New Hampshire And The Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851

What does The America’s Cup, Saxony Wool and Prince Albert all have in common?

Answer: The Great Exhibition of 1851.

Most people have heard about ‘The America’s Cup’ yacht race, …. but few realize it began as an event held in conjunction with the Great Industrial Exhibition of 1851.

This exhibition entailed a series of events that were held in a unique building, called the “Crystal Palace,” in Hyde Park, London, England.

Six New Hampshire individuals and/or companies participated.

Although the event was intended to highlight the industrial, military and economic superiority of Great Britain, it was decided to make the exhibit international.  Invitations were sent to most of the colonized world.

The idea of holding this exhibition was conceived by Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria.  He had not been easily accepted by the British press, and this event was a triumph for him.

The Great Industrial Exhibition was not a small event.  Open for six months, it was viewed by over six million people from around the world. The prevailing theme of the 1851 exposition, and subsequent fairs, was the synthesis of art and industry.

A Massachusetts newspaper, the Pittsfield Sun, reported that “the whole number of persons contributing was 486.  “Of these New York claims 188, Pennsylvania 64, Ohio 39, Virginia 24, Maryland 16,” and the other states the remainder…. Some curious evidences of the skill and ingenuity of our nation are to be exhibited; for instance, a “fine sheet” from Ohio, “Catawba wine,” “Indian corn” “adamantine candles,” “artificial legs,” “Cod liver oil,” “planetarium,” “meat cutters,” “three bed quilts” “prepared animals,” “autumnal leaves,” “herbarium” “self-determination variation compass,” “centrifugal pumps,” “gate to be opened by a person in a carriage,” “curled hair,” “artificial eyes,” &c &c.”

New Hampshire participated in the 1851 Exhibition with the following entries:
1. Samuel Baker of Portsmouth, machine for paying seams of vessels
2. Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, Manchester, cotton cloth
3. Stephen Sibley of Hopkinton, Saxony wool
4. Robert Eastman of Concord, stone dressing machine
5. Billings & Ambrose, Claremont, method of connecting hubs and axles
6. S.G. Brett, Gilmanton, shoe pegs

When first looking at this list, I was intrigued that I could not easily define all of the terms… such as “paying seams,” “stone dressing,” and “shoe pegs,” so of course I felt compelled to perform some research…

machine for paying seams of vessels” — It appears that “paying” is a nautical term for the operation of filling the seams of a wood deck (of a ship) with pitch, or marine glue, after the calking has been inserted.  Apparently Samuel Baker patented his machine on April 3, 1849, as reported in issue 30 of the Scientific American. A bit of trivia–Did you know that the phrase, the “Devil to pay” is related to paying ship seams?

The Amoskeag Manufacturing Company–they were famous for the fine cotton cloth they wove.  Learn more about this company’s history. [See “History of Mills” in the sidebar]

Stephen Sibley of Hopkinton, had a presentation of Saxony wool. This type of wool was produced by Spanish merino sheep. The breed was first introduced into the United States about 1802 by William Jarvis of Vermont, who was a consul in Spain. Joseph Bellows purchased one of his bucks and mated it with his Irish flocks.  Around 1825 several New Hampshire farmers had purchased this breed of sheep. Due to various problems with this breed, eventually the farmers of New Hampshire chose other breeds as better suited for New Hampshire’s climate.

“stone dressing” is the process of cutting and shaping a stone for use in building, or the reshaping of worn or unbalanced stone. In earlier days the stone was hand tooled to match the exact profiled finish, later mechanical means were devised to do this. Apparently Robert Eastman of Concord was an inventor of a device to do this.

shoe pegs” – I found fine examples of boxes that shoe pegs were sold in, but I was not able to discover what shoe pegs were used for… if anyone knows, please leave a comment.  Thank you.


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