1926 souvenir book marked America’s first 150 years

October 2023

​Vintage Discoveries

1926 souvenir book marked America’s first 150 years

by Ken Weyand

At the bottom of a cedar chest with other family memorabilia, I found a souvenir book of the 1926 Sesqui-Centennial Exposition, held in Philadelphia. It featured historical highlights of the U.S. from its discovery in 1492 to what was then “present-day 1926.” Epic battles, the completion of the transcontinental railroad, the building of the Panama Canal, and the development of ocean liners and “modern bombing planes” were included. The subhead was “Looking back from Coolidge to Columbus.”

My mother, Mabel Forrester, a member of the Des Moines University (later to become Drake University) music faculty, had attended the fair and bought the book. When the 1926 summer session ended, she had taken a train to Kahoka, MO, where her parents lived. Her dad, Charley, was a rural mail carrier who never owned a car. He and his wife, Carrie, lived modestly, but they enjoyed traveling by train.

On Aug. 23, the three left Kahoka and took the Keokuk & Western Railroad east to Keokuk, IA, where they boarded another train to Chicago. After staying with a college friend of my mother’s, they boarded another train for Washington, D.C., where they toured the White House, the Washington Memorial and other attractions. Then they took a side trip to Camden, NJ, for more sightseeing before traveling to Philadelphia to see the fair.

My mother’s diary doesn’t offer many details about the exposition, but in 1926, many things at the fair impressed visitors from small towns. Wikipedia described one of the Sesquicentennial’s attractions: an 80-foot-tall “Liberty Bell,” at the fair’s entrance. The giant construction spanned Broad Street, and was covered by 26,000 electric light bulbs. 

 The Quack's Victims

Ken's mother

Mabel Forrester in 1926

Biggle Health Book

Sesquicentennial Book

This souvenir book is in pretty shape after nearly a century. (Images courtesty of Ken Weyand.)


From Philadelphia, my mother and her parents went to Chicago and toured the Art Institute and Field Museum before returning to Keokuk. From there, my mom and grandmother returned to Kahoka, while Charley took an eastbound train to Palmyra, Illinois, to attend a family reunion.

The souvenir book features photographs of Philadelphia in 1926 and offers contrasting historical images dating to Columbus. Advances in warfare, transportation and city development are highlighted by “aeroplane views” of Philadelphia.

The book also includes views of the newly-built Municipal Stadium, that featured religious services and other events during the fair. In September it was the site of the boxing match between Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey. Later it was renamed the John F. Kennedy Stadium and for four years was the home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Unfortunately, the fair was plagued from the start by financial troubles, made worse by squabbling among city leaders and several rainouts, including an opening day thunderstorm that resulted in a turnout of fewer than 250. The next year, suffering a loss of $20 million, the fair’s assets were placed in receivership, and sold at public auction.

Ken Weyand is the original owner/publisher of Discover Vintage America,  founded in July 1973 under the name of Discover North.

Ken Weyand can be contacted at kweyand1@kc.rr.com Ken is self-publishing a series of non-fiction E-books. Go to www.smashwords.com and enter Ken Weyand in the search box.

Picture book was a 1917 railroad souvenir

August 2022​Vintage Discoveries Picture book was a 1917 railroad souvenirby Ken Weyand Rocky Mountain Views One of my relatives who traveled through the Western states by rail in the early 1900s came home with a souvenir book of “Rocky Mountain Views. The origin of my...

read more

Toy car had the look of a Chrysler “Airflow”

June 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Toy car had the look of a Chrysler “Airflow” by Ken Weyand   Back in the mid-1940s Back in the mid-1940s, my wife’s dad, a physician in Hamilton, IL, had acquired a couple of toy metal cars. My wife, Karen, said her dad gave the...

read more

Ancient geography textbook reveals a lot

May 2022​Vintage Discoveries Ancient geography textbook reveals a lotby Ken Weyand  Old Geography Book One of the few records of my grandfather’s early life and that of his brothers is an old geography book I re-discovered recently in a cedar chest full of other...

read more

Solving a jigsaw puzzle—80 years later

April 2022​Vintage Discoveries Solving a jigsaw puzzle—80 years laterby Ken Weyand  Bored Youngster When I was a youngster, we would occasionally spend Sundays with my dad’s stepmother and his two sisters in Hamilton, IL, across the river from Keokuk, IA. I...

read more

Old nursery rhyme book fondly remembered

March 2022​Vintage Discoveries Old nursery rhyme book fondly remembered  ~ by Ken Weyand ~   My first books One of my first books – saved by my mother over the years – recently turned up in my attic. “Three Little Pigs” is a nursery rhyme classic, and it was...

read more

Donald Duck pull toy was a 1940s hit

 February 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Donald Duck pull toy was a 1940s hit   ~ by Ken Weyand ~   As a youngster, one of my favorite comic-strip characters was Donald Duck, a creation of the Walt Disney Co. in the 1930s. Like many of his contemporaries, Donald...

read more

Old book charmed children in its day

January 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Old book charmed children in its day by Ken Weyand   “Bugaboo Bill and Other Wonders” I came across an old book the other day that has me stumped. Was it part of the accumulation of “old stuff” my parents never threw away? Was it...

read more

Century-old high chair served three generations

December 2021​Vintage DiscoveriesCentury-old high chair served three generationsby Ken Weyand  The high chair, a device for aiding in the feeding of very young children and infants, has been around for decades. As a separate piece of furniture marketed to...

read more

‘Single Tree’ was part of old-time farming

November 2021​Vintage Discoveries​‘Single Tree’ was part of old-time farmingby Ken Weyand  Early in the 1940s, after years of “horse-farming,” my dad bought a tractor and sold his team of draft horses. Soon after that, much of the horse-drawn equipment was sold,...

read more

Flying ‘back in time’ in a vintage biplane

~ October 2018 /  Traveling with Ken ~​Vintage DiscoveriesFlying 'back in time' in a vintage biplane  ~ by Ken Weyand ~  Flying in an open-cockpit biplane is a forgotten part of our history. It was an era when pilots flew "tail-dragger" aircraft from grass...

read more