Cristal Palace, New York
Cristal Palace, New York





September 24, 1856



The Trustees of the American Institute respectfully present, in accordance with the Law of May 5, 1841, a report of the acts of the Institute for the year 1856.

When the Crystal Palace was first proposed as the place for holding our annual exhibitions, it was with some doubt and hesitation that we undertook it, fearing that so large a space could not be filled with articles of sufficient interest to attract the public. From our last annual report, it will be seen that long ere the exhibition closed all doubts were dispelled by the attractiveness of the exhibition and the appreciation of the public. This year we looked forward to the exhibition with far more hope than fear of the success; but we did not expect to surpass that of the previous year. How agreeable, then, it is to report that throughout every department, in variety, in usefulness, in attractiveness, the exhibition of 1856 surpassed all others. The number of visitors also greatly exceeded that of the previous year, thus demonstrating that the exertions of the American Institute to advance the interest of the consumer as well as the producer, is appreciated by both. When we compare those countries fostering the mechanical, manufacturing and scientific interests with those which are indifferent to all these, how vast is the difference in their prosperity; even thus in our own country, we compare those States which have in years past been most active in the promotion of the arts and sciences, how rapid is their advancement beyond those which have given less attention to the same; indeed, so important has this subject become, that we find every State in the Union and almost every county in the States, giving attention to the promotion of societies, whose object shall be what the American Institute has ever been to promote by fair and honorable competition the growth and improvement in all that tends to make the life of the farmer, the mechanic and the merchant less a life of labor and more a life of science. In view of all this and the position which the American Institute has ever held as first in rank, we cannot let this opportunity pass without suggesting the importance of some movement by which the Crystal Palace may be secured to us for future exhibitions, a building well adapted for the exhibition of the many new and useful inventions which are annually added to the number already in existence and properly arranged, would give the American Institute an opportunity long desired of collecting, classifying and displaying not only new inventions, but rare productions of the soil and whatever may best contribute to the interest of the farmer, the mechanic and the man of science; this institution to be always open for inspection throughout the year, thereby giving to the people, what they now demand, a grand repository where at any and all times they may repair and find whatever may contribute to the advancement of their particular interest.

American Institute 1856


When visiting the exhibitions of industry in Europe, some twenty years ago, I was much struck with the great difference between the products exhibited and those which our fairs presented. The articles turned upon the luxuries of life chiefly, which, to be sure were displayed in forms and qualities realizing the highest ideas of the beautiful. Since then, what a breaking out of the workshops and manufactories has taken place! The very catalogues of the London and Paris exhibitions startle one. The spaces covered seemed almost fabulous and the demand for more, an absurd craving. The condition of opinion among manufacturers and mechanics now-a-days and twenty years ago, must be as different as that in regard to national communications. Then the traveller went to Liverpool and Manchester to pass between them on the only passenger railway in Great Britain. Now, the post-horse system is almost obsolete and the steam horse carries the traveller over the whole kingdom. Then Edinburgh was fifty hours from London, now it is hardly eleven. On the continent the only railroads were in Belgium, except a few miles from Leipsic towards Meissen. Then Vienna was two weeks from Paris and now it is hardly more than two days. Then the workshops were almost inaccessible as a rule and the processes kept secret, but now they seek publicity both in their processes and products. While in some parts of the continent of Europe, things have been, in a great degree, stationary, within the last twenty years; in others, railroads and telegraphs have worked wonders. The establishment of the German Customs League (the Zoll Verein) has led to virtual free trade over a large portion of the Continent. The postcoach and diligence are now institutions of by-roads, or are decaying under stable sheds or antiquated carriage houses and the spirit which has animated America and England, has spread to parts of the Continent. In the capital of France, wonders have been achieved. The Faubourg St. Antoine, that hot-bed of crime, misery and insurrection and the terror of the peaceful quarters of Paris, has been rooted out. Houses lining a splendid street, brilliant with lights and beautiful with shops, take the place of those squalid dwellings of wretchedness and crime; the street stretching from the fountains and obelisk of the Place de la Concorde to the spot where the column of July marks the site of the old Bastile. Beautiful bridges of stone and iron span the Seine; huge airy markets of iron and glass take the place of the dingy structures of old times; factories spread everywhere in constantly increasing numbers and everything betokens wealth and prosperity. True, the flowers grow on the crust of a volcano, but still they blossom, bloom and shed their seed, replant themselves and multiply, not heeding the coming eruption.

American Institute 1856


by Scientific American