The first centennial celebration – Kennedy Bicentennial Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Kennedy Bicentennial Half Dollar Coin remembers the invitation and the exhibitions of the first Centennial celebration held as a World Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

First, on June 5, 1874, Congress passed legislation regarding the invitations to the world.


CHAP. 215.-An act in relation to the Centennial Exhibition.

Whereas, at various international exhibitions which have been held in foreign countries, the United States have been represented in pursuance of invitations given by the governments of those countries, and accepted by our own government, therefore,

B e it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President be requested to extend, in the name of the United States, a respectful and cordial invitation to the governments of other nations, to be represented and take part in the international exposition to be held at Philadelphia, under the auspices of the government of the United States, in the year eighteen hundred and seventy-six: Provided, however, That the United States shall not be liable, directly or indirectly, for any expenses attending such exposition, or by reason of the same.


Just two years later, the Centennial exhibits were on display with visitors arriving in the thousands daily.

On June 5, 1876, the Baltimore American and Commercial newspaper reported:


Philadelphia. Tomorrow the Delaware State building on the Exposition grounds will be formally opened. Chief Justice Comegys and the State Commission will be in attendance. The Michigan State building will be formally opened on the Fourth of July.

Archbishops Purcell of Cincinnati, Williams of Boston and Wood of Philadelphia inspected the Centennial T.A.B. fountain on the grounds on Saturday. Commissioner French of Mississippi started South on Saturday to arrange a system of excursion trains from that State to the Exposition.

The admissions on Friday were as follows: Exhibitors, attendants and complimentary – 13,167; cash- 26,637 for a total of 39,804. The attendance on Saturday was as great as on Friday, if not greater. Fred. Douglass was a visitor to the grounds on Saturday.

A fine model in solid metal of Independence Hall has been placed on exhibition. Its weight is twelve hundred pounds. So complete is the entire work in all its details that if Independence Hall should at any time be destroyed by fire or otherwise the exact reproduction as it stands today could readily be made from the model.


Similarly in June, the Camden [NJ] Democrat newspaper reported:


The Rush to the Centennial

The patronage bestowed upon the World’s wonder is immense. People are coming from all parts of the globe to view the vast collection of everything that is made by the hand of man, and everything that nature supplies.

It was predicted that a system of extortion would be practiced, as soon as the pressure commenced; but there is no indication of it up to this writing, if we except the attempt in a few cases, which were promptly suppressed.

Many thought that such an unprecedented number of visitors to the city, would increase the price of produce, such as meats, poultry, vegetables, fruits, etc.; but all these articles remain at their usual rates—some of them cheaper than usual.

Butter if anything is lower in price, the same may be said of all kinds of vegetables, and strawberries as low as five cents a quart. There is an abundant supply of all kinds of provisions, and it is not possible to increase the price.

The moderate charges of public houses, and the ample accommodations prepared for the public, will no doubt prolong the stay of many visitors, who will go home impressed with the liberality of our people.

It will be a proud feature of our exhibition to know that we have not taken advantage of the occasion to “bleed” the visitors.

The fear that it would be difficult to obtain board and lodging on reasonable terms was entirely dispelled at the recent demonstration of the Knights Templar, nearly eight thousand of whom—many having their families to visit the city with them—were comfortably provided for at moderate prices.

It is rumored that the fare on railroads will shortly be reduced to visitors. Should this be the case, a much larger number of persons will visit the Centennial; but none who have the means should fail to look upon this grand spectacle, let the cost be what it may.


The Kennedy Bicentennial Half Dollar Coin shows against a view of Independence Hall at the beginning of the Centennial year, 1876.

Kennedy Bicentennial Half Dollar Coin