In the Crystal Palace, Great Britain and her colonies required about half of the available space for her 6,900 exhibitors. In the eastern parts of the Crystal Palace, companies from a total of 94 states, colonies and dependent principalities and duchies displayed their exhibits. Never before had there been a larger gathering of the world’s nations. A sub-division of the Royal Commission had developed a novel classification system for the presentation of industrial products and arts and crafts. This grid had to be combined with the division of the exhibition site according to countries – a difficult task. It was made easier by the building’s clear partition, with its main length-wise axis, which was entirely reserved for large sculptures, and the grid-like floor plan, which could easily be divided into approximately 1,500 square exhibition units. In the cross nave, palm trees and other exotic plants were placed in between large wells, thus providing coolness and shade in the heat of the summer months. Stalls offering refreshments and restaurants could also be found here. Further catering facilities were accommodated at either end of the main nave.
Although the first world exhibition lacked significant new inventions, the numerous improvements of existing tools and machines dispersed any doubts regarding the event’s usefulness. Only here could one find all the relevant information on new steam engines or the advances in the field of telegraphy. A whole side nave was dedicated to machines in motion in order to give the interested citizen a safe insight into production processes. Two large steam boilers, which were of course integrated into the presentation, supplied the energy with which all the machines were centrally powered. Above all, an overwhelming abundance of every available product of international productive diligence – from the locomotive to the smallest precision clock – was displayed. From the colonies came primarily raw materials, which were skilfully arranged to symbolically represent the contribution of the under-developed countries to the world cycle of capitalism. The public were also impressed by exotic arts and crafts and stuffed wild animals. Art and crafts were given their own section according to the classification system. In these areas as well as in the production of luxury goods, the French exhibitors stood out particularly.
The Royal Commission put a specific emphasis on the education of the working classes. The social unrest of the European revolutions of 1848/49 was still fresh in people’s memories. Guided tours and concessions made visits to the world exhibition easier for them. Prince Albert was concerned about the workers’ difficult housing situation and presented, next to the Crystal Palace, a model house he had developed as a separate exhibit. This was remarkable for its thought-through floor plan and novel building materials. Of course, the prince was awarded a Great Medal of Achievement.
The exhibition was very well received by the London public and the foreign visitors. Every day, thousands of visitors journeyed from all parts of the British Isles and the mainland to the exhibition with bargain rail tickets. Variable cover charges channelled the streams of visitors, such that one could chose between paying a large fee and being able to visit the exhibits unhindered by a large crowd, and going on a ‘shilling day’ and having to deal with the masses of visitors.
|Year: 1851||City: London||Country: Great Britain|
|Duration: 1st May - 11th October 1851|