National Exhibition and Fair of Pécs in 1907

There was a feast in Pécs 110 years ago today, because the National Exhibition and Fair of Pécs in 1907 was organised on this very day. The expo that attracted almost a million visitors aimed to introduce the trade, agriculture, home industry and art of Hungary to the general public – according to its rules – and to strengthen the relationships between producers and consumers. It was not a well-known fact that the construction of a culture palace in Pécs depended on the incomes of the fair. Although the expo was successful, Pécs did not get the palace.

This virtual exhibition is going to answer the questions – besides introducing several other curiosities.

Országos kiállítás főbejárata. - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC0

A national expo was organised earlier in Pécs in 1888, but the one in 1907 exceeded it in size greatly. The one in 1907 was almost five times bigger than the Industrial Exposition of Pécs organised in 1960. The expo city was built on a 35-acre (350 thousand square metres) empty area, north-west of the railway station of Pécs. The expo required 1.5 million Austrian-Hungarian crowns that came from private funds mainly. 170 thousand crowns were lent by the Hungarian government, 50 thousand crowns were voted by the general assembly of Pécs, while the rest of the money was pooled by entrepreneurs and landlords. The grandeur of the event was indicated by the fact that Archduke Friedrich and Archduchess Isabella – imperial and royal highnesses – were the main patrons of the expo.

Visitors’ demands had to be satisfied so that they could send their greeting lines to their families and friends on postcards showing the site. Owing to that, at least fifty versions of expo postcards were made. Information flowing was helped by a pilot of Pécs published by the executive commission of the expo – a two-volume Expo Guide. The chapter ‘Most useful things to know’ contained useful information pieces about visiting the expo.

Pécs Guide – Most useful things to know, Pécs 1907

Pavilions of the fair

Mezőgazdasági csarnok. - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC0

Within the area of the exposition, 56 pavilions were built in order to introduce the achievements of industry, agriculture and art of Pécs. The designer commission was led by Tádé Sikorski, whose aim was to construct buildings in a unified style, thus most pavilions were designed by Andor Pilch in Hungarian Art Nouveau style. Supposedly according to the growing number of exhibitors and the increasing governmental subventions, even architects from Budapest were asked to do the planning, after a certain time. Béla Jánszky and Lajos Tátray made the home industrial expo, József Fischer and Géza Martói did the art gallery, Gyula Ullman got the textile industrial hall and Aladár Kármán made the plans of the hygiene pavilion. The interior of the art gallery copied the central hall of the International Applied Art Exhibition of Milan in 1906, which was designed by Fischer and Maróti, while the elements of the façade returned on the Hungarian pavilion – Géza Maróti’s later work – at the Venice Biennale in 1909. The Zsolnay pavilion was one of the main attractions of the expo. Nowadays, it is part of our everyday lives, but in that period it was an oddity to install gas and water in every building and even the telephone line was accessible.

Zenepavillon. - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC0

Besides local entrepreneurs like the champagne producer Lőrinc Littke or Baron Rezső Biedermann, a lot of famous tradesmen of the country also participated in the expo, including the representatives of Ganz, Hofherr, Herz and other companies. Moreover, there was a music pavilion, a variety theatre, a sports field with a grandstand, three lawn tennis courts, an animal marketplace, a funicular, cafés and patisseries, two beer houses, a tobacco shop, a byoskop (cinema), a post office and a telegraph office, a fire brigade, a police station, an exposition office, a cloakroom, a fountain, toilets and so on and so forth.

The exhibition and fair was open for five months, and although the buildings did not have any impacts on the architecture of Pécs, its architectural historical importance is still huge, as it represented the art being in synchrony with the style aspirations of the era, on the level of international expos. Right after closing the fair, they started to pull down the buildings and did not leave any of them for memory to later generations. The only exception was the eosin decoration of the Zsolnay pavilion gate, because it was used for decorating the entrance of Balokány Lido when renovating it in 1933. Unfortunately, you cannot see it anymore, as the lido building was also pulled down. 

Events

Gépcsarnok és az ünnepélyek csarnoka. - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC0

Many professional, artistic, sport, musical and cultural events were organised at the expo. The representatives of different industrial sectors held meetings during this period and the congresses of farmers, restaurant owners, oenologists and apiculturists were kept there as well. Other important events were: General Assembly of the Association of Transdanubian Bank Clerks, Catholic Congress, National General Assembly of Publishing Houses, General Assembly of the National Association of Museums and Libraries, Mayors’ Congress, Libertines’ National Congress, Hungarian National Congress of Free Education and the Congress of the National Union of Rural Newspaper Writers.

A special exhibition was the painted egg collection of chancery deputy chairman of Pécs Dr. Kálmán Rónaky. The other significant spectacle of the expo was the ‘Turul’ balloon – an airship filled with hydrogen – that lifted up. It was the first event, where the inhabitants of Pécs could encounter with an aircraft.

Zsolnay-szobor leleplezése. - Csorba Győző Könyvár - Pécs, CC0

The bronze statue of Vilmos ZsolnayJános Horvay and Sándor Apáti Abt’s creation – which is an organic part of the Pécs image nowadays, was inaugurated as the closing event of the great series of events of the National Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition of Pécs, in the frame of a stately ceremony on 13 October. 

Culture palace of Pécs

The exhibition was a unique achievement with its capital city standard events and reached a significant profit. But the city deposited the majority of the remaining amount in a so-called exhibition fund provided by the Ullmann Bank of Pécs. Unfortunately, the bank became bankrupt soon, due to a wrong capital allocation, thus the remaining amount – that would have funded the culture palace of Pécs - was lost.

Nevertheless, this misadventure did not efface the huge efforts of the organisers and the fact that they managed to accomplish such a grand nation-wide renowned and successful exposition 110 years ago.

Source literature:

  • Pécs Lexikon / főszerk. Romváry Ferenc, Pécs, Pécs Lexikon Kulturális Nonprofit Kft., 2010.

Etele Szüts
Translated by Zita Aknai