(Case 8, nos. 191-212)
Whatever criticisms were levelled against it before, during and after the event, there is no doubt that the Great Exhibition exerted enormous influence not only on British trade but also on public perception. Lured by cheap fares and accommodation, people who had never travelled were overwhelmed by the Crystal Palace and its wealth of exhibits, many on a large scale. In total the Exhibition attracted six million visitors and few can have failed to be impressed by its opulence.
The Great Exhibition happened to coincide with the economic boom in Britain which began shortly after the introduction of free trade in 1846. This meant that, after initial reluctance, tradesmen became enthusiastic not only about the Great Exhibition but also about its potential for boosting foreign trade.
Souvenirs from the Great Exhibition, as shown in this section, were given to Mrs Lilian Thrussell for John Johnson’s collection by the Cotton family of Southampton. As children the Cotton sisters had attended the Exhibition and had been allowed to buy souvenirs. Fortunately for us, they did not play with them on their return and their purchases were preserved in tissue paper—for posterity.