Gross, Florian (2022):
"From the New York Crystal Palace to the World of Tomorrow: World Fairs as a Transnational Series." World Fairs and the Global Moulding of National Identities: International Exhibitions as Cultural Platforms, 1851–1958. Eds. Leerssen, Joep; Storm, Eric. Leiden: Brill. 84-106. National Cultivation of Culture; 27.
Article in Anthology

This chapter examines the second world fair, the New York Crystal Palace of 1853 and 1854, as an important example for the formation of a specifically “modern” as well as “American” popular culture and argues that world fairs should be read as a serial cultural form. On the surface, the exhibition was an obviously derivative transposition of the first world fair at London’s Crystal Palace. But the American version also introduced significant innovations to the form, such as the establishment of a private, republican, and capitalist rather than royal enterprise or the explicit inclusion of popular entertainment – thus contributing to a nationalist agenda that sought to define Americanness in an ambivalent dialectic between distinction from and reliance upon European cultural forms. Due to this productive ambivalence, the New York Crystal Palace was a crucial instance in the establishment of the transnational, popular, and above all serial form of cultural self-fashioning that is the world fair. It consolidated and exemplified a cosmopolitan series whose respective instances asserted national specificity at the same time that they linked their national (ist) agendas to transnational modernity.