Vibrant 1882 chromo of Boston’s New England Fair building

Chromolithograph, 17 ¾”h x 31 7/8”w on a 27 ¾”h x 41 ¾”w sheet, with blocks ruled out in the blank border and names of advertisers entered in pencil. Backed with linen at an early date.

A lovely chromolithographic view of the so-called New England Fair, the exhibition building of the New England Manufacturers and Mechanics Institute. Extremely rare in any form, but particularly unusual for being a publisher’s mockup, with extensive material in manuscript.

In 1881 the building was the site of the first exhibition of the Institute, which organization had its origins in a schism that split the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, a venerable organization founded by Paul Revere and other Boston tradesmen in 1795.

“The building of the New England Fair, as it is familiarly termed, is one of the finest which has ever been erected for exhibition purposes. In construction it is substantial; the interior space is well lighted; the hight [sic] is ample, while the peculiar construction of the roof imparts to the whole an appearance of lightness and grace which well befits the purposes for which it was intended. The architect of this structure was Mr. Alden Frink, assisted by Messres. Grats & Forbes, engineer. The iron roof was erected by D.H. Andrews, and the mason-work was under the control of J.H. Coon. Leach & Harney supplied the foundations, while Messrs. Greesy & Noyes furnished the woodwork of the building.” (Carpentry and Building, Vol. III (New York: 1881), p. 209)

The exhibition building burned to the ground in 1886.

This copy is a publisher’s mock-up, predating the insertion of the title and advertisements for local businesses in sectioned blocks around the margin of the image. Here the blocks, 24 in all, have been filled in in pencil with the names of local businesses, indicating the placement of ads in the finished version. A space along the bottom of the lithograph has been blocked off for the caption title, and a temporary note has been penciled in, reading “September 6th, 1882. Second Exhibition.” This is a beautiful, bright example, the building a dramatic red brick, with flags fluttering from the roof lines.

The lithography is the work of Charles Armstrong’s company. Born in in London, Armstrong (1836-1906) served a long apprenticeship with the Leighton Brothers, one of England’s pioneers in color lithography. He emigrated to the United States and was briefly active in New York, before moving to the Boston area around 1867, where we remained until his death. Early in his career he worked for Louis Prang. (Pierce & Slauttereback, Boston Lithography, pp. 126-7)

Not in OCLC (as of March 2017). An earlier impression, dated 1881, lacking margins, and in rather mutilated condition, is held by the Boston Athenaeum.


Old folds, with some cracking and other wear along folds, but a beautiful, bright example.