The Great Exhibition was originally the idea of Henry Cole. He suggested the holding of an exhibition in London that would demonstrate to the world the industrial supremacy and material prosperity of Britain. Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria took up Cole's idea and provided the necessary support from someone with power and influence.
Opened in May 1851, the Great Exhibition was housed in the Crystal Palace, a vast glass and iron structure designed by Joseph Paxton. In six months the 13,000 exhibits were seen by 6.2 million people. The income generated by the exhibition was used to advance cultural, educational and scientific learning. This included the building of new museums in South Kensington, the Albert Hall, the Royal College of Music and the Imperial College of Science and Technology. Thomas Cook, the travel agent, arranged for over 165,000 people to attend the Great Exhibition.