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World Fairs

World Fairs

Smith College had booths at several world fairs and expositions from the 1890s to the 1930s, giving the college unique opportunities to publicize its merits. It was one of the only women’s colleges to consistently appear at world fairs. The booths highlighted Smith’s history, famous figures, campus, educational opportunities, and distinguished alumnae. The four stated purposes of such displays were to 1) greet and aid alumnae (who had often traveled great distances and were unfamiliar with the area); 2) attract new students; 3) “make friends” for the college (leave visitors with favorable impressions); and 4) interest possible donors. The booths were staffed by alumnae and local Smith College Clubs played major roles in planning the events.

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago was the first time women had taken an active role in planning the fair. The Smith College booth was in the Women’s Building, which brought together many booths related to women’s interests and was called “one of the first major expressions of feminist consciousness” in the country. At the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, Smith’s booth was in the Palace of Education. This time, the catchphrase was “bringing Smith to California” as the college tried to recruit West Coast students. The college took its role as the main representative of higher education for women seriously, and focused on the achievements of college educated women in the world.

Booth at the Chicago World's Fair, 1933

Booth at the Chicago World's Fair, 1933

The booth at the 1933 Century of Progress fair in Chicago was located at a highly visible junction in the Hall of Social Sciences. Despite early plans to have a combined Seven Sisters display, in the end Smith was the only women’s college to have a booth. However, there was a lounge area for alumnae of all women’s colleges elsewhere in the same building. The main attraction of the Smith booth that year was the colorful mural background painted by art professor Oliver Larkin, portraying various aspects of student life at Smith.

For further information please see:

See also: Smithipedia–Alumnae–Smith’s Century of Progress booth

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