Great Exhibition

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Great Exhibition
Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations
Queen Victoria opens the World's Fair at the Crystal Palace

Queen Victoria opens the World's Fair at the Crystal Palace

Exhibition space 10.5 ha
new hits Telegraph
vulcanized rubber
Number of visitors 6 million
BIE recognition Yes
countries 28 countries
Exhibitors 17,062 exhibitors
Place of issue
place London
terrain Crystal Palace Coordinates: 51 ° 30 ′ 11 "  N , 0 ° 10 ′ 12"  WWorld icon
opening May 1, 1851
closure October 11, 1851
Chronological order
predecessor -
successor New York 1853

The Great Exhibition ( German  London Industrial Exhibition 1851 ) was the first world exhibition that took place from May 1 to October 11, 1851 in Hyde Park in London . The exhibition area was 10.5 hectares . The official closing ceremony took place on October 15th.

28 countries with a total of 17,062 exhibitors took part in the exhibition. Due to the high level of international participation, the exhibition was soon referred to as the World's Fair . At this first global industrial exhibition, goods and handicrafts of all kinds, machines and production methods, but also mineral resources and fine arts were shown. The telegraph and the first plastic chair made of vulcanized rubber were presented as innovations .

History of origin

The world exhibition of 1851 goes back to an initiative of the British Royal Society of Arts , which wanted to organize an exhibition similar to the French industrial exhibition. Henry Cole made the proposal to Prince Albert , husband of Queen Victoria and President of the Society of Arts, who accepted the project. When the project was presented to the public in 1849, it received a positive response from British industrialists and businessmen. They saw the exhibition as an ideal platform to promote worldwide free trade.

Organization and management were the responsibility of a 24-person committee, the so-called Royal Commission , which was officially set up by the Queen, which also gave the project state authority. The financing, on the other hand, took place entirely privately - in line with the principles of economic liberalism. The organizers also paid for the police officers deployed to protect the exhibition.

Crystal Palace

Exterior view of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park at the 1851 World's Fair
Interior view of the Crystal Palace during the World's Fair
The Crystal Palace from 1851 on an Allen & Moore World's Fair medal , obverse
The Crystal Palace from 1851 on a medal for the Allen & Moore World's Fair , reverse side

The landmark of the 1st World Exhibition was the exhibition building itself. However, the exhibition almost failed because of the choice of the building. In the run-up to the exhibition, the building committee had not found any of the 250 or so submitted designs to be good and finally decided on its own. The commission's draft was massive and monumental and caused great indignation when it was published, because such a building would not fit into Hyde Park, would generate high costs and could hardly be realized in the time that remained. The criticism of the world exhibition, which had already existed before, revived. On July 4, 1850, parliament debated whether the exhibition should take place at all. The Royal Commission prevailed on the argument that postponement was bad for national honor. In addition, a new design for an exhibition building appeared around the same time, which had overcome the disadvantages of the Commission's design.

Joseph Paxton , who had experience with greenhouses as a horticultural architect, presented a design in the style of cast iron architecture made entirely of glass and cast iron, which Charles Fox was able to build from prefabricated components in just 17 weeks. The Crystal Palace , as the greenhouse-like building was soon christened by London newspapers, was 563 m long and 124 m wide. Originally the building was planned with a flat roof. The characteristic barrel vault over the transept , the transept of the building, was added later. The reason for this was some old elms that stood on the planned exhibition site and that should be spared from being deforested.

The basic unit of the palace were squares with a side length of 24 feet (approximately 7.3 m). The base area consisted of 77 × 17 such basic units. The layout of the exhibition rooms is reflected in these units. The rooms are made up of a multiple of these basic units. A total of more than 1,600 such squares were available, which corresponded to an area of ​​around 80,000 square meters.

After the exhibition the building was demolished, rebuilt with some changes in Sydenham and used as a museum. The Kristallpalast burned down in 1936.

Participating countries and exhibitors

There had been industrial exhibitions before, but until then they had more of a national character, such as the French industrial exhibitions since 1798. In contrast, the Great Exhibition was planned as an international exhibition from the start. 94 countries took part in the exhibition, including sovereign states such as England , France , Belgium and Switzerland , but also dependent areas such as India , Algeria , Ceylon etc. The British Channel Islands and the individual German states were also counted individually, although some of them are presented together at the exhibition in the Zollverein . More than half of the building (including almost the entire western wing and transept) was reserved for the British Empire. Almost 8,500 exhibitors came from Great Britain, Ireland and the British colonies, about as many as from all other countries put together.

Exhibits from the four categories of machines, raw materials, products and fine arts were shown. The machines were of particular importance, not least because Great Britain was a leader in this field, but also new inventions such as a rubber dinghy or handicraft products played an important role.


Contemporary reports

  • Friedrich Wilhelm Hackländer: War and Peace . Krabbe, Stuttgart 1859, Volume 2: London 1851: World Exhibition (PDF file; 1.35 MB)
  • Louis Dannenberg: Our trip from Berlin to London to the 1851 World Industrial Exhibition . Set from the handwriting of the author, with an afterword and an annotated register by Karl-Robert Schütze. Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-928589-13-X .

Secondary literature

  • Franz Bosbach , John R. Davis (Ed.): The world exhibition of 1851 and its consequences . Saur, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-598-21420-0 .
  • John R. Davis: The Great Exhibition . Sutton, Stroud 1999, ISBN 0-7509-1614-1 .
  • Erik Mattie: World's Fair . Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-7630-2358-5 .
  • Utz Haltern: The London World's Fair of 1851 . Aschendorff, Münster 1971, ISBN 3-402-05366-7 .
  • Winfried Kretschmer: History of the world exhibitions . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-593-36273-2 .
  • Arndt Mersmann: 'A true test and a living picture': Representations of the London World's Fair of 1851 . WVT, Trier 2001, ISBN 3-88476-407-1 .
  • Nicola Squicciarino: La great exhibition del 1851. Una svolta epocale nella comunicazione . Armando Editore, Rome 2014, ISBN 978-88-6677-374-0 .

Web links

Commons : Great Exhibition  - Collection of Images