It was the greatest show the country had ever seen. In fact, it was the nation's crowning achievement, a spectacle of wonder to showcase to the world how far America had come—and how far it was still to go.
The official name was the 1876 International Exhibition of Arts, Manufacturers, and Products of the Soil and Mine, but everyone referred to it as the Centennial Exhibition. It would be visited by almost ten million people—one in five Americans at that time.
On this day, the eighty miles of asphalt walkways were crowded with hundreds of thousands of excited visitors from all over the world. The relentless beating sun was to turn the asphalt into a hot sticky goo that trapped shoes and small animals.
The undoubted star attraction of the entire exhibition was Machinery Hall. Here could be found fourteen acres of new, shiny, and wondrous inventions.
What America had achieved in one hundred years was truly a marvel. Of course, to make such rapid progress they had had to clear the land of many obstacles. The largest and most obstinate was the Native Americans who had stood in their way. But the frontier had been conquered and the Indians had been subjugated.
Or so they thought.
The news began to filter through in whispered tones. In an instant, beaming faces were transformed into incredulous, openmouthed stares.
It couldn't be true.
Men by the hundreds rushed from Machinery Hall, down the blistering asphalt highways and toward the newspaper vendor. When they grabbed hold of the paper and read the blaring headline, some of them cried. Others gasped in dread. How could this have happened?
Custer and 262 Men Slaughtered
All of a sudden, the machines didn't seem so marvelous after all.