Melbourne International Exhibition (1880)

EXPO Melbourne 1880

Inside the halls of the World Heritage listed Melbourne Exhibition Buildings
BIE-class Universal exposition
Category Historical
Name Melbourne International Exhibition
Building Royal Exhibition Building
Area 25 Ha
Visitors 1,330,000
Organized by Reed & Barnes Architects
Countries 33
Country Colony of Victoria
City Melbourne
Venue Carlton Gardens
Coordinates 37°48′22″S 144°58′13″E / 37.80611°S 144.97028°E / -37.80611; 144.97028
Opening October 1, 1880 (1880-10-01)
Closure April 30, 1881 (1881-04-30)
Universal expositions
Previous Exposition Universelle (1878) in Paris
Next Exposición Universal de Barcelona in Barcelona

The Melbourne International Exhibition is the eighth World's fair officially recognised by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) and the first official World's Fair in the Southern Hemisphere.


After being granted self-governance, Victoria (in 1851) and New South Wales (in 1856), saw a steady economic growth as result of the discovery and exploitation of gold reserves. This growth during the 1850s and 1860s led to rivalry between their respective capitals Melbourne and Sydney. In the 1870s the focus turned to the outside world and proposals were made for organising an exhibition modelled on the great exhibitions of Europe, with an aim to promote commerce and industry, along with art, science and education. Melbourne started preparations in 1879 and filed a plan to the Parliament. Melbourne's rival Sydney, the older of the two cities, wanted to be the first and organised an exhibition in record time.[1] This Sydney International Exhibition started in October 1879, but it focused mainly on agriculture, so it was not really universal and therefore did not meet the criteria for official recognition by the BIE. Melbourne decided to start their exhibition shortly after the one in Sydney, so the participants could transport their exhibits during the winter of 1880.[2]


1880 Sketch of the Expo site and Royal Exhibition Building
Preparations for the exhibition

The Melbourne International Exhibition was held from 1 October 1880 until 30 April 1881. It was the second international exhibition to be held in Australia, the first being held the previous year in Sydney. 1.459 million people visited the exhibition, but made a loss of 277 292 pounds.[3] The exhibition was also opened for entertainment and tourism.

The Royal Exhibition Building, set in the Victorian Carlton Gardens was completed in 1880 to host the exhibition, consisting of over 12,000 square metres. The foundation stone was laid by Victorian governor George Bowen.


The building was extended and reused in 1888 as venue for the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, celebrating the founding of European settlement in Sydney in 1788. Some of the original building remains today and is a World Heritage Site.


  1. Mattie, Eric (1998). Weltausstellungen (in German). Stuttgart/Zürich: Belser Verlag. p. 54. ISBN 3-7630-2358-5.
  2. Mattie, Eric (1998). Weltausstellungen (in German). Stuttgart/Zürich: Belser Verlag. p. 57. ISBN 3-7630-2358-5.
  3. Pelle, Kimberley D. "Appendix B:Fair Statistics". In Findling, John E. Encyclopedia of World's Fairs and Expositions. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 414. ISBN 978-0-7864-3416-9. Missing |last1= in Authors list (help)

See also

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