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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
Asprey – Dressing-case
Stove, in the Mediaeval Style by Hardman, Birmingham. Designed by Pugin.
Niche and Figure, carved in wood by Knecht, Paris
Photographic Exhibition Building
Guernsey and Jersey, Malta, and Ceylon
[View No. 9]
Exterior (Coals etc.)
The Christ Child (“Christ Engel”) by Rietschel, Dresden
Figured Silk by Mathevon and Buvard, Lyons
Back Cover
Damask Table-covers by Beveridge, Dunfermline
Gold Vase, enriched with Jewels and Enamels by Watherston & Brogden, London
Cremer – Cabinet
Girardet – Book-covers
America from the North-West End
Greek Embroidery
Front Cover
Black Lace Flounce by Greasly & Horcroft, Nottingham
French Commission Building
Architectural Adornments, Great South Gardens
Back Cover
Department of Public Comfort
The Hunter by Gibson, R.A.
India No. 1
Marchand – Chimney-piece
Horticultural Hall
Victory by Rauch, Berlin
India No. 6
Jones & Willis – Church Hangings
Japanese Dwelling
Book-cover in carved Ivory, presented to her Majesty the Queen by the Emperor of Austria
Enamelling, from Arms
Stove by Hoole, Robson, & Hoole, Sheffield. Designed by A. Stevens.
Sweden and Denmark
Bookbinding and Inlaying by Batten, Clapham
Devisme and Others – Fire-arms
Block-printed Table-cover by Evans and Co. London
Cain & Moigniez – Metal-work
Pavillon des Enfants
Pilaster in Carton-pierre by Cruchet, Paris
Canada Log House
The Palace of Machinery
Alcatraz Island and San Francisco Bay from the Exposition
Illustrated Title Page
Petiteau – Jewellery
Title Page
Mosaic-work, Imperial Manufactory
Yacht Harbor
[View No. 6]
Front Cover
Group of Objects by Falloise, Liege
Jeffrey – Paper-hangings
Tenerani – Sculpture
Iowa Building
Centre-piece in Silver by Wagner, Berlin
Group of Vases, &c. by Minton, Stoke-upon-Trent
Spain and Portugal
Pavillon des Eaux et Forets
Martini – Chasubles
Winter and Summer Belts of Temperature
Specimens of Honiton Lace by Mrs. Treadwin, Exeter
Paper-Hanging by Mader, Freres, Paris
Part of the Stationery Court, from the West Nave
Paper-Hanging by Woollams, London
Paper-Hanging by Hinchliffe & Co., Chelsea
Austria No. 1
Mississippi Building
Singer Sowing Machine Co.
Escrutoire in White Wood by Wettli, Berne
West Virginia Building
Ivory Throne and Footstool, presented to her Majesty the Queen by his Highness the Rajah of Travancore
The Turkish Court
North Transept Waiting For the Queen
Bedstead by Winfield, Birmingham
Title Page - The Coalbrookdale Dome
Silk Brocades by Campbell, Harrison, and Lloyd, and Vanner and Son, Spitalfields. (For Howell, James and Co., London)
Marchand – Chimney-piece
Panel, ornamented with Buhl by Fourdinois, Paris
Wisconsin Building
The Palace of Education
Fountain in Terra-cotta by March, Thiergartenfelde, near Charlottenburg, Prussia
Kincob Pattern, woven at Ahmedabad
Scarf-end, embroidered at Dacca, on white muslin
Back Cover
Standard Lamp by Winfield, Birmingham
An Exposition Audience, Great South Gardens
Fountain in Iron by Andre, Paris
Title Page


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


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