We are improving Collections Online. Help us by completing a survey and go in the draw to win a $50 Prezzy or Amazon voucher. Start survey (takes 10 mins)

Search our collections

Advanced Search

Topic: The 1885 New Zealand Industrial Exhibition

Is part of topic On the Sheep's Back (Te Papa Exhibition 14 February 1998 - 22 April 2007)

On the afternoon of Saturday 1 August, 1885, in a huge building on the corner of Wellington’s Lambton Quay and Stout Street, the Governor General opened the New Zealand Industrial Exhibition. The 655 exhibits included state-of-the-art farm and factory machinery, musical instruments, a perfumery, and handicrafts.

The exhibition had been initiated and organised by leading politician Julius Vogel. He believed it was just what the country needed to revive its ailing economy. By gathering under one roof everything that New Zealand industry had to offer the world, he hoped to lift the confidence of New Zealanders, as well as attract more foreign investment.

In his speech at the exhibition opening, Vogel noted that New Zealand had a good climate, a fertile soil, and an abundance of water and coal. Moreover, its isolated position gave substantial protection to its industries. Owing to these factors, many people believed it was destined to become a large producing and manufacturing country.

The general section of the exhibition ran for three weeks. Then, on August 22, the exhibition’s Home Industry Branch opened. Julius Vogel said that while the general section represented what might be achieved with energy and capital, the Home Industry Branch represented what could be done by labour and industriousness alone.

The Governor previewed the exhibits in the Home Industry Branch, and described them to the audience at the opening: ‘First and foremost I came on an organ . . . made in the leisure hours of Mr Fraser Jones and his family .… Well I went on and I came to another work – that of a young lad .… It is a beautiful model of a steam engine .… Then I found specimens of tools made by a boy of Wellington College, and a model bridge by a boy of Wellington College, twelve years old .… I must also mention a telescope made by Mr Parsons. To enumerate all the works that I saw would occupy all the afternoon. Suffice it to say, I found very valuable ladies’ work, and among it an enormous quantity of baby clothes. This shows how much we want additional population here. Then there is school work by children, and some admirable fretwork and carving.’ (1)

The whole exhibition cost taxpayers 9,000 pounds - a lot of money at the time. But they made full use of it, and came from all round the country to exhibit and see exhibits.


(1) Quote from The Official Record. New Zealand Industrial Exhibition 1885.

Text originally published in Tai Awatea, Te Papa's onfloor multimedia database (1998).

Related information