Images of Progress: Cincinnati Industrial Exposition Posters

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The Cincinnati Industrial Expositions were held between 1870 and 1888 to promote arts and manufactures as well as the economic development of the city.   Sponsored by the Ohio Mechanics Institute and Cincinnati's Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, the expositions drew exhibitors from throughout the country who sought to demonstrate the superiority of their products, techniques and works; win prestigious awards; and contribute to their own success as well as the industrial progress promoted with such enthusiasm in the aftermath of the Civil War.

The expositions represented a continuation of the annual fairs and industrial exhibitions sponsored by the Ohio Mechanics Institute between 1838 and 1860.   These earlier exhibitions had begun as an effort to provide an opportunity to local artisans, artists and manufacturers to show their inventions, products and finest works to the end that developments could be disseminated and the public enlightened regarding the contributions and worth of the mechanical and fine arts and their practitioners.   By the time of the Civil War when they were discontinued, the exhibitions had developed into national competitive events, drawing participants from throughout the country.

The Ohio Mechanics Institute, principal sponsor of the expositions, was established in 1828 to educate mechanics, manufacturers and artisans; to improve their status; and to provide for the diffusion of useful knowledge in the interest of social improvement.   The expositions were seen as an important means to these ends.   While the expositions ended with the Centennial Exposition of 1888, the OMI continued in its mission to provide technical education and in 1969 became a college of the University of Cincinnati.


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