South African International Exhibition

The South African International Exhibition held in Cape Town, Cape Colony was a world's fair held in 1877[1] which opened on 15 February[2][3] by His Excellency Sir Henry Bartle Frere.

South African International Exhibition
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NameSouth African International Exhibition
CountryCape Colony
CityCape Town, Cape Colony
Coordinates33.9282485°S 18.41851°E / -33.9282485; 18.41851
Opening15 February 1877
Closure17 November 1877


The exhibition was held in the grounds of the Lodge de Goede Hoop which was being used for the Parliament of the Cape of Good Hope[4] in a building erected for the exhibition.[5] The building was built of wood, iron, and glass which measured 184 x 78 feet; 56 feet high; and cost £10,027.


During 1876 Signor Cagli had canvassed American and European industries to exhibit “manufactures of all kinds”[4] which were to be grouped in 10 classes: "alimentation", chemicals (perfume, medicine and surgical equipment), furniture, fabric and jewellery, transport, hardware, machinery, agriculture, science and education, and miscellany.[5]

Exhibitors included Wertheim safes;[6] Taylor's sewing machines, who won a medal;[7] Sheffield based Samuel Marshall who showed hooks, hay knives, scythes and sheep shears[8] and linen manufacturers Rylands & Sons who won a prize (and another a year later at the Paris exhibition).[9]

There were 395 exhibitors from 14 nations:

  • Africa: Cape Colony, Natal, Orange Free State, Transvaal
  • America: USA
  • Asia: India
  • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Prussia, Sweden, Switzerland.


After the exhibition, the main building was used as an assembly hall and a theatre, known as the Exhibition Theatre. In the afternoon of 21 February 1892, carpenters and scenery painters were preparing for a new play when a fire broke out about 3:30, near the theatre entrance. In less than one hour, the entire building was destroyed along with the adjoining Masonic Lodge and Native Affairs Office.


  1. Pelle, Findling, ed. (2008). "Appendix D:Fairs Not Included". Encyclopedia of World's Fairs and Expositions. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 424. ISBN 978-0-7864-3416-9.
  2. "Cape Colony: South African International Exhibition, Cape Town". Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  3. "Event View - Calendar Iziko Museums". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  4. "Lodge de Goede Hoop and the Cape House of Assembly | Grand Lodge of South Africa - Southern Division". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  5. Chemical News, Manufacturing chemists, 20 October 1776, p. 169
  6. "Biography of the founder - Wertheim". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  7. "WILLIAM TAYLOR SEWING MACHINE, SEWALOT". Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  8. "Exhibitions Study Guide v1-0 PDF.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  9. "Rylands & Sons Ltd | Science Museum Group Collection". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
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