Compiled by Robert J. Baran


Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia
May 10 - Nov. 10; 10 million persons attended, 37 nations participated.  Primary sources: Mitchell, Donald G.  "In and about the Fair" in Scribners monthly, an illustrated magazine for the people,Volume 13, Issue 1, November 1876, pg. 118 ; "Characteristics of the International Fair, V." (Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 38, Issue 230, December 1876), pg. 73.  Also seen there: the first sight in the U.S. of the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty, root beer, ice cream soda, the typewriter, the Westinghouse air brake, various refrigeration processes, the telephone, and Fleischmann's yeast.

Exposition Universalle, Paris May 20 - Nov. 10; 16.2 million persons attended, 36 nations participated.  Primary sources: Quin, C.W.  "The Horticultural Comprachicos of Japan at the Paris Exhibition," The Garden, Aug. 24, 1878, pp. 174-175 ; Albert Maumené's Les Arbres Nains Japonais,  Chap. 1, Sec. VISecondary sources: Pessy, Christian and Rémy Samson  Bonsai Basics, pg. 16; Giorgi, Gianfranco  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Bonsai, pg. 20.

Exposition Universalle, Paris May 5 - Oct. 31; 32.3 million persons attended, 35 nations participated. Primary sources: "Notes" section, Garden and Forest, Vol. 2, Issue 78, August 21, 1889, pg. 408 ; "Japanese Dwarf Plants at Paris" by George Cumming, New Brunswick, N.J., Garden and Forest, March 19, 1890, pp. 138-139 ; Albert Maumené's Les Arbres Nains Japonais,  Chap. 1, Sec. VIISecondary sources: Pessy, Christian and Rémy Samson  Bonsai Basics, pg. 16; Giorgi, Gianfranco  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Bonsai, pg. 20; Gustafson, Herb L. The Bonsai Workshop, pg. 20.  Also seen there: the completed Eiffel Tower.

World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago
May 1 - Oct. 28; 27.5 million persons attended, 99 nations and provinces participated.  Primary sources: Garden and Forest, Vol. VI, No. 264, March 15, 1893, pg. 128 ; Gibson, W. Hamilton,  "Foreground and Vista at the Fair," in Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 14, Issue 1, July, 1893, pp. 33, 34 ; Robbins, M.C.  "Gardening at the World's Fair," Garden and Forest, July 19, 1893, pp. 302, 303 ; Bailey, L.H.  "The Columbian Exposition, Japanese Horticulture at the Fair," Garden and Forest, August 30, 1893, pg. 369Secondary source: L'Allemand, Gordon  "Dwarf Trees Come to America," Travel, January 1943, pg. 29.  Also seen there: a 30 mph-electric railway (the renowned elevated train or "El"), cooking with electricity, baby incubators, Edison's kinetoscope, a Pullman railroad car, an ice-skating rink with artificial ice, and a huge 250 foot diameter electric-lit Ferris wheel which could hold 2,100 passengers at once.  Chewing gum, Cracker Jack, and a young Harry Houdini were also introduced.

Exposition Universalle, Paris
Apr. 15 - Nov. 12; 50.9 million persons attended, 58 nations participated.  Secondary source: Giorgi, Gianfranco  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Bonsai, pg. 20.  Also seen there: 150 of Auguste Rodin's sculptures and numerous drawings were displayed; motion pictures.  (The gold medal whose image would be on the front of Campbell's soup can labels was awarded here.)

1902 Temple Horticultural Show, London
Primary source: Albert Maumené's Les Arbres Nains Japonais, Fig. 1.  This annual event would be cancelled in 1912 to make way for what became the Chelsea Flower Show.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri Apr. 30 - Dec. 1; 18.3 million persons attended, 38 nations participated.  Primary sources: Hajime Hoshi  Handbook of Japan and Japanese Exhibits at World's Fair, St. Louis, 1904, pg. 114; Final Report of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Commission 1906, (Washington, D.C.), pg. 222.  Also seen there: rayon, the ice cream cone, hot dog in a bun, wireless telegraph, and The Great Train Robbery silent movie.

Japan-British Exhibition, London

Japanese Garden, London, 1910

Japanese Garden in London, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/imagelibrary/events/03.htm.

Pigmy Trees in London 1910

"Pigmy Trees" Exhibited by the Yokohama Nursery Company
Frese's article, pg. 1
May 14 - Oct. 29; 8.3 million persons attended.  "In order to show that Japan was an imperial power following in Britain’s footsteps, pavilions and information about Japan’s overseas possessions were exhibited in the section called the’ Palace of the Orient.’  There were displays from Taiwan, Korea (though not yet annexed at the time of the opening), and the Kuantung administration of the South Manchurian Railway Co.  In addition, just as other imperial powers did on occasions like this, even the native peoples of Taiwan and of Hokkaido, the Ainu, were presented, though this was to prove a very controversial issue among Japanese visitors." (Hoster-Lister, Ayako "The Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1911," http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/is/IS432.pdf).   "In 1910, the Japanese Government presented to the City of London two transportable miniature gardens as a most precious gift.  One was a hill garden, the other a tea garden.  According to an inscription for the public to read, the trees varied in age from 30 to 150 years; the rocks and stones had been brought from different parts of Japan, and so had all the distinctive marks of a place remarkable for its beauty.  The [tiny] palaces and shrines had been modelled in exact conformity to the ancient style, which went back two hundred or even five hundred years.  Those who saw these gazed with astonishment on these apparent playthings.  Moreover, it is said that King Edward VII had a collection in which he took a keen personal interest." (Gothein, Marie Luise  A History of Garden Art (reprinted by Hacker Art Books, New York; 1966.  First published in English, 1928), pg. 268)  (About the Japanese fine arts displayed there, see http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/sr/jp_br.shtml.)
Secondary source: Liang, Amy   The Living Art of Bonsai: Principles & Techniques of Cultivation & Propagation (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; 1992), pg. 107; Frese, Paul F. "Bonsai Exhibits Come West," Journal, ABS, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring 1982, pp. 1-2, with 3 b&w photos.

See also NOTES at the bottom of this page, and details about this event vis-a-vis horticulture in Britain .

Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco
Feb 20 - Dec. 4; 19 million persons attended, 32 nations participated.  Secondary sources: L'Allemand, Gordon  "Dwarf Trees Come to America," Travel, January 1943, pg. 29; Wikle, Jack  "Mas' Biggest Bonsai," Journal, ABS, Vol. 23, No. 2, Summer 1989, pg. 5; Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection Guide Book (Tacoma, WA: Weyerhaueser Company.  Printed Feb. 1992), pg. 7; DeGroot, David  "The Domoto Trident Maple," Bonsai, BCI, Vol. XXXIII, No. 6, November/December 1994, pp. 46-47.  Also seen there: a twenty-five vehicle per day Ford Motor Assembly Plant on the grounds for all to watch step-by-step; car, boat, balloon, and airplane races with biplane stunt flying; the Liberty Bell making its eighth and last World's Fair visit; intercontinental radio was first demonstrated; a working model of the newly completed Panama Canal; and seventy-seven motion picture theaters were in use as teaching tools.

Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, Paris
5.9 million persons attended.  Primary source: Popular Science Monthly, July, 1929, pg. 63Secondary source: Chan, Peter  Bonsai Masterclass (New York: Sterling Publishing Co.; 1988), pg. 154.  Also seen there: the term "art deco" is derived from this, where the style was first displayed.

Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne, Paris
May 25 - Nov. 25; 34 million persons attended, 44 nations represented.  Secondary source: Kobayashi, Norio  Bonsai -- Miniature Potted Trees (Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau, Inc.; 1951, 1962, 1966), pg. 131 with b&w photo of Japanese juniper shimpaku which won the grand prize. 

Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco
Feb. 19 - Oct. 29, 1939, May 25 - Sept. 29, 1940; 15? million persons attended, 26 nations represented.  Secondary source: Symmes, Ed "Suiseki - Mrs. Toy Sato, California," Bonsai, BCI, Vol. XII, No. 4, May 1973, pg. 13.  Also seen there: model of a cyclotron.

Seattle World's Fair / Century 21 Exposition
Apr. 21 - Oct. 21; 9.6 million persons attended, 48 nations represented.  Secondary source: Ferguson, Paul  "How They Got Started," Bonsai in California, 1989, Vol. 23, pg. 41, which gives the year as 1961.  Also seen there: Space Needle and Alweg Monorail.

Japan World Fair/ Exposition '70, Osaka
Mar. 15 - Sept. 13; 64.2 million persons attended, 77 nations represented.  Primary source: Young, Dorothy S. "Bonsai's Top Show," Journal, ABS, Spring 1970, pp. 3-4.  Also seen there: moon rocks, and many exhibitions and film and slide presentations about space technology.


Years in BOLD are those events officially recognized by the International Exhibitions Bureau.  Run dates, attendance and participation are not universally agreed upon at the various sites visited and non-bonsai books seen.

Also referenced were Hilton, Suzanne  Here Today and Gone Tomorrow: The Story of World's Fairs and Expositions (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press; 1978); Iriye, Akira (ed.)  Mutual Images, Essays in American-Japanese Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1975); and Rydell, Robert W.  All the World's a Fair, Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1984).

See also our Chronology of Dwarf Potted Trees in England and Chronology of Dwarf Potted Trees in France.

As this page was designed to set the record straight and give detail, we must include the following which shows where the record has not been accurate.  These changes are simply due to a longer period of research on our part:

1876 -- Lesniewicz, Paul  Bonsai: The Complete Guide to Art & Technique (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press; 1984), pg.13 "first in Paris at the World Fair of 1878"; Zane, Thomas L.  Introduction to Bonsai -- A Course Syllabus (Oakdale, CT; 1988), pg. 1-2 "was not seen outside of the Far East until the 20th Century."; Del Tredici, Peter  Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum (Jamaica, MA: Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University; 1989), pg. 5 "first public bonsai display outside Japan occurred in Paris in 1878."

1900 -- Roger, Allen   Bonsai (London: Cassell Educational Limited, for the Royal Horticultural Society; 1981, 1985), pg. 7 lists date as "about 1898."

1910 -- Yoshimura, Yuji and Giovanna M. Halford  The Japanese Art of Miniature Trees and Landscapes: Their Creation, Care, and Enjoyment (Rutland, VT and Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.; 1957), pg. 17 "Until the turn of the century bonsai had never been seen outside Japan..." lists the date as 1909, which erroneous date then was dutifully repeated by ==>   Hull, George F.  Bonsai For Americans, a practical guide to the creation and care of miniature potted trees (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.; 1964), pg. 26); Behme, Robert Lee  Bonsai, Saikei and Bonkei: Japanese Dwarf Trees and Tray Landscapes (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.; 1969), pg. 15; Sunset Books and Magazines, Editors of   Bonsai, Culture and Care of Miniature Trees (Menlo Park, CA: Lane Publishing Co.; 1976), pg. 8 "but not until 1909 -- at an exhibition in London -- did bonsai appear in the western world." [first edition in 1965 did have tree silouettes from Yoshimura but no history to speak of]; Roger, Allen   Bonsai (London: Cassell Educational Limited, for the Royal Horticultural Society; 1981, 1985), pg. 7; Shufunotomo, Editors of  The Essentials of Bonsai (Tokyo: Shufunotomo; Portland, OR: Timber Press; 1982), pg. 8; Introduction by Donald Richie; Koreshoff, Deborah R.  Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Publications; 1984), pg. 11 "the first bonsai exhibition outside the Orient"; Lesniewicz, Paul  Bonsai: The Complete Guide to Art & Technique (Poole, Dorset: Blandford Press; 1984), pg.13; Webber, Leonard  Bonsai For the Home and Garden (North Ryde, NSW, Australia: Angus & Robertson Publishers; 1985), pg. 2; Hu, Yunhua  Chinese Penjing, Miniature Trees and Landscape (Portland, OR: Timber Press; ©1987, Wan Li Books Co., Ltd., Hong Kong), pg. 130; Del Tredici, Peter  Early American Bonsai: The Larz Anderson Collection of the Arnold Arboretum (Jamaica, MA: Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University; 1989), pg. 5 citing Yoshimura and Koreshoff; Giorgi, Gianfranco  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Bonsai (New York: Simon & Schuster; 1990), pg. 20; Tomlinson, Harry  The Complete Book of Bonsai (New York: Abbeville Press, Inc.; 1990), pg. 6 Forword by Elvin McDonald "The first major exhibit of bonsai in the West" and pg. 17; Lesniewicz, Paul and Hideo Kato  Practical Bonsai, Their Care, Cultivation and Training (London: W. Foulsham & Co., Ltd.; 1991), pg. 10; Pessy, Christian and Rémy Samson  Bonsai Basics, A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing, Training & General Care (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; 1992), pg. 17; and Gustafson, Herb L.  The Bonsai Workshop (New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.; 1994), pg. 20, Sunset Books and Magazines, Editors of  Sunset Bonsai (1994), pg. 10, Chan, Peter  Bonsai Secrets (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.; 2006), pg. 14, among others. 

Also Tanner, Ogden  "Bonsai: a way of looking at trees with different eyes," Smithsonian, October 1989, pg. 142, as well as in several articles in the specialty magazines.  And depending on how the Internet search is worded, there are also at least several hundred websites which repeat the 1909 date.  Very few give the correct 1910.

We are not sure from where the year-off error came.  Sometimes differences going from Japanese to Western dating are because of a change midyear in the Japanese system.  However, the Meiji era (beginning in 1868) did not end until 1912.  Now, King Edward VII did die on May 6, 1910 -- 8 days before the start of the Japan-British Exhibition -- but that should not have affected the dating.  Edward VII was buried on May 20, and his successor, George V, did not have his coronation until June 22, 1911.

Another possibility for the mis-dating could be because of the 1309 date of the Kasuga-gongen-genki scroll, which is commonly believed to be the oldest Japanese depiction of a dwarf potted tree.

We are currently researching the presence of dwarf potted trees at The Empire Exhibition, South Africa, held in Johannesburg.  This was intended to mark that city's 50th anniversary jubilee.  It was opened by the Governor General on 15 September 1936 and closed 15 January 1937. It was the first British Empire Exhibition held outside of Britain, and was the first held in the Union of South Africa following two earlier exhibitions in Cape Colony in 1877 and 1892.  It is said that were some 2 million visitors during its run.
Per the Cape Bonsai Kai website, "History tells us that bonsai were first displayed in South Africa at the British Empire Exhibition held in Johannesburg in 1933 [sic], where Asian exhibitors displayed their trees."
As only colonies were supposed to be represented at the empire exhibitions, how could miniature trees be present -- were they brought in from Hong Kong, perhaps?  While trees from Japan were present in Australia by this time, it does not seem likely that they would be considered as a representative product of that location.

Honorable mention should also be given here to the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Oct. 10 - Oct. 24, with 93 nations participating.  Some 600 million television viewers could watch via satellite.  That year a great exhibition of miniature landscapes was held in Hibiya Park to mark the Olympics, and a commemorative album was published in Japanese and English, Gems of Bonsai and Suiseki.  (Koreshoff, Deborah R.  Bonsai: Its Art, Science, History and Philosophy (Brisbane, Australia: Boolarong Publications; 1984), pg. 10)   SEE Book of Days listing for Oct. 10

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