The United States had made an admirable showing for itself at the very first World’s Fair, the Crystal Palace Exhibition, held in the United Kingdom in 1851. British newspapers were unreserved in their praise, declaring America’s displayed inventions to be more ingenious and useful than any others at the Fair; the Liverpool Times asserted “no longer to be ridiculed, much less despised.” Unlike various European governments, which spent lavishly on their national displays in the exhibitions that followed, the US Congress was hesitant to contribute funds, forcing exhibitors to rely on individuals for support. Interest in international exhibitions fell during the nation’s bloody Civil War; things recovered quickly enough in the wake of the conflict, however, that the country could host the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. Celebrating both American patriotism and technological progress, the Centennial Exhibition was a resounding success which set the stage for another great American fair: the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
19th Century: The Latest Architecture and News
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In the heart of a suburb just east of London stands an incongruous red brick villa. With its pointed arched window frames and towering chimneys, the house was designed to appear like a relic of the Middle Ages. In reality, its vintage dates to the 1860’s. This is Red House, the Arts and Crafts home of artist William Morris and his family. Built as a rebuttal to an increasingly industrialized age, Red House’s message has been both diminished by the passage of time and, over the course of the centuries, been cast in greater relief against its context.
To the contemporary observer, the flowing lines and naturalistic ornamentation of Art Nouveau do not appear particularly radical. To some, Art Nouveau may even seem to be the dying gasp of 19th Century Classicism just before the unmistakably modern Art Deco and International Styles supplanted it as the design modes of choice. The Hôtel van Eetvelde, designed in 1897 by Victor Horta—the architect considered to be the father of Art Nouveau—suggests a different story. With its innovative spatial strategy and expressive use of new industrial materials, the Hôtel van Eetvelde is a testament to the novelty of the “New Art.”
The world had never seen anything like the graceful iron form that rose from Paris’ Champ de Mars in the late 1880s. The “Eiffel Tower,” built as a temporary installation for the Exposition Universelle de 1889, became an immediate sensation for its unprecedented appearance and extraordinary height. It has long outlasted its intended lifespan and become not only one of Paris’ most popular landmarks, but one of the most recognizable structures in human history.