5.1 German/Austrian events 1811-1850

© Bob Denton 2018
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5.1.1  1810-11, Munich, Central Agricultural Festival
                      – and Oktoberfest

Do see 1811 Munich Central Agricultural Festival data sheet

Before the formation of the German Confederation, Munich became the first city to seek to seek to emulate the successes in Paris with an agricultural exhibition. Sadly little in the way of records can be found for this early exhibition. More is known of a co-located agricultural event that was first held a year earlier, in 1810, to celebrate the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

In 1811 funding difficulties led to this agricultural show being co-located with the second, the Agricultural Society taking over responsibility for what they called the Central Agricultural Festival. The event, held from 12-17Oct, featured horse races organised by the National Guard, livestock fairs and presentations of equipment, products and livestock, with prizes awarded for the top exhibits.


But perhaps the best-known element was the focus of the 1810 event, the Oktoberfest, which by 1818 was supported by a carousel and swings.

The Oktoberfest is of course still extant, though recently held more often in September and is popularly known locally as the ‘Wiesn’, a contraction of the venue’s name Theresa’s Fields, or Theresienwiese. It is considered a key component of Bavarian culture and describes itself as the world’s largest ‘Volksfest’, a beer festival and funfair.

This was a commercial enterprise, but by 1819 became the responsibility of the city of Munich.

5.1.2  1820, Vienna, Industrial exhibition

A number of events began from 1820 around the Austrian cities, but major national events were held in Vienna. The famous Congress of Vienna had been held in 1814-15 to resolve European issues following the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. It redrew the borders of Europe and established the German Confederation. But it was a later Vienna meeting that would spawn a second German event (assuming Prague 1791 was the first).

Friedrich List was an 18th/19th century German economist who had spent some time living in the USA. He would later develop theories in his 1841 Das Nationale System der Politischen Ökonomie (National System of Political Economy) that contrasted the economic behaviour of an individual with that of a nation. This opus is attributed by many to have influenced National Socialism (Nazism) and to eventually become the basis of the European Economic Community (interesting bedfellows).

Friedrich List 1789-1846

But back in early 1820 there was a congress of German ministers held in Vienna. List travelled to the city, although he was not admitted to the meetings his presence was enough to convince the ministers to create a new committee to consider economic affairs. This led to a regional customs union (Germany at this time had 38 internal customs’ borders) and agreements that recognised the Congress of Vienna’s calls for freedom of river navigation.

List as the secretary of the Union of Merchants twice met up subsequently with the emperor, as well as anyone else who would give him a hearing. The key item on his agenda was a German national industrial exhibition. There is however little on record for this exhibition held in Vienna in 1820.

5.1.3  1822, 1827, 1834, 1844, 1849, Berlin, Industrial Exhibition

See Berlin Inustrial Exhibition data sheet

Messe Berlin GmbH claims that it has run exhibitions since 1822. This, their first show, was proposed by the Prussian Minister, Peter Christian Wilhelm Beuth, who, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, helped to draft new tax laws (1817). He was appointed director of the Technical Commission in 1819, and the next year played a key role in the Association for the Promotion of Industrial Knowledge in Prussia.

Beuth also founded the Berlin Technical Institute (the forerunner of the Technical University) to spread scientific knowledge among young technicians. He also worked to connect pure and applied science, advocating improved training for German engineers. But Prussia at the time directed most of its energies into military and bureaucratic endeavours. From 1830 to 1845 Beuth was the director of the Department of Manufacturing, Trade and Construction.

This 1822 exhibition was held in the House of Industries in the Kloßterstraße for 45 days from 1Sep– 15Oct. There were 176 exhibitors showing 998 products used in its regional trades and it attracted 9,514 visitors. The 1827 Berlin show was held at the Academy Building in Unter den Linden. It had expanded to 208 exhibitors with 1659 exhibits.

It was Beuth who played a key role in prompting the 1834 Berlin event which is reported to have attracted over 3,060 exhibitors. However, little further data was discovered.

Berlin 1844 medal

The 1844 Berlin exposition was a clear sign that others were starting to take expositions seriously and were willing to mount them on a scale that rivalled the Parisian events.


Prompted by the 1839 Paris event the Allgemeine Deutsche Gewerbe-Ausstellung (All German Industrial Exhibition) was held in an old arsenal building, the Zeughaus. But it was limited to German states only and its goal was to achieve local economic benefit.

This was open for only three days in December but attracted 3,040 exhibitors primarily from the mechanical engineering industry, 685 of these were companies from Berlin itself. This event attracted some 260,000 visitors.

There was a further Berlin event in 1849 for which data is elusive

5.1.4  1832, 1834, 1838, Hamburg, Craft and Industry Production

Hamburg had been occupied by the French from 1806 to 1814, becoming part of the German Confederation in 1815. It is mooted by some historians that the inhabitants of Hamburg learned of the benefits of exhibitions from their occupiers.

Three commercial exhibitions were run as ‘Hamburg Craft and Industry Production’ fairs. These were held in 1832, 1834 and 1838, all of them were said to have earned substantial profits.

Hamburg Spielbudenplatz St Pauli

The exhibition venue used was the Concert Hall of the City Theatre; it had been completed in 1827. These were interrupted by the ‘Great Fire of Hamburg’ in 1842, across four days in May it destroyed many homes, businesses, churches, schools and public buildings. Losses of 100m marks led to the invention of reinsurance. Hamburg ran no further large exhibitions until 1865.

5.1.5  1835, 1839, 1845, Vienna, Industrie- und Gewerbe-Produktions-Ausstellung

Vienna 1835 – Drawing and Lithograph by Franz Wold

The first of this series of events entitled ‘Exhibition of industry and trade’ was held in Vienna from 1-30 Sep 1835 with some 251 exhibitors and 4,046 visitors. The emperor visited the event twice to offer his support. These clearly grew in significance as the 1845 event had 1,865 exhibitors.

5.1.6  1842, Mainz, Industrial Exhibition

Reference to this event is merely a reference to a judge’s report of the purity of award-winning alkaloids from Heinrich Emanuel Merck. Merck’s family founded a pharmacy in Darmstadt in 1668, and he was early in using alkaloids from 1827 and transitioned the operation into an industrial and scientific concern. Merck becoming a major pharmaceutical company.

Heinrich Emanuel Merck

Tomasz Kamusella in writing of nationalism talks of this as ‘the first German industrial exhibition’ But little else was discovered.

5.1.7  1845, Saxony

There is not much information about this event either, but Kellogg in the 1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica claims an exhibition had been held in Saxony regularly from 1824-1845, the last of these recording 6,013 exhibitors.

© Bob Denton 2018
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