The 1876 U.S. Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was the first event of its kind in the United States. At the same time that Americans learned of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, many were also introduced to the Kingdom of Siam. The kingdom’s display included nielloware, textiles, theatrical khon masks, shadow puppets, musical instruments, and models of royal barges and houseboats, all of which provided Americans with a fascinating window to the world of Siam.
The exhibitions sent by King Chulalongkorn and his royal commissions were not only an opportunity to demonstrate the mastery of Siamese artisans and to spur trade interest in his nation’s commodities, but they were also gestures of goodwill that, much like earlier gifts, communicated the mutual esteem between his kingdom and the United States. -
Gift from King Chulalongkorn to the Smithsonian Institution, 1876