On 1st May 1851, Queen Victorian opened the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, in Hyde Park, London. Unlike the 1844 French Industrial Exposition, the Great Exhibition included exhibits from other nations – although British industrial developments enjoyed pride of place – setting the template for all future World’s Fairs.

The building that housed the exhibition, designed by Joseph Paxton, became known as the Crystal Palace. After being dismantled at the end of the exhibition, the building was re-erected in an enlarged form at Sydenham, in South London where it remained until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

The exhibition attracted an estimated six million visitors (equivalent to around a third of the population of Great Britain at that time), ensuring that the exhibition made a profit of £186,000. This surplus was used to establish the Victoria and Albert Museum, which, along with the Science Museum, acquired many of the exhibits.

For more information on the 1851 Exhibition see the Great Exhibition Overview pages at The Victorian Web.

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