Antwerp World's Fair 1894

Exposition Internationale d'Anvers

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Quick List Info

Antwerp World's Fair 1894 Poster

Dates Open - May 5, 1894 to November 12, 1894.

Attendance - 3 million attendance. Some sources estimated that when counting an extrapolation of season tickets that the event actually drew about 5 million.

International Participants - 26 participating countries plus colonies.

Total Cost - 4.15 million francs.

Site Acreage - 148.25 acres at end of Avenue de Sud near river Scheldt. Some reports state that the total acreage was close to 200 acres.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. Would be considered a Registered Expo like those on the 5 year of a decade.

Ticket Cost - Day ticket 1 franc. Two season tickets for children cost 20 francs. Additional costs for various attractions such as Old Antwerp at .1 franc, aquarium .25 franc, and cyclorama .5 franc.

Photo top center: Drawing of the Antwerp Exhibition Building 1894, 1894, Ferdinand Truyman. Column Top: Official poster of the Antwerp 1894 Exposition, 1894, likely Fair Authority via The Panoramic Dream: Antwerp and the World Exhibitions. Column Below: Poster of balloon ascension poster at Antwerp 1894, 1894. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Antwerp Exhibition 1894

Other Histories of World's Fairs to Check Out

History of the Event

Antwerp 1894 World's Fair

After the Antwerp fair of 1885, it did not take long before the idea of hosting another international event whet the appetite of Antwerp's elites. By 1889, Desire' Janssen, an administrator and veteran of the 1885 fair, suggested another expo. Oh, but there was competition from Brussels, eventually thrwarted when the Minister of Finance granted exclusive rights to the seaport Antwerp to host the 1894 fair. The fair would promote the harbor, international trade, and relations with the Congo. There would be interesting exhibits ranging from an Old Antwerp section that would be replicated at other Belgian fairs in the future, colonial sections including that Congo, and a Panorama of the Alps that the visitors loved. There would be exhibit halls including the Main Building, a Machinery Hall, the Palace of Fine Arts, and an Aquarium. The American Building, which was one of only a few individual foreign pavilions, was the largest of foreign participants at 240 feet by 150 feet. Many of the exhibits would come from exhibitors who were going home from the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition held the year before.

There were 12,095 exhibitors in one hundred and fifty attractions, although official foreign participation was lower than that in 1885 with only 38% of exhibits, instead of 60%, coming from that international sector. The exhibition halls covered more than 90,000 square meters. For those wanting more fun to their exhibit experience, the amusement zone, Rue de Cairo, provided more than a few moments. Rain hampered attendance, and most concessionaires, outside Old Antwerp, did not turn a profit. Old Antwerp consisted of seventy solid buildings that were inhabited during the exhibition by 16th century attired living history people. Old Antwerp was a popular crowd attraction, along with the Congolese village

Above photo. Exhibition building at Antwerp 1894, 1894. Courtesy The Panoramic Dream: Antwerp and the World Exhibitions. Below: Building housing the Panorama of the Alps exhibit, 1894.

Antwerp World's Fair of 1894
The fair would be well run, opened and patronaged by King Leopold II, and turn a profit. It was held on essentially the same site as that of 1885, but expanded. There was criticism from the New York Times that the buildings were unimpressive. There was criticism from others that the exhibition was not ready on opening day, and the London Times noted that the foreign sections were still in a backwards state by June. There's always criticism from someone.

Historian's Perspective

Peter Scholliers - "Antwerp 1985 was the very first international expo. Antwerp 1894 symbolized the wealth of the young nation; both expos proved that a small country was taken seriously by the giants France, Germany and Britain. Antwerp 1885 and 1894 put Antwerp (and Belgium) firmly onto the international map, with many references to Antwerp's Golden Age ("Old Belgium", e.g.)."

Second of Antwerp Fairs

Antwerp World's Fair 1894

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

Belgium, Germany (Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurtenberg), Italy, United States, France, French Algeria, Bulgaria, England, Congo, India, Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Australia, Honduras.

China, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Mexico, Persia, Portugal, Kingdom of Romania, Russia, South African Republic, Switzerland, Ottoman Empire, Sweden and Norway, Dutch East Indies (Java, Sumatra, and Madura.)

Note: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether certain nations actually participated in a significant way. Newspaper reports as well as the official documents or secondary sources may indicate participation when actual participation did not occur or occurred minimally. Take the above as a guide, not gospel. Various sources differ on who exhibited.

Expo Tidbits
One of most important sections of Antwerp 1894 was devoted to the Congo Free State. Besides the Congo village, the Congolese section had comprehensive displays of ethnograph objects.

Pawnee Bill, Major Gordon W. Lillie, leader of the '49 Oklahoma boomers, presented a wild west frontier battle scene at the Antwerp fair. The attraction went bankrupt in the summer of 1894.

The Belgian state was responsible for organizing the Belgian section while Royal patronage provided the prestige for the Antwerp exhibition.

Various exhibits remain, including the crystal below.

Antwerp 1894 Exhibit

Those in Charge

Committee's chairman was Catholic senator, de Pret Roose de Calesberg. The Count Hippolyte d'Ursel was Commissioner General. Alphonse Hertogs was director general of the exhibition.

Sources: Les Expositions Universelle en Belgique; The Panoramic Dream, Antwerp and the World Exhibitions; London Times; New York Times; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller; Fair News; Board of Trade Journal, Volume 14.

Photo column top: Entrance to the German section at the Antwerp 1894 exposition, 1894, Original source unknown. Courtesy The Panoramic Dream: Antwerp and the World Exhibitions. Middle: One of the remnants of the 1894 fair is the exhibit of Val-Saint-Lambert crystal. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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