Great Exhibition

The "Great Exhibition" in Hyde Park London, from 1st May to 15th October 1851, was the first of the large exhibitions of culture and industry that were to be repeated in many later events. This first of World's Fairs was organised by Prince Albert and Henry Cole as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design.

A special building, the Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton (with support from civil engineer William Henry Barlow) to house the show; an architecturally-adventurous building, constructed from cast iron-frame components and glass made almost exclusively in Birmingham and Smethwick, which was an enormous success. The committee overseeing its construction included Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The massive glass house, Crystal Palace, was 1848 feet long by 454 feet wide, and went from plans to grand opening in just nine months.

Profits were later used to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

The exhibition caused controversy at the time. Some conservatives feared that the mass of visitors might become a revolutionary mob, while radicals such as Karl Marx saw the exhibition as an emblem of the capitalist fetishism of commodities. Today the 'Great Exhibition' has become a symbol of the Victorian Age.

See also: List of world's fairs


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