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Guide to the New York Crystal Palace Records
1840-1858
 MS 443.13

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Julianna Monjeau

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on February 22, 2012
Finding Aid is written in English.

Descriptive Summary

 
Creator: Association for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations.
Title: The New York Crystal Palace Records
Dates [inclusive]: 1840-1858
Abstract: The Crystal Palace, constructed in 1853 in New York City, was a glass and iron exhibit building built for the World's Fair of the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. The New York City Crystal Palace papers contain the correspondence, financial, and organizational papers of Theodore Sedgwick (1811-1859), who was president of the Association between 1852-1854.
Quantity: 1.2 Linear feet (3 boxes)
Language of Materials Note: The bulk of the New York City Crystal Palace Papers are written in English. A small number of documents, including a newspaper, circulars, correspondence, and reports are written in Italian, French, and German.
Mixed materials [Box]: 3
Mixed materials [Box]: 2
Mixed materials [Box]: 1
Call Phrase: MS 443.13

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Historical Note

The Crystal Palace was an exhibition building for the 1853 World's Fair Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in Reservoir Square (present day Bryant Park). The Crystal Palace was inspired by the Crystal Palace in London's Hyde Park, which was constructed for the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Continents in 1851. The Palace, constructed from iron and glass, was designed by Karl Gildemestier and Georg Carstensen. The building featured a 100-diameter glass dome and housed four thousand exhibitors who displayed the industrial wares, consumer goods, and artworks of their nation.

The mission of the Association of the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations was to build the New York Crystal Palace and mount an international exhibition of industry, on the model of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London. The Exhibition opened on July 14, 1853, with President Franklin Pierce in attendance, and received over a million visitors before it closed on November 1, 1854. The Crystal Palace remained standing after the Exhibition and was leased for a variety of smaller events, most notably the annual Fair of the American Institute.

The Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire on October 5, 1858. Witnesses described the flames spreading so rapidly that the central dome collapsed in less than fifteen minutes and the entire structure collapsed in less than thirty minutes. Fortunately, though the fire erupted while the Fair of the American Institute was in progress, no lives were lost.

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Scope and Content Note

The New York City Crystal Palace Papers contains Theodore Sedgwick's correspondence and papers when he was president of the Association for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. The bulk of this collection is correspondence from high-ranking members of the Association regarding the construction of the Crystal Palace, and organizing, financing, and obtaining items for the exhibit. Most of the correspondence is addressed to Theodore Sedgwick, but a portion of the correspondence contains copies of letters written by Sedgwick. While most of the collection is dated before the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire on October 5, 1858, it contains a letter written by George S. Badger on October 7, in which he describes seeing the Crystal Palace collapse in flames.

The organizational records housed in this collection document the progress of the Association toward constructing the Crystal Palace and organizing the Exhibition. Records in this series include resolutions, reports, circulars, memorandums, bylaws, proposals, agendas, a catalogue of items in Italy's exhibit, office drafts of speeches and articles written by Theodore Sedgwick, and personal notes. The personal notes in this series have been grouped together because their subjects are unclear, they are undated, and their provenance is unclear. Financial records in this collection include contracts and drafts of contracts with contractors and vendors, bills, and receipts. These records range from detailed bills and receipts listing the expenditures of the Association on a given year to individual receipts for building materials and services. The smallest series in this collection contains newspapers published between 1852 and 1854, which contain both articles and letters to the editor written by Theodore Sedgwick regarding the Exhibition and the Crystal Palace.

Arrangement Note

The New York City Crystal Palace Papers are arranged into the following series:

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Financial Records
  3. Series III: Organizational Records
  4. Series IV: Newspapers

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Badger, George S.
  • Beckwith, Nelson Marvin
  • Buschek, Charles
  • Detmold, Christian Edward, 1810-1887
  • Du Pont, Samuel Francis, 1803-1865
  • Dunn, Samuel
  • Gerhard, B
  • Hughes, George W. (George Wurtz), 1806-1870
  • Sedgwick, Theodore, 1811-1859
  • Stewart, Laban C.
  • Sumner, George, 1817-1863
  • Whetten, William

Document Type

  • Articles.
  • Bills of exchange
  • Bylaws
  • Catalogs
  • Circular letters
  • Contracts
  • Correspondence
  • Newspapers
  • Notes
  • Proposals
  • Receipts
  • Reports
  • Speeches

Subject Topics

  • Exhibition buildings -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Exhibitions--New York (State)--New York.
  • Fires -- New York (State) -- New York

Subject Places

  • Crystal Palace (New York, N.Y.)
  • Europe -- Description and travel
  • New York (N.Y.) -- Buildings, structures, etc
  • New York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations (1853-1854)

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote to: Manuscript Curator, The New-York Historical Society, 170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024.

Preferred Citation Note

This collection should be cited as the New York City Crystal Palace Papers, MS 443.13, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Material

The Boston Athenaeum holds a collection entitled "Papers relating to the Crystal Palace Exhibition, N.Y., 1853-1876" donated by John M. Batchelder, who served as engineer and secretary to the superintendents of the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations.

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Container List

Series I: Correspondence, Bulk, 1852-1854 1852-1858

Arrangement Note

Series I: Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series I: Correspondence contains letters to and from members of the Association for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. Notable recipients include Charles Buschek (Manager in Europe), C.E. Detmond (Engineer), William Whetten (Secretary), and other members and patrons of Association. Ranging from 1852 to 1858, the bulk of correspondence was written in 1853, the year that the exhibition opened for the World's Fair. Correspondence largely deals with the building of the Crystal Palace and the organization of the exhibition. A letter written by George S. Badger on October 7, 1858, describes seeing the Crystal Palace burn down two days earlier.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Correspondence
October 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Correspondence
March, August, September 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Correspondence
November 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Correspondence
December 1-10, 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Correspondence
December 11-20, 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Correspondence
December 21-31, 1852
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Correspondence
January 1-10, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Correspondence
January 11-20, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Correspondence
January 21-31, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Correspondence
February 1-15, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Correspondence
February 16-28, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Correspondence
March 1-15, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Correspondence
March 16-31, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 14 Correspondence
April 1-15, 1853
Box: 1 Folder : 15 Correspondence
April 16-30, 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Correspondence
May 1-5, 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Correspondence
May 16-31, 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Correspondence
June 1-15, 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Correspondence
June 16-31, 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Correspondence
July 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Correspondence
August-October 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Correspondence
November 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Correspondence
December 1853
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Correspondence
January 1854
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Correspondence
February 1854
Box: 2 Folder : 11 Correspondence
March 1854
Box: 2 Folder : 12 Correspondence
April-September 1854
Box: 2 Folder : 13 Correspondence
October 7, 1858
Box: 2 Folder : 14 Correspondence
undated

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Series II: Financial Records, 1844-1847

Arrangement Note

Series II: Financial Records is arranged by type and then chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series II: Financial Records contains drafts of contracts with vendors, bills, and receipts. A majority of the bills and receipts document large financial transactions regarding the construction of the Crystal Palace and the procurement of exhibit items. A small amount of bills and receipts document Theodore Sedgwick's personal expenditures while president of the Association.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 1 Contracts
October 1852-November 1853, Undated
Box: 3 Folder : 2 Receipts
September 1844-June 1847
Box: 3 Folder : 3 Bills
February 1853-December 1854
Box: 3 Folder : 4 Bills
undated

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Series III: Organizational Records, 1840-1854

Arrangement Note

Series III: Organizational Records is arranged by type and then chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series III: Organizational Records contains records that document the functions of the Association for the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. Records in this series include resolutions, bylaws, agendas, reports, circulars, memorandums, proposals, drafts of speeches and articles made on behalf of the Association, and a catalogue of items in Italy's exhibit. This series also contains notes, most of which are undated and without clear provenance.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 5 Bylaws
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 6 Agendas
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 7 Proposals
February-May 1853, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 8 Resolutions
March 1853-April 1854, undated
Box: 3 Folder : 9 Reports
September 1852-February 1854
Box: 3 Folder : 10 Reports
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 11 Circulars, memorandums
November 1840, September 1852-April 1853
Box: 3 Folder : 12 Circulars, memorandums
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 13 Drafts of speeches, articles
October 1852-July 1853
Box: 3 Folder : 14 Catalogue
undated
Box: 3 Folder : 15 Notes
undated

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Series IV: Newspapers, 1852-1854

Arrangement Note

Series IV: Newspapers is arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Series IV: Newspapers contains the small amount of newspapers found within this collection, each containing articles written about the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations. The two copies of The Albany Evening Atlas from December 9-10, 1852 contain a printed letter to the editor written by Theodore Sedgwick, responding to criticism regarding funding of the Exhibition.  The Daily Free Press of Detroit from February 5, 1853 contains a memorial to the state legislature of Michigan to participate in the Exhibition.  The Evening Post of New York from March 2, 1854 contains letters to the editor regarding the extension of the Exhibition after the conclusion of the World's Fair. This series also contains an untitled German language newspaper published in New York on February 19, 1853, with a published letter by Theodore Sedgwick.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 3 Folder : 16 The Albany Evening Atlas
December 1852
Box: 3 Folder : 17 The Daily Free Press, Detroit, Michigan
February 1853
Box: 3 Folder : 18 German language newspaper, New York
February 1853
Box: 3 Folder : 19 The Evening Post, New York
March 1854

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