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The glorious opening festivities and the initial interest of the invited guests in the Vienna World Exposition did not conceal for long the problems which were first mooted in 1872. At the time of the construction of the Ringstraße and the proposal of the plan to organise the World Exposition, Vienna found itself riding the crest of a Gründerzeit economic wave which attracted numerous stock market speculators and businessmen to Vienna. Unfortunately, failure to assess the situation correctly, deceitful speculation and corruption caused the stock market to crash only nine days after the World Exposition opened. This "black Friday" or "Viennese stock market crash" caused the immediate financial ruin of numerous businessmen. Critics of the World Exposition felt their pessimism to be fully vindicated and made the imperial decision to implement a project of this type, and Schwarz-Senborn himself, responsible for the economic collapse. In June, a second disaster occurred which was to keep prudent foreign visitors away from Vienna for sometime: 13 guests at the "Danube" World Exposition Hotel succumbed to cholera. Although hygiene and public health measures had already been implemented, the epidemic spread rapidly and despite there only being relatively few fatalities, enthusiasm for visiting the World Exposition was palpably dampened. Only when the danger of the epidemic was considered over by the end of October did the mass influx of visitors from all over Europe materialise and bring crowds to the site in the numbers the organisers had hoped to see during the whole of the World Exposition.

The major spectacles at the site of the World Exposition included the fabulous balls and other spectacular events such as the visit of the German Princess Augusta, the Russian Tsar or Nasr-Ed-Dim, the Shah of Persia. The World Exposition was also harnessed as a festival of peace by politicians. Artistically directed receptions for guests of honour highlighted the understanding between nations in support of peace. This was an aspect which had been underlined by the Kaiser on 5 November following the official opening of the Reichsrat. This was of major significance given the previous war between Germany and France, the founding of the German Reich, and Austria's wars on its northern and southern boundaries. Simultaneously, opulent decoration and stunning productions were used as political allegories to underline Austria's economic power and increased influence. The discrepancy between fantasy and reality at the World Exposition, between the ostentatious parading of the privileged classes and social reality - the indebtedness and social misery of the lower classes - were clear for all to see.

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The Vienna World Exposition 1873
Stock market crash and cholera
Year: 1873City: ViennaCountry: Austria
Duration: 1st may - 31st october 1873



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