Matthew Wittmann published an article on numismatic items relating to New York's Crystal Palace in the October 5, 2015 Pocket
Change blog from the American Numismatic Society. Here's an excerpt. -Editor
On October 5, 1858, the New York Crystal Palace burned to the ground in just forty minutes after a fire broke out in the northeast corner
of the building just after five o’clock in the evening. The American Institute, a civic organization dedicated to “encouraging and promoting domestic
industry,” was holding its annual fair, and about two thousand visitors were in the building at the time.
Although the enormous structure was mostly made of iron and glass, the pitch pine that was used as flooring and in much of the framework
“afforded a most inflammable pabulum for the conflagration to feed upon.” In a particularly evocative passage the Herald noted that at one
point “the whole palace was like a burning coal, and vomiting up fire at a rate that would have done credit to Vesuvius.” The vivid scene
was captured in a hand-colored lithograph by Currier and Ives in which you can make out a company of red-shirted New York City firemen
arriving in the foreground to vainly battle the roaring blaze.
The building was located on a site between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 42nd Street, in what is today Bryant Park. It was completed in
June 1853, at which time this large medal was struck to commemorate the occasion.
The obverse shows the Crystal Palace in all its glory while the reverse depicts a globe surrounded by allegorical figures bearing the
varied attributes of industry. 1940.100.1018.rev.noscaleThe beatified figure of Europe reigns supreme at the top while a man in native
dress looks up at her from below. As the title and imagery implies, the exhibition was intended to highlight the industrial and artistic
achievements of the United States, and the supposed march of civilization. The exhibition proved popular and it provided a model of sorts
for the string of World’s Fairs that were subsequently staged around the country.
To read the complete article, see:
THE NEW YORK CRYSTAL PALACE IN FLAMES—OCTOBER 5,
THE BOOK BAZARRE
SELECTIONS FROM THE JOHN HUFFMAN LIBRARY
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of John Huffman—All Books Recently Discounted 40%
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Wayne Homren, Editor
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