The World’s Fair of 1889 and France’s Central Exhibit

The year 1889 not only marked the one-hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution, but also the year Paris hosted the World’s Fair for the fourth time, called Exposition Universelle. Many of the French did not support the anniversary celebration. Many felt France’s international relationships were “fragile.” However, “the Universal Exposition of 1889 … was a highly successful international exhibition and one of the few World’s Fairs to make a profit” (Ibach). The theme of the 1889 World’s Fair focused on “the progress and modernization the ‘civilized world had undergone” (Tymkiw). Displays from such places as the United States, the French colonies, Europe, and South America were present at the fair.

Exposition Universelle (1889)
Exposition Universelle (1889)

Plans called for one of France’s display to be a monument built as the entrance to the fair and to be located in the center of Paris. Over one hundred artists competed in proposing the winning design. The winning design, the Eiffel Tower, was an exhibit that represented forty-four different cultures throughout history (Tymkiw). Gustave Eiffel’s company Eiffel et Companie was chosen. Eiffel was an architectural entrepreneur. Eiffel’s team consisted of two engineers, Maurice Koechlin and Emile Nouguier, and an architect, Stephen Sauvestre.

Prior to World’s Fair, Eiffel envisioned a tower made of stone that would be about three hundred meters high. They tower was designed like a pylon. Koechlin proposed the idea of having four columns of latticework girders. At the top, the girders would come together and be separated at the bottom. Eiffel did not agree with Koechlin’s idea in the beginning because he thought it was too basic (“Eiffel Tower”). He ordered Koechlin to include ornate flourishes and implied that the tower needed more class. Sauvestre suggested to add stonework pedestals to the legs of the tower and a few monumental arches to connect the first level to the four columns. Lastly, he thought ornamental features around many parts of the structure would be a great finishing touch.

The construction of the Eiffel Tower took a little over two years. Construction began in January 26, 1887 and ended March 31, 1889. A sixty-five foot antenna was added in 1957 that increased the height of the tower. Once again, the monument was taller than the Chrysler Building, but not the Empire State building.

1889 World's Fair- Paris
1889 World’s Fair- Paris

In addition to being known for the Eiffel Tower, the 1889 World’s Fair was also known for electricity. Throughout the city of Paris, the use of lights could be seen. “It marked the beginning of modern urban life” (The World Exposition of 1889 in Paris). Using electricity allowed for visitors to visit the World’s Fair in the evening.

During the World’s Fair and subsequently after, visitors upon visitors have marveled at the architectural wonder. There are differing reports, but approximately thirty million people were in attendance at the 1889 World’s Fair (Chappell). It is estimated that seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year (“Eiffel Tower”). The amount of tourists who visit the Eiffel Tower makes it one of the most distinguishable structures in the world.

Plan of the 1889 World's Fair
Plan of the 1889 World’s Fair


Works Citied

Chappell, Urso. “Exposition Universelle De 1889.” ExpoMuseum. N.p., 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <>.

Design Pionjärer. Paris 1889 Plakat. 1889. Photograph. Wikipedia. 17 June 2008. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <>.

“Eiffel Tower.” Google Culture Institute. Google, 2013. Web. 23 October 2013.     <>.

“Eiffel Tower.” A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.     <>.

Handbuch Der Architektur, Gebäude Für Erzienung Und Kunst; Verlag Arnold Bergsträsser; Darmstadt. Paris Weltausstellung 1889 Lageplan. 1893. Photograph. Wikipedia. 21 June 2006. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <>.

Ibach, Marilyn. “Paris Exposition of 1889.” Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress. N.p., Sept. 2001. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <>.

Tymkiw, Liz. “Paris 1889.” University Libraries Digital Collections A Treasury of World’s Fair Art & Architecture. N.p., 2005. Web. 28 Oct. 2013. <>.

The World Exposition of 1889 in Paris. Queensland: Caloundra City Life Saving Club Inc, n.d. PPT.

Vue Générale De L’Exposition Universelle De 1889. N.d. Photograph. Wikipedia. 13 Apr. 2006. Web. 1 Dec. 2013. <>.


Read more


~Ryan Belz

This entry was posted in The Eiffel Tower. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *