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World Fairs Collection

History Archive - World Fairs Collection

A world's fair, world fair, world expo, universal exposition, or international exposition (sometimes expo or Expo for short) is a large international exhibition designed to showcase achievements of nations. These exhibitions vary in character and are held in different parts of the world.

World's fairs originated in the French tradition of national exhibitions, a tradition that culminated with the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 held in Paris. This fair was followed by other national exhibitions in continental Europe and the United Kingdom.

The best-known first World Expo was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, in 1851, under the title "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations". The Great Exhibition, as it is often called, was an idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, and is usually considered to be the first international exhibition of manufactured products. It influenced the development of several aspects of society, including art-and-design education, international trade and relations, and tourism. This expo was the precedent for the many later international that have continued to be held to the present time.

The character of world fairs, or expositions, has evolved since the first one in 1851. Three eras can be distinguished: the era of industrialization, the era of cultural exchange, and the era of nation branding. The first era and one relevant to our collections is the era of "industrialization", roughly covered the years from 1800 to 1938. In these days, world expositions were largely focused on trade and displayed technological advances and inventions. World expositions were platforms for state-of-the-art science and technology from around the world.

The world expositions of 1851 London, 1853 New York, 1862 London, 1876 Philadelphia, 1889 Paris, 1893 Chicago, 1897 Brussels, 1900 Paris, 1901 Buffalo, 1904 St. Louis, 1915 San Francisco, and 1933-34 Chicago were notable in this respect. Inventions such as the telephone were first presented during this era. This era set the basic character of the world fair.

Available Books


Image Name
Moving Machinery
Marchand – Chimney-piece
Sweden and Denmark
Pictorial Map of the World
A Section of the Esplanade
Mirror Lake in the Yosemite
Front Cover
Stove, in the Mediaeval Style by Hardman, Birmingham. Designed by Pugin.
Specimens of Honiton Lace by Mrs. Treadwin, Exeter
Block Plan of the Exposition
Title Page
Scarf-end, embroidered at Dacca, on white muslin
[View No. 15]
Palais du Ministere de la Guerre
Altar and Reredos by Myers, London, and Hardman, Birmingham. Designed by Pugin.
Desfosse – Paper-hangings
Group of Crystal Vases and Jewellery
Arkansas Building
Main Building
Borders from Illuminated Manuscripts
Enamelling, from Arms
The Passing of the Que
Indiana Building
Wagner – Precious Metal-work
Flower-stand by Minton, Stoke-upon-Trent. Modelled by the Baron Marochetti.
Vollgold – Precious Metal-work
Arch of the Rising Sun, Court of the Universe
Renaissance Vase and Dish in Parian, Minton, Stoke-upon-Trent
Part of the Furniture Court, from the West Nave
Back Cover
Bedstead by Winfield, Birmingham
The Indian Tent
Cashmere Scarf-end
Mosaic-work, Imperial Manufactory
Window Ornament, from Tunis
India No. 3
U.S. Government Building
Illustrated Title Page
Cristofle – Enamelled Ware
The China Court
Title Page
The Golden Gate from the Exposition
Brazilian Commissioner's Building
Open-work Panel by Bailey and Co., London
Rudolphi – Precious Metal-work
Specimens of Russian Embroidery
Portion of Shawls by Roxburgh and Co. Paisley
Ground Plan of Machinery Hall
[View No. 8]
The Inauguration
Decoration of an Apartment by John Thomas, London
Front Cover
Stove by Hoole, Robson, & Hoole, Sheffield. Designed by A. Stevens.
Elkington – Table and Mirror
North Transept Waiting For the Queen
[View No. 5]
Front Cover
India No. 5
German Commission Building
The Palace of Education
Girardet – Book-covers
Exterior (Coals etc.)
Group of Glass by Count Harrach, Bohemia
Spanish Building
Picture and Sculpture Galleries
Austria No. 1
A Youth at a Stream by Foley, A.R.A. Cast in bronze by Hatfield
West Indies Colonies
Jackson & Graham – Sideboard
Mullgardt's Tower, Court of Abundance
Niche and Figure, carved in wood by Knecht, Paris
Embroidery, on black cloth
Kansas & Colorado Building
Jewellery in the Mediaeval Style by Hardman, Birmingham. Designed by Pugin.
[View No. 11]
Front Cover
Pavillon des Eaux et Forets
Group of Chinese Bronzes, inlaid with silver wire.
The Palace of Varied Industries
Japanese Dwelling
Cast-iron Panel from Mulheim
Dagger and Sheath by Zoloaga, Madrid
Jeakes – Fire-place (Grate)
Republique Argentine
Back Cover
Andromeda by John Bell. Cast in Brone by the Coalbrookdale Co.
Glass, Imperial Manufactory
The Massacre of the Innocents, carved in oak by Geerts, Louvain
New Jersey Building


Map Name
Panama-Pacific International Exposition - Pictorial Map of San Francisco (1913)
Panama-Pacific International Exposition - Pictorial Map of the World (1913)
Panama-Pacific International Exposition - Pictorial Map of Panama Canal and Zone (1913)
Panama-Pacific International Exposition - Winter and Summer Belts of Temperature (1913)
Panama-Pacific International Exposition - Pictorial Map of California (1913)


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