Sesqui!: Greed, Graft, and the Forgotten World's Fair of 1926 (Hardcover)
In 1916, Philadelphia department-store magnate John Wanamaker launched plans for a Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in 1926. It would be a magnificent world's fair to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The "Sesqui" would also transform sooty, industrial Philadelphia into a beautiful Beaux Arts city.
However, when the Sesqui opened on May 31, 1926, in the remote, muddy swamps of South Philadelphia, the fair was unfinished, with a few shabbily built and mostly empty structures. Crowds stayed away in droves: fewer than five million paying customers attended, costing the city millions of dollars. Philadelphia became a national scandal--a city so corrupt that one political boss could kidnap an entire world's fair.
In his fascinating history Sesqui , noted historian Thomas Keels situates this ill-fated celebration--a personal boondoggle by the all-powerful Congressman William S. Vare--against the transformations taking place in America during the 1920s. Keels provides a comprehensive account of the Sesqui as a meeting ground for cultural changes sweeping the country: women's and African-American rights, anti-Semitism, eugenics, Prohibition, and technological advances.
About the Author
Thomas H. Keels is a historian and lecturer who has authored or co-authored seven books and numerous articles on Philadelphia history, including Forgotten Philadelphia: Lost Architecture of the Quaker City (Temple), Philadelphia Graveyards and Cemeteries, and Wicked Philadelphia: Sin in the City of Brotherly Love. A confirmed taphophile, Keels has been a tour guide at Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia's premier Victorian necropolis, for two decades. Visit him online at http: //www.thomaskeels.com/.