1854 Munich DE – First General German Industrial Exhibition

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1854 Munich

Name:First General German Industrial Exhibition
(Erste Allgemeine Deutsche Industrie-Ausstellung)
Dates:15 Jul – 15 Oct
Days:c90 days
Venue:The Glaspalast which followed the architecture of The Crystal Palace in London
Theme:To promote the members of the Zollverein domestic customs union
Exhibitors:6,800 from the Zollverein states – 2,331 were from Bavaria and 1,477 from Austria
Visitors:90,000 claimed for it first day
Legacy:Reported to have lost $1m
The Glaspalast

The 37,000 windowed Glaspalast was built as two storeys, the designer was August von Voit who was clearly inspired by London’s Crystal Palace. It was constructed from glass and cast iron. It was 234 by 67 m (768 by 220 ft) and 25 m (82 ft) tall, offering 15,670 square metres (1.567 ha) of space.

Interior of the Glaspalast
showing its fountain

The Glaspalast had been intended to be used as a botanic garden, but was used for exhibitions and this is said to have helped establish Munich’s reputation.

Often termed the Zollverein exhibition because it was organised in conjunction with the 33 states of the German Customs Union based upon 1834 agreements on tariffs and economic policies. It was originally planned to be near the Maximilienplatz, but the decision preferred proximity to the rail station. The show was delayed by a cholera outbreak that hit the staff and then the visitors.

King Maximilian II
(Source: Wikimedia commons)

The objects on display offered an extremely rich spectrum, ranging from pianos and spinning machines to express locomotives. It claimed 90,000 visitors on its first day. The Munich City Chronicle describes the opening : The squares and streets around and near the Glass Palace were overcrowded with people, so that it was difficult for both the wagons and pedestrians to get through and order could only be maintained with great difficulty . The doors were opened at 11 a.m., the crowd cannot be described. Everyone who entered was visibly surprised by what was presented to his eye…”

Heralded as the First General German Industrial Exhibition, it boasted almost as many exhibitors as at the New York exhibition of 1853/54 – 2,331 of them were from Bavaria and 1,477 from Austria. Tens of thousands of visitors came from all over the world came, even crowned heads.

Munich 1854 medal (rear)

The medals issued depicted Maximilian II (King of Bavaria and identified as the event organiser), on the obverse and the Glaspalast on its reverse.

The venue was electrically lit and featured an electrically-powered artificial waterfall. A
fountain remains extant at Weißenburger Platz, Haidhausen, Munich.

The event proceeded despite global cases of cholera (the third cholera pandemic) but the exhibition and a coincident festival still took place. By August the epidemic hit Munich killing 3,000 people, it hit the show staff and then the visitors. On 4 Sep 1854 over 100 people in Munich died in just one day. Wealthy Munich residents fled the city, the streets were deserted, and the exhibition halls remained empty. Even members of the royal family fell ill, the former Queen Therese of Bavaria died within a few hours of contracting the disease. As a result the event is suggested to have lost $1m.

In 1882 die erste elektrisch beleuchtete Internationale Elektrotechnische Ausstellung (the first electrically-lit international electrotechnical exhibition) took place in the Glass Palace

It was used subsequently for art exhibitions, but burned down on 6 Jun 1931, arson was conjectured but not proven. Only 80 of the 2,820 artworks were rescued from the fire, one of the biggest European art disasters. Ironically the rejected artworks for this final event were stored elsewhere and thus were safe. The new Nazi government of 1933 chose not to rebuild it.

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