The Amazing World of Exhibitions


Stanley Hunter

1. Eugene Mercier and the Paris Exhibitions

The name of Mercier is synonymous with that sparkling beverage 'Champagne', but did you know that the founder of the company was one of the foremost exhibitors in the Paris Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900? Not only did Eugene Mercier exhibit his prize Champagnes to the world, but his method of gaining publicity made him a very remarkable exhibitor indeed!

For the Paris 1889 Exhibition Mercier devised the worlds largest 'Tun' to exhibit his champagne. A Giant cask was made from oak which held the equivalent of 215,000 bottles of champagne. It was over twenty feet in diameter, forty feet long and weighed over 100 tons. The journey from Epernay to Paris took over three weeks, the cask being mounted on a specially constructed wagon, and pulled by 40 oxen and horses. Many of the roadways between Epernay and Paris had to be widened, bridges had to be strengthened, with some houses having to be purchased for demolition to enable the journey to be completed. Mercier was in fact awarded a gold medal for his champagne, but at what cost!

To entertain his customers at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, Eugene Mercier had a huge captive balloon constructed. Visitors were lifted aloft by the gas filled balloon to a height of some 500 feet for a magnificent view of Paris and the exhibition. The descent was made by the use of a large steam engine driving a windlass which wound the tethering cable around a giant winding drum. Mercier was probably one of the first industrialists to use a captive balloon for advertising purposes, and thus is considered to be an aviation pioneer as well as a producer of fine champagnes.

2. The Great Exhibition of 1851.

As part of the Welsh Coal Mining Industries contribution to the great Exhibition, a huge block of coal weighing in at 15 tons was cut and fashioned at the Tredegar Pit. The block of coal proved to too heavy to move to London and has remained at the mine ever since. On October 17th 1992 the block of coal was declared a historic monument. It is now suitably identified and will be listed in the local tourist guides!

3. Lace and John Livesey. 1851

In 1812 the first mechanical machinery for the mass production of lace came into operation. It was invented by Samuel Clark and James Mart of Nottingham. By 1835 the Jacquard process whereby the design was accomplished by punched cards and pins, (akin to the mechanics of the Hurdy Gurdy Organs in the fairground) was combined with the lace loom, by Samuel Draper also of Nottingham.

This was able to produce lace with infinite designs to an exacting quality. By 1851, another Nottingham lace producer John Livesey took the process one stage further by combining all the known mechanical devices into one gigantic loom, which required an amazing 12,000 to 15,000 individual punched cards to produce some very complex designs. John Livesey exhibited both the machinery and the finished product at the Great Exhibition, even selling finished lace curtains five yards long and two yards wide at 1.10.00 (1.50) per rair. Less than one thousandth of the cost of a pair made by hand!

John Livesey's loom together with some of the designs shown at the Great Exhibition can be seen in 'The Lace Hall' Museum on the High Pavement, Nottingham, plus many other interesting items from the world of lace and it's production.


© Exhibition Study Group 1993