The Paris World Exposition 1889
Anniversary of the Revolution
Year: || 1889|
|Duration: ||6th May - 31st October 1889
| 1 |
Copyright: Revue de l'Exposition universelle de 1889, S. 57
When the Paris World Exhibition of 1878 closed its gates, it was already obvious to many people that the next world exhibition would also take place in the French capital, for that would be the year in which the Great Revolution and all that it achieved would be celebrated - above all the “right to work” that was so highly valued by the Third French Republic. To avoid affronting the European monarchies, however, the connection between the exhibition and the revolution could not be made too obvious, so the grand events celebrating the revolution took place away from the site of the “Exposition universelle”. However, everywhere on the exhibition site were reminders of the Revolution - for example, in the “Panorama Centennal” on the banks of the Seine, where the events of the last hundred years were depicted on an enormous panoramic painting. Up to then, a large-scale exhibition had taken place every eleven years and the conclusion had been reached that this interval was very effective for demonstrating progress in industry and the arts. However, not all countries were convinced of this. The “hereditary foe”, Germany, was not represented – as it had not been in 1878. Just 71 German firms ventured to take part in the world exhibition.
Actual preparations began following a decree by the Minister of Trade, Maurice Rouvier, on November 8th 1884. A 33-member committee was set up to choose a site for the exhibition, to evolve a building programme, and to make a rough estimate of costs. The act, opposed by some right-wing conservatives, to regulate the financing of the world exhibition, was eventually passed by a large majority in April 1886 by both chambers of parliament. The act stipulated that not more than 4.65 million francs should be spent. In the following months, further parliamentary decrees defined the main themes of the exhibition: the art exhibition should be a retrospective of the last ten, as well as of the last hundred, years in international art; there was also to be a comprehensive exhibition of French art in particular. Three general directors were appointed who, under the supervision of the Minister of Trade, functioning as general superintendent, were responsible for building construction, finance and management. The work of building was, as always, begun too late, so that in the last months before the gates opened there was frenzied activity on the site.
It was only in March 1887 that other countries were invited to take part. That was obviously too late to ensure that the great nations would be involved. Among the important industrial countries only the USA appeared officially at the exhibition. From most other countries, however, who refused to take part officially but did not boycott the exhibition, so many firms came that, after all, an adequate review of the technical achievements of the previous few years was put together.
The money for the world exhibition came from two sources. The French state and the city of Paris contributed subsidies of 25 million francs. In addition, a joint stock company was founded which collected subscriptions of 23 million francs from 1,740 investors. Further sources of finance were admission fees – 25 million francs – takings from franchises and, after the exhibition closed and the halls and pavilions were dismantled, money from the sale of building materials. Thus, it was possible, once again, to finance the most costly world exhibition ever in a more-or-less acceptable fashion.