17/08/2022

1844, 1847, 1848, 1849 London UK – Society of Arts National Industrial Exhibition

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1844, 1847, 1848, 1849, London UK

Name:Society of Arts National Industrial Exhibition
Dates:December 1844, March 1847, 1848, 1849
Days:
Venue:The Strand
Theme:To embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art,
improve our manufacturers and extend our commerce
Exhibitors:
Awards:
Visitors:
Legacy:The Great Exhibition

As we saw earlier, The [Royal] Society of Arts was founded by William Shipley, Viscount Folkestone and Lord Romney in 1754. The main objective of the society was to promote the arts, productivity and trade. It was the first organisation ever set up in Britain to benefit art and science.

Rawthmell’s Coffee House meeting, 22 March 1754

Its declared aim was to embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufacturers and extend our commerce. They jointly developed a proposal for a fund to support improvements in the liberal arts, sciences and manufactures, with revenues raised through subscription from influential political and social groups. The subscription was set at two guineas per annum, or a lifetime membership for £20 (this at a time when average income was £14 pa).

It initially organised events in Covent Garden, London using the prize fund to present awards and medals for British manufactures and decorative art. It moved to premises off the Strand, where, in 1760 it held the first ever public exhibition for a group of artists but later it tended to concentrate on industrial design rather than fine art. Its 1761 Industrial Exhibition is credited here as being the first modern exhibition. By 1762 there were already 2,500 members or fellows of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). In 1851 the society was responsible for the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Its December 1844 event attracted just a handful of exhibitors and just 150 visitors. So it did not achieve the girth of the shows held in Paris and Berlin that same year, with 3,960 and 3,040 exhibitors respectively. But it helped to revive the idea of periodic exhibitions of industrial products in England.

Its March 1847 event included selected specimens of British manufactures and decorative art and this attracted 300 exhibitors and 20,000 visitors. By 1848, now organised as the Royal Society of Arts, there were so many participants that they outgrew their facilities for example the 1849 event’s visitor count was 73,000.

The award winners in 1849 proved insufficient so the Society’s Henry Cole and Scott Russell spent days travelling London by cab to call on manufacturers and shopkeepers to gather exhibits.

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