In 1849 Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and president of the Royal Society of Arts, conceived the idea of inviting international exhibitors to participate in an exposition. Plans were developed and the necessary funds speedily raised, with Victoria herself heading the list of subscribers. The exhibition opened in the Crystal Palace on May 1, 1851.
The Crystal Palace, designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, was a remarkable construction of prefabricated parts. It consisted of an intricate network of slender iron rods sustaining walls of clear glass. The main body of the building was 1,848 feet (563 metres) long and 408 feet (124 metres) wide; the height of the central transept was 108 feet (33 metres). The construction occupied some 18 acres (7 hectares) on the ground, while its total floor area was about 990,000 square feet (92,000 square metres, or about 23 acres [9 hectares]). On the ground floor and galleries there were more than 8 miles (13 km) of display tables.
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