What Is a World Expo? Things You Didn't Know Debuted at the Event

The Dubai World Expo 2020 will take place from October to April 2021
The Dubai World Expo 2020 will take place from October to April 2021 | © Expo 2020
Leah Simpson

With another World Expo on the way, take a look at some of the most promising things that you probably didn’t know made their big arrival at the global events.

The World Expo is one of the oldest and biggest events on the planet. Every five years, a city takes its turn to host the occasion, which lasts six months at a time and invites every country in the globe to take part in showcasing the best of what they have to offer.

Its aim is to help people and nations across the Earth learn by sharing ideas, at the same time demonstrating innovation and further paving the path for progress in fields such as technology and architecture.

Which city will host is determined by the Bureau International des Expositions, and the gatherings of minds at the World Expo also means having fun with a new theme every five years.

The next World Expo 2020 Dubai has the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ at its core and takes place from October 20, 2020 until April 10, 2021.

It’s not certain what the countries taking part will reveal at this edition, but what’s for sure is that the World Expo has come a long way since the first one – London’s Great Exhibition of 1851.

Read on to find out some of the amazing things we know and love today that were unveiled at previous World Expos.

What the Mobility Pavilion will look like at World Expo 2020

Crystal Palace (1851 – London)

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations World Expo was the original, and saw the birth of London’s iconic Crystal Palace. The World Fair took place inside the innovative structure, designed by Joseph Paxton and made from cast iron and glass. It was regarded as an architectural marvel at the time. The theme was Industry of all Nations, and there were various exhibits with impressive inventions and innovations of the Industrial Revolution.

Lawnmower (1855 – Paris)

Homemakers all over the world have the Exposition Universelle des Produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-arts de Paris to thank. The theme of the expo was ‘Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts’ and demonstrated, among other things, how cutting grass was about to become a lot more enjoyable.

Washing machine (1855 – Paris)

That year, cleaning clothes also looked likely to become less of a chore, with the introduction of a prototype washing machine. More than five million people visited this expo, and 27 countries took part.

Statue of Liberty torch (1876 – Philadelphia)

Lady Liberty

The Centennial Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine was where the world first saw the arm and the torch of New York’s famous Statue of Liberty. The rest of the monument was finished by 1886.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup (1876 – Philadelphia)

Tomato ketchup bottles

It was also the year we were introduced to Heinz Tomato Ketchup. By 1907 the world was in love with the red sauce and 12 million bottles were being produced each year to ship worldwide.

Steam-driven tethered balloon (1878 – Paris)

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? The Exposition Universelle welcomed Henri Giffard’s massive steam-driven tethered balloon when it took guests to the top of Trocadéro Hill. The location featured a palace which hosted concerts, art exhibitions and international congresses.

The Eiffel Tower (1889 – Paris)

The Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

The Exposition Universelle is to thank for the Tour Eiffel. Gustave Eiffel built it in two years, two months and five days, which was impressive for French engineering at the time. Only expected to last 20 years at the time, it’s still one of the world’s most iconic attractions today.

Gramophone (1889 – Paris)

An old gramophone

The same event saw Thomas Edison unveil his gramophone. Also known as a phonograph, it was used throughout the 1940s as a record-playing device.

Talking movies (1900 – Paris)

Movie reel

The Exposition de Paris showcased projecting both image and sound simultaneously, to create films as we commonly know them today.

Television (1939 – New York)


With the theme of Building the World of Tomorrow, scientist Albert Einstein gave a speech about cosmic rays and David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), introduced TV. The broadcast included a speech by US President Franklin D Roosevelt, and it’s said it originally had a transparent case so that people could see inside and found it more believable.

Space Needle (1962 – Seattle)


The Century 21 Exposition was the event where Edward E Carlson, president of Western International Hotels, sketched the cultural structure of the Space Needle on a napkin in a coffee house at the Man in the Space Age-themed World Expo.

IMAX (1970 – Osaka)

People watching a movie

Japan’s World Exposition saw the premiere of the first IMAX film, Tiger Child, which came from Canada’s Fuji Group.

Moon rock (1970 – Osaka)

The moon

Moon rock brought home by Apollo 12 US astronauts in 1969 was also showcased at the Progress and Harmony for Mankind-themed event in Osaka, which hosted more than 64 million people.

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