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11 July 2017: The World's Fair and Great Exhibition

 In 1851 London hosted an international exhibition in Hyde Park. It was titled ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations’, more commonly known as ‘The Great Exhibition’. The event demonstrated a range of cultural and industrial exhibits and was held in a temporary structure known as the Crystal Palace. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert and Henry Cole organised the exhibition which held exhibitors from Britain, Europe, the Americas as well as Britain’s colonies.

Here at Rooke Books we have an account of the Great Exhibition by French writer and critic Jules Janin. The work describes the many exhibits, as well as the comparison of French modernity to its rival Great Britain. Another work we have from this event is Comical People. Comical People was inspired by a tapestry by Maria Fusinata shown at the ‘Great Exhibition’. The tapestry conveyed many of J J Grandville’s anthropomorphic characters or his ‘metamorphoses’. Grandville’s characters are both comedic and satirical. Accompanying the images taken from Fusinata’s tapestry there are short pieces of prose delivering a tale on the characters. To the rear there is also a comedic tale regarding life-sized stuffed animals at the exhibition which were based on Grandville’s designs. 
 
 
 
‘The Great Exhibition’ was the first in a series of ‘World’s Fair’s which showcase the achievements of nations worldwide and are still an event today. Following ‘The Great Exhibition’ there was a world exposition in New York in 1853 with another in London in 1862, Philadelphia in 1876, and Paris in 1889. Following this there was an 1893 exposition held in Chicago, which was famous for many reasons. The 1893 exposition was held to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World in 1492. It was a truly grand event with nearly 200 newly erected temporary buildings of neoclassical architecture, canals, lagoons as well as exhibitors and visitors from around 46 countries. This particular fair also boasted the original Ferris Wheel which could accommodate 40 people per carriage. The Chicago World’s Fair exceeded the scale and grandeur of the prior fairs and reflected the emerging concept of American Exceptionalism.
 
However, the notability of the Chicago World’s Fair lies not just in its successes. The fair was a backdrop for serial killer H H Holmes’ activities. Holmes constructed his World’s Fair hotel which was opened with the supposed intent to host some of the thousands of visitors for the event. It was located about 3 miles from the location of the Fair making it easy for guests to attend. Part of the hotel was also used as a commercial space, for Holmes’ drugstore and various shops. It was an unusual construction and had several strange passageways with doors which could only open from one side as well as soundproofed bedrooms that had a multipurpose as gas chambers. Holmes attended the fair with some of his victims, who tended to be his employees, lovers or hotel guests. It is unknown how many people Holmes killed, some people estimate that there were as many as 200.
 
We have an illustrated souvenir guide to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. The work is illustrated throughout with many photographs of the buildings used for the fair as well as notable events. There are portions describing exhibitions at the fair as well as an insight into the earlier fairs. The work acts as both a commemorative album and insight into the wonder of the World’s Fair and Exposition. 
 

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