Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Authorized by the General Assembly of Pennsylvania on June 11, 1875, Governor John F. Hartranft appointed the State Board of Centennial Managers to organize a cele­bration in the Keystone State and to also ensure its representation at the International Exhibition of Art, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine – best known as the Centennial International Exhibition – coordinated by the United States Centennial Com­mission in 1876 in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park (see “1876: Centennial Craze Sweeps into Philadelphia” by James McClel­land). The managers supervised the arrangements involved in exhibiting the Commonwealth’s arts, products, indus­tries, and resources at the six-month extravaganza.

Governor Hartranft appointed Morton McMichael, Pitts­burgh, former governor Andrew Gregg Curtin, Bellefonte, John Schoenberger, Pittsburgh, George Scott, Catawissa, and Foster W.Mitchell, Franklin, to the State Board of Centennial Man­agers. They were joined by Daniel J. Morrell, Johnstown, the Commonwealth’s representative to the United States Centen­nial Commission, and alternate commissioner Asa Packer, Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe). The governor, state treasurer, and secretary of state made up an advisory committee to the board.

Board members first met on July 5-6, 1875, in the offices of the United States Centennial Commission in Philadelphia, on August 19, 1875, in the Lehigh Valley, and on January 20, 1876, in Harrisburg where they conferred with the advisory commit­tee. On March 30, 1876, the state legislature appropriated forty thousand dollars to the board to erect “a suitable building for the accommodation and convenience of the people of Pennsyl­vania, which shall be furnished and provided with proper attendants during which the exposition shall remain open.”

The Centennial International Exhibition prompted a number of contemporary histories chronicling the extravaganza toured by nearly ten million visitors, including The Centennial Exposition Described and lllustrated by J. S. Ingram (1876), The Century: Its Fruits and Its Festi­val, Being A History and Description of the Centennial Exposition by Edward C. Bruce (1877), and the three-volume Pennsylva­nia and the Centennial Exposition Comprising the Preliminary and Final Re­port of the Pennsylvania Board of Centennial Managers (1878).

The minute books of the State Board of Centennial Managers consist of two leather-bound volumes that were origi­nally filed with the Department of Internal Affairs and are now among the Records of Special Commissions (Record Group 25) of the Pennsylvania State Archives. Together with an account book, they constitute the official records of the activities of the board. Among the Photo­graph Collections (Manuscript Group 218)at the Pennsylvania State Archives are a number of stereographs illustrating scenes from the Centennial, one of which depicts the interior of Agricultural Hall. Built of wood in an architectural style de­scribed as Gothic, Agricultural Hall covered more than nine acres and pro­vided space for the display of produce, agricultural implements, and farm machinery.