The Great exhibition
The Great Exhibition of the Works and Industry of All Nations opened in London on 1st May, 1851. Approximately 100,000 objects were on display to the public from 14000 exhibitors, half of them British and in reality, was a celebration of British achievements put on for foreigners to admire and emulate.
To house the Great Exhibition, a huge glass conservatory designed by self-made man Joseph Paxton, was erected in Hyde Park more than a third of a mile long and 66 feet high. It became known as Crystal Palace because of the large amount of glass used in its construction.
The works of fourteen Taxidermists were exhibited at the Crystal Palace Exhibition, the majority of those present could be found in Class 29 - Miscellaneous Manufactures and Small Wares.
The following names were those exhibitors present at the 1851 Exhibition:
Dennis, Rev. J.B.P. - Bury St. Edmunds
Gordon, C. - Museum Dover
Harbor, Thomas - Reading
Beevor, J. (M.D.) - Newark - upon – Trent
Walford, C., sen - Witham Essex
Walford, J. - Witham Essex
Williams, Thomas Mutlow - Oxford St., London
Leadbeater,John - Golden Square, London
Spencer, Thomas. - Great Portland St., London
Gardner, James - Oxford St. London
Dunbar, William - Golspie, Scotland
Bartlett, Abraham Dee - College St, Camden Town
Hancock , J.A. - London
Plouquet , H. - Stuttgart, Wurtemburg (Germany)
Plouquet received rave reviews for his exhibits of birds and small and large game specimens, which at the time were amongst the finest examples of group taxidermy ever put on display to the public.
In one review, his life-size mounts, composed to imitate hunt scenes portrayed by famous artists were themselves described as “beautiful specimens of the art of the taxidermist".
Bartlett was of particular interest at the Exhibition for his display that included that of a life-size reconstruction of the extinct Dodo bird.
Formerly an inhabitant of the island of Mauritius, the Dodo was discovered by the Dutch traveller Vasco di Gauma in 1497. The species was said by Dutch explorers to have existed on the island in abundance between the years 1598 and 1600 but became extinct soon afterwards.
Mention is made within the Great Exhibition 1851 catalogue (vol. 2, p.817) of the details of a stuffed Dodo specimen which formed part of the Tradescants Museum in 1600. This specimen passed into the hands of a Dr Ashmol, who later transferred it to the University of Oxford where it was virtually destroyed in 1755, all with the exception of the dried head and foot.
A notable absence from the London taxidermists present at the Great Exhibition was none other than John Gould, although he was represented through an exhibition of a new colouring technique of his plate books he had just patented.
However, Gould had the commercial mind to prepare an exhibition of stuffed Hummingbirds and display them 3 miles away from Hyde Park in the Zoological Gardens of Regent Park. With the approval granted by the Zoological Society of London, Gould financed and constructed a wooden building some 60 feet long near the Zoological Lion house for the purpose of the exhibition. This was a shrewd move by Gould the businessman for had he exhibited the hummingbirds in the Crystal Palace where charging was forbidden, he would have earned nothing. At the Zoological Gardens he took full advantage of the huge crowds flocking to London to visit the Great Exhibition, charged his visitors six pence at a time and managed to make a good profit which was said to be eight hundred pounds.
The exhibition consisted of twenty-four elaborate display cases each approximately 2 feet 2 inches high and 1 foot 10 inches wide, arranged in rows and surmounted by canopies suspended from the ceiling to diffuse the light. The design of each case differed according to whether they had four, six, or eight panels of glass in their structure, and each rested on a wooden base, painted black and gold, which were all raised on a pedestal support.
Each case contained between five and fifteen Hummingbirds, all strategically positioned to exhibit their chief characteristics and to emphasis the metallic iridescence of the male plume. Gould introduced the unusual innovation for the period of foliage and nests into the cases to give an impression of natural habitat, an unusual innovation for that period.
Seventy-five thousand people visited Gould’s display of Hummingbirds in 1851, compared with over six million people who visited the Crystal Palace between 1 May and 15 October 1851.