1871, 1872, 1873, 1874, London UK – International Exhibition of Arts and Industries

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1971, 1872, 1873, 1874 London

Name:International Exhibition of Arts and Industries
Dates:1 May 1 to 30 Sep 1871; 1 May to 19 Oct 1872;
14 Apr to 31 Oct 1873; 6 Apr to 31 Oct 1874
Venue:Land adjacent to the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Horticultural Gardens
Exhibitors:40,000 fine art and 7,000 industrial entries – with 35 foreign exhibitors
Visitors:1871 – 1,142,151 – with season tickets and 2s daily tickets; 1872 – 647,190;
1873 – 500,033; 1874 – 466,745
Legacy:1871 – £30,000 profit; 1874 – £17,821 loss
across the four shows there was a £150,000 loss

These exhibitions were proposed in 1868 by Provisional Committee of the Royal Albert Hall, to the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners, to commemorate Prince Albert and his support of industrial education. They proposed that the size of the show be limited, that there be no cash awards, that the exhibits be arranged by subject, not nationality and that exhibits could not be sold at the venue.

The Committe was populated with the great and the good, and [Sir] Henry Cole, who had been significant in both the 1851 and 1862 events, was also engaged.

1871-4 Venue

Two brick-built and terracotta buildings were constructed, one on a strip of land south of the Royal Albert Hall, the second on land east and west of the Royal Horticultural Gardens. These cost £126,383 to build and equip. The buildings were 30 feet (6.1m) wide, the ground floor was 20 feet (9.1m) high, the upper floor was 30 feet (9.1m)high, with a glazed skylight.

1871-4 London event map

However, this series of four exhibitions failed to capture general appeal. Even its name was excluding of many, its classification of exhibits by subject made it difficult for foreign exhibitors to display their exhibits appealingly. It meant that the general feel was more scientific than ineteresting.

These events had the general aim to show within four classes – Fine Arts; Manufactures; Recent Scientific Inventions and New Discoveries. Only the 1871 event included Horticulture. Regular lectures were given.

1871 London internal views

In 1871 it didn’t help that the Franco-Prussian War was being waged and this inhibited the shipment of continental European exhibits. Special classes for 1871 were pottery, woolens, worsteds, educational items. The event was opened by the Prince of Wales and Princess Helena.

In 1872 the Royal Horticultural Society, whose gardens were a co-located attraction, withdrew its support, perhaps because it was being promoted as an exhibition of paper, stationery and printing; music and musical instruments; cotton and cotton fabrics; acoustic equipment. The music class prompted concerts, choral and operatic performance.

In 1873 Vienna’s Weltaustellung was a very damaging competitor. The special classes this year were food and cooking; silks and velvets; steel; surgical instruments; carriages (not rail or tram). Organ recitals and orchestral performances were included. Though the poor financial performances directly affected the ceremonial features. The Commissioners met in early 1874 and decided that any future events would need to see an upturn in the early months of the 1874 event – this did not happen. Henry Cole blamed it on the Royal Horticultral Society not permitting visitors into their gardens, and charging the Exhibition for using a path between the two halls. It didn’t hep that there was no railway terminus at the location.

In 1874 the focus was on civil engineering; architecture; laces and leathers; bookbinding; foreign wines. The organ recitals and orchestra were maintained, and a military band was added. No opening ceremony was included, and Practical Magazine called the closing ‘the most inglorious ending of any Industrial, especially any International, Exhibition’.

The proposed 1875 exhibition was cancelled when it became clear that the four events had lost £150,000, which had to be met by the Royal Commissioners.

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