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"The United States and the 1925 Paris Exposition: Opportunity Lost and Found"

Studies in the Decorative Arts (The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, Fall-Winter 2005-2006), 94.

In late May of 1924, the United States Secretary of State informed the French government that the United States would not participate in the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, to be held in Paris in 1925.  The decision to forego participation might have been a lost opportunity, both diplomatically, as the French were deeply unhappy about the decision, and commercially, as American manufacturers were barred from exhibiting at the Exposition on an individual basis.  Charles Russell Richards, Director of The American Association of Museums (AAM), turned the situation around. 

Richards convinced Herbert Hoover, Secretary of Commerce, to establish a Commission to visit, study, report upon, and secure intelligent publicity in the United States concerning the Exposition.  Three Commissioners and scores of delegates spent several weeks in Paris visiting the Exposition.  They calmed the diplomatic waters, they brought back to the United States new ideas about merchandise and merchandising, and they issued a report that both exhorted the American business establishment to produce modern design, and included a blueprint as to how to do so without undue risk.  In addition, Richards selected approximately four hundred objects from the Exposition to tour eight museums in the United States and provide thousands of Americans with a counterpoint to the historicism that then pervaded most American design. 

The article elucidates this series of events, with illustrations of the Commission's visit to Paris and the objects that traveled in the United States, and explains how all these efforts formed the basis for an upsurge in modern design in America during the second half of the 1920s.