England, London, Thursday, May 6th, 1851.

LONDON, Thursday, May 6th, 1851.

“The World’s Fair,” as we Americans have been accustomed to call it, has
now been open five days, but is not yet in complete order, nor anything
like it. The sound of the saw and the hammer salutes the visiter from
every side, and I think not less than five hundred carpenters and other
artisans are busy in the building to-day. The week will probably close
before the fixtures will have all been put up and the articles duly
arranged for exhibition. As yet, a great many remain in their
transportation boxes, while others are covered with canvas, though many
more have been put in order within the last two days. Through the great
center aisle very little remains unaccomplished; but on the sides, in
the galleries, and in the department of British Machinery, there is yet
work to do which another week will hardly see concluded. Meantime, the
throng of visiters is immense, though the unexampled extent of the
People’s Palace prevents any crush or inconvenience. I think there
cannot have been less than Ten Thousand visiters in the building to-day.

Of course, any attempt to specify, or to set forth the merits or defects
of particular articles, must here be futile. Such a universe of
materials, inventions and fabrics defies that mode of treatment. But I
will endeavor to give some general idea of the Exhibition.

If you enter the building at the East, you are in the midst of the
American contributions, to which a great space has been allotted, which
they meagerly fill. Passing westward down the aisle, our next neighbor
is Russia, who had not an eighth of our space allotted to her, and has
filled that little far less thoroughly and creditably than we have. It
is said that the greater part of the Russian articles intended for the
Fair are yet ice-bound in the Baltic. France, Austria, Switzerland,
Prussia and other German States succeed her; the French contributions
being equal (I think) in value, if not in extent and variety, to those
of all the rest of the Continent. Bohemia has sent some admirable
Glassware; Austria a suit of apartments thoroughly and sumptuously
furnished, which wins much regard and some admiration. There is of
course a great array of tasteful design and exquisite workmanship from
France, though I do not just now call to mind any article of transcendent

The main aisle is very wide, forming a broad promenade on each side with
a collection of Sculpture, Statuary, Casts, &c. &c. between them.
Foremost among these is Powers’s Greek Slave, never seen to better
advantage; and I should say there are from fifty to a hundred other
works of Art–mainly in Marble or Bronze.–Some of them have great
merit. Having passed down this avenue several hundred Feet, you reach
the Transept, where the great diamond “Koh-i-Noor” (Mountain of Light)
with other royal contributions, have place. Here, in the exact center of
the Exhibition, is a beautiful Fountain (nearly all glass but the
water,) which has rarely been excelled in design or effect. The fluid is
projected to a height of some thirty feet, falling thence into a
succession of regularly enlarging glass basins, and finally reaching in
streams and spray the reservoir below. A hundred feet or more on either
side stand two stately, graceful trees, entirely included in the
building, whose roof of glass rises clear above them, seeming a nearer
sky. These trees (elms, I believe) are fuller and fresher in leaf than
those outside, having been shielded from the chilling air and warmed by
the genial roof. Nature’s contribution to the Great Exhibition is
certainly a very admirable one, and fairly entitles her to a first-class

The other half of the main aisle is externally a duplicate of that
already described, but is somewhat differently filled. This is the
British end of the Exhibition, containing far more in quantity than all
the rest put together. The finest and costliest fabrics are ranged on
either side of this end of the grand aisle.

The show of Colonial products is not vast but comprehensive, giving a
vivid idea of the wide extent and various climates of Britain’s
dependencies. Corn, Wheat, &c., from the Canadas; Sugar and Coffee from
the West Indies; fine Wood from Australia; Rice, Cotton, &c., from
India; with the diversified products of Asia, Africa and America, fill
this department. Manufactured textile fabrics from Sydney, from India,
and from Upper Canada, are here very near each other; while Minerals,
Woods, &c., from every land and every clime are nearly in contact. I
apprehend John Bull, whatever else he may learn, will not be taught
meekness by this Exhibition.

The Mineral department of the British display is situated on the south
side. I think it can hardly be less than five hundred feet long by over
one hundred wide, and it is doubtless the most complete ever thus set
before the public. Here are shown every variety and condition of Coal,
and of Iron, Copper, Lead, Tin, &c. Of Gold there is little, and of
Silver, Zinc, Quicksilver, &c., not a great deal. But not only are the
Ores of the metals first named varied and abundant, with Native Copper,
Silver, &c., but the metals are also shown in every stage of their
progress, from the rude elements just wrenched from the earth to the
most refined and perfect bars or ingots. This department will richly
reward the study of the mineralogists, present and future.

Directly opposite, on the North side of the British half of the main
avenue, is the British exhibition of Machinery, occupying even more
space than the Minerals. I never saw one-fourth as much Machinery
together before; I do not expect ever to see so much again. Almost every
thing that a Briton has ever invented, improved or patented in the way
of Machinery is here brought together. The great Cylinder Press on which
_The Times_ is printed (not the individual, but the kind) may here be
seen in operation; the cylinders revolve horizontally as ours do
vertically; and though something is gained in security by the British
press, more must be lost in speed. Hoe’s last has not yet been equaled
on this island. But in Spinning, Weaving, and the subsidiary arts there
are some things here, to me novelties, which our manufacturers must
borrow or surpass; though I doubt whether spinning, on the whole, is
effected with less labor in Great Britain than in the United States.
There are many recent improvements here, but I observe none of absorbing
interest. However, I have much yet to see and more to comprehend in this
department. I saw one loom weaving Lace of a width which seemed at least
three yards; a Pump that would throw very nearly water enough to run a
grist-mill, &c. &c. I think the American genius is quicker, more
wide-awake, more fertile than the British; I think that if our
manufactures were as extensive and firmly established as the British, we
should invent and improve machinery much faster than they do; but I do
not wish to deny that this is quite a considerable country.


Wednesday, May 7–4 P. M.

I have just returned from another and my seventh daily visit to the
Great Exhibition. I believe I have thus far been among the most
industrious visitors, and yet I have not yet even glanced at one-half
the articles exhibited, while I have _only_ glanced at most of those I
have seen. Of course, I am in no condition to pronounce judgments, and
any opinion I may express must be taken subject to future revisal and

I know well that so large and diversified a show of Machinery could not
be made up in the United States as is here presented in behalf of
British Invention; yet I think a strictly American Fair might be got up
which would evince more originality of creation or design. If I am wrong
in this, I shall cheerfully say so when convinced of it. Many of these
machines are very good of their kind without involving any novel
principle or important adaptation. With regard to Flax-Dressing, for
example, I find less here than I had hoped to see; and though what I
have seen appears to do its work well and with commendable economy of
material, I think there are more efficient and rapid Flax-Dressers in
the United States than are contained in this Exhibition. I have not yet
examined the machinery for Spinning and Weaving the dressed Flax fiber,
but am glad to see that it is in operation. The report that the
experiments in Flax-Cotton have “failed” does not in the least
discourage me. Who ever heard of a great economical discovery or
invention that had not been repeatedly pronounced a failure before it
ultimately and indubitably succeeded?

I found one promising invention in the British department to-day, viz:
Henley’s Magnetic Telegraph, or rather, the generator of its power. The
magnet, I was assured, _did not require nor consume any substance
whatever_, but generated its electricity spontaneously, and in equal
measure in all varieties of weather, so that the wildest storm of
lightning, hail, snow or rain makes no difference in the working of the
Telegraph. If such be the fact, the invention is one of great merit and
value, and must be speedily adopted in our country, where the liability
of Telegraphs to be interrupted by storms is a crying evil. I trust it
is now near its end.

Switzerland has a very fine show of Fabrics in the Fair–I think more in
proportion to her numbers than any other Foreign Nation. Of Silks she
displays a great amount, and they are mainly of excellent quality. She
shows Shawls, Ginghams, Woolens, &c., beside, as well as Watches and
Jewelry; but her Silk is her best point. The Chinese, Australian,
Egyptian and Mexican contributions are quite interesting, but they
suggest little or nothing, unless it be the stolidity of their

I see that _Punch_ this week reiterates _The Times’s_ slurs at the
meagerness and poverty of the American contribution. This is meanly
invidious and undeserved. The inventors, artisans and other producers of
our Country who did not see fit to incur the heavy expense of sending
their most valuable products to a fair held three to five thousand miles
away are unaffected by this studied disparagement, and those who _have_
sent certainly do not deserve it. They are in no manner responsible for
the setting apart for American contributions of more space than they
fill; they have rather deserved consideration and kind treatment on the
part of the London Press. Beside, the value of their contributions is
not at all gauged by the space they fill nor by the impression they make
on the wondering gaze; articles of great merit and utility often making
no figure at all compared with a case of figured silks or mantel
ornaments which answer no purpose here but the owner’s. And when it is
considered that the manufacturers of France, Germany and Switzerland, as
well as England, are here displaying their wares and fabrics before the
eyes of thousands and tens of thousands of their customers–that their
cases in the Crystal Palace are in fact so many gigantic advertisements,
read and admired by myriads of merchants and other buyers from all parts
of the world, the unfairness of the comparison instituted by the London
Press becomes apparent. Our exhibitors can derive no such advantage from
the Fair–certainly not to any such extent. The “Bay State Mills,” for
example, has a good display of Shawls here, hardly surpassed, considering
quality and price, by any other; yet nobody but Americans will thereby be
tempted to give them orders; while a British, Scotch, French or Swiss
shawl-manufacturer exhibiting just such a case, is morally certain of
gaining customers thereby in all parts of the world. But enough on this

I may add that many Americans have been deterred from sending by an
impression that nothing would be admitted that was not sent out in the
St. Lawrence, or at all events unless received early in April. But
articles are still acceptable, at least in our department; and I venture
to say that any invention, model, machine or fabric of decided merit
which may reach our Commissioner free of charge before the end of June
will have a place assigned it, although it will probably be too late to
have a chance for the prizes.

These are to be mainly Medals of the finest Bronze, to cost $25, $12
and $5 respectively. Probably about one thousand of the first class,
two thousand of the second and five thousand of the third will be
distributed. But they are not to be given for different grades of
excellence in the same field of exertion, but for radically diverse
merits. The first class will be mainly if not wholly given for
Inventions, Discoveries or Original Designs of rare excellence; the
second class for novel applications or combinations of principles
already known so as to produce articles of signal utility, cheapness or
beauty; the third class will be given for decided excellence of quality
or workmanship without regard to originality. By this course, it is
hoped that personal heart-burnings and invidious rivalries among
exhibitors may to a great extent be avoided.

I cannot close without a word of acknowledgment to our Embassador, Hon.
Abbott Lawrence, for the interest he has taken and the labor he has
cheerfully performed in order that our Country should be creditably
represented in this Exhibition. For many months, the entire burthen of
correspondence, &c., fell on his shoulders; and I doubt whether the Fair
will have cost him less than five thousand dollars when it closes. That
he has exerted himself in every way in behalf of his countrymen
attending the Exhibition is no more than all who knew him anticipated;
and his convenient location, his wide acquaintance and marked popularity
here have enabled him to do a great deal. Every American voice is loud
in his praise.

I walked through a good part of the galleries of the Crystal Palace this
morning, with attention divided between the costly and dazzling wares
and fabrics around me and the grand panorama below. Ten thousand men and
women were moving from case to case, from one theme of admiration to
another, in that magnificent temple of Art, so vast in its proportions
that these thousands no where crowded or jostled each other; and as many
more might have gazed and enjoyed in like manner without incommoding
these in the least. And these added thousands will come, when the
Palace, which is still a laboratory or workshop, shall have become what
it aims to be, and when the charge for daily admission shall have been
still farther reduced from five shillings (sterling) to one. Then will
the artisans, the cultivators, the laborers, not of London only, but to
a considerable extent of Great Britain, flock hither by tens of
thousands to gaze on this marvellous achievement of Human Genius, Skill,
Taste, and Industry, and be strengthened in heart and hope by its
contemplation. And as they observe and rejoice over these trophies of
Labor’s might and beneficence, shall they not also perceive foreshadowed
here that fairer, grander, gladder Future for them and theirs, whereof
this show is a prelude and a prediction–wherein Labor shall build,
replenish and adorn mansions as stately, as graceful, as commodious as
this, not for others’ delight and wonder, but for its own use and
enjoyment–for the life-long homes of the builders, their wives and
their children, who shall find within its walls not Subsistence merely,
but Education, Refinement, Mental Culture, Employment and seasonable
Pastime as well? Such is the vista which this edifice with its contents
opens and brightens before me. Heaven hasten the day when it shall be no
longer a prospect but a benignant and sure realization!


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