27/11/2022

1891, Kingston JA – Jamaica International Exhibition

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1891 Kingston

Name:Jamaica International Exhibition
Dates:27 Jan – 2 May 1891
Days:84 days, not open on Sundays
Venue:North of the Kingston racecourse, in Quebec Lands – 9.3 ha (23 acres)
Theme:to demonstrate the island’s resources and products, encourage trade and
demonstrate foreign machinery that could help its development
Exhibitors:
Awards:
Visitors:over 300,000 (totssl Jamaican populations was 650,000)
Legacy:The event made a £30,000 loss that had to be met by the guarantors. Further events were held in the main building diring 1891-2, but it was sold to the Public Works Department for £800 and they dismantled it to use its timber with other buildings.

Despite, or perhaps because. Jamaica’s sugar business was in an uncertain pahse, the island concluded that its successful presence at the 1886 London Colonial and Indian Exhibition, the colony decided it made sense to run its own. The notion was to demonstrate the island’s resources and products, encourage trade and demonstrate foreign machinery that could help its development. Its timing aimed to encourage winter visits from America. As 66% of its exports and 34% of its imports were to/from the USA their involvement was encouraged, but only a number of New England exhibitors participated and this encourgaed Canada to fill that void.

It was set for 1891 to presage the 1893 Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition. An English exhibition manager with experience of British and European shows, S Lee Bapty, was appointed to run it. Committees were formed to run the aspects of the show, and one was formed in Britain to promote it.

The British Govt contributed only £1,000 towards the budget, the rest was invested from the island. George Stiebel, Louis Verley and Colonel Charles Ward guaranteed half of the sum, the rest was guaranteed in small tranches by the islanders. The revenues only raised about a third of the costs and these guarantors had to meet some £30,0000 deficit, some none too readily.

1891 Kingston venue

The timber-and-glass cruciform venue was painted cream and red. It used a Moorish style with minarets and a central dome. Some of the timber was imported from the USA, the rest was procured from all over the island. It was designed by a short-term resident, George Messiter, who had gained local acclaim by restoring several churches on the island. It was constructed by local artisans.

A large fountain illuminated by a searchlight sat before the building. Behind the main building were a number of annexes – a machinery hall, an industrial village, a small Fine Arts hall, a small Theatre/Concert hall, a vivarium (zoo), a working dairy…

1891 Moving plam trees into position

The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) agreed to ne the patron of the show, and as his son, Prince George (later George V), was serving with the West indian Squadron it was agreed he would open the show.

1891 Kingston plan

Eight local exhibitions around the island were held in 1890 to recruit Jamaican exhibitors at the event. There was some mistrust of the authorities, fearing they were seeking to gauge production quantities to levy more tax. Amid rumours that the governor had absconde with the exhibition funds (untrue), the show opened before a number of local exhibitors were constructed and ready to operate. Further rumours circulated that the visitors were being gathered to be enslaved again, so early numbers of visitors were low but later the reception became accepted and numbers escalated.

Foreign participants were Austro-Hungary, Britain, Canada, Italy, Russia, Surinam, other West Indian islands and USA.

The Canadians had their own Court, and the nation presented a sculpture, the Quebec Trophy, as a gift to Jamaica. The Japanese Court was set up by Bapty and his wife (of Japanese heritage).

Entertainments included the performance of plays, musical concerts, firework displays… With regular special events like flower shows, a carnival, a Dog Cat and Poultry Show, a Fancy Dress Ball, an adjacent circus…

1891 Kingston interior

Overseas visitors arrived on the regular shipping lines, or on specially arranged excursions from North America. Most stayed at hotels in Kingston, some newly built in time for the show, Locals from Kingston were attracted by special railway excursions that included Exhibition admission, 17,400 visitors are reported to have taken this approach, a tram serice was also offered. These local visitors were offered rooms in newhotels at 1s 6d per night.

A monopoly on photograps had been granted, as a result few are extant.

Forward to 1891 Launceston AU – Tasmania International Exhibition
Back to 1891, Prague CZ – General Land Centennial Exhibition
Back to Getting Noticed – Back to VOLUME II Index – Back to bobdenton.com home

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