood by, peering critically at the work through her glasses, asked the fair spinster to let her take the wheel. She sat down beside its, caught some strands of tow from the spindle, and with her long unwonted fingers tried to splice the broken thread; but she got the thread entangled on the iron points of the card, and there was a breathless interval in which we all hung silent about her, fearing for her success. In another moment the thread was set free and spliced, the good old dame bowed herself to the work, and the wheel went round with a soft triumphant burr, while the crowd heaved a sigh of relief. That was altogether the prettiest thing I saw at the Centennial.
It was not till our third day that we went to the Woman's Pavilion. Those accustomed to think of women as the wives, mothers, and sisters of men will be puzzled to know why the ladies wished to separate their work from that of the rest of the human race, and those who imagine an antagonism between the sexes must regret, in the interest of what is called the cause of woman, that the Pavilion is so inadequately representative of her distinctive achievement. The show is chiefly saved to the visitor's respect by the carved woodwork done by ladies of the Cincinnati Art School. Even this, compared with the great woodcarving, lacks richness of effect; it is rather the ornamentation of the surface of wood in the lowest relief; but it is very good of its kind, full of charming sentiment; it is well intentioned, and executed with signal delicacy and refined skill. It is a thing that one may be glad of as American art, and then, if one cares, as women's work, though there seems no more reason why it should be considered more characteristic of the sex than the less successful features of the exhibition. We did not test the cuisine of the School of Cooking attached to the Woman's Pavilion; the School of Second Work was apparently not yet in operation: if it had been a Man's Pavilion, I should have thought it the dustiest building on the grounds. It seems not yet the moment of the better half of our species to take their stand apart from the worse upon any distinct performance in art or industry; even when they have a building of their own, some organizing force to get their best work into it is lacking; many of those pictures and pincushions were no better than if men had made them; but some paintings by women in the Art Hall, where they belonged, suffered nothing by comparison with the work of their brothers. Woman's skill was better represented in the Machinery Hall than in her own Pavilion; there she was everywhere seen in the operation and superintendence of the most complicated mechanism, and showed herself in the character of a worker of unsurpassed intelligence.
I sometimes fancied that the Agricultural Hall might reclaim the long-sojourning visitor rather oftener than any other building, if he were of a very patriotic mind. It seems the most exclusively American, and it is absorbingly interesting in traits of its display. There are almost as many attractive show-cases and pavilions as in the Main Building, and they are somehow seen to better advantage. Then there is obviously a freer expression of individual tastes and whims. It was delightful, for example, to walk down the long avenue of mowing and reaping machines, and see those imperfectly surviving forms of "dragons of the prime," resplendent in varnished fine woods and burnished steel, and reposing upon spaces of Brussels carpeting, attended by agents each more firmly zealous than another in the dissemination of advertisements and in the faith that his machine was the last triumph of invention. Their fond pride in their machines was admirable; you could not but sympathize with it, and on a morning after it had rained through the roof upon the carpet and shining metals of one reaperman, who went about mopping and re-touching in an amiable desolation, we partook almost insupportably of his despair. We railed bitterly at the culpable negligence of the management, and were not restored to our habitual mood of uncritical enjoyment till we came to our favorite case of sugar-cured hams: a glass case in which hung three or four hams richly canvassed, not in the ordinary yellow linen, but in silk of crimson, white, and gold. These were of course from Cincinnati, and the same pork-packer had otherwise shown a humorous fancy in the management of material which does not lend itself readily to the plastic arts in their serious tempers.
The most artistic use of any material was undoubtedly made by some Louisville tobacco dealers, who had arranged the varieties and colors of their product with an eye to agreeable effect which I never saw surpassed in any Italian market, and who had added a final touch by showing different sorts of tobacco growing in pots. It would be interesting to know whether this most tasteful display was the work of an American. Vastly and more simply impressive was a wholly different exhibition from Iowa, to some of whose citizens the happy thought of showing the depth and quality of the soil in several counties of the State had occurred. Accordingly there it was in huge glass cylinders, in which it rose to a height of four, five, and six feet - a boast of inexhaustible fertility which New England eyes could hardly credit. This was one of the inspirations which gave a shock of agreeable astonishment, and revived the beholder even after a day of sight-seeing.
There were fanciful and effective arrangements of farm implements; exhibitions of farm products both foreign and domestic; shows of the manufactured and raw material - literally without number. To remember one was to forget a thousand, and yet each was worthy to be seen. I remember the cotton from India with its satisfying Hindoo names; the pavilion of Brazilian cotton, and the whole array of Brazilian products; the pavilions of American wines and the bacchanal show of Rhine wines, where the vine in leaf and cluster wreathed pillar and cornice, and a little maid sat making more vine - leaves out of paper. The finest of the pavilions seemed to me that of an Oswego starch manufacturer, where an artistic use of the corn and its stalk had been made in the carved ornamentation of the structure. But there were many and many cases and pavilions which were tasteful and original in high degree; and when one looked about on the work of preparation still going forward over the whole territory of the building, - as large, almost, as a German principality, - one felt that the tale was but half told.
A beneficent Sunday in our country retreat interrupted our sight - seeing: a Sunday of rural scenes and sounds. When the trains forbore to chuckle to and fro on the Pennsylvania Railroad in exultation at Pennsylvanian prosperity, and the rich landscape throbbed under the gathering heat. The meadow-lark sang everywhere; the redbird's voice was mellow in the dense woods; the masses of the dogwood blossoms whitened through all the heavy foliage. It was a land of blossoms and of waving grass, and a drive over the country roads in the afternoon, past thriving farms and thrifty villages, showed it a land of Sabbath - keeping best clothes, clean faces, neat hair, and domestic peace on innumerable front steps and porches, where children sat with their elders, and young girls feigned to read books while they waited for the young men who were to come later.
Monday was hot and abated our zeal for the Philadelphian spring by giving us a foretaste of what the Philadelphian summer must be. The sun fried the asphalt pavements of the Centennial grounds, and a burning heat reverberated from them, charged with the sickening order of the cement. That was a day for the stone interior of the Art Hall, but to tell the truth we found none of the buildings so hot as we feared they would be. It was very tolerable indeed both in the Main Building and the Machinery Hall, and in the United States Building we should not have lost patience with the heat if it had not been for the luxurious indifference of that glass case full of frozen fishes there, which, as they reposed in their comfortable boxes of snow, with their thermometer at [30 degrees], did certainly appeal to some of the most vindictive passions of our nature; and I say that during the hot months it will be cruelty to let them remain. There are persons who would go down from Massachusetts to join the mob in smashing that case on the 4th of July, and tearing those fish to pieces. There are also people of culture in this region who would sign a petition asking the government to change the language of the placard on the clothes of the Father of his Country, which now reads, "Coat, Vest, and Pants of George Washington," whereas it is his honored waistcoat which is meant, and his buckskin breeches: pantaloons were then unknown, and "pants" were undreamt-of by a generation which had time to be decent and comely in its speech. This placard is a real drawback to one's enjoyment of the clothes, which are so familiarly like, from pictures, that one is startled not to find Washington's face looking out of the coat-collar. The government had been well advised in putting on view these and other personal relics, like his camp-bed, his table furniture, his sword, his pistols, and so forth. There are also similar relics of other heroes, and in the satisfaction of thus drawing nearer to the past in the realization of those historic lives, one's passion for heroic wardrobes mounts so that it stays at nothing. In one of the cases were an ordinary frock-coat of black diagonal, and a silk hat such as is worn in our own epoch, objects which it is difficult to revere in actual life, but for which in their character of relics we severely summoned what veneration we could, while we searched our mind for association of them with some memorable statesman. We were mortified to think of no modern worthy thus to hand down a coat and hat to the admiration of posterity, and in another moment we should have asked whose they were, if we had not caught sight of a busy attendant in his shirt-sleeves and bar head, just in time to save us from this shame.
We passed on to the interesting exhibition of Indian costumes and architecture, and to those curiously instructive photographs and plaster models of the ancient and modern towns of the Moquis. These rehabilitate to the fancy the material aspect of the old Aztec civilization in a wonderful manner, and throw a vivid light upon whatever one has read of the race whose empire the Spaniards overthrew, but which still lingers, a feeble remnant, in the Pueblos of New Mexico. If the extermination of the red savages of the plains should take place soon enough to save this peaceful and industrious people whom they have harassed for hundreds of years, one could hardly regret the loss of any number of Apaches and Comanches. The red man, as he appears in effigy and in photograph in this collection, is a hideous demon, whose malign traits can hardly inspire any emotion softer than abhorrence. In blaming our Indian agents for malfeasance in office, perhaps we do not sufficiently account for the demoralizing influence of merely beholding those false and pitiless savage faces; moldy flour and corrupt beef must seem altogether too good for them.
I have to leave in despair all details of the government show of army and navy equipments, the varied ingenuity and beautiful murderousness of the weapons of all kinds, the torpedoes with which alone one could pass hours of satisfaction, fancifully attaching them to the ships of enemies and defending our coasts in the most effectual manner; the exquisite models of marine architecture; the figures of soldiers of all arms - not nearly so good as the Danish, but dearer, being our own. Every branch of the administrative service was illustrated, so far as it could be, and the bribes almost sprang from one's pocket at sight of the neat perfection with which the revenue department was represented. There was manufacture of Centennial stamped envelopes, which constantly drew a large crowd, and there were a thousand and one other things which every one must view with advantage to himself and with applause of the government for making this impressive display in the eyes of other nations.
After paying our duty to these objects, we took our first ride on the narrow-guage railroad, of which the locomotive with its train of gay open cars coughs and writhes about the grounds in every direction, with a station at each of the great buildings. I believe this railroad has awakened loathing in some breasts, and that there has been talk of trying to have it abolished. But I venture to say this will never be done, and in fact I do not see how the public could get on without it. The fare is five cents for the whole tour or from any one point to another; the ride is luxuriously refreshing, and commands a hundred charming prospects. To be sure, the cars go too fast, but that saves time; and I am not certain that the flagmen at the crossings are sufficiently vigilant to avert the accidents whose possibility forms a greater objection to the railroad than mere taste can urge against it. As we whirled along, a gentleman next us on the transverse seat entered into an agreeable monologue, from which we learned, among many other things, that they had in the Agricultural Building the famous war-eagle, Old Abe, whom a Wisconsin regiment carried through the war; and the next morning we made haste to see him. We found him in charge of one of the sergeants who had borne him through thirty battles, and who had once been shot down with the eagle on his perch, and left for dead on the field. The sergeant was a slim young fellow, with gray eyes enough like the eagles; to make them brothers, and he softly turned his tobacco from one cheek to the other while he discoursed upon the bird - his honors from the State government of Wisconsin, which keeps him and a man to care for him at the public charge; his preference for a diet of live chicken; his objection to new acquaintance, which he had shown a few days before by plunging his beak into the cheek of a gentleman who had offered him some endearments. We could not see that Old Abe looked different from other bald eagles (which we had seen in pictures); he had a striking repose of manner, and his pale, fierce eye had that uninterested, remote regard said to characterize all sovereign personages. The sergeant tossed him up and down on his standard, and the eagle threw open his great vans; but otherwise he had no entertainment to offer except the record of his public services, - which we bought for fifty cents.
We were early on the ground that morning, and saw the Centennial in some aspects which I suppose the later visitor misses, when the crowd becomes too great for social ease. The young ladies in charge of pavilions or quiescent machinery, and the various young men in uniforms who superabounded at nine o'clock, gave the Machinery Hall the effect of a vast conversazione, amidst which no one could wander unconscious of a poetic charm. I am sure this was blamelessly pleasant, and if the Centennial did nothing but promote all that multitudinous acquaintance, it could not be considered other than a most enormous success. These happy young people neglected no duty to the public; there never was on this continent such civility and patience as that of the guards and policemen and officials of the Centennial, and the young ladies would leave a word half-breathed, half-heard, at the slightest demand of curiosity concerning anything they had in charge. In the midst, the Corliss engine set an example of unwarying application to business, and even while one gazed in fond approval, innumerable spindles began to whirr and shuttles to clack, and a thousand tete-a-tetes were broken up as by magic.
It was very pleasing to see the enthusiasm of inventors or agents concerning their wares, and the eagerness with which they met curiosity. I do not now speak so much of young ladies like her in charge of a perfumery stand in the Main Building, who would leave her company with both elbows on the counter and his chin in his hands, to spring away and atomize with odorous extracts any passer who showed signs of loitering near; rather I sing such geniuses as he of the Carriage Hall, who illustrated his cradle attachment to the parental bedstead, and his automaton baby-tender. From how much getting up at night, and how much weary care by day, these inventions had sprung, one could only conjecture; but I am sure that the most profound domestic experience inspired them. The inventor was never weary showing how, with his cradle hung by springs to your bedside, you had but to roll over and rock the most refractory baby to sleep, without losing your temper or your rest; how on simply inserting an infant into the aperture of his wheeled stool, the child waked about all day in perpetual content, a blessing to himself and his parents. The terms of confidence which he established with admiring mothers, the winks he gave, the nudges which I am sure he aspired to give, were all charming, and came from nothing less than a sense of having benefitted the whole human race. Almost as serenely confident was the young lazy who operated the Radiant Flat Iron in the Machinery Hall, an implement in whose hollow frame burnt a gas-flame blown hotter by a draft of air, the two elements being conveyed thither by India-rubber tubes from reservoirs under the ironing-table. "But what makes the pressure of the gas and air?" "Oh, you see I stand on a sort of bellows, which I work by resting from one foot to the other as one always does in ironing." The world is perhaps not yet prepared for the intricate virtues of the Radiant Flat Iron, but in the mean time we venerated its ingenuity. It is, doubtless, as promising of general usefulness as that beautiful ice-boat which our chair-boy hurried us away to see, and which seems peculiarly popular with the wheelers of chairs; they perhaps envy its capacity for getting over space at the rate of a mile a minute, though this need not be, as it is time they should rather desire to annihilate. They are an obliging race, and the chairs are a great help to the enjoyment of the Centennial. They are to be found in each of the principal buildings, and it is best to take them anew in each hall, instead of hiring one for a tour of the whole. If you do that, much time is lost, and in getting out to climb steps and cross broken spaces and railroad tracks, the occupant of the chair shares too actively in the enterprise. The chairs are mainly for ladies; very few men have the self-respect requisite for being publicly trundled about in that manner.
To any one who knows the different American types, the attendants and operatives in the Machinery and Agricultural Halls, would afford curious study. The Western face distinguished itself very easily from that of the Middle States, but in its eagerness is not so readily told from that of New England, which shows how largely New England has characterized the appearance, while Pennsylvania has prevailed in the accent, of the younger States. Where New England came out with most startling evidence was in the visages of the Waltham watch-makers, who, whether pure Yankees or Yankeeized foreigners, had looks that no one could mistake. They were at work there all day with their life-like machinery, and on every side the thousand creations of American inventive genius were in operation, with an exhilaration and impressiveness in the whole effect which can in no wise be described. Of the huger machinery, the working of some pumps that drive their streams of water far over and across a great tank was the gayest and most strenuous sight. I should hardly know how to justify to the inexperienced the joy I knew in putting my hand over an air-blast, that flung it into the air like a leaf. Nevertheless, such things are.
I have left the Carriage Hall to the last, though it was one of the first things we saw. I am not a connoisseur of wheeled vehicles, and I date say I admired not too wisely. The American shapes seemed to me the most elegant; there was a queerness, a grotesqueness, and eccentricity, about the English, when they were not too heavy. But what most seizes the spectator is some one's ghastly fancy of a white hearse. It shows that a black hearse is not the most repulsive thing that can be. There are some exquisite specimens of architecture for a Brazilian railroad; a buggy from Indiana is kept - I do not know why - in a glass case; and there is a very resplendent Pullman car through which we walked, for no reason that I can give - probably the mere overmastering habit of sight-seeing.
We thought it well during our week at the Centennial to lunch as variously as possible, and I can speak by the card concerning the German Restaurant, the two French Restaurants, and the Vienna Bakery; the native art in cooking we did not test. The German Restaurant and the Lafayette Restaurant are very reasonable in their charges, less expensive, indeed, than most first-class city restaurants. The Trois Freres Provencaux is impudently extortionate. Not that dishes cooked with so much more sentiment than any you can find elsewhere are not worth more, but that there are absurd charges for what Americans ordinarily pay nothing for: bread, butter, and service at double and quadruple the Parisian rates. But it is even worse at the Vienna Bakery, where they have twenty-five cents for a cup of coffee, and not good coffee at that - not at all the coffee of Vienna. Happily, no one is obliged to go to these places for sustenance. There are a hundred others within the grounds where you may lunch cheaply and well, or cheaply and ill, which most of our nation like better. There is, for instance, a large pavilion where one may surcharge the stomach with pie and milk at a very low price. There is an American Restaurant, there is a Southern Restaurant (served by lustrous citizens of color), there is a restaurant attached to the Old Colony House; there is no end to them; and I am very glad to say of them, and of all other American enterprises for the public comfort, that their opportunity has not been improved to the public ruin. The extortion seems to be all by the foreigners, - unless sixty cents an hour is too much for a wheeled chair. I think it is; but the chairs will doubtless be cheaper when the cars of the circular railroad have run over two or three. All stories of the plundering of strangers by the Philadelphians may be safely distrusted. Probably never before in the history of world's fairs has the attitude of the local city towards its guests been so honest, so conscientious, so generous.
The grounds of the Centennial are open twelve hours every day, and your payment of fifty cents admits you for all that time to everything there. No account, however graphic, can give a just conception of the variety and interest of the things to be seen. The whole season would not exhaust them; a week or a month enables you to study a point here and there. Yet if you have but a single day to spend, it is well to go. You can never spend a day with richer return.
A very pleasant thing about the exhibition is your perfect freedom there. There are innumerable officials to direct you, to help you, to care for you, but none of them bothers you. If you will keep off those clay slopes and expanses which are placarded Grass, there will be no interference with any caprice of your personal liberty. This is the right American management of a public pleasure.
The muse at all minded to sing the humors of a great holiday affair could find endless inspiration at the Centennial; but there are space and the reader to be regarded. Yet I must not leave the theme without speaking of the gayety of the approaches and surroundings; the side shows are outside here, and the capacity for amusement which the Centennial fails to fill need not go hungering amid the provision made for it by private enterprise. It is curious to see the great new hotels of solid and flimsy construction near the grounds, and the strange city which has sprung up in answer to the necessities of the world's fair. From every front and top stream the innumerable flags, with which during a day in town we found all Philadelphia also decked. Yet it is an honest and well-behaved liveliness. There is no disorder of any sort; nowhere in or about the Centennial did I see any one who had overdrunk the health of his country.
Not the last prodigious of the outside appurtenances of the Centennial is that space allotted on a neighboring ground to the empty boxes and packing cases of the goods sent to the fair. Their multitude is truly astonishing, and they have a wild desolation amidst which I should think the gentlemen of the Centennial Commission , in case of a very disastrous failure of the enterprise, would find it convenient to come and rend their garments. But no one expects failure now. Very day of our week there was an increase of visitors, and the reader of the newspapers knows how the concourse has grown since. The undertaking merits all possible prosperity, and whatever were the carious minds in regard to celebrating the Centennial by an international fair, no one can now see the fair without a thrill of patriotic pride.
W. D. Howells.