Cast From the Past: The Farlow Silver Reel From the Great Exhibition of 1851

Photo: Steve Woit

The Great Exhibition of 1851, held in the Crystal Palace in London from May to October in 1851, was formally named “The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”. It was the first in a series of shows that became known as “World’s Fairs”.

The exhibition was organized by Henry Cole, a British civil servant, and inventor who facilitated many innovations in commerce and education in the 19th century, and Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch of the U.K. at the time.

The fair was a huge success and ticket sales ultimately helped finance the building of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of Science, and the Natural History Museum in London. Total attendance was over 6 million people and peak daily attendance was 109,915 on October 7th, with many famous figures of the time attending, including Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Michael Farraday, and Samuel Colt.


Photo; Steve Woit

The British fishing tackle exhibit at the exhibition was outstanding, with many of the leading tackle makers of the day creating special presentation pieces for the show. The famed tackle houses of Farlows, G. Little, Ainge and Aldred, J. Bernard, and J. Jones all participated by displaying the finest rods, reels, flies, and accessories.

One of the true treasures of the Great Exhibition was a silver salmon reel designed for John King Farlow, the founder of Farlows. The heavily engraved nickel silver salmon winch is pictured here with a scene from the 100-foot high hall where it was displayed.

Steve Woit is the author of “Fly Fishing Treasures: The World of Fly Fishers and Collecting”, a book featuring profiles of 30 experts and collectors and over 800 photographs of rare and collectible fly rods, reels, flies, books, and ephemera.

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