Saturday, January 14, 2006

Luxembourg at the 1876 US Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia






On May 10, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant, with Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, in attendance, opened the great international exhibition held in Philadelphia to celebrate the centennial year of American independence. The exhibition halls and grounds encompassed 21 acres. The largest hall—the Main Exhibition Building—displayed new inventions, including the first typewriter, the electric light, and the telephone. Some 8,000,000 people visited the exhibition, which ran for six months during an era in which the population of the United States was only 40,000,000.

In 1874, at the direction of Congress and pursuant to a presidential proclamation, foreign nations were invited to participate in the exhibition. The exhibits of the 50 nations that participated, including Luxembourg, were housed in the Main Exhibition Building (seen above), where the average total exhibition staff numbered 10,000 workers.


This cover from the Commission of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of only two reported examples of mail from Luxembourg’s commission.  It presumably was written by 
F. Berger, the Grand Duchy’s commissioner.

The three-cent U.S. Centennial postal stationery envelope showing the Commission’s corner card is uprated by a two-cent Jackson banknote definitive to pay the 5-cent UPU 1 oz. letter rate. The cover was posted from Philadelphia, December 26, 1876 (the month after the exhibition closed) to Paris, France [blue double circle receiver, January 8, 1877. Another Philadelphia cancel ties the 2c stamp to the envelope indicia but is faint and unreadable.].

The 3c Plimpton Exposition envelopes were printed on the Exposition grounds for sale to visitors. The 5c red Exposition envelope (seen on the cover below) could be purchased at the Exposition, but they were not printed on the grounds.

Bomar’s treatise on United States exhibition postal history features a similar cover (shown below).  It is in the same handwriting but on the 5c red Centennial envelope, addressed to Liége, Belgium, with the exhibition postmark dated November 23, 1876, and a red New York transit dated November 25th.



Reference: William J. Bomar’s Postal Markings and Postal History of United States Expositions, 3rd edition revised and updated by David Savadge, published in 2007 on CD-ROM. Bomar died in 1996.

Bomar notes that advertising covers and corner cards from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition “are quite collectible” and “greatly enhance a collection of Centennial postal markings and postal history.”

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