The transept from the Grand Entrance of the Crystal Palace, Souvenir of the Great Exhibition, William Simpson (lithographer), Ackermann & Co. (publisher), 1851.
With the rise and dominance of the bourgeoisie in the late 19th century, the relationship between imperialism, commerce, and consumerism begin to be celebrated in—what I call— “spectacles of Empire,” in which technological advancements and industrial growth were put on display in great exhibitions meant to communicate the “greatness” of Empire. The idea behind such exhibitions is that anyone—but really middle-class families— could buy tickets and “enjoy” the Empire on the weekend.
One of the most famous exhibitions of the 19th century was the Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations, held in London in 1851, otherwise known as the Crystal Palace exhibition. A monument of modern iron and glass architecture, the exhibition housed and displayed an abundance of goods from British colonies and other nations. Karl Marx himself even commented on the exhibition, saying that it represented the height of some sort of capitalistic fetishism of commodities.
New inventions were also crucial to the success of this exhibition. The Tempest Prognosticator, for example, was an ingenious little device that utilized leeches to predict storms.