Love 1862: Exhibition of International Love

Edmund Walker, 'Interior of the international exhibition of 1862', 1862, watercolour, 74.5 x 104.6 cm.  Victoria and Albert Museum, 1110-1901 © V&A. 2014

Edmund Walker, ‘Interior of the international exhibition of 1862’, 1862, watercolour, 74.5 x 104.6 cm. Victoria and Albert Museum, 1110-1901 © V&A. 2014

The 1860s are not a period well known for international peace and co-operation.  In 1859 the Austrian Empire and Sardiniar had engaged in the second War of Italian Independence; between 1861 and 1865 America was drawn into civil war; between 1863 and 1867 the French occupied Mexico and between 1864 the Paraguayan War began in South Africa.

None the less, the 1862 International Exhibition was intended as a place of peace and communication between the 36 different nations who were involved. Indeed, international co-operation and friendship had always been intended as an essential element of all International Exhibitions. These events were perceived to enlighten and help progress humanity via education, trade expansion and political peace. By gathering and collectively displaying objects from multiple different countries and cultures, it was hoped that these exhibitions would also facilitate harmony between their donors.

Celebrating the co-operation the 1862 International Exhibition had made possible, despite the difficult political conditions in which it was held, peace was often a theme of the volumes of poetry printed specifically for the exhibition. Take for example, the following poem printed by Hatchard and Co:

The World’s Place, Old and New: An Ode (London, 1862)

Hissing engines – puffing, fuming –

Palm-like from the hoarding risen

All at once a Palace looming…

More dream’d of universal love,

And vow’d the Golden Age was come,

Ignoring eagles for the dove,

Preferring bagpipes to the drum.

No ‘Red Republic’ ruled the town,

No gaunt-eyed famine thinned out ranks,

No plague-stroke cut the people down,

Round father Thames’ crowded banks

Line four rings with the sentiment ‘More dream’d of universal love’…

This Valentines Day, the editors of visit1862 repeat the sentiment of these commentators and hope and wish for universal love.


© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2014

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