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Department of Foreign Participation

[Record Group 232-4-8]

232-4-8.1 Correspondence and Files
1922-1927
2 cu.ft., no index
Approximately three-fourths of this material pertains to the planning of international aspects of the exposition by Col. Baker and his associates from 1922-1926. The remaining portion documents events which took place after the opening of the exposition (May-October 1926) when Joseph R. Wilson served as department head. The material is filed alphabetically by name of country. Materials concerning foreign-governmental participation found in Wilson's files as head of the Department of Education and Social Economy have been integrated with the records of the Department of Foreign Participation.

The files from 1922-1926 contain correspondence between Sesqui-Centennial officials and representatives of foreign nations and foreign manufacturing and trade firms regarding pavilions, displays, booths, concessions, events, and other international features of the exposition. Included are inquiries from prospective foreign participants dating from as early as 1922; and from a number of other foreign countries which had already expressed interest before formal arrangements for international participation began in the spring of 1925. However, the bulk of the material dates from May 1925--when President Coolidge issued invitations through the U.S. State Department to officially make this an international exposition--up to the opening of the exposition in May 1926. Included is correspondence from Frank B. Kellogg, Secretary of State, Albert H. Washburne, American minister to Austria, and other U. S. State Department officials; and correspondence of many of America¹s commercial attaches--that is, officials of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, U. S. Department of Commerce--who actively assisted Sesqui-Centennial officers in approaching potential foreign exhibitors.

The general correspondence file (A/0.3.0) covers the period from roughly July 1924 to June 1926. The earliest material is found in a legal-size folder labeled "Summaries 1924." It contains a report summarizing inquiries from prospective overseas exhibitors from 1922-1924. Also of interest is the folder ³Foreign-Language Speaking Groups in Philadelphia,² filed with legal-sized material, which includes lists of representatives of various foreign language speaking groups in Philadelphia, members of the city's Italian Chamber of Commerce, and Swedish, Russian, British, and Polish organizations who could be approached about participating at Sesqui. In at least one instance (Swedish), American ethnic groups cooperated in sponsoring an exhibit about their home country, and Italian-Americans helped sponsor an "Italia" spectacle.

The bulk the general correspondence from 1924-1926 is made up of internal exchanges between Sesqui-Centennial officials such as updates on the amount of space reserved by various countries, floor plans, lists of special representatives in foreign countries, and information about concessions such as Old Vienna (Austria), the Roumanian Village, Neurnberger Market Platz (Germany), and Treasure Island (England). The files also include incoming correspondence and copies of outgoing responses by the officers most involved in planning international displays at the exposition including Director-in-Chief Collier until his resignation in October 1925; Assistant Director A. L. Sutton; E. L. Austin, Captain Asher C. Baker, and L. R. Meisenhelter, Director of Exhibits through the spring of 1926. Among the more interesting items are exchanges between Collier and Don Ricarao de Villafranca, Director of the Latin American Department, International Trade Exhibition, Inc., New Orleans, over the summer of 1925 concerning representation of Latin American countries, and carbon copies of Meisenhelter¹s letters to foreign exhibitors and their agents and brokers containing detailed information about rental fees, shipping instructions, and installation of displays.

Folders (A/03.01), Diplomats, document interaction between Sesqui-Centennial officials and diplomats. The first folder contains letters from foreign governments and commercial firms expressing interest in the exposition from 1922-24. The second folder contains material concerning the invitation of foreign representatives and their participation in the Sesqui-Centennial from 1925-26. It is arranged alphabetically by last name of correspondent Included are U. S. Department of State diplomatic lists for February, September, November, and December 1925, listing names and addresses of ambassadors, commercial attaches, and other embassy officials, and lists of Sesqui¹s special commissioners in foreign countries. The correspondence includes incoming letters to Col. Collier and Capt. Baker from persons seeking appointments as special commissioners and business envoys to popularize the Sesqui-Centennial exposition in Europe and Asia; organizations such as the International Lyceum and Chautauqua Association which obtained authorization for their members to promote the Sesqui-Centennial exposition in public presentations; applications from other persons interested in representing the Sesqui-Centennial exposition abroad; and exchanges with officials in the Department of State regarding procedures for issuing letters of introduction. The third folder contains exchanges of correspondence between Col. Collier and William Franklin Sands, a former diplomat interested in assisting Collier, dating from 1922 to 1925. Of interest is Sands¹s candid letter of May 10, 1925, in which he warned Collier to beware of the inbred conservatism of Philadelphians when making plans for the exposition. Folder (A/03.11), Foreign Consuls, contains lists of foreign consuls in Philadelphia and carbons of letters sent to the consuls by Sesqui¹s Director of Exhibits.

The remainder of sequence (A/03.12-A/03.88) consists of folders of correspondence with individual countries, 1925-1926. These files are of two types. Those labeled with the name of the country and the word ³Consul² include such items as carbons of letters inviting ambassadors of each country to participate and letters from Col. Collier or Capt. Baker regarding the selection of sites and displays; responses from foreign officials, often in their native languages; memoranda regarding meetings with foreign delegations in Philadelphia or elsewhere; and discussion of the designation of special days to recognize each country¹s contributions to world history. Folders which do not specify ³Consul² include both correspondence with ambassadors and embassy staff representing each country and with private firms or agencies which booked exhibit space at the exposition. In the case of Germany, for instance, various manufacturing companies had arranged to exhibit at the Sesqui-Centennial before the German government had officially responded to the President¹s invitation to participate, and the correspondence details these arrangements. Typical of other materials to be found are correspondence between the Sesqui-Centennial¹s Division of Publicity and foreign trade groups which were trying to promote the Sesqui-Centennial overseas; letters from U.S. offices of foreign newspapers and editors of foreign magazines who were doing feature stories on the Sesqui-centennial; and applications for concessions. The files reveal perceptions of exposition overseas and report on such things as the difficulty of getting information, the lack of publicity, the lack of awareness about arrangements for the Sesqui-Centennial on the part of American foreign trade representatives, and difficulties experienced by exposition officials in winning the confidence of prospective foreign exhibitors.

Finally, the material documents specific exhibits and events. The Roumania folders detail the visit of Marie Queen of Roumania on October 21, 1926, and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra concert on that occasion. Files on Japanese participation include clippings about the envoy's visit.
Location: City Archives, 3101 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Shelf list is available.


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Last updated on October 28, 1998