The first products you encounter when entering the Crystal Palace through the eastern gate are those from the United States and Russia.
Let's talk about the United States:
Here we are in the first room. Here, the great nascent industries of the United States are announced by specimens which are not very brilliant, no doubt, but which, in their simplicity, already inspire serious concern and jealousy among English producers.
It is that these thick sheetings, these drillings, are sold in the markets of China and South America at prices which Great Britain, in spite of her best efforts, cannot match; it is that these chintzes, these painted cloths, imperfect as they are, have already supplanted, to a great extent, the English simulacra in the consumption of Chile, Peru and several other countries. I have seen, in 18o0, the shops of Valparaiso filled with printed calico from Lowell, Rhode-Island, and Massachussets.
Let us now examine the most remarkable of the products which are displayed at their ease in the room where we are.
We find samples of the Burlington company's sheets; daguerreotypes in profusion and perfectly successful; white and printed cotton fabrics, among which those of the Wamsutta-mills, near Bedford, shine by their exceptional fineness; good quality cotton sailcloth, made in New York; mediocre woollen cloths and sheets, from Clenton (Massachusetts); common Indians, from Merrimurck (same State); ordinary woollen shawls with checks and guinghan. Let us not forget, either, to mention some New York pianos, and especially the violin piano. The crystals of the Flint-Glass Company, of Brooklyn, are well made. The furniture deserves little attention.
The room we have just visited is bounded on the south by a transverse aisle which extends to the transept. The part of this aisle belonging to the United States contains very poor wallpaper, a bad carpet, tailor's patterns, carpentry tools, a few chairs, black leather and paintings of plants.
In the large American room in the far south, which comes after this aisle, there are some very remarkable raw products. But first let's look at some of the manufactured goods displayed along the wall. Here are some very thick tanned hides; sheet metal from Philadelphia; iron in bars; steel from New Marck; sarsaparilla extract, which many Americans use, even in perfect health; and the famous Congress-water, which is advertised in every street of New York. It should be noted here, in passing, that in the United States, merchants claim to be as willing to supply Congress as those in London supply the Queen.
Next come chemicals; snuff; flours
Next come chemicals; snuff; flours; starches; various kinds of sea biscuits; among which is a very nutritious beef biscuit, made of flour and concentrated meat extract or broth. It is said to be of excellent quality, and it seems that today the American troops, stationed on the borders of the Indian territories, make constant and almost exclusive use of this precious preserve. France has, moreover, exhibited a similar product, very worthy of attention.
Let us also mention a few specimens of soap, a collection of minerals and in particular pieces of anthracite, a substance so abundant in North America; samples of Turkish wheat on a plant; curious cakes of linseed; various samples of wheat and a very beautiful and very interesting collection of samples of woolen islands of all kinds. Care has been taken to leave the buds open on several branches of cotton trees, wrapping the down in a light piece of gauze.
There are also some samples of American wools.
In the centre of the room are spread out large bales of colon, minerals, various seeds and cereals, barrels of beef and salted bacon, the upper stave of which has been replaced by a glass plate which allows the salted goods to be viewed. If these are pleasing to the eye, I am able to certify that nothing is more unpleasant to the palate than these awful meats which I had the misfortune to be forced to feed on during my crossings on board the American steamers of the Atlantic and Pacific. They are horribly hard and salty, and, in spite of this, very often in full putrefaction when consumed on board, so I shall refrain from praising these products, which are too frequent a cause of scurvy and a thousand other diseases for the unfortunate passengers for whom they are reserved. In the matter of saltings, as in many other respects, we are very superior to other nations and particularly to America.
A few samples of wood, flours from the croton-mills, from New York, bricks and a few unimportant products, complete the exhibition of the United States on the southern side.
Let's move on to the North side! Before we reach it, we notice in the main avenue, the relief plan of Niagara Falls and the admirable statue of Heram Power, representing a young Greek slave, one of the most beautiful objects of art of the Exposition, supplied, singularly enough, by the least artistic country in the world. Near the statue stands a railway viaduct, on which are placed two mannequins representing a couple of hideous redskins, and then a trophy of rubber objects.
On the front of the northern division of the United States we find an ugly clay urn, from Cincinnati; an Indian saddle and bonnet, elegant enough for savages; stuffed animals; a balance and various other precision instruments, by Erickson, among which is an alarm barometer, the accuracy of which is entirely subordinate to the caprice of some leeches who play, more or less, the part of mercury in this bizarre instrument.
Next come some common Connecticut firearms and a plaster statue of a wounded Indian pulling an arrow from his thigh.
Four entrances lead into the great North American room. The first, from the east door of the Crystal Palace, contains a few unremarkable cars; the second, large iron stoves with ventilation apparatus; the third, rubber objects: animal statuettes, dolls, shoes, gloves, maps, an underwater apparatus with perspiration ducts, all made of rubber. The fourth and last entry is also devoted to this substance, which appears in the form of bottles, cloths and boots, shoes that have become of great importance to the Americans since the discovery of the mines of California, where they are very useful to them in wet diggings.
The application of rubber to all sorts of uses seems to have become today, in the United States, one of those fixed ideas, one of those monomanias which seize the minds of their inhabitants from time to time.
In the large room, to which the small aisles we have just passed lead, one sees, along the wall, models of railways, ship fans and enormous oars.
In the centre, there are farming implements and machines. The ploughs are of all kinds of models. There is a curious kind of harrow, from Illinois, a grain cleaning machine and various other agricultural devices, which attract the attention of connoisseurs.
There is a model of a hot-water apparatus, by Perkins, for heating public houses; the steam gun and Y antifriction ready, by the same, by which he proposes to replace the hydraulic press; a machine by Erickson, called a calorie engine ; Perkins' hot water stove, for baking bread by means of snaking tubes; cotton gin machines, from Connecticut; railway wheels, Eddie system; cotton loom; two iron devices, used for binding books; a safe; a cotton stretching machine and two brick ovens.
We have now completed the review of the principal products of the United States on the ground floor.
In the north gallery they have a small display of perfumery and especially of Philadelphia soaps, and a fair amount of rubber canvas.
The American exhibition, incomplete as it is, has a clear-cut character. It shows many infant industries, which compensate by the low price of their products for what they leave to be desired in the way of quality and finish. The United States is in a hurry to rise to the level of the European nations. They start by making a little of everything, perfection will come later.
The raw products of America indicate the numerous natural riches of this immense territory which holds almost inexhaustible treasures in reserve for the overflow of the populations of our hemisphere. Agricultural implements present some useful innovations. What industry is, indeed, more worthy of exercising the intelligence of the citizens of the United States, than that which constitutes the basis of their national wealth and power, the agricultural industry?
If the American exhibition does not offer anything to flatter the self-esteem of the proudest and most self-satisfied people, it does at least establish a curious point of departure and comparison, towards which the eyes of this people will look back with pride in a few years; for it will certainly not be the United States which, at the next Universal Exhibition, will show the least progress made since that memorable industrial date of 1851. Happy country for which the years are almost centuries of acquired strength and wealth, and to which the future holds such a great political and commercial role!
© Palais de Cristal – Journal Illustré de L’Exposition de 1851