The cover was addressed to Syracuse, New York, United States and the blue 6d Laureate stamp of Victoria was canceled with the barred numeral MC/97 (Type 11A which was in use from 20.8.1880 until 30.6.1881) and the cover was also postmarked with an unframed EXHIBITION/ MY 17/ 81/ VICTORIA (Figure 1).
The reverse was not seen but was backstamped with Melbourne, a red transit mark of San Francisco and a reception postmark of Syracuse dated June 21, 1881. The Melbourne Exhibition postmark of 1889 had a duplex Exhibition postmark quite different from the above with a framed dated postmark and the barred numeral figures as ‘1197'. This duplex postmark was used from16.7.1888 up to 1906 (Figure 2).
The Exhibition was built during 1879-1880 by Reed and Barnes (who also designed the Melbourne Town Hall and the State Library of Victoria) and it was modeled on the Florence Cathedral. It is unique in that it is the first Australian building to have acquired World Heritage status in 2004, having been accorded that distinction by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee. It is one of the very few structures built specifically for an International Exhibition in the 19th century that is still standing.
It was used as the centrepiece for both the 1880 and 1888 Melbourne Exhibitions, the latter being held during Australia’s Centennial Year, celebrating Europeans coming to Australia. Most of the building survives in its original form, in its original purpose-designed parkland setting of the Carlton Gardens, and it is still used for similar purposes. The original Melbourne exhibition ran from October 1880 until April 1881 and was visited by 1.3 million people. The building consisted of the Great Hall of over 12,000 square metres as well as many temporary annexes (Figure 3).
The most significant event to occur in the Exhibition Building was the opening of the first Parliament of Australia, held in the building on 9 May, 1901. After the official opening, the Federal Government moved to the Victorian State Parliament House, while the Victorian Government moved to the Exhibition building for the next 26 years.
There are many memorabilia associated with the Melbourne Exhibition of 1880, which include:
the exhibitor’s pass (Figure 4);
a wood engraving of the Central Avenue looking south (Figure 5);
the Melbourne Exhibition MDCCCLXXX (1880) Medal (Figure 6);
and, an illustrated book of ‘Victoria in 1880' (Figure 7).
The building is still in use as an exhibition centre on a regular basis, but is no longer Melbourne’s largest or busiest, for it has been replaced in this regard by the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre.