Title: Opening of the American Exhibition in London

Periodical: York Herald

Date: May 10, 1887

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OPENING OF THE AMERICAN EXHIBITION IN LONDON.

The exhibition of arts, manufactures, &c., of the United States, at West Brompton, was opened yesterday afternoon in the presence of a large assemblage of persons. At half-past three the Grenadiers' band played "Hail Columbia," after which Archdeacon Farrar led the company in prayer, invoking the blessing of the Almighty upon the undertaking. The band then played "God Save the Queen," and Lord Ronald Gower, on behalf of the English Council, delivered an address of welcome to the American guests, and expressed a hope that the exhibition might be a bond of amity between England and America. Colonel Henry Russell, president of the exhibition, returned thanks, and Mr. John R. Whitley, director-general of the exhibition, explained that the exhibition had been organised solely by private initiative, and it illustrated the aims and conditions of life on the North American Continent. After some national songs had been rendered, Colonel Russell started the machinery and proclaimed the Exhibition open. The assembly afterwards proceeded to witness the performance of Buffalo Bill's Wild West.

It is exclusively an exhibition of the arts, inventions, manufactures, products, and resources of the United States. The frankly expressed aim of its promoters is to do business. The exhibition is, in fact, a gigantic collection of commercial travellers’ samples, the gardens, music, and "Buffalo Bill" being thrown in to draw customers and advertise the wares. The executive intent "to illustrate to the people of Europe and to those buyers for the Colonies and South and Central America who reside permanently in London the excellence and variety of American industrial, mineral, and agricultural products." They make no secret of the fact that this exhibition is an effort to secure new markets and to extend American commerce. A considerable number of exhibitors will be allowed not only to manufacture their wares in the exhibition, but also to sell them "as the most effective means of extending their foreign business "relations." The prospectus of the exhibition goes on to say:—"One of the first practical results of the American Exhibition will probably be the establishment in London of a permanent American emporium, where Europeans will be able to purchase American inventions, manufactures, and products as readily as fruit or flowers at Covent Garden market. For some years past the American consuls in Europe have been writing to the State Department at Washington urging the establishment abroad of permanent exhibitions of American productions as a practical method of developing a foreign demand, and it is now likely these expressions will find ultimate embodiment in the permanent emporium above referred to."

The main Exhibition building is in Lillie Bridge-road, close by West Brompton Station. The interior is 1,140 ft. long and 130ft. wide, and will be divided into streets and avenues running at right angles to each other, after the fashion of American towns. West of the large court is a restaurant and an art gallery, 160ft. long and 80ft. wide. The exhibits are divided into six departments, agriculture (which, in defiance of etymology, comprises that very interesting branch of American industry—fish culture), mining and metallurgy, machinery, manufactures, education, and science and fine arts. The managers have taken a hint from the Colonial Exhibition, where it was found that visitors would be entranced by any machine that was actually going round and by any workman who was actually employed in his craft. Accordingly, in the American Exhibition much of the machinery will be in motion, and in many cases the process of manufacturing the article which is exhibited will be shows. It is yet too early to criticise the exhibits, for on Saturday scarcely a single stall was in order. However, it is hoped that by working all night the Exhibition may be brought into something like order when it is opened this afternoon. In an annexe will be found an admirable zoological collection. The bears are particularly fine, and so are the elks and deer. The head of a bighorn or Rocky Mountain sheep, shown by the International Fur Company, is perhaps the most magnificent specimen ever seen. Of American art it is difficult to speak, because, in fact, there is no American school. In America artists have not yet advanced beyond the imitative stage. You see and recognise this or that style, but all the styles are familiar to you. Especially you notice what is called the academic style, which bears the same relation to original work as the essay of a clever youth trying for a scholarship at Oxford bears to an article by Mr. Ruskin or Professor Huxley. Still our connoisseurs will be greatly pleased with the American art gallery. One of the most noteworthy pictures is a full-length and life-size portrait of her Majesty in her coronation robes. This was the work of Sully, the first American who attained to eminence as an artist. Benjamin West was, of course, an American; but as West left America before the independence of the United States he has always been classed among our own painters. The American art gallery will contain a large and good collection of his works. Of the pictures already unpacked perhaps the most remarkable are Californian Trees and the Yosemite Valley, by Bierstadt; Bright October, Coast of Maine, by P. L. Senat; Deborah, by Sarah Dobson; Edwin Booth as Iago, by T. Hicks; Portrait of Cardinal Archbishop Gibbons, by Healy; a sunset, by L. Hamilton; a seaside scene, by J. B. Sword; and an immense picture of Christian Martyrs, by Rothermel. A case of miniatures on ivory by J. H. Brown must not be overlooked. These miniatures are exquisite, and perhaps the gems of the whole art collection. Mr. Turner, the sculptor, who is a Rhode Islander by birth, though he works in Florence, sends two marble figurs, one of Sabrina and the other called "The Fisherman’s Daughter"—a little child looking eagerly seaward. Neither rises, or perhaps is intended to rise, much beyond prettiness, but the modelling is admirable. In the art gallery will also be found a large model of the town hall now being built in Philadelphia, which the Americans have determined—as in old times the Florentines did when their Duomo was erected—shall be the finest building in the world. It is all of white marble, and the central tower is 700ft. high. By way of comparison it may be mentioned that the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is only 404ft. high, and the cross of St. Paul’s Cathedral only 360ft.

That the American Exhibition will excite considerable curiosity among commercial men and that the casual pleasure-seeker will also find in it much to entertain him cannot be doubted, but in all probability next to the "Wild West" show the gardens will prove most attractive to the average visitor. These are twelve acres in extent, and considering that only a few weeks ago they were waste ground they have been laid out with remarkable rapidity and equal success. Here the ingenuous youth of London will find an immense tobogganing slide, and there is also a "switch back" railway, the undulating and wriggling aspect of which is alone calculated to "upset" the strongest interior, and which will prove correspondingly delightful to all right-minded excursionists. Moreover there is a sodawater fountain, where that peculiar American luxury sodawater and fruit syrup can be produced in any quantity. The beds are to contain specimens of American plants, and the "corn," as they call the maize plant in America, is already growing healthily. The band of the Grenadier Guards will perform in these gardens during the time when the Exhibition is open; and besides fancy devices by Messrs. James Pain and Son, the grounds will be illuminated by 200 electric lights each of 2,000 candle power, and by nine huge "search lights" each of 10,000 candle power.