Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace, New York City, Illustrated News, July 30 1853
In July 1853 two prominent news weeklies, the Illustrated News (July 23 and July 30, 1853) and Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (July 23, 1853), published commissioned engravings depicting events during the opening of the Crystal Palace.  

Crystal Palace was located on the lot now designated Bryant Park.  With a cast iron skeleton sheathed in glass, Crystal Palace’s interior four acre space was almost entirely wood.  Crystal Palace was home to America’s first great international exposition, the “Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations.” Its architects were George J. B. Carstensen and Charles Gildermeister who designed a building which, as its predecessors in London (1851) and Dublin (1852) evidenced, demonstrated that glass and metal engineering was the future of large commercial buildings.

            The magazine’s engravers captured grand events associated with the Exhibition; the majesty of Crystal Palace itself; and the everyday, genre scenes popular among American art viewers.  After the exposition ended (November 1853), Crystal Palace remained and the space was leased to a variety of organizations and commercial exhibitors.  On October 5, 1858, Crystal Palace dramatically burned to the ground in less than a half hour.  In 1884 the city built Bryant Park on the site.  Bryant Park is named in honor of William Cullen Bryant, poet, newspaper editor, and an early champion of Central Park.  All images shown here are photographs of pages of the magazines in a private collection.    
~ Rodger Birt


The Crystal Palace opened on July 14, 1853. 
Twenty thousand people attended the opening
day ceremonies.
Admission to the Crystal Palace: 12 cents
Crystal Palace‘s site, formerly known as “Reservoir Square,” was 1,000 feet by 500 feet. According to Francis’s New Guide to the Cities of New-York and Brooklyn, and the Vicinity, it was “four miles from the Battery, and three and a quarter from the City Hall, but most conveniently located with reference to travel. The depots of the Sixth Avenue, the Eighth Avenue, and the Harlem Railroads, and the upper termini of some dozen lines of stages, are in the immediate neighborhood; so that, for five or six cents one may reach the place from any part of New-York, and, with the addition of ferriage, from the remotest sections of Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Jersey City, without so much as two minutes’ walking.”
“The view of the dome can hardly fail to gratify and surprise the beholder, from the contrast of its vast size and its extreme airiness.” A Day in the New York Crystal Palace (1853).
Singer’s Sewing Machine exhibit. Isaac Merrit Singer displayed his innovative machinery, which he had patented two years before the exhibit in 1851.


U.S President Franklin Pierce attended the “Grand Crystal Palace Banquet” in NYC. Pierce was present at the opening day ceremonies. Over one million people would see the fair during its run.

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