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World Fairs

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
Front Cover
Barve – Sculpture
Book-cover in carved Ivory, presented to her Majesty the Queen by the Emperor of Austria
Front Cover
Kincob Pattern, woven at Ahmedabad
Table and other objects by Elkington & Mason, Birmingham
The Crystal Fountain by F. & C. Osler, London & Birmingham
Pavillon des Enfants
Tower in Court of Palms
Mediaeval Court
Marquetry Enrichments of a Pianoforte by Broadwood, London
Victory by Rauch, Berlin
Map of Centennial Grounds - Fairmount Park, Philadelphia
Enamelling, from Arms
The Tower of Jewels and the Great South Gardens
Glass, Imperial Manufactory
Specimens of Silversmith's Work by Marrel, Freres, Paris
Group from the Royal Manufactory at Sevres
Muller – Sculpture
[View No. 10]
[View No. 14]
Massachusetts Building
Group of Objects, principally enamelled
Sheffield Hardware
Specimens of Honiton Lace by Mrs. Treadwin, Exeter
Devisme and Others – Fire-arms
Decoration derived from the Alhambra ; being a portion of the Cabinet of the Queen of Spain at Aranjuez
Group of Church Plate by Skidmore, Coventry
Panel, ornamented with Buhl by Fourdinois, Paris
Gold Vase, enriched with Jewels and Enamels by Watherston & Brogden, London
Bedstead by Winfield, Birmingham
Delhi Embroidered Shawl
Vickers – Lace
Vase in White China by Jouhanneaud & Dubois, Paris
Part of the Furniture Court, from the West Nave
Embroidery, in white silk on black net, from Dacca
The Fountain of Ceres, Entrance to Court of the Four Seasons
Trollope – Chimney-piece
Pictorial Map of Panama Canal and Zone
Ground Plan of Art Gallery and Annex
Pictorial Map of California
Group of Objects by Morel, London
Printed Muslins by Depouilly and Co., Paris
Main Entrance Court of the Four Seasons
Terra-cotta Figure of Galatea and Majolica Garden-Vases by Minton, Stoke-upon-Trent
Bouillet – Embroidery
[View No. 3]
Tenerani – Sculpture
Pennsylvania Building
Berlin China
Mississippi Building
A Corner in the Court of Abundance
Cupid and Panther by Rietschel, Dresden
Back Cover
Bookbinding and Inlaying by Batten, Clapham
Back Cover
Octagonal Room
Back Cover
Decoration of Metal-work, from Arms
Maison Phenicienne, Maison des Hebreux
Pavillon de la Ville de Paris
The First Step by Magni, Milan
Longden – Chimney-piece
Kansas & Colorado Building
San Francisco from Nob Hill
Cabinet in Ebony by Lienard, Paris
Ivory Throne and Footstool, presented to her Majesty the Queen by his Highness the Rajah of Travancore
Palais de L'Hygiene
Cradle, carved in boxwood by Rogers, London, for her Majesty the Queen
[View No. 13]
Portieres of printed Mohair by Lees and Co., London
Sevres Porcelain
Back Cover
Colonies Francaises Palais Central
Bedstead in Zebra-wood by Leistler and Son, Vienna
Statuette in Ivory and Objects in Gold and Silver by Froment-Meurice, Paris
Damask Table-covers by Beveridge, Dunfermline
Cabinet in Oak, with brass panels by Crace, London. Designed by Pugin.
The End of the Trail
Marechal – Painted Glass
Daggers and Sheaths by Wostenholm & Son, Sheffield. Designed by A. Stevens.
Campbell Printing Press Building
Stove in White Porcelain by Hoffman, Berlin
Independence Hall in 1776, Philadelphia
Indiana Building
Figured Silk by Mathevon and Buvard, Lyons
Title Page
Carpet, in the Mediaeval Style by Crace, London. Designed by Pugin.
Hyderabad Embroidery


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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