View of the German Imperial Tent on the balcony of the north transept of the Great Hall of the permanent Exhibition Building at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition held at the Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens, between 1 October 1880 and 30 April 1881.

While the official plans for the exhibition show Germany having been allocated various court space in at least three different areas, the German commissioner would complain in a letter to Melbourne's press that lack of coordination between London and Australia in the early planning stages meant that German exhibits were spread across no less than eight locations around the exhibition buildings, one of these being the Imperial Tent in the north transept.

The Imperial Tent housed the German Court's displays of fine jewellery and was described as 'one of the most interesting portions of the Exhibition':

'Diamonds and emeralds of fine quality are conspicious in the gold sets, and there is one diamond of 10 carats. Various forms of bracelets are shown, and one of massive shape contains a single stone of great brilliance. The pendants are of many patterns, and amongst the most noticeable are some in the Renaissance style. As a rule, the diamonds are set in gold, but a fine effect is also obtained with combinations of diamonts and silver, of which an imitation of the Alphine flower, Edelweiss, is one of the best examples. Lockets set with diamonds, chased, or ornamented with wreaths and birds, with lustrous wings, are worthy of inspection.'

In the foreground at ground level can be seen the exhibits of August Klein, a Viennese dealer of 'leather and bronze fancy articles and trinkets', and the British piano manufacturer, John Brinsmead and Sons of London.

This is one of seventy-six photographs in a photograph album. Twenty-six photographs are of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The photographs provide us with important visual evidence about the gardens around the Exhibition Building, and interior exhibits, including detailed images of the British Art Court, the ceramic and pottery exhibits in the Main Hall, and the appearance of the Avenue of Nations. The photographs are taken from glass plates and retain an excellent level of clarity and detail.

The album also contains a number of photographs in the 'Frith's Series', taken by British photographer Francis Frith, or members of his staff, of Gibraltar, and villages and towns in Britain.

Description of Content

International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1880. Interior view of the Exhibition Building showing the exhibits in the Imperial German Tent on the mezzanine of the Great Hall, and other exhibitors at ground level in the northern transept.

Physical Description

Albumen photograph mounted on buff-coloured card in red, cloth-covered, photograph album with decorative gold tooled border and gold tooled lettering in centre of front cover.


Part of photograph album containing a number of previously-unknown images documenting displays in the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition in the Exhibition Building.

The images give visual evidence about the products displayed, the display techniques used, and the interior and exterior of the Exhibition Building in 1880, and as such, are a valuable addition to the collection of graphic and other material relating to the history of the Royal Exhibition Building.

The Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880 was the first event held in the new Exhibition Building. It showcased recent inventions, art and design trends to the Melbourne public, and allowed Victorians to promote themselves and their industry and achievements to a national and international audience. The exhibition attracted over a million visitors, and ran for several months. Its long-term results were changes in Melburnian's domestic tastes, increased trading opportunities with Europe, and a growth in Australian pride and national feeling.

See 'Notes' for information about the names of possible photographers who may have taken these images.

The album also contains a number of photographs in the 'Frith's Series', taken by British photographer Francis Frith (1822 - 1898) or members of his staff, of Gibraltar, and villages and towns in Britain. There are also large-format images and are of value for the Museum's 'History of Photography' collection. It appears as if Frith did not visit Australia; and the photographs of the Exhibition do not bear any signature from his company.

More Information