Daily Archives: May 1, 2016

One Hundred and Sixty Five Years Ago Today …

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, the very first World’s Fair, opened in Hyde Park in London (England).

Organized by Henry Cole and Prince Albert, it was attended by numerous notable world figures of the time and contained exhibits from Britain, its ‘colonies and dependencies’, and 44 ‘foreign states’ in Europe and the Americas. With over 13,000 exhibits, it was a tremendous undertaking for the time and inspired a series of world fairs that followed (which still continue to this day, with the next world fair being Expo 2017, taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan [as sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions, which has served as the international sanctioning body for world’s fairs of the universal, international, and specialized variety since 1928]).

A special building, The Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton and which took the form of a massive glass house 1851 feet long and 454 feet high, was built specifically to house the show. After the exhibition, the building was rebuilt in an enlarged form on Penge Common, and stood until its destruction by fire in 1936. However, its legacy lived on as the site was used as the Crystal Palace motor racing circuit between 1927 and 1974 and inspired the Crystal Palace Garden Parties between 1971 and 1980.

And over six million people attended the fair. One has to remember that in 1851, the population of Great Britain and Ireland combined was only 29M-ish (and Britain itself only 19M-ish) and the world population was only slightly over 1 Billion. This contributed to a profit of £186,000 (£18,370,000 in 2015), and that surplus funded the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the National History Museum as well as an educational trust for scholarships and industrial research which still provides funds today.