Frazier History Museum

The Southern Exposition Lights up Metro Hall

Located at Louisville Metro Hall (527 W. Jefferson Street)

From operas to orchestras and livestock to light bulbs, Louisville’s Southern Exposition was spectacular in every way. For one year at Metro Hall, the Frazier History Museum is showcasing a time when the world traveled to Louisville, Kentucky to discover innovation through the first successful nighttime fair. The Southern Exposition featured cutting-edge technology illuminated by the magic of the incandescent light bulb.

As part of the Frazier History Museum’s partnership with Louisville Metro Government, visitors will see The Southern Exhibition for FREE! The exhibit, installed on Thursday, August 20, 2015 at the old Jefferson County Courthouse, can be seen in the building's second floor rotunda. The exhibit is free and open to the public during normal weekday business hours at 6th & Jefferson Streets.

The 1883 Southern Exhibition was illuminated by former Louisville resident Thomas Edison, who personally managed the installation of the recently invented incandescent light bulbs. The 4,600 bulbs used at the fair outnumbered the total number of bulbs in all of New York City at the time! See artifacts and hear a live recording of a young Louisville girl as she describes her experience of walking into the Southern Exposition for the very first time.

Featuring much more than electrically lit, nighttime entertainment, people traveled from all over the world to learn about agricultural machinery and technical innovation in the United States at the Southern Exposition. On August 1, 1883 U.S. President Chester Arthur ceremoniously started the festivities with the yank of a silken cord, setting much of the modern machinery into motion.

After the Exposition closed in 1887 the Satellites of Mercury tried to fill the void in an even more eclectic fashion from 1888 to 1892. With the help of The Filson Historical Society the Frazier History Museum brings both to Louisville’s Metro Hall.