1876 Centennial Exposition Hayden Survey Ruins Display (WH Holmes)

An original 1876 Centennial display of a prehistoric ruin (Three Walled Tower) in Southwest Colorado by William Henry Holmes (documenting the Hayden Survey of the Territories alongside William Henry Jackson.

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Description of 1876 Centennial Exposition (William Henry Jackson and William Henry Holmes, Hayden Survey USGS Exhibit, Government Building, Philadelphia

“The occasion of the display at the International Exhibition at Philadelphia led to a desire to represent as forcibly as possible some of the recent discoveries of the Survey of remarkable ancient ruins in Southwestern Colorado, and the success of Mr. Holmes with the Elk Mountain models suggested the same means for effecting this purpose. That are six no completed of archaeological subjects, as follows:-

The Mancos Cliff House, by Mr. Holmes, represents a ruin in an exceeding well preserved condition, perched upon a little shelf, or niche, in the face of a bluff, 800 feet vertically above the valley below. The model is 30 by 40 inches in dimensions, and the scale four feet to one inch.

An ancient Cave Town in the lower canyon of the De Chelly, near the San Juan River, represents a very interesting and extensive ruin, built along a narrow shelf, or bench, seventy five feet above the valley, and overhung by the bluff. The whole ruin is nearly six hundred feet in length, with originally about one hundred or more apartments. The model as constructed by Mr. W.H. Jackson is forty inches in length, and show’s one third of the ruin, the scale is six feet to one inch.

A restoration of the above, also by Mr. Jackson, is the subject of the the third of the series. In this, buildings are built up to the condition in which they were originally supposed to have been before their desertion. They show many points of resemblance to the present Moquis in Northwestern Arizona, noticeably so in the use of the ladder to reach their houses. Groups of miniature people have been arranged about the model, representing them engaged in various occupations, with their pottery and other domestic utensils.

The Great Triple Walled Tower, on the McElmo, by Mr. Holmes, is a horizontal model thirty inches square, representing, on a scale of two feet to one inch, the ruins of an exceedingly interesting circular stone tower in Southwestern Colorado.

The fifth in the series is a model of a Cliff House, in the bluff of the lower canon of the Rio De Chelly in Arizona, on a scale of three feet to one inch, and in the same size as the Mancos model. This is especially intended to show the manner in which its former occupants passed up and down the steep face of the bluff in which it is built, by steps hewn into the rock.

The two models were meant to represent the present and the past, the site as it now appeared and a reconstructed version of its original condition. The underlying message implied by these models was the continuity of ancient primitive ruins linking past and present, conforming what Curtis Hensley has pointed out in the use of such Indian sites conveying a sense of national identity and historical lineage after the Civil War.

Description of William Henry Holmes’ involvement in the 1876 Centennial Display

For the next several years Jackson continued his photographic journeys, discovering and documenting numerous ruins of cliff dwellings and countryside. In 1876 he Hayden assigned Jackson to organize the Surveys’ exhibition at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.

Ferdinand Hayden’s Survey display at the 1876 Centennial included framed photographs (back wall, right) relief maps, models of the Yellowstone National Park, and the state of Colorado (center tables), and two shadow box models of recent discovered Indian cliff houses (center right). The opened album of Indian portraits (center, right) contained some of the extensive collection made by William Henry Jackson and other photographers for Hayden’s Survey photographic collection. (William Henry Jackson, “Display of the US Geological Survey in the Government Building, 1876, albumen, 42.8 x 55.7cm, Photography Collection, George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

Role of The Smithsonian In 1876 Centennial Exposition 

With help from the Smithsonian Institution, the United States assembled remarkable displays of American wildlife and mineral resources. A 15-foot walrus, a polar bear, and other mammals were displayed along with the weapons used to hunt them. Sharks, a stingray, and other exotic fish appeared in preserved form, while fresh commercial fish were displayed in gigantic refrigerated display cases. Curious visitors peered at displays of rock and minerals that included gold and silver, coal and marble, and even meteorites.

The Smithsonian also worked with the Department of the Interior to create an exhibit on the land’s original occupants. One of the Expo’s most popular displays, and the largest in the U.S. Government Building at the Expo, the exhibit of the Indian Office featured clothing, tools and works of art from a number of tribes, including the Pauite, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, Tlingit, and Haida.

Over 300 Native Americans from 53 tribes were brought to the Expo, and they camped on the Centennial grounds. According to James McCabe’s 1876 description of the Expo, “the object of the encampment is to show, in as perfect a degree as is now possible, the original inhabitants of this country and their mode of life.” Further, McCabe explained, the Native Americans at the Expo were “the very aristocracy of the Indian nation,” including famous chiefs and their families.

Westward expansion had been bringing white settlers inexorably into conflict with the land’s original occupants, and eradicating the Native Americans’ way of life. Immediately after the Civil War, the Federal government initiated a series of surveys of the West, with an eye toward aiding Western settlement and development by European immigrants. Some Native Americans, like the Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud, pursued diplomacy with the U.S. government, but a pattern of white domination was established.

On an 1868 Western trip with William Tecumseh Sherman and his two older sons, Fred and Buck, Ulysses Grant had written about Native Americans in a letter to his wife Julia. “It will be something for Buck … to know that he had traveled on the plains whilst still occupied by the Buffalo and the Indian, both rapidly disappearing now.”

They may have been disappearing, but not without a struggle. McCabe’s account of the Native American weapons on display at the Expo described them in terms of their threat to whites. The variety of weapons at the Expo included “bows and arrows of sizes differing to suit all, from the little, naked, prospective warrior, who is made to practice against a target, to the veteran over the door of whose tent hang the scalps of four-score pale faces.” In McCabe’s view, barbarism and savagery were the main attributes of the native people settlers encountered on the way west.

Yet the underlying message was one of white domination; while the Expo showed off Native Americans and their culture as a museum relic, soldiers in the West were fighting to exterminate them. News of General George Custer’s disastrous battle with Sitting Bull at the Little Bighorn reached the East during the Expo. The news made Custer a martyr and solidified the resolve of white settlers and the Federal government to fight. The might of the United States, so grandly displayed at the Expo, was turned on conquering the Indian nations and claiming their lands.

After a six month run, the Expo closed its doors, having played host to some 10 million visitors. By then, Spencer Fullerton Baird, Assistant Secretary at the Smithsonian, had acquired the exhibits of 34 countries and a number of U.S. states — which were shipped to Washington, D.C., in more than forty freight cars. Baird — and the Smithsonian — had plans for reusing the exhibits after the Expo ended, but the huge number of artifacts posed a big storage problem for the Smithsonian.

President Grant himself had suggested the Smithsonian’s involvement in the Expo, and with his encouragement, Congress provided a new home for the exhibits. First, it approved the transfer of the Washington Armory to the Smithsonian, which used the huge building to store the Expo exhibits temporarily. Next, Congress provided money for the construction of a National Museum, to be directed by Baird, and the collection of exhibits found a permanent home. A hundred years later, on the occasion of the 1976 Bicentennial, items from the 1876 Expo were placed on view once again, in the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries building.

But not all the Expo’s exhibits were destined for preservation. The huge Corliss engine found a home in Chicago after 1876, where for 30 years, it powered George Pullman’s train-car factory. Once retired, the giant machine was sold as scrap for $8 a ton.

Pictured Below: William Henry Jackson’s 1876 Centennial USGS Display Of The Hayden Survey

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