Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Kaldenberg Masterpiece for the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia (1876)

This massive centerpiece, a table pipe in meerschaum, was produced by the Kaldenberg Company of New York City 

for the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, 1876 (the first world fair in the United States).

The Official Catalog for The Great Centennial Exhibition

United States Centennial Commission. International Exhibition 1876, Official Catalogue, Part II. Philadelphia: John R. Nagle & Co., 1876.

Panorama of the International Exhibition Philadelphia 1876

Map of The Centennial Hall and Exhibition Buildings

The Centennial Hall

Installation in main Exhibition hall, January 1876. Henry Pettit and Joseph
Wilson, architects.

Interior, Main Exhibition Building, looking west from grandstand

Right Arm and Torch of the Statue of Lafayette and Washington aka Statue of Liberty

This is a chromolithograph representation of Lady Justice and other symbolic figures from the book, "Treasures of Art, Industry and Manufacture Represented in the American Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia" (1876). Its dimensions are 19.5" h., 14.75" w.

A near-exact description of this pipe (with a bit of exaggeration) is found in "At the Exhibition" (Appleton's Journal, Volume Fifteenth, January 1 to June 24, 1876), and this is proof-positive that this pipe was present at the exhibition: "Then they stop before a prodigious meerschaum-pipe in the form of a temple over two feet high with the most elaborate carvings upon it, and four long tubes attached to it, so that it may be placed in the middle of a table and smoked by four persons at the one time."

"Treasures of Art, Industry and Manufacture Represented in the American Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia" (1876).

 There is another brief written record of this masterpiece, thanks to the Internet and the perseverance of the two administrators. It is found in a New York Times article, February 25, 1883, "The Smoker's Favorite." The article describes a number of antique smoking pipes, and devotes one paragraph to this particular pipe: 

"Of that class is a pipe made by a well-known City manufacturer purchased by an Italian nobleman for the King of Italy for $1,500. (This nobleman must have approached Kaldenberg and made this offer some seven years after it was on public display.) It is called a society pipe, and it can be smoked by four persons at a time. As a work of art, it is typical of the grandeur of America. It is pyramidal in form, 26 inches high, and at the four corners of the base are graceful figures personifying agriculture, commerce, architecture, and engineering. A sheaf of wheat, an anchor, a Corinthian column, and a bog-wheel, respectively, rest near each figure. Above are four cupids, whose paraphernalia indicate a weakness for sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. The carvings are delicately and fantastically wrought throughout the structure, and on the apex is a beautiful goddess of liberty, representing also the power and justice of America. The pedestal, 10 inches in height, is draped with velvet and the Italian colors, and hung with foliage of meerschaum, caught with amber rings. There is a vase at each corner of the pedestal for the tobacco, and long elastic tubes with amber mouthpieces, enable the four smokers to walk around the room while smoking if they care not to sit still. Before the pipe goes to Italy there may be a change in the story it tells by the substitution of a figure of Victor Emmanuel in place of the goddess of liberty, but that is not a foregone conclusion."

If it has survived the ravages of time, its whereabouts, today, is unknown.

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