Alexander Graham Bell

1876 Centennial Exposition - April 9, 2014

There was a huge meeting at the American Treasure Tour offices this morning, as we brainstormed on what direction we want for the blog to take.  (Please note, we use the word "huge" with great liberty.)  And we decided to talk about an event that few people even realize happened, let alone that it was right in the backyard of what is now Oaks, Pennsylvania.  We refer, of course, to the Philadelphia 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Not only was the Exposition the first world's fair to ever happen in the United States, but it proved a massive success on virtually every level.  Its official name was the long-winded International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine.  It lasted from May 10th to November 10th, 1876, and brought into Philadelphia's Fairmount Park approximately ten million people - the equivalent of 20% of the American public.  Over two hundred buildings were constructed for the event, most designed to serve temporarily as exhibit space for different technological innovations, as well as repositories for art.


Which of the following was NOT true about the Centennial Exposition?

a)  President Ulysses S Grant presided over the opening ceremonies

b)  Doctor Pepper introduced his carbonated beverage at the Expo

c)  Admission was fifty cents at a time when the average daily salary was $1.21

d)  It cost the equivalent of over $140 million to put on the Expo

e)  Many Americans experienced bananas for the first time at the Expo.  It cost a dime

Answer Below

So, as always, we're sure you find the blog full of fascinating information - insightful, thought-provoking, maybe even a little whimsical.  But, you may be asking, today's blog is about an event that happened well over a hundred years ago.  Why are we talking about it here?  Good question!  There are a few reasons.  First and most significantly, the Exposition is the first recorded instance when a pneumatically-driven player piano was seen in the United States.  The sophisticated technology behind the mechanical musical machines was incredibly sophisticated at the time, and around one decade old.  It also sparked a new industry that would include coin-operated pianos, orchestrions, band organs, and the other wonderful pieces that would become the centerpiece of our collection at the American Treasure Tour.  But wait, there's more!

Alexander Graham Bell managed to make his way to the Exposition as a last-minute addition so that he could show off his brand-spanking-new invention, the telephone.  We've already talked about Mr. Bell a number of times on the blog, so we won't get into the details with him, but this was it.  This is where the world was introduced to the phone.  The original reaction to it wasn't all that, though.  If only they knew how dependent people would become on the technology he developed, the organizers of the event may have done the world better if they declined him entrance.

A number of innovative and important inventions were on display at the Exposition, as well as may pieces of art.  In fact, much of the art on display would eventually find its way to what would become the Philadelphia Museum of Art upon its completion in 1925.  Something else that people could visit was a large arm.  If you paid a nickel, you could climb up this arm from the inside, then walk around a torch at the top of it.  The proceeds were intended to help pay for the construction of a pedestal upon which the entire Statue of Liberty would be assembled to overlook New York Harbor.  It is difficult for modern Americans to imagine, but there was serious doubt whether enough money would ever get raised to put Lady Liberty on permanent display.  The sculpture itself was a gift of the French people on condition that Americans cover the bill for the pedestal upon which she sat.  Joseph Pulitzer eventually organized an effective donation drive to collect the money, but it still took ten more years after the Expo before she found her new home.

If anyone living in or visiting Philadelphia chooses to visit Fairmount Park today, they would find one of the largest preserved green spaces within an American city.  There are plenty of things to do - enjoy nature, exercise by running on paved and unpaved trails or playing team sports, go to a concert at the Mann Music Theater, or tour a Colonial-era mansion to name just a few.  The one place to go we recommend to anyone who has already visited the American Treasure Tour that wants to see where the mechanical musical instrument era began in this country is the Please Touch Museum.  It's located in a massive, beautiful structure called Memorial Hall, and it is one of only four buildings that remain in the park from the Centennial Exposition.  It is worth the visit regardless of whether you have kids with you, if only for the large diorama of the Expo located on the bottom floor.  Of course, you don't have to be a kid to enjoy the beautifully restored 1908 carousel!


Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor. - U.S. Grant

Answer:  b)  Doctor Pepper introduced his carbonated beverage at the Expo.  The Doctor Pepper present at the Expo actually set up a six-bed hospital, in case of emergency.  He would later found the Free Library of Philadelphia

Herb Alpert - March 3, 2014

One of the most recognizable album covers ever made for a brass band hangs on display on the American Treasure Tour's Music Room wall.  We refer, of course, to the 1965 album Whipped Cream & Other Delights by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.  

Alpert, born in Los Angeles in 1935, had music in his blood.  Every member of his family played one instrument or another. He took on the trumpet, while also writing and producing songs for his label A&M Records (Alpert is the "A," and his friend Jerry Moss is the "M"), before venturing to Mexico and getting his introduction to mariachi music.  That was the inspiration for the Tijuana Brass, and for many other Latin-sounding bands to follow.  Whipped Cream & Other Delights blended his signature sound with the popular music of the day and proved a smash hit - selling six million copies in the United States alone, and included a number of cover songs such as  "Love Potion #9," "A Taste of Honey," and "Tangerine."  In some of the concert appearances Alpert made after the album's release, he apologetically explained to the audience that he could play the songs, but, "Sorry, we can't play the cover for you."


Which of the following is NOT true about Herb Alpert's recording career:

a)  He is accredited as co-writer of the 1960 novelty song "Alley Oop"

b)  He has sold over 72 million records world wide

c)  28 of his albums have reached the Billboard Top 100 charts.

d)  He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 1962

e)  He has received 9 Grammy Awards, 14 platinum albums, and 15 gold albums.

Answer Below.


Today is Independence Day!  Or at least it was in 1836 Texas.  On this day, the Province of Texas officially broke away from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas.  Within a year, United States President Andrew Jackson recognized the fledgling country as an independent republic, and France followed suit - in fact, the building where the Republic of Texas' embassy was located still stands in Paris.  Five men held the position of President of Texas for two-year terms prior to its being absorbed into the United States in 1845.  Texas bypassed territory status to become a state, and sacrificed some of its land to other future states on condition that the American government take over the substantial debts the Republic had amassed during its brief time as an independent republic. 

The first issue of the weekly news magazine Time was issued on this day in 1923, and has continued publication ever since.  Established by two former Yale University writers, Time was intended to provide a wide range of news that moved smoothly between the substantial and entertaining.  They clearly got something right, since it remains in circulation and is the most popular weekly news magazine in the world, enjoying a readership of over 25 million people.


Born to a deaf mother on this day in 1847, Alexander Bell grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, where his father taught communication skills to the hearing impaired.  At the age of ten, Alexander added Graham to his name in honor of one of his father's pupils. He proved to be a naturally inquisitive child, as he conducted experiments in electricity from a young age in the effort to convey sound and assist the deaf.  In 1871, the Bells moved to Boston, where his father taught at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes.  In Boston, Bell continued tinkering and tried to invent a way to improve the quality of life for the deaf.  His marriage to the deaf daughter of his landlord did not slow Bell down and, in 1876, he patented the telephone for which he became famous. Despite a long and distinguished career, Bell's name will forever be associated with this one revolutionary invention.


We always felt that if you do something with quality and integrity, then it's going to come back to you. - Herb Alpert

Answer:  d)  He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song in 1962.  Although he made a cameo appearance in the 1962 feature film Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation, it was unfortunately not considered an Oscar-worthy performance by the Academy.