Liverpoool International Shipperies Exhibition 1886

International Exhibition of Navigation, Commerce
and Industry

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Quick List Info

Liverpool Shipping Exhibition

Dates Open - May 11 - November 8, 1886. Open 156 days.

Attendance - 2,682,516 visitors. 3,132,516 visitors plus attendants.

International Participants - 17 participating countries and more than 2 colonies.

Total Cost - Expenses L150,167.

Site Acreage - 35 acres.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. Would be considered a Special Recognized Expo like those on the 2-3 or 7-8 years of a decade, due to size and special theme.

Ticket Cost - Not available.

Photo top center: Palace of Industries at the Liverpool International Shipperies Exhibition, 1886. Courtesy Pinterest. Column Top: Liverpool International Exhibition, Main Building, 1886, Souvenir Book Lewis's of Liverpool. Courtesy via Pinterest. Column Below: Image of the Antwerp 1885 Exposition, including the main building whose iron and steel framework were transported to Liverpool's exhibition, 1886. Original source unknown, via Pinterest.

Antwerp World's Fair 1885

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History of the Event

Liverpool 1886 World's Fair

It was a small exhibition by the standards of Paris 1878 in the iron framework of a recycled building that the Liverpool organizers had transported from the Antwerp fair of the year before. The building itself looked different, however, like six railway stations. In today's vernacular, Liverpool's 1886 fair would be a special exposition, defined around a specific theme, predominantly shipping, put in the broader concept of its title, "International Exhibition of Navigation, Commerce and Industry." The exposition was planned for thirty-five acres of ground around the botanical gardens of Wavertree. It included a life size copy of the Eddystone Lighthouse and British department store, Lewis's, sailed the iron ship S.S. Great Eastern, originally launched in 1858, to a dock nearby and created an amusement zone inside it for fair visitors. A huge sign touting a visit to Lewis's Department Store adorned it. The ship had been a floating billboard and visitor attraction on the River Mersey, owned by the department store, for several years before. The exhibition was a good reason to bring it to the Liverpool port.

Queen Victoria opened the fair on May 11 to significant fanfare and thirty thousand people. British exhibits would dominate, more than one thousand three hundred of them, with significant contributions from France. There were sections for Belgium, Norway, and the United States, among others. Outside the main buildings, there was an Indian Village, Japanese Village, and Laplanders Village.

Above photo. Opening Ceremony at the Liverpool Exhibition, 1886. Courtesy National Museum of Liverpool. Middle: Drawing of the Opening of the Exhibition by Queen Victoria, 1886, Illustrated London News. Bottom: City of Liverpool rail engine exhibited at fair, 1886. Courtesy Pinterest.

Liverpool International Exhibition Opening 1886
By the end of its run, the exhibition had drawn a significant amount of visitors, but ran at a loss of L19,135. The guarantors absorbed the loss from their guarantee fund of L87,474. Overall receipts were L131,032 with amounts received from admission accounting for L102,711. The blame for the loss went toward difficulties of the site and a larger building than initially planned. The building itself cost L86,184. Organizers thought a second year might be in order, but City Council voted down that idea in early December. Despite that, on May 16, with many changes, the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Liverpool opened on the same site. Most of the exhibits were different, but the lighthouse remained. The organizers of the Jubilee went more for entertainment.

Exhibit at Liverpool International Exhibition Opening 1886
Newspaper Reports

"Liverpool's Big Show" - New York Times, May 16, 1886 - News of the expo was covered in news reports in the United States. They focused on the Queen's upcoming visit, the model Eddystone lighthouse, other exhibits to be seen and that it was well worth seeing.

First of Antwerp Fairs

Liverpool World's Fair 1886

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

France, Belgium, England, Italy, Norway and Sweden, United States, Hayti, Chile. In the International Court were Germany, Russia, Denmark, Portugal, San Domingo, Canada, Netherlands, Austria. Other nations listed in the awards; Algeria, Switzerland, and Turkey. India, Japan, and Lapland have villages.

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 or even the Bureau of International Expositions itself may indicate participation when actual participation did not occur or occurred minimally. The above is taken from various reports in the London Times. Take the above as a guide, not gospel.

Expo Tidbits
Largest attendance on one day was the August Bank Holiday, 65, 296.

The SS Great Eastern arrived in Liverpool on May 2, 1886, in front of two hundred and fifty thousand people watching it approach on the river sides.

The Curator's Lodge on the grounds of Wavertree Botanic Gardens, which was built prior to the fair in 1836-7, still remains. Two years after the fair, the SS Great Eastern, was sold for scrap. The fair buildings and site were used during 1887 for the Royal Jubilee Exhibition.

Curator's Lodge at Wavertree, Liverpool

Those in Charge

Prince of Wales was President. Henry Sumners was the exhibition architect.

Sources: London Times; New York Times; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs; Wikipedia Commons; Grace's Guides; North Wales Chronicle.

Photo column top: Prince's Landing Stage at the Liverpool Exhibition, 1886, Souvenir Book Lewis's of Liverpool. Courtesy via Pinterest. Middle: Curator's lodge in Wavertree Botanic Gardens, John Bradley. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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