1878, Paris FR – Exposition Universelle (3rd)

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1878 Paris

Name:Exposition Universelle (3rd) – Exhibition of the Works of Art and Industry of all Nations
Dates:1 May – 10 Nov 1878
Days:193 days
Venue:Champ de Mars and the Palais du Trocadéro – 75 ha (185 acres)
Theme:New Technologies
Exhibitors:52,835, from 36 countries
Visitors:16,156,126 – 13m paid admission of 1 franc
Legacy:31.8m FFr (£1.3m) loss

This third Paris World Fair was organised to be a celebration of the recovery of France following the defeat in the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War, and the tough reparations. The revolt in Paris established the Commune from Mar-May in 1871 as defeated National Guards wresting control and rejeting Thiers Third Republic. The government reestablished its control with between 10,000 and 15,000 Comm.unards are believed to have been killed in battle or executed immediately afterwards, from amonmg the 43,500 arrested. Ninety-five were sentenced to death, 251 to forced labour, and 1,169 to deportation, mostly to New Caledonia. Thousands of other Commune members, including several of the leaders, fled abroad, mostly to England, Belgium and Switzerland.

1878 General View – source: World’s Fair magazine

The Second Republic had organised two successful events in 1855 and 1867, The Third Republic, still somewhat unstable needed a success to suggest its legitimacy and a sense of continuity. However, many sources suggest that the decreasing gaps between international exhibitionbrought on an exhibition fatigue, as exhibitors began to question the time and effort applied. This was in part due to the event’s size spectacular features making it less likely for an individual exhibitor to stand out. Though this did stiil attract visitors in their hordes.

1878 main building – Palace of Industry

The 1878 Exposition again used the Champ de Mars but extended to the Trocadero Hill so that the River Seine became part of the exposition. This expansion in scale versus the 1867 event implied the Third Republic had greater aspirations. Jean-Baptiste-Sebastien Kranz had designed the oval Palace of Industry in 1867, and was now given the role to organise the whole event,

The President led a triumphal march along the Champs Elysées, despite inclement weather, and thanks to workers dumping gravel onto the muddy road this was received well and stood up to comparison with historic Bourbon and Bonaparte parades. The third Exposition Universelle was formally opened with speeches and a perfomance of Charles Gounoud’s Vive la France, composed specifically to mark the occasion. Alfred Picard, who would later become the head curator of the 1900 Exposition Universelle, wrote: The time had come, for France to lift the veil of sorrow and mourning, and to invite the world to a public festival.

In the first nine days of the 1867 event there had been under 40,000 paid visitors, while the 1878 exposition attracted over 250,000 in its first nine days.

Palais Interior

A miniature underground railway ran 3m (10 ft) beneath the Palace of Industry and the Trocadero Palace. It was used to move materials to and from the construction sites and to take away any refuse. It was however concealed beneath planks before the opening and nou used as an attraction.

Palais du Trocadéro, demolished late 1930s

The Palais du Trocadéro, commemorating the 1823 Battle of Trocadéro, was designed by the architect Gabriel Davioud, a colleague of Baron Haussmann who had worked on the reconstruction of Paris, Davioud designed much of the street furniture, including the fountain at the Place Saint-Michel. Using this area linked the event to previous success and help to expunge the recent defeat to the Prussians.

1878 hydraulics being installed in Trocadero Park

Four hydraulic pumps fed the waters from the Seine through 37 kms (23 m) of cast iron and lead pipe around the exposition. One forced water up the Trocadero Hill and into the Palace towers, to power high speed elevators, speedometers were mounted on the walls to show the speed of ascent and descent. Some of the waters plunged 9m (29 ft) into a fountain, then over terraced steps into a pool. Another pushed water swiftly beneath ground before emerging as 19m (62 ft) high jets around the central fountain creating liquid pillars. Another pump carried water in a slow constant pulse to the aquarium in the Trocadero Park. The fourth pump fed ponds around the Champs de Mars site and beneath the floorboards of the Palace of Industry to cool the building.

Trocadero as a concert hall

The Trocadero as a concert hall would hold 4,500 attendees and was lit by 4,500 gaslights. It quite deliberately surpassed London’s Albert Hall. Its dome was 7m (23 ft) taller than London’s St Pauls. Its towers made it 13.7m (45 ft) higher than Notre Dame.

Other rooms displayed exhibits and mounted conference sessions. For example, Victor Hugo and his Congress for the Protection of Literary Property prompted the development of international copyright law. And, the International Congress for the Amelioration of the Condition of Blind People promoted the Braille system of touch-reading at the event, it was eventually agreed as a global system. This was an early and successful example of the co-location of conferences with exhibitions.

The Trocadero was the centre for cultural entertainment at the exposition, though it did not permit religious ceremonies. There was some furore when the Exposition Committee forbade any battle scenes that referred to the Franco-Prussian War.

Postcardm of catering facilities

The Parc on Trocadero Hill provided restaurants, the aquarium and several foreign pavilions that were too large to fit into the Street of Nations inside the Palace of Industry. A number of different cuisines were on offer around the whole site. Many of the restaurateurs decided to offer their services in Paris after the show, contributing to a more multi-cultural city.

France recognised around twenty nations as significant in world terms – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Britain, British India, China, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Persia, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

1878 Map of site

The exhibits were arranged in a modified version of the 1867 system of classification Those products perpendicular to the Seine were ordered by their nature, and those parallel to the Seine were identified by their country of manufacture.

The UK pavilion was supervised by the Prince of Wales.

A solar-powered engine that could create steam power won a Gold Medal, Bell’s telephone and electric arc lighting were much applauded.

the Rue des Nations in the Palais of Industry encouraged the exhibiting nations to build an entranceway that displayed their national culture. This parade of different styles would have underlined the diveristy of what was on show, but this was discarded under the pressure of getting the show opened. The UK pavilion was supervised by the Prince of Wales.

The show still had steam engines and other large equipment, but there were many smaller devices – sewing machines, machines for making boots and watches, rubber tyres, Edison’s megaphone, phonograph and electric lighting, Bell’s telephone

Head of Statue of Liberty

Auguste Bartholdi’s Liberty Enlightening the World (the head of the Statue of Liberty) was displayed in the garden area. It was of course destined to be one of the Modern Wonders of the World. Visitors queued in their hundreds to travel into the head of the Statue of Liberty and be afforded a view of the exposition.

One popular feature was a ‘negro village’ of 400 individuals, though this would later become discredited as a ‘human zoo’.

1878 Medal

France had lost money on its 1855 exposition, as had Austria at Vienna in 1873 and the USA at Philadelphia in 1876. However, many felt that the 32m FFr loss that the 1878 exposition recorded was a small price to pay for the recovery of national pride.

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