Great Exhibition

Background and Purpose
– The Great Exhibition of Products of French Industry in Paris from 1798 to 1849 preceded the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.
– Organized by Prince Albert, Henry Cole, and other members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce.
– Aimed to showcase modern industrial technology and design and establish Britain as an industrial leader.
– Queen Victoria visited the exhibition multiple times, and Britain sought to demonstrate its superiority in various fields.
– Provided hope for a better future after a period of political and social upheaval in Europe.

The Crystal Palace
– Designed by Joseph Paxton and supported by Charles Fox.
– Constructed in just nine months and showcased architectural and engineering excellence.
– Massive glass house, 1848 feet long by 454 feet wide, made of cast iron-frame components and glass.
– Featured trees and statues inside to emphasize its size and demonstrate human triumph over nature.
– Moved and re-erected in Sydenham Hill, London, but was destroyed by fire in 1936.

Attendance and Impact
– Six million people, equivalent to a third of Britain’s population at the time, visited the Great Exhibition.
– Average daily attendance was 42,831, with a peak of 109,915 on October 7.
– Thomas Cook arranged travel for 150,000 people, contributing to the development of his company.
– Generated a surplus of £186,000, which funded the establishment of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum.
– Remaining surplus used to create an educational trust for industrial research grants and scholarships.

Controversy and Criticism
– Some conservatives feared that the large number of visitors could lead to a revolutionary mob.
– King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover criticized Queen Victoria for allowing the exhibition and believed it would lower Britain’s reputation.
– Great Exhibition became a symbol of the Victorian Age and is known for its catalog, which provides insight into High Victorian design.
– Memorial to the exhibition, featuring a statue of Prince Albert, is located behind the Royal Albert Hall.
– Memorial is inscribed with exhibition statistics, including the number of visitors, exhibitors, and profit made.

Exhibits and Innovations
– Wide range of exhibits from various countries, including a telescope.
– Exhibitors from throughout Britain, its Colonies and Dependencies, and 44 Foreign States.
– Total of 13,000 exhibits, including a Jacquard loom, an envelope machine, kitchen appliances, steel-making displays, and a reaping machine from the United States.
– Demonstrations and inventions such as Alfred Charles Hobbs demonstrating the inadequacy of respected door locks and Samuel Colt demonstrating his prototype revolvers.
– Introduction of innovations and amenities such as the first modern pay toilets and the Americas Cup yachting event.
– Production of souvenirs, including stereoscope cards, to relive the experience of attending the exhibition.Sources: