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source of valuable instruction at all events to a portion of the vast crowds who have visited South Kensington since 1883. It has promoted trade to a considerable extent, and by the last of the four exhibitions it has done not a little towards strengthening the feelings of good-fellowship and kindness existing between the mother-country and her colonies.
Naturally there is something to be said on the other side. The tradesmen of London appear to have a genuine cause of complaint in the introduction into their midst of an enormous bazaar, full of shops whose tenants have their rents and taxes paid for them, and who consequently can afford to sell at a cheaper rate. The providers of public amusements grumble because their houses are emptied by the cheaper and more novel attractions of South Kensington. As regards the last class, it is surely a sufficient answer to say that they must put up with legitimate competition, and that, if they want to get hold of the public's shillings, they must find out some means of enticing the public back from the Circe's garden at Brompton to the joys of the legitimate drama and the elevating pleasures of the music-hall.
The tradesmen have more reason in their wail. The class affected would not appear to be a very large one, since, after all, the main necessaries of life were not provided in Old London, even when the mediaeval character of that interesting thoroughfare was completed by the introduction of sweet-stuff shops and stalls for the sale of photographs. Nor can even the competition of the Colonial Market’seriously injure the revenues of the West-End butchers and greengrocers. Still, the grievance is a legitimate one, and it is also for the most part unnecessary. It is not of the essence of an exhibition that it should be a bazaar. The executive has always sufficient power to prevent sales if they like to exercise it. When, indeed, the exhibition is “international,' there is a divided authority, and difficulties arise. The earlier exhibitions of the present series were, at all events, in name international, and it is not too much to say that the sale difficulty was mainly due to this fact. The foreign Commissioners, naturally anxious to fill up their courts, did not in all cases very scrupulously investigate the claims of applicants for space, and so many English firms got in under the shelter of a foreign
These people, having been put to trouble and expense in acquiring their rights, naturally tried to recoup themselves, and were the most persistent sellers in the show. They were protected by the ægis of their adopted country, and the dread of international complications prevented their being so readily disposed of as otherwise they might have been. There were also the authorised stalls in Old London, and the markets of the Fisheries and the Colonies. For the existence of the stalls there was not much reason. They brought no profit to the executive and no credit to the Exhibition,
The Fisheries market was an attempt to improve the conditions under which an important article of food is supplied to London, and the Colonial market is intended to bring directly to the knowledge of consumers the food supplies of our Colonies. There is, indeed, one class of goods which almost of necessity must be sold within an Exhibition. When a firin undertakes to illustrate a process of manufacture, it is a common stipulation that the articles made, if suitable, are to be allowed to be sold. This is a reasonable plea; and so long as the privilege is exercised in a reasonable fashion, it should always be allowed. Perhaps it might be well in future to safeguard it by requiring that a special permit, liable to revocation, should be obtained in such cases as the executive thought necessary, and that without it no sales, even of articles made in the Exhibition, would be allowed.
On the whole, it will, perhaps, be admitted that the grievance of the tradesmen is not a very heavy one; but that it is a pity that it was not, as it might have been, reduced within such narrow limits as to have made it quite inconsiderable.
An exhibition is, of course, an enormous advertising agency, and to say this is not in the faintest degree to disparage the exhibition system. Traders and customers are brought together in a perfectly legitimate and useful manner. The customer can see for himself the best wares the manufacturer can produce, and the manufacturer has the opportunity of discovering which of his products attract the most notice and the highest praise. But in order to render the advertisement permanent, it is desirable to give the successful exhibitor some testimony of his success. In other words, a system of prizes is necessary. To decide what should be the character of these prizes, and to award them fairly, has been the greatest difficulty in all large exhibitions. In 1851 it was first proposed to offer prizes of great value. A first prize of 5,0001. was even talked about. Eventually, however, prizes of three grades were decided upon—the council medal, the prize medal, and the honourable mention. To make these awards, a jury system was elaborated which certainly has not been since improved. The most competent men in the country, aided by foreign nominees selected with equal care, gave a vast amount of time to the careful inspection of all the miscellaneous collection, and produced a prize-list as little liable to cavil as such a list could be. Of course there were jealousies, international and other. Of course there were disappointments and mistakes. The former were in the nature of the case inevitable; the latter were not numerous.
With the growth of exhibitions the inherent difficulties increased. First, the value of the medals, their actual trade value, proved to be very high, probably much higher than was anticipated. It might have been thought that at the present time their value Vol. XX.-No. 117.
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would have been discounted, considering the great number that have been distributed and the doubtful manner in which some of them have been obtained. But it is not so. At the Inventions Exhibition last year, the competition was as keen, the anxiety amongst makers of the highest standing was as great, as ever. New firms are anxious to get on a level with, or ahead of, their rivals of established reputation, and old firms, who would have been content enough to have let well alone without any exhibition at all, are afraid of their rivals being able to say they are surpassed and beaten at last. “This means a difference of hundreds a week to my firm'is a remark that has been made more than once in the case of a disputed award.
With such large pecuniary interests depending on the decisions of the juries, it would be idle to assume that the difficulties of selection are not very gravely enhanced. The jurors must not only be painstaking and honest, but they must be in position and in reputation quite above suspicion. When it is remembered that a juror is expected to devote a good many hours, or rather days, to laborious and unpaid work; that he is certain to incur the enmity of a considerable portion of the disappointed; that he will be accused of unfairness, carelessness, ignorance, and malice, at all events by a smaller portion of the same class; and that he has for his reward only the consciousness of merit fortunately attendant on any completed task-it is no small testimony to the amount of public spirit existing in the world that so many men are ready to undertake the work. For it is to be borne in mind that almost nobody concerned can be satisfied. If there are, say, three classes of medals-gold, silver, and bronze—it is certain that nobody will be quite content who has not a gold medal. Then, even the man with a gold medal is dissatisfied if his rival has one, too; while even the single holder of a gold medal in his own class has been known to urge that the several classes of articles shown by him were of such separate and distinct natures that they required the recognition of a separate medal for each.
Thus at the commencement of the work the difficulty arises of finding suitable jurors—men not only competent for the work, but likely to be tolerably acceptable to the exhibitors—and of inducing them to undertake the duties. In two of the present series of exhibitions-the Health and the Inventions Exhibitions—the device was adopted of asking each exhibitor to nominate three persons, in the hope that at all events a list would be provided from which a proper selection might be made, and with the idea also that the exhibitors would be less ready to find fault if the awards were made by their own nominees. In practice the plan met with but moderate success. In the Health Exhibition, a few well-known sanitarians received a large number of votes, and these would certainly all have been asked to serve in any event. Most of the other names suggested had but one or two votes apiece; a few had three. All who had more than three votes, unless they were considered unsuitable, were invited to serve. Many of them declined, and in the end a large proportion of the juries had to be made up without much reference to the suggestions. In the Inventions the nominations were even less valuable. The nominations of the exhibitors were too varied to be of much service. In both exhibitions it was evident that many exhibitors merely suggested some one likely to take a favourable view of their own wares, and were more anxious to secure a friend at court than to aid in the selection of an unbiassed jury. In a few cases it was ascertained that some exhibitors had agreed to nominate the same person, and had selected gentlemen whose qualifications did not appear very striking to others than their proposers. On the whole, the system of universal suffrage disappointed its projectors. It was very little help; and, if it prevented objections being taken to the jurors selected, that is as much as can be said for it. It must be borne in mind that the experiment was tried with absolute honesty, and that the Commissioners who in both exhibitions selected the jurors would have been extremely pleased if their task had been rendered easier by a sufficient consensus of opinion as to the best appointments. When foreign jurors are to be appointed, the appointment naturally rests with the country exhibiting. The central executive is therefore relieved of a part of the responsibility, though difficulties of a different sort are plentiful enough. The alien juror naturally feels that his first duty is to his own fellow-countrymen, and, with every wish to be honest, he is naturally more appreciative of their merits, and possesses a keener sense of their deserts. If representatives of firms exhibiting are not considered to be eligible, the choice is still further limited. Generally they have been considered free to serve, their exhibits being placed hors concours. Probably from the use of a foreign tongue, this has always been considered a distinction quite equivalent to a gold medal, and was therefore much sought after. At the Inventions a rule was laid down that no exhibitor should act on a jury; but there was probably little advantage in the alteration, and it was found to work inconveniently by excluding the services of several competent and willing jurors.
The juries once appointed, it becomes necessary to make arrangements to ensure that the whole miscellaneous mass of contributions is properly inspected, and by the proper men. This is a very troublesome and very difficult task, but it is only a matter of minute and careful organisation. If the original classification of the goods has been carefully prepared, the work is much simplified, and with the experience of so many previous exhibitions as a guide there is not now any real difficulty in preparing a proper classification.
Of course anomalies will be discovered, generally too late for remedy. The inventor of a meat-tin opener, which has been condemned by a jury of culinary experts, points out that a special application of his instrument is for drawing teeth, and complains that he has been unvisited by the judges of surgical apparatus. A new patent horseshoe is discovered as part of a collection of ornamental iron-workund so weiter; but, after all, care and attention suffice to prevent such mishaps.
But after all comes the real hardship to those who are honestly endeavouring to carry out the work in a satisfactory fashion, whether as jurymen or as organisers and directors. They know that, try as hard as they may, they cannot make absolutely just awards, they cannot fairly discriminate between the merits of the different competing articles. How can a mere inspection enable the cleverest engineer to decide which of two steam engines, each possessing special and untried features of novelty, is the best? Or two looms, or two reaping-machines, or two dynamos ? He can only go by his own experience, or by what he has heard of the outside performances of the machines. A proper series of experimental tests, spread over the whole of the articles shown, would take years of time and cost thousands of pounds. And so the awards have to be made in a more or less hap-hazard way. Generally a rough and ready justice, like that of the Eastern cadi of fiction, is done, but many cases of hardship occur, and it is the knowledge of this that renders the work of the juries so unsatisfactory to those who enter upon it with a real anxiety to carry it out fairly and well. If the jury awards were estimated at their true value, as guaranteeing a certain standard of excellence, as expressing a favourable opinion given under qualifying conditions, it would not matter so much; but as it is, they are, naturally enough, put forward by their winners as testimony of supreme excellence, and it would appear that the public accept them as such.
Several times attempts have been made to base the awards upon actual tests. In 1874 the Society of Arts undertook an elaborate series of tests of the stoves shown in the exhibition of that year. The tests attempted were too elaborate and minute ; before they were completed the money allotted for the purpose was all spent, and the attempt was abandoned. The authorities of the Smoke Abatement Exhibition in 1882 profited by their predecessors' experience, and carried to a conclusion the tests on which they based their awards. But the value of the tests has often been disputed, and it is doubtful how far their results had any correspondence with the results which would have been obtained by longer trials in ordinary practice. These, however, were trials of a single class of inventions only, and no conclusions could well be drawn from them as to the application of practical tests to the contents of a miscellaneous exhibition. The