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Course Guide - French 307: Paris Maymester 2021 -: Paris: Expositions Universelles (World Fairs)

A companion research resource for French Course 307, Maymester 2021: Public Memory and the Ghosts of History


The Expositions Universelles in Nineteenth Century Paris, by Pauline de Tholozany. Dissertation, Brown University, 2011. “There were five World Fairs in Paris during the nineteenth century: in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900. Below is a summary of the events’ achievements and architectural features.The library has numerous primary sources on the Paris World Fairs, many of which are available online. To access the online prints and photographs, go to the search menu and type exposition universelle. If you are looking for a specific monument/topic, you can go to the advanced search window. The annotated bibliography on this website has a section on "Expositions Universelles"  section on which lists most of the books about the Paris World Fairs in the Brown collections.”

Bureau International des Expositions

Bureau International des Expositions. Expo 1855 Paris. France’s Fisrt World Expo. Following the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’, the first World Expo held in 1851 in London, French Emperor Napoleon III decreed on 8 March 1853 to hold a World Expo in Paris. As in London, industrial and agricultural products were presented, but the Emperor wanted to ensure that the French edition surpassed the British one in terms of size, participating countries, and the fields covered. Expo 1855 therefore put a focus not only on agriculture and industry, but also on fine art, showcasing numerous French artists and the wealth of French creativity. Due to the Crimean War and the delayed construction of certain buildings, the organisation of the Expo had to be pushed back, with the opening ceremony taking place on 15 May 1855, and the closing ceremony on 15 November 1855.

Bureau International des Expositions. Exposition Universelle de Paris 1867. "On 22 June 1863, only a few months after the closing of Expo 1862 London, French Emperor Napoleon III signed a decree in favour of organising a new “Universal exhibition of agricultural and industrial products”. Organised under the auspices of the Minister of Agriculture, Trade and Public Works, the project was later expanded to include Fine Arts. Expo 1867 Paris took place from 1 April to 3 November 1867, gathering 15 million visitors and 52,200 exhibitors. With most international participants coming from Europe, the Expo also Expo also counted exhibitors from the Ottoman Empire and from Latin America."

Bureau International des Expositions. Exposition Universelle de 1878, Paris. "World Expo 1878 took place in Paris, Champ de Mars, Trocadero., from 1 May to 10 November 1878. It was the first Expo to take place under the French Third Republic and was aimed at showcasing the country’s recovery following the Franco-Prussian War and the upheaval of the Paris Commune." This exposition featured a close connection between scientific technologies and arts. At the venues, electric railcars were operated, and four fountains with water pumped up from the River Seine were constructed.

Bureau International des Expositions. Exposition Universelle de 1889, Paris. "The fourth World Expo to be organised in Paris was held between 5 May and 31 October. Its area, number of visitors and profit of 8 million francs beat all previous records. (…) The idea to host an Expo to celebrate the Revolution and the end of monarchy emerged as soon as Expo 1878 ended and preparations started in 1884. However, during the Expo, many celebrations were specifically held outside the Expo site, like in Versailles, in order not to turn the Fair into a political event. However, this initiative didn't convince neighboring monarchies to participate, though some of them did unofficially send industry representatives to the Expo so as not to miss out on economic opportunities." Constructed as the centerpiece of the exposition was the Eiffel Tower.

Bureau International des Expositions. Exposition Universelle de Paris, 1900. "Inaugurated by French President Émile Loubet on 14 April 1900, World Expo 1900 Paris celebrated the genius and diversity of modern civilisation. Organised under the theme “19th century: an overview”, the fifth Exposition Universelle to be held in Paris gathered 51 million visitors between 14 April and 12 November 1900, and registered more than 80,000 participants. The Expo took place across five main zones spanning 120 hectares, including the banks of the Seine, the Champs de Mars as well as the Place de la Concorde. An additional 102 ha area in the Bois de Vincennes welcomed the agricultural exhibition, a village of typical workers’ homes, railway exhibits, and sporting competitions. The latter were organised in the framework of the Paris Olympic Games; the first modern Olympics to take place outside of Greece."

Paris Insider

Paris Insider Guide. 19 Amazing Things That Shaped The Paris Exposition Of 1900.  A very rich website which has links to sites and monuments.  

Paris Insider Guide. Nine Highlights Of The Paris Universal Expositions – 1855 to 1937. A detailed commentary on the eight Paris Expositions Universelles held between 1855 and 1937.


Marc Maison. World's Fair of 1878. The Third Republic was proclaimed in 1870, and a new World’s Fair was organized in Paris to present the new face of France to the world. The Palais du Trocadéro, designed by Gabriel Davioud and Jules Bourdais, is an impressive iconic architecture of the Exhibition. Mac Mahon receives the crowned guests invited to the event, while the exhibition pieces are gathered at the Palais de l'Exposition. He inaugurated the World’s Fair surrounded by the statues of the six continents (South and North America having two distinct statues), which today decorate the forecourt of the Orsay Museum in Paris. These bronze statues were made by renowned artists such as Schoenewerk, Hiolle, Mathurin Moreau, Delaplanche, Falguière and Millet.

1878 Exposition Universelle by Brantley Sanders, W&L Paris.

Exposition Universelle • Paris 1878 - Princeton University Library - Special Collections.

The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, by Arthur Chandler. Expanded and revised from World's Fair magazine, Volume VII, Number 3, 1987.

Paris 1900 - La Ville Spectacle.  Article publié dans La Lettre no. 370, le 16 juin 2014.



Loïe Fuller's "Serpentine Dance" at the Exposition Universelle Paris 1900. The director of this film is Alice Guy- as she was the only director at Gaumont pictures until 1905. (Ref: The Memoirs of Alice Guy-Blaché.)  Born Marie Louise Fuller in the Chicago suburb of Fullersburg, now Hinsdale, Illinois, Fuller began her theatrical career as a professional child actress and later choreographed and performed dances in burlesque (as a skirt dancer), vaudeville, and circus shows. An early free dance practitioner, Fuller developed her own natural movement and improvisation techniques. Fuller combined her choreography with silk costumes illuminated by multi-coloured lighting of her own design.