Glasgow World's Fair 1911

The Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art, and Industry

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Quick List Info

Glasgow Scottish Exhibition 1911

Dates Open - Open May 3 - November 4, 1911. Not open Sundays. Open 160 days.

Attendance - 9,369,375, not including attendants and staff.

International Participants - 14 nations and colonies. Incomplete list indicates there could have been more, on both an official and unofficial level.

Total Cost - Not available. Profit of around L20,000.

Site Acreage - 62 acres in Kelvingrove Park.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Expositions. Would be considered a Recognized Expo with Special qualities like on the 2-3, 7-8 years of each decade today.

Ticket Cost - 1 shilling; under 16 6d; season ticket 15 shilling.

Photo top center: Scene from the Scottish Exhibition, Glasgow 1911, 1911, Souvenir album of the Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art and Industry, Glasgow. Courtesy University of Glasgow. Column Top: Old Scott Street and Keep, 1911, Unknown original source. Courtesy

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History of the Event

Glasgow 1911

Yes, it was truly Scottish, international in character purely through colonial means and not as much of that. This was the third fair for Glasgow and the history of Scotland was starting to take precedence over industry. Their aims were smaller. With 1911, they wanted to endow a chair for Scottish History and Literature at Glasgow University. Plus the city also wanted to establish its leadership within Scotland in its national identity and culture, which they thought unfairly was thought of as centered in Edinburgh. So the 1911 fair, although some still viewed it as international, became much more Scottish than anything else. There were competing interests in other empire shows at the Crystal Palace as well as the Coronation Exhibition, plus small international expositions in Turin and Dresden. Therefore, the exhibition committee chose to focus this fair on Scotland and history.

The site was essentially the same as in 1888 and 1901, along the Kelvin River in Kelvingrove Park, although held on the east end, therefore eschewing use of the Art Gallery and Museum. Being Scottish in character had a lot of appeal for the public who attended, although less so within the empire. Coupled with chaos on the grounds just days prior to opening day, with unfinished exhibits and roads, the press reports were sketchy at best prior to opening. However, once the gates poured in the public, most of that consternation waned.

Above photo. Opening Day scene at the Scottish Exhibition, Glasgow 1911, 1911. Courtesy Pinterest. Below: Scene in the amusement section of the Scenic Railway built by the Thompson Scenic Railway Company. Photos courtesy Souvenir album of the Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art and Industry, Glasgow, 1911, Special Collections, University of Glasgow.

Glasgow 1911
Buildings were baronial in style and segmented into structures for History (modeled after Falkland Palace and built around remains of the Kelvingrove Mansion), Industry (largest), Art, Electrical, and Engineering, Music, Decorative Arts, and others. It was scenic, particularly in Olde Toun across the new Kelvin River bridge north of the Palace of History, which took visitors back to old Scotland. It was one of their favorite exhibits.

The central feature of the fair was the Grand Ampitheatre, which held open air concerts for 10,000 patrons. Entertainment and amusement was much greater in 1911 than at the previous two Glasgow fairs. There was a second amphitheatre on the Auld Toon side of the Kelvin with a large amusement zone to the north. There was a Mountain Scenic Ride, the Mysterious River, Aerial Railway, plus two living history camps of indegenous peoples, Laplanders & West Africans. The Clachan, a Highland Village, was one of the most popular attractions.

The Scottish Exhibition was another Glasgow success, making a profit with L15,000 for that original purpose, the endow Chair at Glasgow University, with an additional L4000 for restoration of the park. The additional surplus went to promote Scottish Art, Literature and Industry.

Historian's Perspective

Stanley Hunter - "1911 Not an international, but Scottish national. Organised by many who had been involved in 1888 and 1901 Internationals. It followed the Scottish National Exhibition held in Edinburgh in 1908. These coincided with the rise in Scottish patriotism/ nationalism and was well supported. It achieved its aim to finance a Chair of Scottish History at Glasgow University at Kelvingrove. Imperial leaders (Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc) were invited while attending Coronation of George V in London. Japanese Navy attended. Good support nationally as it called on Scottish patriotism. Good weather."

Fred Goldsmith - "1911 could have been a disaster. Although there was the euphoria of a Coronation Year, there was considerable unrest industrially including a vicious strike of tramway (streetcar) workers which could have blighted the event. Nevertheless the summer was glorious, and the exhibition provided an escape mechanism. This, I suggest, would be appropriate to each exhibition in Glasgow where the grounds were 'neutral territory' from the diversions elsewhere."

Unsanctioned Fair

Glasgow World's Fair 1911

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands,Austria, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, Victoria (Australia), Great Britain, South Africa.

Note: It is sometimes difficult to tell whether certain nations or colonies actually participated in a significant way, either officially or unofficially. Newspaper reports as well as official publications may indicate participation when actual participation did not occur, occurred minimally, or can miss unofficial participation at all. Take the above as a guide, not gospel. At this fair, we believe there are likely other international participants of one kind or the other.

Expo Tidbits
Crown Prince and Princess of Sweden visited in July.

On the River Kelvin, there was a historical pageant of model ships, including the Lusitania, followed ironically by a torpedo boat destroyer and battleship.

Cable railway spanned River Kelvin at 130' high for distance of 900 feet. It would carry six hundred people an hour.

Exhibition opened on May 3 by Duke of Connaught, not the King. The exhibition celebrated the 300th anniversary of the granting of charter to the city by King James VI.

A Clachan Memorial marks the site of the popular Highland Village in the park. Bandstand and Amphitheatre. Today's bandstand is 1920 replacement for original.

Map of the Glasgow 1911 Scottish Exhibition

Those in Charge

A.H. Pettigrew, Chairmain of Executive Council of Exhibition.

Sources: London Times; Fair News; Glasgow's Great Exhibitions; Exhibition Study Group.

Photo column top: Tower of Glasgow University and site of the exhibition along the Kelvin River, 2009, Candeo gauisus at English Wikipedia. Middle: Map of the Glasgow 1911 Scottish Exhibition. Courtesy Exhibition Study Group.

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