1862, London UK – International Exhibition of Industries and Art

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1862 London

Name:International Exhibition of Industries and Art
Dates:1 May – 15 November 1862
Days:199 days
Venue:Horticultural Society, South Kensington, London on the site of today’s Natural History museum – 16 ha (40 acres)
Theme:Industry, Technology and the Arts
Exhibitors:26,336 including 17,851 foreign exhibitors from 39 countries (35 colonies)
Awards:13,415 with 9,344 of these to foreign exhibits
Visitors:6,096,617, admission of 1s to £1, with better transport facilities this exceeded the 1851 visitor count
Legacy:Founded with a guarantee fund of £450,000, the total costs were £459,632, the event recorded a profit of just £790.

This was intended to be held in 1861, presumably on the 10th anniversary of the Great Exhibition, but it was delayed by the Italian war and its declaration of Independence. Prince Albert stated in the Illustrated London News of June 1861 that this new exhibition would rival and surpass the Great Exhibition by its beauty and success. Prince Albert’s death in late 1861 did not help the exhibition’s cause and, given his death, Queen Victoria was in mourning so she did not attend the opening.

It opened on 1 May 1862 and was to have formally closed on 1 Nov but it ran on until 15 Nov. This event was organised by the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Trade. They assembled an august team – Earl Granville and Wentworth Dilke who were involved with the Great Exhibition; William Fairbairn who had ‘cut his teeth’ on the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition; a railway magneate the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos; Thomas Baring MP; Henry Cole was supporting them but without role.

This committee was supported by the 1851 Commission, who raised the subscription guarantees (twice those raised for the Great Exhibition and leased them the land fpr their venue – the location is today’s Natural History Museum

Kensington venue external

The venue’s architect was Capt, Francis Fowkes of the Royal Engineers, so in reality an engineer rather than an architect, but then Paxton had been a gardener. Fowkes created a custom-made brick, iron and glass building was constructed with a frontage on Cromwell Road and offering 13 ha (32 acres) of exhibit space, and a 381m (1,250 ft) facade. It had two large domes 18m (60 ft) in diameter and 76m (250 ft) high, connected by a nave 244m (800 ft) long, 25 m (83 ft) wide and 30.5m (100ft) high. It had two temporary annexes offering a further 3ha (7 acres). The main building was intended to be permanent.

The wall-space of the Fine Art section was twice that of the 857 Manchester show. it displayed 6,529 works by 2,305 British and European artists.

General view

This building never caught the imagination like the Crystal Palace had achieved. Its organisation was criticised for its expensive catering, poor crowd management,, Parliament declined the government’s wish to buy the buiding, so it was dismantled after the show, the iron and glass were used to build Alexandra Palace (which burned down in 1873), the wood was donated to the construction of various Baptist churches.

File:1862 international exhibition 02.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Penny Guide

At the exhibition’s opening an MP fell through a gap in floorboards, he was able to complete his visit, but sadly eighteen days later he died of gangrene from his injury.

London International Exhibition 1862
Internal views

The exhibition used the same 36 classes of exhibit as the 1851 event.The fine art section 901 pieces of sculpture, 1,275 engravings, 983 architectural designs, and 3,370 paintings.

Silver medal

On show were Babbage’s analytical engine, the Bessemer process for steel-making, a mechanical general-purpose computer (or calculator), and an early ice-making refrigerator attracted great attention.

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The Art Journal in 1862 considered the building as a wretched shed, a national disgrace and dismissed the exhibition as a bazaar. The event was panned by other sources – Charles Babbage thought it had ‘the threefold inconvenience of being ugly, useless and expensive’; William Gibson in Bentley‘s said ‘it was brought together more for business purposes than for the illustration of progress’ (the 1851 Great Exhibition’s theme). Frederick Greenwood in Cornhill said ‘the portentous Bedlam of peddler (sic) sovereignty’. The Quarterly Review described it as ‘Puffery and Shoppiness’. (Source: Encyclopedia of World’s Fairs and Expositions)
1862: the obelisk represents Australia’s gold finds

Italy and Germany were newly unified and some sources suggest their items on show at this exhibition did ass ist in their nation-building.

However, despite the better transport links, it appeared that the huge array of equipment and products was not sufficient to recapture the appeal of the 1851 event – new approaches were evidently necessary.

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