Greenwich Family Visits a Dazzling Turn-Of-The-Century Exposition

By Christopher Shields
Horticulture Building at Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, September 1901
Greenwich Historical Society. Helen Binney Kitchel Papers (MS 11). Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, September 1901. Horticulture Building. 3.25″x3.25″ [Box 12, Scrapbook 8]

Most of the items in the extensive collections of the Greenwich Historical Society focus on the rich history of the Town of Greenwich, providing insight into the lives of those who made their home here. However, personal collections can also offer a look at important events in the world outside the town as experienced by Greenwich families.

Helen Binney Kitchel
Helen Binney Kitchel. Greenwich Historical Society Photograph Collection.

The photographs featured today come from the collection of Mrs. Helen Binney Kitchel who served as a Connecticut State Representative and was very active in the local civic and political scene. She was the daughter of Edwin Binney and Alice Stead Binney. Edwin co-founded the Binney & Smith Corporation, most well known today as the creator of the Crayola crayon. Alice was a teacher, musician and one of the founders of the Greenwich Historical Society.

Postcard of Binney Park
Binney Park. Greenwich Historical Society. Photograph Collection “Parks”

Greenwich residents continue to enjoy Binney Park, which was made possible by the donation of land to the Town by the family. The park was formally dedicated on September 28, 1933.

Helen Binney Kitchel was a dedicated creator of scrapbooks on many topics, both personal and professional. The Historical Society is fortunate to be the repository of a number of these documents.

One of the scrapbooks features images of a family trip to the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York in 1901. The Exposition featured extensive and elaborate use of incandescent lighting to highlight the buildings and grounds. At night, this relatively new lighting technology created a spectacular sight for visitors, many of whom were only familiar with candle and gaslight.

Dorothy, Alice and Helen Binney at Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, September 1901
Greenwich Historical Society. Helen Binney Kitchel Papers (MS 11). Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, September 1901. Dorothy, Alice and Helen Binney by Binney & Smith company exhibit, possibly in the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building. 3.25″x3.25″ [Box 12, Scrapbook 8]

Alice Binney is seen in some of the images with her daughters Dorothy and Helen. The photograph above shows mother and daughters beside the Binney & Smith exhibit at the Exposition. A handwritten caption indicates that this was the first time the Crayola product was displayed (although other sources indicate that the first box of Crayola crayons was produced in 1903).

Binney & Smith Co. Crayola print ad from 1929
Print advertisement for Binney & Smith Crayola crayons in the program for 25th Anniversary of the Sound Beach Fire Department, 1929. Greenwich Historical Society. Ephemera Collection.

Crayola wasn’t the only notable consumer good to be featured at the Exposition; instant coffee was also introduced.

Sadly, the Exposition came to be most famous as the site of the shooting of U. S. President William McKinley, who suffered two gunshot wounds at the hand of anarchist Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. The President died of his injuries just over a week later.

By Christopher Shields

Curator of Library and Archives

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