The transcription for the May 1st,1851 entry in Queen Victoria’s Journal is not yet available, but Princess Beatrice’s handwritten version is. The Queen wrote, “This day is one of the greatest and most glorious days of our lives with which (?) my pride and joy (?) of my dearly beloved Albert is forever associated.

On this day, the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations,  (sometimes referred to as the Crystal Palace Exhibition) opened and ran through Oct. 15th.  It was organized by Prince Albert and members of the “Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce … as a celebration of modern industrial technology and design.”

It was (arguably) a response to the highly successful French Industrial Exposition of 1844;  its prime motive was to make clear to the world “Great Britain’s role as industrial leader.” The 13,000 exhibits came not only from throughout Britain, but also its expanding imperial colonies:  Australia, India and New Zealand. Denmark, France and Switzerland were represented; the United States sent a Jacquard loom, an envelope machine, kitchen appliances, steel-making displays and a reaping machine.

The State Opening of The Great Exhibition in 1851, Colour lithograph by Louis Haghe, (Queen Victoria opens the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London in 1851, Victoria & Albert Museum)

I’m interrupting myself before I continue at the Crystal Palace. According to Norton Anthology. “Nineteenth-century aesthetic theory frequently makes the eye the preeminent means by which we perceive truth.”

This emphasis in nineteenth-century aesthetic theory on seeing the object as it really is has a counterpart in the importance of illustrating literature, particularly novels. … At the same time, developments in visual technology made it possible to see more and in new ways. …  Most important, the photographic camera provided an entirely new way of recording objects and people and transformed many areas of life and work.

Andrew Jackson (age 78) by Mathew Brady, 1845

That said,  the first international competition among daguerreotypists and photographers began at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Daguerreotype is the first commercially successful photographic process; the image is a direct positive made in the camera on a silvered copper plate.

Three medals were awarded to daguerreotypists and all three went to Americans. Including Mathew Brady, who was awarded one for The Gallery of Illustrious Americans, a collection of forty-eight portraits. Andrew Jackson was the first president to have his picture taken, but he [see below] denounced Brady for making him “look like a monkey.”

Six million people (equivalent to a third of the British population at the time) visited the exhibition over the duration. Notables included Charles Darwin, Samuel Colt, members of the Orléanist Royal Family and the writers Charlotte Brontë,  George Eliot and Lewis Carroll.


NOTE:  I have so much here, I don’t know where to go next. Probably Lewis Carroll because  he was English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer.

Andrew Jackson via Iconic Photos

UPDATE:  Kenneth, a commenter on the Iconic Photos blog said “Actually, there is some dispute as to which president, ex or otherwise, was the first to have his photograph taken. John Quincy Adams is one, another is James Polk, even John Tyler and William Henry Harrison.” Jim Cooke replied, “In the following journal entry John Quincy Adams describes his first photographic experience some three years prior to Brady’s photo of JQA’s nemesis. …”