The History of World Expositions

The Paris World Exposition 1889

Year: 1889
City: Paris
Country: France
Duration: 6th May - 31st October 1889

Copyright: Revue de l'Exposition universelle de 1889, S. 248

Extract from the Resolution protesting against the Eiffel Tower:

“We writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate lovers of the hitherto unsullied beauty of Paris protest, with all our might and in defence of unappreciated French good taste, against the erection in the heart of our capital of the unnecessary and dreadful Eiffel Tower,
which the derision of the populace, so often inspired by common-sense and a sense of justice, has already christened “The Tower of Babel”. Does the city of Paris really want to be linked with the overwrought, wild fancies displayed by this mechanical construction – or of its designer – and in this way to disgrace and dishonour herself for ever ?

Joris-Karl Huysmans: The Iron

In front of the exhibition palace, soars the famous tower which the whole world raves about. (...) (It) has by no means provoked the storm of indignation that was feared; on the contrary, it has inspired awful hackneyed comparisons: “Industry’s “Arc de Triomphe”, Tower of Babel, Cyclops, a spider’s web of metal, a network of iron lace”. With touching unanimity the whole press toadied to Monsieur Eiffel and praised his ingenuity. And this when his tower looked like a factory chimneystack in the process of being built, a framework waiting to be finished with stone slabs or tiles. It is scarcely possible to believe that this steel structure is supposed to be a finished construction (...). The impression, that it was intended to create, of being unfinished and skeletal, is evidence that Art has lost its way where taste is concerned. (...) The Eiffel Tower is strikingly ugly (...) The steel network gives this intended symbol of triumph the appearance of a hideous birdcage.

Source: Köhler 1990

Edmond and Jules de Goncourt: Diary 1889-1891

Monday, 6th May 1889
Back to Auteuil on foot, through the crowds of people. A mauve-coloured sky, as one sees with an enormous fire, (...) the Place de la Concorde, an apotheosis of white light, in the middle of which the Obelisk sparkles, pink like a champagne sorbet, - the Eiffel Tower, that looks like a lighthouse which a lost generation had left on Earth, a generation of people who were seven metres tall.

Thursday, 2nd July 1889
This evening dinner on the platform of the Eiffel Tower with the Charpentiers, Hermant, Zola and Dayot. Going up in the lift: the feeling of a ship pushing through the ocean waves; but no dizziness. Only when you are at the top do you first get a real
impression of the size, the spread, the Babylonian immensity of Paris; in the rays of the sinking sun some walls and angled alleys are bathed in a light that gives them an aura of ancient Rome; the clear, straight lines of the horizon are broken by a picturesque arc – the Montmartre hill which looks just like a large, illuminated ruin in the twilight. (...) Then the descent on foot, almost like diving into endlessness – these steps as light as day in the night, and, again and again, a view into boundless space. (...)

Julius Price: Predictions about the exhibition (Pall Mall Gazette, 1889)

It will be the biggest and the most unusual exhibition that the world has ever seen. The French love great size; once again, they are in the process of proving that this is something they understand. Compared with the miserable warehouses that we are used to seeing in Kensington, their exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of 1789 is already astounding. No money or effort has been spared. Nothing shabby spoils the view. Down to the smallest iron trestle, artistic awareness and good taste are most evident. (...) If the gloomy clouds gathering on the political horizon do not break out into a storm, half the civilised world will be lured to Paris, and most certainly with good reason, for this is the most beautiful exhibition the world has ever seen.

EXPOSEEUM - The Museum of World Exhibitions, Hanover, Expo Plaza 11
Open every Sunday from 11 to 16