1915 Pan Pacific Exposition

Pennsylvania State Building

James J. O'Brien
Superintendant of Construction

The Pennsylvania State Building

The Liberty Bell


Left to Right:
Mr. & Mrs. Henry Ford
Thomas Edison

James O'Brien, Superintendant of Construction

Thomas O'Brien, Official Photographer of the Exposition

Left to Right:
Thomas O'Brien and his camera
Thomas stands next to the Liberty Bell
Thomas and his friends at the Exposition

O'Brien Family Members

Story of the Pennsylvania State Building from:






A HUMAN tide poured all day through a loggia of tall double columns between two gabled structures of red brick just westward of the New York Building. This was the shrine of the Liberty Bell, and millions viewed the national relic after its arrival in mid-July. It was Pennsylvania's great contribution to the inspirations and the passionate patriotism of war time and the Exposition year. Introduced with the oration of Champ Clark, and closely followed by that of Theodore Roosevelt, the Bell seemed like the national hopes and aspirations made visible. It was approached in a spirit of worship and gazed upon with all the reverence Americans are capable of feeling toward any material object; for although the country had not yet entered the war, a large part of its citizenship was coming to the conviction that it could not much longer remain neutral.

The Pennsylvania Building itself reproduced the main architectural features of Independence Hall, where the Bell is kept, and from whose tower it once rang out the hope of democracy in the Declaration of Independence. The loggia divided the structure into two wings, in one of which was a fire proof vault where the Bell was locked at night. In the same wing with the vault was an assembly hall and cinema theater, in which were projected some of the most striking pictures to be seen anywhere in the Exposition. There were scenes from the Philadelphia zoo, a panorama of Independence Square, a showing of the public bath houses, pictures of high-school athletics, of chestnut farming, and a long list of industrial scenes from some of the great manufacturing plants of a great manufacturing State. Here you could see them making Disston saws and Stetson hats and Hershey's chocolate and Heinz's pickles and copies of the Ladies' Home Journal. Processes and methods in the State's war on tuberculosis were depicted, and there were pictures of University of Pennsylvania field sports.

In the west wing was a large parlor for the convenience of visitors, with a post office, the offices of the Commission, and a reading room opening off. It was estimated that 200,000 Pennsylvanians visited the building, and these included many of the religious sects that have made the Keystone State their homes--Mennonites, Dunkards, the Amish, and others that we do not ordinarily think of as forming any considerable part of the "tourist trade." Among them were many that could not speak the official language of this country, and hence were symptomatic of a grave defect in its national solidarity.

Had it possessed no other interest, this building would still have been remarkable, and would have attracted throngs, on account of its artistic embellishment. Within the loggia and over the entrances to the wings were some sculptural reliefs by Susan Watson of Pittsburgh, one representing an iron-puddler and the other a coal-miner. The most striking features of the decorations, however, were the two large murals at the ends of the loggia. These were by Edward Trumbull of Pittsburgh, a pupil of Frank Brangwyn, and a descendant of John Trumbull, a painter of the Revolution, and they showed the hand of the master in every line. They were of important size 18 by 29 feet. Grand in theme, strong but harmonious in color, and alive with vital human figures, they arrested attention and satisfied your notion of how such themes should be treated pictorially. One represented William Penn, surrounded by the companions of his voyage in the "Welcome," making his treaty with the Indians, who appeared in their war trappings and made a fine and dignified looking lot of savages. The other depicted the steel industry of Pennsylvania. Here was a theme peculiarly suited to the artist's method. Brawny workmen, glowing ingots of steel, stacks belching smoke redly glaring in the light of open furnaces, and the Gargantuan equipment of this giant industry, made a scene of grandeur on the canvas.

The parlor, or reception room, was octagonal in shape, had a hospitable open fireplace with brass andirons that looked like the property of Penn himself, and was decorated with a series of eight delightful paintings by Charles J. Taylor of Pittsburgh, making a sort of frieze about the tops of the walls. They were as typical of rural life as a dozen eggs. Here you saw the Country Church, the Country Schoolhouse, the Old Mill, Canal Locks, the Boat Landing at Fort Pitt, a Winter Scene, and the County Fair. Country types like Frost's appeared in these scenes, men and women of the homely life of the American rural districts that must always form the backbone of the Nation: the farmer, the school-teacher, the canal-boat captain, the boy on the towpath with the mules, the canal-boat captain's wife and the lock keeper's wife exchanging gossip, the miller, the fife and drum corps and the leader of the band, the railroad conductor, and the peanut butcher at the County Fair. Over the fireplace was a portrait of Governor Brumbaugh, while former Governor Tener was similarly honored above the fireplace in the lecture hall.

The formal gardens about the Pennsylvania Building were very hand some, with clumps of fir and borders of low hedge. At the four corners, in copses, were statues by Giuseppe Donato of Philadelphia. One was a youth with a sickle carrying a sheaf of wheat, another a maiden gathering corn, a third a gentle old woman in shawl and sunbonnet, and the fourth an old farmer smoking the pipe of contentment. The approaches to the loggia were flanked by large urns, four in number, by Earl B. Kinney and August Zeller; the four bearing eight groups of small figures in plastic pictures of familiar life. The structure itself was designed by Henry Hornbostel of Pittsburgh.

This building contained no exhibits. Pennsylvania had some 90 exhibitors, but their offerings were scattered through the exhibit palaces under the proper classification, and the State Government was represented by an important exhibit which has been treated in connection with the Department of Social Economy. The total appropriation for participation was about $227,000, and the Commission consisted of Governor Martin G. Brumbaugh, former Governor John K. Tener, Frank B. McClain, Ernest L. Tustin, W. E. Crow, Chas. W. Sones, James L. Adams, H. J. Heinz, M. S. Hershey, Francis Shunk Brown, Geo. W. Creighton, Chas. F. Thompson, Chas. A. Bentley, C. Victor Johnson, Chas. A. Shaffer, Chas. D. Armstrong, Morgan E. Gable, G. W. Nitrauer, E. H. Porter, Chas. A. Woods, Chester P. Ray, and Emest T. Trigg.

At various times different members visited the Exposition, but the Commission was almost continuously represented by Chester P. Ray, who had executive authority, and by Col. A. G. Hetherington of Philadelphia, who remained on the ground throughout the year, and gave especial attention to the Pennsylvania exhibits in the Departments of Education and Fine Arts. The hostess of the building was Mrs. William Hall Sieberst.

The dedication occurred on March I8, and Pennsylvania Day was celebrated on September 4. The State's participation was signalized most dramatically, of course, by those extremely important events of the Exposition season, the arrival and departure of the Liberty Bell. The note of patriotism was in everything the Commission did. The Pennsylvania Building itself, its pictures and sculptures and other appointments, expressed an intense Americanism which, as in the case of New Jersey, constituted one of the most valuable elements any State introduced into the Exposition life.

Last revision: 3/18/1998

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