The History of World Expositions
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Copyright: The Illustrated London News, 30.8.1862, S. 255

When, on 1st November 1862, the doors of the second International Industrial Exhibition in London closed, the critics were unanimous: in terms of significance and success, this World Exhibition was a long way behind the Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851. To be sure, the political circumstances and the death of Prince Albert had contributed to its bad press. But most of the problems were internal. The work of the Royal Commission was to a large extent deemed to be inadequate. Exhibitors complained of the limited space allocated to them and hardly anyone was willing to accept responsibility for clearing away the vast quantities of packing materials or for maintaining order. Due to the restricted space in which the Exhibition Palace was erected, there were repeated chaotic scenes at the entrances. As entry only cost a shilling on some days, but was considerably higher on others, there was a lack of clarity regarding the rights of season-ticket holders.

The judging of the exhibits and the awarding of medals and honourable citations also attracted harsh criticism. As more than half of the exhibitors received awards, the system could hardly be taken seriously. However, it was possible to identify trends from the statistics: France had received four per cent more awards than Great Britain. In addition, the medal itself, which showed Britannia with her lion, laying her products at the feet of personifications of trade, industry and the arts, was denigrated as being “too large and ugly”.

Nevertheless, in spite of all the criticism, there were some positive developments. This World Exhibition allowed lay people as well as specialists to come face-to-face with the latest technical developments and products. The demonstration of production processes and the appealing exhibition of machinery gave rise to an improvement in the image of technical equipment, which was increasingly finding its way into private households in the form of mass-produced goods.

The World Exhibition also provided a framework for meetings of delegations of workers from England and France. A visit by a delegation of French workers, ironically sponsored by French Emperor Napoleon III, later led to the founding of the “International Workers Association”, the so-called 1st Internationale. World exhibitions thus made possible the broad exchange of information and opinions, at a time when there was still no other method of communication available.

It was not intended to hold any further large international exhibitions in Great Britain after 1862, and this field of activity was left to France and Paris, the city of world exhibitions par excellence, where these events could be held with greater style and pomp. In London, the intention was only to hold national or specialist exhibitions and trade fairs.

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1851 | 1862 | 1867 | 1873 | 1876 | 1889 | 1893 | 1900 | 1904 | 1929 |
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The London World Exposition 1862
The popularisation of technology
Year: 1862City: LondonCountry: Great Britain
Duration: 1st May - 1st November 1862



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