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Great Britain and Colonies - Expo Paris 1889

Great Britain and Colonies at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

The exhibition of Great Britain and her colonies is certainly the largest after the French exhibition.

It covers an area of 227,670 square feet of space, and has no less than 1,600 exhibitors, a figure not attained by any other country.

The English exhibition has been made entirely by private initiative, aided, it is true, in a powerful way by the Queen's government. The first committee in London to deal with the exhibition was chaired by Mr. Polydore de Keiser, who was then Lord Mayor of the City. He has since resigned his office as Lord Mayor, but he has continued to take an active interest in the British Exhibition, and it is thanks to him that the guarantee fund has grown to a relatively large sum.

The British exhibition is spread over all parts of the Exhibition. There is a section for Fine Arts, one for Liberal Arts, a third for Miscellaneous Industries, and finally a fourth for the Machinery Gallery. In addition, there are several separate pavilions: the Retrospective Exhibition of Means of Transport, the Railways, the Social Economy, the Cape of Good Hope, New Zealand, and Victoria, plus a pavilion of sheet metal, situated at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

The English section itself, which is located in the Palais des Industries diverses, is decorated in a rather primitive, but very English way. The arms of England above each door, bundles of flags, wallpaper stuck to the wall, a balustrade painted white in the style of Queen Elizabeth's time as a fence, and that's all, with the addition of banners bearing the arms and mottos of the main cities. The English section is thus distinguished from all the others by a great simplicity; but it is the only one in the whole Champ de Mars which gives the visitor the impression of a country completely different from our own; from the workers with the chief wearing the high hat to the gilded bronze showcases, everything is different from what one sees elsewhere. What is most similar to other exhibitions are the exhibits. It would take too long to list them all and it would be very difficult to list the most remarkable and beautiful.

However, the most striking items are earthenware and porcelain. There is even a huge vase in soft paste which is curious for its shape and very remarkable for the groups which decorate it. There are many crystals and woollens, of course; a very curious pavilion occupied by the Illustrated London News, and everything that one finds in all English exhibitions: shoes, clothes, candles (there is even a bust of the Queen in stearin), weapons, ammunition and everything that constitutes England and English life, from the piece of furniture with an application of earthenware to the grates for burning coal without smoke, without forgetting the silverware, more massive than beautiful. However, there is a very remarkable collection of spoons belonging to the London Goldsmiths' Guild; each spoon is a masterpiece. In the left-hand bay are the New Zealand and Victorian exhibits. Here the walls are adorned with huge murals depicting life in the colonies: the harvest and the hunt for gold. In the middle is a huge map. The most curious thing in this exhibition is a gilded brick portico, the volume of which represents the gold extracted in Australia by the settlers since the beginning of gold mining. Needless to say, there is no shortage of such samples of gold, silver and copper ores. They are to be found in great numbers alongside stuffed birds and quadrupeds, dried flowers and plants, wood, everything that constitutes an ordinary colonial exhibition. Particularly noteworthy, however, is a large exhibition of furs, above which are placed a kanguroo and an emu, which sum up, so to speak, the hair and feather of Australia. The colony of Victoria has also a special cottage in the Trocadero Park, where one may taste at one's leisure the Australian wines of which the greatest praise is said to be due.

Canada is only very slightly represented in the palace of Miscellaneous Industries, which is surprising when one knows the sympathies of this country for France. The Cape Government has a pavilion which we have described above, and Ceylon, which has been granted a bar, sends us only an ordinary English bar, with the inevitable barmaids, but where all the products consumed come from Ceylon.

© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889