Great Exhibition

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Great Exhibition, 1851. Master-minded by Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, the Great Exhibition was the largest trade show the world had ever seen. Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace, spanning 19 acres within Hyde Park (London), was accepted after 233 other plans had been rejected. Some 6 million people between 1 May and 11 October 1851, many of them on railway excursions, visited 100,000 exhibits (Raw Materials, Machinery and Invention, Manufacture, and Sculpture and Plastic Arts). Entrance fees ranged from 1 shilling to 3 guineas, with refreshments provided by the entrepreneurial Messrs Schweppes. Queen Victoria, always keen on her husband's achievements, visited 34 times. It was a paean to progress, though trade did not immediately pick up. But profits secured land in Kensington, future sites for the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum. Mayhew wrote that the crowds on the opening day were so dense that they formed a kind of road, paved with heads: ‘on they went, fathers with their wives, and children skipping jauntily along, and youths with their sweethearts in lovely coloured shawls and ribbons.’ On the last day Victoria wrote in her diary: ‘To think that this great and bright time is past, like a dream, and all its success and triumph, and that all the labour and anxiety it caused for nearly 2 years should likewise now be only remembered as ”a has been” seems incredible and melancholy.’

Sue Minna Cannon

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Great Exhibition (1851) See Crystal Palace The Exhibition was housed in the Crystal Palace, and was intended to demonstrate the benefits of industry and international peace and trade. It attracted more than six million visitors.