England, London, Thursday, May 6th, 1851.

LONDON, Thursday, May 6th, 1851.

“The World’s Fair,” as we Americans have been accustomed to call it, has
now been open five days, but is not yet in complete order, nor anything
like it. The sound of the saw and the hammer salutes the visiter from
every side, and I think not less than five hundred carpenters and other
artisans are busy in the building to-day. The week will probably close
before the fixtures will have all been put up and the articles duly
arranged for exhibition. As yet, a great many remain in their
transportation boxes, while others are covered with canvas, though many
more have been put in order within the last two days. Through the great
center aisle very little remains unaccomplished; but on the sides, in
the galleries, and in the department of British Machinery, there is yet
work to do which another week will hardly see concluded. Meantime, the
throng of visiters is immense, though the unexampled extent of the
People’s Palace prevents any crush or inconvenience. I think there
cannot have been less than Ten Thousand visiters in the building to-day.

Of course, any attempt to specify, or to set forth the merits or defects
of particular articles, must here be futile. Such a universe of
materials, inventions and fabrics defies that mode of treatment. But I
will endeavor to give some general idea of the Exhibition.

If you enter the building at the East, you are in the midst of the
American contributions, to which a great space has been allotted, which
they meagerly fill. Passing westward down the aisle, our next neighbor
is Russia, who had not an eighth of our space allotted to her, and has
filled that little far less thoroughly and creditably than we have. It
is said that the greater part of the Russian articles intended for the
Fair are yet ice-bound in the Baltic. France, Austria, Switzerland,
Prussia and other German States succeed her; the French contributions
being equal (I think) in value, if not in extent and variety, to those
of all the rest of the Continent. Bohemia has sent some admirable
Glassware; Austria a suit of apartments thoroughly and sumptuously
furnished, which wins much regard and some admiration. There is of
course a great array of tasteful design and exquisite workmanship from
France, though I do not just now call to mind any article of transcendent
merit.

The main aisle is very wide, forming a broad promenade on each side with
a collection of Sculpture, Statuary, Casts, &c. &c. between them.
Foremost among these is Powers’s Greek Slave, never seen to better
advantage; and I should say there are from fifty to a hundred other
works of Art–mainly in Marble or Bronze.–Some of them have great
merit. Having passed down this avenue several hundred Feet, you reach
the Transept, where the great diamond “Koh-i-Noor” (Mountain of Light)
with other royal contributions, have place. Here, in the exact center of
the Exhibition, is a beautiful Fountain (nearly all glass but the
water,) which has rarely been excelled in design or effect. The fluid is
projected to a height of some thirty feet, falling thence into a
succession of regularly enlarging glass basins, and finally reaching in
streams and spray the reservoir below. A hundred feet or more on either
side stand two stately, graceful trees, entirely included in the
building, whose roof of glass rises clear above them, seeming a nearer
sky. These trees (elms, I believe) are fuller and fresher in leaf than
those outside, having been shielded from the chilling air and warmed by
the genial roof. Nature’s contribution to the Great Exhibition is
certainly a very admirable one, and fairly entitles her to a first-class
Medal.

The other half of the main aisle is externally a duplicate of that
already described, but is somewhat differently filled. This is the
British end of the Exhibition, containing far more in quantity than all
the rest put together. The finest and costliest fabrics are ranged on
either side of this end of the grand aisle.

The show of Colonial products is not vast but comprehensive, giving a
vivid idea of the wide extent and various climates of Britain’s
dependencies. Corn, Wheat, &c., from the Canadas; Sugar and Coffee from
the West Indies; fine Wood from Australia; Rice, Cotton, &c., from
India; with the diversified products of Asia, Africa and America, fill
this department. Manufactured textile fabrics from Sydney, from India,
and from Upper Canada, are here very near each other; while Minerals,
Woods, &c., from every land and every clime are nearly in contact. I
apprehend John Bull, whatever else he may learn, will not be taught
meekness by this Exhibition.

The Mineral department of the British display is situated on the south
side. I think it can hardly be less than five hundred feet long by over
one hundred wide, and it is doubtless the most complete ever thus set
before the public. Here are shown every variety and condition of Coal,
and of Iron, Copper, Lead, Tin, &c. Of Gold there is little, and of
Silver, Zinc, Quicksilver, &c., not a great deal. But not only are the
Ores of the metals first named varied and abundant, with Native Copper,
Silver, &c., but the metals are also shown in every stage of their
progress, from the rude elements just wrenched from the earth to the
most refined and perfect bars or ingots. This department will richly
reward the study of the mineralogists, present and future.

Directly opposite, on the North side of the British half of the main
avenue, is the British exhibition of Machinery, occupying even more
space than the Minerals. I never saw one-fourth as much Machinery
together before; I do not expect ever to see so much again. Almost every
thing that a Briton has ever invented, improved or patented in the way
of Machinery is here brought together. The great Cylinder Press on which
_The Times_ is printed (not the individual, but the kind) may here be
seen in operation; the cylinders revolve horizontally as ours do
vertically; and though something is gained in security by the British
press, more must be lost in speed. Hoe’s last has not yet been equaled
on this island. But in Spinning, Weaving, and the subsidiary arts there
are some things here, to me novelties, which our manufacturers must
borrow or surpass; though I doubt whether spinning, on the whole, is
effected with less labor in Great Britain than in the United States.
There are many recent improvements here, but I observe none of absorbing
interest. However, I have much yet to see and more to comprehend in this
department. I saw one loom weaving Lace of a width which seemed at least
three yards; a Pump that would throw very nearly water enough to run a
grist-mill, &c. &c. I think the American genius is quicker, more
wide-awake, more fertile than the British; I think that if our
manufactures were as extensive and firmly established as the British, we
should invent and improve machinery much faster than they do; but I do
not wish to deny that this is quite a considerable country.