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The Great Exhibition of 1851: For All the World to See

crystal 2Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arranged for the construction of the Crystal Palace specifically for housing the Great Exhibition of 1851. Built within the Hyde Park in London, the exhibition flaunted the power and might of Britain at the peak of its power.  Britain’s displays took up half of the space in the Crystal Palace, while the other half was reserved for, well, the rest of the world. Contributions came from all over the globe to create what has become a symbol of the Victorian Era.

Admission into the Crystal Palace cost one shilling per person. The price of admission was modest when one considered the enormity of the exhibition. 100,000 objects were set up for viewing to display the advancements and arts of countries from around the globe. Technologies of the Industrial Revolution fascinated spectators. Manufacturing, goods, and fine art also captured the attention of the visiting public.

crystal 3Britain’s displays consisted of many technologies modern for the time. Printing presses, examples of steam engines, textile machines, and carriages were showcased. The French provided statuary, tapestries, and silks from Lyons. The French proved a competitor for the British in the displays of the Great Exhibition, for the tact and luxury enraptured more so than the cold presentation of the British technologies. This competition within the Crystal Palace was a reflection of the two countries competing within the world market.

Other countries to provide displays were America, Russia, Canada, and Germany. The Americans lent fire-arms and a reaping machine. The Russians gave Cossack armor, vases, and sledges. Canada lent furs, while the Germans gave a collection of stuffed animals posed for a tea party. Of course, much, much more was displayed within the walls of the Crystal Palace, but the post would be overly long if all was listed.

crystal 1Needless to say, the Great Exhibition of 1851 presented the strength, power, and progress of the nations of the world. Although the event was meant to promote peace amongst countries and nations, competition still trickled into the event. Who could woo the masses with their wealth and charm? Who could create the most enchanting aesthetic? Who could show-off the most technologies and advancements? This was left for the six million visitors to the Crystal Palace to have decided.

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