The Sydney International Exhibition was the colony's first, and was responsible for bringing the world to Sydney at a time when the colony was prosperous and full of potential. Thirty four countries and their colonies participated in the Exhibition, displaying the very best examples of technology, industry and art, layed out in densely packed courts.
The Exhibition boosted the economy and encouraged authorities to improve the city’s services and facilities. A steam-powered tramway was installed to transport exhibition-goers around the city. After the Exhibition, the tramway network was expanded and by 1905–06 the trams were converted to electric traction.
Official records cite that between 19,853 and 24,000 visitors attended the Exhibition on the opening day of 17 September 1879, and over 1.1 million people visited during its seven months of operation. Despite exceeding the predicted cost by almost four times, the Exhibition was deemed a resounding success.
Initially the cost of admission was set at 5 shillings and later dropped to 1 shilling. Season tickets for the Exhibition were also available for £3 3s which entitled the holder to unlimited entry during all hours of general admission. Throughout the Exhibition, season ticket holders accounted for 76,278 admissions.
Season ticket issued to Eveline Mary Whiting for the International Exhibition, 1879
International Exhibitions presented the opportunity for countries to express their national identities and demonstrate their economic and techological achievements. They allowed countries to showcase the very best examples of contemporary art, handicrafts and the latest technologies particularly in manufacturing. Thirty four countries and their colonies participated in the Sydney International Exhibition. They presented approximately 14,000 exhibits which included displays of glass, tapestries, fine porcelain, ethnographic specimens and heavy machinery.
After the exhibition closed, the imposing Garden Palace building was used as office space and storage for various government departments.