I suppose that everyone in the UK anyway has heard of The Great Exhibition of 1851 which took place in the Crystal Palace in London. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert had a lot to do with it, in fact just about everything which I’ve ever seen which was bought as a memento of that Exhibition has been made in Germany so I think that it was a cunning wheeze on his part to boost manufacturing back in his own country, he was a manipulative chap. I wonder what the English people of the day thought of that? I think that Exhibitions/Festivals/World’s Fairs were held to help boost the economies of the places they took place, I’m not sure if they were ever successful in that though. They certainly seem to have fallen out of favour now as the last such event in Britain was of course the Festival of Britain in 1951 and that was held partly to celebrate 100 years since The Great Exhibition.
In between those two events we had Empire Exhibitions, one in 1924, the Wembley Empire Exhibition and one in 1938 which was the Glasgow Empire Exhibition. It was that one which kicked off Jack’s interest in such things because the focal point of it was the Tower of Empire, a wonderful Art Deco structure postcards of which you can see above and to the right. Sadly it didn’t have much of a lifetime because the following year at the beginning of World War 2 it was taken down. An urban myth said it was thought it would be too much of an easy aim and signpost for enemy bombers but in reality, in wartime no one had time or money for its upkeep.
The great thing about the Empire Exhibitions was they were a chance for all the countries of the Empire to showcase their wares and culture. All of the countries had their own Pavilions so you could go and get a flavour of places on the other side of the world without having to do the travelling.
I’ve become a bit of an inadvertent expert on Exhibitions due to Jack’s interest in them and I must admit that I love the old postcards, especially if they have actually been used and posted. It’s great to get a glimpse into people’s lives and what they were doing all those years ago, apart from being at the Exhibition. The post card below is of the Scottish Avenue at the 1938 Empire Exhibition. There were two Scottish Pavilions! As you can see.
It was a big marketing opportunity and all sorts of tourist tat was made but over the years they take on an aura of nostalgia and become collectables like the tin below which presumably had toffees in it.
I plan to show more old postcards and memorabilia from this and other Exhibitions in the near future in my Blast from the Past category. The Great Exhibition, Empire Exhibition 1924 (and 1925!) the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, 1939-40, and the Festival of Britain plus more such as the North East Coast Exhibition, held in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1929 and other Glasgow and Edinburgh Exhibitions. Oh, and the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908, the Chicago World’s Fair (A Century of Progress) 1933, The New York World’s Fair 1939 and 40, The Great Lakes Exposition, The Texas Centennial Exposition and so on.
I hope you’re going to be interested!
In the meantime here’s a very Art Deco bowl made by Carlton Ware and sold only at Treron’s Department store in Glasgow in 1938.