The American History Podcast

A Program Of Virginia Foundation for the Humanities


Preserving History: Martha A. Maxwell and the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition

Taxidermy may suspend the decay of animal specimens, but the process cannot completely protect the remains from the ravages of insects, humidity, and well, time. But, digitized artifacts can be preserved for posterity. So, thanks to’s digital archives, today we present American taxidermist Martha A. Maxwell

You might recognize Maxwell from the cover art of our latest episode, Stuffed. She was an American naturalist who helped found modern taxidermy through her diorama displays. In 1876 Maxwell produced a display for the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, representing Colorado with a habitat diorama featuring taxidermy animals.

Centennial Photographic Company, 999. Mrs. Maxwell’s Rocky Mountain Series, albumen print stereograph, 1876.

The display was a huge success. It represented a milestone in Maxwell’s career and received extensive coverage by the press. Here is an article from the July 12, 1876 edition of Plymouth, Pennsylvania’s The Weekly Star, courtesy of

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