The Great Exhibition wax seal

What Happened in 1851?

Well, on April 23rd, Canada issued its first postage stamp, on May 6th Dr. John Gorrie patented a “refrigeration machine”
and Isaac Singer improved and marketed Howe’s sewing machine…
but what I am most curious about is The Great Exhibition which opened at The Crystal Palace in London on May 1st.

On a recent trip to London, while doing one of my very favorite things… looking at old things that once belonged to others, also known as antiquing,
I found a small silver wax seal that just had to become mine.  And it did for a small fortune.

The Great Exhibition wax seal

All I need is one good reason to purchase an antique wax seal… I connect with the engraving.  Done!  The engraving on the little seal matrix was the all seeing eye surrounded by rays of light, a wonderful and meaningful symbol that represents the eye of God watching over humankind.

all seeing eye wax seal

The first official use of the all seeing eye dates back to 1797 when the Masons adopted the symbol as a seal. “And although our thoughts, words and actions, may be hidden from the eyes of man, yet that All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward us according to our merits.” ~ Thomas Smith Webb. The all seeing eye of God is a reminder that a Mason’s thoughts and deeds are always observed by God.

There were actually two excellent reasons for purchasing this little wax seal… its handle was just as fabulous as its engraving!
The handle depicts a building called The Crystal Palace and is surrounded by the words “Exhibition of All Nations”
which I had heard of but suddenly needed to learn more…
The wax seal was a souvenir for the Great Exhibition of All Nations that took place at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851,
opened by Queen Victoria and the legacy of Prince Albert because of its huge success.

A little history… it was decided that the Great Exhibition would open on May 1st so a building was needed to house the spectacular event,
scheduled to open in less than a year!
The building specifications: it needed to be temporary (it was to be removed after 6 months), simple, inexpensive and completed on time.
A design by Joseph Paxton was selected from 245 submissions and the 990,000 square foot structure of cast iron and plate glass was completed in Hyde Park, London on schedule for the May 1st opening at a cost of £150,000, which is equivalent to £13.9 million today.
The building was so large that elm trees of Hyde Park were enclosed within the structure.  There was a concern that sparrows still nesting high up in the enormous trees would soil visitors as well as exhibits.

The original Crystal Palace in Hyde Park     the Great Expedition of 1851

The Great Exhibition was an international exhibition organized to showcase the latest technology in manufactured products, developed during
the Industrial Revolution, from more than 14,000 exhibitors from around the world with more than 100,000 products displayed.
Half of the space was occupied by products from Britain.
Both outrageous and ordinary items from around the world were displayed.
Queen Victoria displayed one of the world’s most famous diamonds while others displayed a variety of tools,
household items, farm implements and food products.

Six million folks attended the Great Exhibition during its 6 month tenure and initially admission for men was £3 and women £2
but later everyone was admitted for 1 shilling.
The surplus earnings of £186,000 helped to fund the Victorian and Albert Museum, The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Note, £186,000 is equivalent to £17,240,000 today!

At the close of the six month Great Exhibition, the building was carefully disassembled, as promised, and rebuilt and enlarged in its new location at Sydenham.  It remained there for 85 years, until it was destroyed by fire in 1936.

Prince Albert Memorial and Crystal Palace site

After purchasing the Exhibition of All Nations wax seal I chose to further my connection with it… we spent a day exploring the wonderful V & A, rented bikes at Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens so that we could pedal past the original site,
which is now a row of football fields and then observed the Prince Albert Monument nearby.
I’ve learned a lot but most of all, that there is still so much to learn…
including how many of these little “Exhibition of All Nations” wax seals were produced?  How were they acquired?
Are there still any others in existence?
If you or someone you know has the same wax seal please contact me!

great exhibition 1851 postcard

Above, an old postcard of the Crystal Palace, home of the Great Exhibition 1851

Del's Great Exhibition wax sealDel's wax sealDel's peace dove wax seal

The above 3 photographs were submitted by Del, from across the pond in England.  She also has a Great Exhibition souvenir wax seal, like mine, but the matrix on hers is the PEACE dove.  The second photograph shows how the seal matrix unscrews from the handle so that sewing needles can be stored inside… double duty!

I found a World Expo Souvenirs Museum, which shares its collection both in person and online.
The collection of World Expo souvenirs covers a period of over 160 years, starting from the very first
London Great Exhibition held in 1851.
It opened on March 25th 2014 at Daejeon, Korea.

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