May 1, 1851: The Great Exhibition opens.

Officially called the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, this exposition was held in Hyde Park between May and October of 1851. As far as world’s fairs went, the Great Exhibition was fairly frank in its purpose - which was for “Great Britain [to make] clear to the world its role as industrial leader”. With the Industrial Revolution now in full swing across Western Europe, Great Britain used the opportunity to flaunt its technological and cultural achievements, not to mention the riches of its growing colonies. 

The exhibitions were held in the Crystal Palace, a 990,000 square foot structure of cast-iron and glass, itself a product of the Industrial Revolution - made possible by the recent development of efficient methods of plate glass production. Some notable attractions included various mechanical wonders (an early fax machine, an American reaping machine), as well as the Koh-i-Noor diamond (once the largest in the world), daguerreotypes, revolvers, furniture, art from all over the world, a recreation of a medieval court, and countless other novelties. The official catalog, which can be looked through here, is over 300 pages long.

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