Antiqua Print Gallery Great Exhibition 1851
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Great Exhibition 1851

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations or Great Exhibition, sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition in reference to the temporary structure in which it was held, was an international exhibition that took place in Hyde Park, London, England, from 1 May to 15 October 1851. It was the first in a series of World's Fair exhibitions of culture and industry that were to become a popular 19th century feature. The Great Exhibition was organised by Henry Cole and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the spouse of the reigning monarch, Victoria. It was attended by numerous notable figures of the time, including Charles Darwin, members of the former French Royal Family and the writers Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot.

Background

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations was organized by Prince Albert, Henry Cole, Francis Henry, Charles Dilke and other members of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design. It can be argued that the Great Exhibition was mounted in response to the highly successful French Industrial Exposition of 1844. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, was an enthusiastic promoter of a self-financing exhibition; the government was persuaded to form the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to establish the viability of hosting such an exhibition. Queen Victoria and her family visited 3 times.
A special building, nicknamed The Crystal Palace, was designed by Joseph Paxton (with support from structural engineer Charles Fox) to house the show; an architecturally adventurous building based on Paxton's experience designing greenhouses for the sixth Duke of Devonshire, 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 was 1848 feet (about 563 metres) long by 454 feet (about 138 metres) wide, and went from its initial plans of organisation to its grand opening in just nine months. The building was later moved and re-erected in an enlarged form at Sydenham in south London, an area that was renamed Crystal Palace; it was eventually destroyed by fire on November 30 1936.
Six million people – equivalent to a third of the entire population of Britain at the time – visited the Exhibition. The Great Exhibition made a surplus of £186,000 which was used to found the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum which were all built in the area to the south of the exhibition, nicknamed "Albertopolis", alongside the Imperial Institute. The remaining surplus was used to set up an educational trust to provide grants and scholarships for industrial research, and continues to do so today.
The exhibition caused controversy at the time. Some conservatives feared that the mass of visitors might become a revolutionary mob, whilst radicals such as Karl Marx saw the exhibition as an emblem of the capitalist fetishism of commodities. In modern times the Great Exhibition has become a symbol of the Victorian Age, and its thick catalogue illustrated with steel engravings is a primary source for High Victorian design.

(Source Wikipedia)