Travels with Grace: The 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition

Posted on May 7th, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. This week, Grace and her family take a short visit form Baltimore to the neighboring city of Philadelphia for the Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition of 1926, which “was a world’s fair in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Its purpose was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence, and the 50th anniversary of the 1876 Centennial Exposition.” -via.


1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition logo, Philadelphia, PA. Via.

Monday Oct. 11: We took the party electric car and rode around the exposition grounds. Visited Liberal Arts Bldg. Rode up High St. replica of the that old historic thoroughfare where was held a colonial parade in full pomp and pageantry. Had an excellent dinner at the Russian Pavilion, then visited the Fine Arts and India Bldgs. And Treasure Island.

“Despite the many authentic historic sites in Philadelphia, a newly constructed Colonial High Street on the Sesquicentennial grounds became one of the popular attractions of the fair.” –

Tues. Oct. 12 Visited a model of U.S.P.O. and Agriculture Bldg., Palace of Education. Dined at French restaurant. Visited Transportation Bldg. and Gladway. In the evening watched gorgeous display of fireworks around fountain with colored lights. Mr. Marks conducted us thru his model shoe factory.

Map of the grounds of the 1926 Seaqui-Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia, PA. Via.

Wed. Oct. 13 Visited the Pittsburgh Bldg. where they showed movies of the city’s industrial expansion. Paid a second visit to High St. where we saw the first school house, Washington’s home, Paul Revere’s smithy, a collection of dolls from every state and watched a performance of marionettes in a miniature theatre. The play was based on a domestic episode revolving about a tube of toothpaste. It was in 3 acts. Act I. 4 weeks after marriage. Act II. 4 months after. Act III 4 years after. A Town Crier announces the attractions on High St. Next we visit the Persian, Cuban, and Spanish Bldgs. Saw an aviatrix do daredevil stunts. Visit Florida and Penna. Bldgs.

“Bird’s Eye” view of the 1926 Sesqui-Centennial Exposition Grounds (Courtesy of the Bruce C. Cooper Collection). Via.

Thurs. Oct. 14 Lunch at Wanamaker’s. Took a trip in Grayline Bus to Valley Forge National Park passing Bryn Mawr college en route. Interesting tour of historic park.

Contents of Bldgs.

Persian Bldg. Silver – copper – jewels – rugs – shawls

Spanish Bldg. Paintings – tapestries

India Bldg. Mother-of-Pearl, Ivories, inlaid screens and tables, jade, precious stones, exotic scents

Liberal Arts Bld. Tiles (model baths and kitchens) (1 bath cost $6000), Radios, vacuums, [vetaphone?] picture of telephone industry (one of the first I have heard), Publishing houses display some of their finest editions including elaborate gold leaf works. Grolier Society among others. Wanamaker’s exhibit showing evolution of the flag. An Indian composer plays his work on violin in native costume. Displays of furniture and frigidaires which are now coming into popularity. Wallpaper and [lincrusty???] displays in model houses.

Fine Arts Bldg. Old and modern schools of painting, sculpture, bronzes, heroic status, wood carvings, tapestries. Many of Jules Massbaum’s fine collection on display.

“While Philadelphians had argued over competing visions for the fair and a celebration of culture or commerce, both impulses could be seen in Sesquicentennial exhibits such as this display by a Japanese trade association.” –

Commercial – Foreign. Japanese silk worm cultivation. Satsuma – Cloisinne products, exquisite colorings. A pagoda built entirely of real pearls and platinum which drops into a trick stage at night. Dolls and furniture from Spain – embroiders and peasant costumes from Czecko-Slovakia, glassware from Hungary, clocks and jewelry from Vienna, wedgewood pottery from England and Titania’s fairy palace.

Transportation Bldg. Trains, boats, aeroplaens, earliest and laters models. Many kinds of food displays.

Education Bldg. School systems on model plans, Farm School, Roosevelt Memorial Association health centres, camps, schools for blind, Y.W.C.A. groups, Zionist, Council of Jewish Women, manual therapy, forest preservation, sanitation, domestic science, art, athletics, traffic signals. One is thankful to rest in a little non-sectarian chapel, flower filled, a haven of quiet in which to think over it all.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. Next week we’ll pick up with a new diary from 1929! As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

A Surprising Find at Eastern State Penitentiary

Posted on May 2nd, 2018 by

A blog post by Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

On Monday, April 23, the JMM management team (Marvin, Tracey, Joanna, Ilene and me) piled into Ilene’s car and drove to Philadelphia.

We made the trip to visit our colleagues at the National Museum of American Jewish History and at the Eastern State Penitentiary. Both institutions provided engaging and meaningful experiences, and both provided surprises. I will leave some stories for other posts (and maybe other writers), and focus here on what I found the most surprising about Eastern State Penitentiary: its synagogue.

The historic prison has a beautifully restored synagogue in its midst. I was surprised when our tour guide first mentioned its existence, and my surprise was only compounded when we stepped into the space.

The small room is paneled in a dark wood not unlike our own Rosen-Salganik Board Room, with a simple but decorative ark in one corner and a golden star of David medallion on the ceiling.

The original synagogue door shows the ghosts of two stars of David that used to adorn it.

The space had been built in the early 20th century. “Were there a lot of Jewish prisoners here?” I wondered aloud. Our tour guide informed me that when the synagogue was completed in the 1920s, about 80 of the 1400 prisoners there were Jewish. Rather than a pressing demand for Jewish religious expression among the prisoners, the Eastern State synagogue was built by the broader Philadelphia Jewish community. Likewise, the gleaming, restored space was made possible by the contemporary community.

Once we had had a chance to take in the space, our guide asked for our help flipping down a long section of paneling. As the section flipped down on a long piano hinge, exhibit panels were revealed, presenting the history of the space and of Jewish life at Eastern State.

We had fun comparing historical photos to the contemporary space in which we stood, and were all intrigued to read that the first Jewish clergy to visit Eastern State did so in 1845, the same year our own Lloyd Street Synagogue was born.

Also on display in the synagogue space was a small crowd-sourced display, Share Your Mitzvah.

The Eastern State staff created cards that allowed visitors to share mitzvahs done either by them or for them. They’d also created cards for children to draw pictures to share their stories of good-deed-doing or -receiving. I was impressed with both the sentiment of the display and the low-tech efficiency of it.

In fact, don’t be surprised if one day in the not-too-distant future JMM asks for similar crowd-sourced reports of good-deed-doings.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Graham Goes to MAAM!

Posted on October 29th, 2015 by

Building Communities: MAAM 2015

Building Communities: MAAM 2015

Last week I went to the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums annual conference in Philadelphia. The theme of the conference was “Embracing Diversity In All We Do.” It was fitting that it was held in the historic center. A plaque around the corner from the conference hotel stated that it was in Philadelphia where Quakers, Jews, Catholics and Protestants “experienced the difficulties and discovered the possibilities of fruitful coexistence that American democracy was to offer.” The plaue also stated that diversity is still evident in the Old Philadelphia Congregations, a consortium of historic churchs and sygogogues that are working together to broaden interfaith understanding and celebrate Philadelphia’s inique contribution to religious freedom in America.  Within steps from the conference hotel, I also discovered Mikveh Israel, which is Philadelphia’s oldest Jewish congregation and dates from the 1740s. In front of the synagogue stood a statue to Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy who was the first Jewish U.S. Navy Commodore serving during the Civil War.

Mikveh Israel and Uriah Levy

Mikveh Israel and Uriah Levy

As a way of gaining admission to the conference, I volunteered in the morning assisting with set up and handing out of session evaluations. This was also a good chance for me to network with other museum professionals. I was glad to run into several former employees of the Jewish Museum of Maryland, including one intern, Falicia Eddy who is now back in graduate school. The first session I sent to was on developing programs to bridge the gap between museums and individuals with cognitive, intellectual and sensory processing disabilities. I came away with some ideas which I hope to implement at the Jewish Museum. I also went to a session on diversity, where the highlight for me was hearing from Melissa Yaverbaum, the Executive Director of the Council of American Jewish Museums. I was also fascinated to hear from Eastern State Penitentiary about how they have diversified their staff by hiring former prisioners as front line staff and tour guides. 

MAAM conference session

MAAM conference session

Between sessions, I walked a few blocks over to visit the National Constitution Center to look at their new exhibit titled “Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court” as I felt that this supplemented nicely the theme of the conference. I concluded the day with a session focusing on social justice in museums and how museums have the potential to become centers of gravity for discussions around civic unrest and human rights. I left inspired by some of the efforts other institutions are making to diversify their audiences, programming, exhibits, and staff, but also committed to improving our Museum.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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