A Theatre of Glass

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The idea of a national exhibition of Arts and Industry wasn’t new. It goes back as far as 1789 in Geneva, 1790 in Hamburg, 1791 in Prague and 1798 in Paris.

But those exhibitions were very small scale and only lasted for a few days. The French took it a little more seriously, holding eleven exhibitions of this type between 1801 and 1849 ranging from six days at the beginning to sixty days for the last one, but all of them were strictly national in scope.

What was different about 1851 in London was that it was international. Paris in 1849 had 4,494 exhibitors; London had over 14,000. In the UK the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) had held this type of national exhibition in London in 1828, 1832 and 1833, while Dublin had held such events every three years from 1834 to 1853, and Birmingham had one at Bingley Hall in 1849.

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Great Exhibition