1883/4, Calcutta IN – International Exposition

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1883 Calcutta

Name:International Exposition
Dates:4 Dec 1883 – 10 Mar 1884, not open on Sundays
Days:98 days
Venue:Indian Museum (plus annexes) and Maidan Park (aka Brigade Parade Ground),
central Calcutta connected by a bridge over the Chowinghee Road – 8.9 ha (22 acres)
Theme:to providde new momentum for the Arts, Crafts and Industries of India
Exhibitors:2,500 with 100,000 exhibits
Visitors:817,153 paid visitors and in addition some 200,000 season ticket holders
4 annas admission, except Wednedays when it was 1 Rupee
Legacy:Buildings cost 355,667 Rupees with an dditional 50,000 to 100,000 Rupees spent on provincial exhibits. Total expenditure was stated at 460,835 – 580,000 Rupees. Receipts were 503,000 Rupees
1883 Calcutta venue

There had never been a large scale international exhibition attempted in British India, so when Jules Joubert, a naturalised citizen of South Australia who had previously managed several exhibitions in Adelaide and Christchurch. New Zealand exhibition suggested the idea to the Lt. Governor of Bengal, and he forwarded it to the government. They liked it, and plans began for an international exhibition.This event was run by an Executive Committee which was appointed by the Indian Government, its President was the Governor of Bengal. It was also known as the Great Exhibition of Colonial India,

1883 Calcutta interior

Annexes were built adjacent to the Indian Museum, these included the Indian Court, the Machinery Court and other provinces’ pavilions. There was also a permanent Art and Jewellery Court Gallery, (24.4 x 9.8m [180 x 32 ft]). In total, exhibition space at the Calcutta International covered eleven acres or three hundred thousand square feet – it proved not to be sufficient for the demand.

International participants included Austria, Belgium, British Guiana, Ceylon, Denmark, Egypt, France, French Indo-China (Cochin, Tonquin), Germany, Great Britain, Indian Empire, Italy, Japan, Madeira, Malta, Mauritius, Netherlands India (Batavia), New South Wales (AU), Norway, Phillipines, Portugal, South Australia (AU), Straits Settlements, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania (AU), Turkey, USA Victoria (AU) and Western Australia (AU). The Australian colonies were located at the Indian Museum side of the fairground. in the Maidan there was an iron building used by the Indian courts, which became a machinery hall. there was also a refreshments room.

The Gwaior Gateway – in Kensington

The Maharajah of Scindia donated a carved sandstone gateway, the Gwalior Gateway, especially constructed for the event, as an exemplar of Indian stone-carving. It provided an entrance to the Indian Courts. After the exhibition this was dismantled and sent in two hundred packages to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, later still it was displayed at the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London.

1883 Calcutta exhibits

The Opening ceremony was performed by the Marquis of Ripon, the Viceroy of India, a Whig politician he had also served as the President of the Royal Geographical Society. Attendees included a number of maharajas and the governors of Bengal, Bombay and Madras, and the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Unusually for the time of year it rained and, as a result, the illuminations failed.

Exhibitors paid 2 shillings/foot with a 5 shilling surcharge for front space on the main avenues of exhibit halls. Unlike earlier exhibititions, the goods on display here, were on sale.

Montage of buildings at 1883 Calcutta

The government built a temporary hotel for the expected influx of visitors, but it was little used as the existing hotel capacity proved sufficient.

At the closing ceremony, exhibition officials boasted that its attendance was greater per day than previous exhibitions in 1879-80 Sydney and 1880-1 Melbourne , although it did appear rather small when the, then, 250m population of India was factored in. London’s The Times was not impressed with the closing ceremony, noting that it was tame and unimpressive.

1883 Medal

A report of the event suggested that because this was a private venture, constrained attendance, particularly of official repressenation. There had also been a lack of early promotion. It also expressed joy at the large number of lady visitors, yet this was the General Manager, Jules Joubert’s innovation, ‘zenana days’ or women-only days.

Many exhibits were purchased to create the Economic & Art Museum section of the Imperial Museum.

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