To mark the 180th anniversary of its founding, The Inquirer is reprinting an article from its archives every Monday for 18 weeks. Today's offering, the sixth in our series, was published on May 10, 1876, and describes the sentiments of the paper on the day the Centennial Exhibition opened. The editorial lavishes praise on the local organizers and criticizes "the coldness of the government and the apathy of the country."
After years of care, labor and vast expenditure of money, the men - chiefly citizens of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania - shall witness today, in the opening of the Great Exposition, the triumph they have wrought so faithfully and unselfishly to win.
This morning, at nine o'clock, the ceremonies incidental to the inauguration of the American Centennial Exposition will begin, and when concluded all the buildings will be thrown open to the representatives of the peoples of all countries whose curiosity has led them hither, so that they may see therein what progress the American nation has made in the arts and sciences in a hundred years of independence.
Those who have borned for so long upon their shoulders the great burden of preparation, who have supplied the money, provided for and superintended the erection of those spacious edifices and carried out so effectively the minutest details of the whole noble plan, may, without offense, take great credit to themselves today in the completeness of their work.
Justice to them demands that all the difficulties, annoyances and troubles against which they were forced to contend should be fully remembered. No other international exposition was ever brought to its opening day under such adverse circumstances as this one has been, and yet no other was so far advanced in completeness on opening day as it is. Those gentlemen who have had the work of preparation put upon them had their work done in advance of the time originally anticipated and if today anything should not be quite be ready the fault will not be theirs but the exhibitors'.
No other international exposition was like this, almost wholly the result of private contribution and personal labor. Behind all others stood their respective governments, with money and help without limit; but here the government refused to vote a dollar or to render help in any way until our own citizens had completed the work and assumed obligations so vast as to shame the national authority into doing something for the celebration which was not local but general, which concerned Maine and New Mexico as much as it did Pennsylvania.
If anything, the government, until the beginning of the present session of Congress, hindered rather than helped the Exposition, and, until very recently, outside of this State and city, there was no strong patriotic feeling in favor of it. Those who have completed it, and who today are to receive the honor due their labors, had everything to contend with, but nothing worse than the coldness of the government and the apathy of the country. For years together they worked on in the face of unfriendly criticism, the indifference of the people of other States and Territories, the fears of the timid and the constant want of money. But there was no difficulty which they did not overcome. They compelled the help of Congress, the interest of the other States, and silenced the croakings of failure by going right on with their work until they had finished it as no such work was ever before finished. This is the day of their triumph, and we are in the belief that it will go on increasing as the magnitude and completeness of what they have accomplished is made known to the world. The surroundings of the American International Exposition are in every way more imposing, both in proportion and character, than those of any other Exposition, and the exhibits themselves are in keeping therewith.
The last should always be the best, though sometimes it is not. The Centennial Exposition is the latest of the great world's fairs, and in its completeness it is by far and away the superior of either of its predecessors. And for this great result the credit is due almost wholly to the liberality of the people of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and to those of their wise and public-spirited citizens who made ready the work which is to be inaugurated today.
For more classic photos and stories from our first 180 years, see a special interactive display at www.philly.com/inquirer180