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Eiffel Tower and Fountain Coutan, Paris Exposition, 1889

Paris Exposition of 1889



The Universal Exposition of 1889 (Exposition Universelle de 1889) was a highly successful international exhibition and one of the few world's fairs to make a profit. Its central attraction was the Eiffel Tower, a 300-meter high marvel of iron by Gustave Eiffel. Over eighty other structures on the Champ de Mars housed exhibits, including the impressive 1,452 foot long Galerie des Machines by Ferdinand Dutert. The fair attracted exhibits from Europe, South America, the United States, and the French colonies, yet in the final analysis it was a celebration of French achievements on the centennial of the French Revolution. Photographs in the Prints and Photographs Division document many of the achievements in architecture, the fine arts, and new technology that the exposition was designed to highlight.

P&P Holdings

Pavilion of Siam, Paris Exposition, 1889. LC-USZC2-3720

LOT 6634 (290 albumen photographic prints mounted in two albums)

These exposition photos may have been the result of an official photographic project, as some images appear in the 10-volume general report from the French Ministry of Commerce (see entry in bibliography, below). In that work, the images are credited to the photographer Lévy. The Division acquired the albums in the early 1950s.

Photos in the albums show various exterior and interior views of the exhibition grounds and buildings on the Champ de Mars, Quai d'Orsay, and Esplanade des Invalides in Paris. The Eiffel Tower, Fountain Coutan, the Central Dome, the Palace of Diverse Industries, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Palace of Liberal Arts, the Gallery of Machines, various national, municipal, and industrial pavilions, the History of Habitation exhibit, and sculpture from the Gallery Rapp are among the subjects covered. Also represented are French colonial villages; people in Dutch dress at the Cacao van Houten exhibit; Vietnamese actors at the Theatre Annamite; dancers, straw hat makers and others at the Javanese village; the Tonkin village; and a "Street in Cairo." Miscellaneous items of interest include Thomas Edison inventions and dioramas from the History of Work exhibit. There are several views of Trocadero Palace taken from the Champ de Mars, but no images of the Palace interior or exhibits on display there are included in this collection.

All of the images can be viewed, with identifying information, in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (catalog.html). A finding aid in the Reading Room listing each item by its number is also available. Access to original photographs is controlled by the division's policy of providing surrogates in preference to serving originals.

LOT 6001 (about 120 photographic prints)

Interior of Gallery of Machines,  showing machines being set up, Paris Exposition,
Interior of Gallery of Machines, showing machines being set up, Paris Exposition, 1889.

Photographs by commercial photographers taken 1887-1889. Some are marked "ND Phot." [i.e., Napoleon Dufeu]. They show exterior and interior views of the exhibition buildings, exhibits of art and industries sponsored by various countries, a matador portrait and Spanish bullfighting, Far Eastern dancers, several mannequins wearing French regional costume, details of the Eiffel Tower, groups of Exposition visitors, and general views of the grounds. Forms part of the Albert Tissandier Collection.

The group is described in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, and some of the images can be viewed online. The entire group can be requested in the Prints and Photographs Reading Room. [View online description (includes a link to online images)]

Jourdain, Frantz. Exposition universelle de 1889 Constructions elevées au Champs de Mars par M. Garnier ... pour servir à l'histoire de l'habitation humaine. Paris: Librairie centrale des Beaux Arts ; New York: J.W. Bouton, [1892]. Call number NA7105 .J8 (P & P Case Y)

An illustrated book with a written commentary on dwelling types of the world as presented by Charles Garnier on the Champ de Mars as part of the History of Habitation exhibit. Dwellings are divided into three parts: prehistoric, historic, and vernacular architecture of contemporary cultures. Small perspective engravings by various engravers appear in the text, showing all the dwellings in imaginary "natural" surroundings. There are also 23 plates of engravings of perspective views in "natural" surroundings printed by Imp. Lemercier et Cie., engraved by G. Garen, Kadar, and Krieger.

August Lepère - Fine Prints collection [FP - XIX - L595] (8 wood engravings)

Le Palais de Machines.

Wood engravings made in 1889 for the periodical Revue illustré. Three are listed under the title "A l'exposition universelle," with the subtitles "La Tour Eiffel," "Les fontaines lumineuses," and "Fête Vénetienne, sur la Seine, mai 1889." Five more engravings are listed under the title "L'architecture à l'exposition universelle," with the subtitles "Le Palais des Arts Libéraux, extérieur;" "Le Palais des Arts Libéraux, intérieur," "La terrasse des Arts Libéraux," "Avenue de Lamotte-Picquet," and "Le Palais de Machines," showing crowds. Some of these images can be viewed, with identifying information, in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.

Miscellaneous Items

Aerial view of Paris, France, from balloon, showing the Eiffel Tower at right center.
LOT 7586. LC-USZ62-94571

Searching the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog by the subject "exposition universelle de 1889" yields some individual images found in P&P collections. These include an aerial view of Paris from an air balloon in LOT 7586 (part of the Gaston Tissandier Collection) and a photo of the American Bell Telephone Co. and Western Electric Co. exhibit in LOT 11533-29-39 (part of the Gilbert H. Grosvenor Collection); additional, related images may be available in these collections. There is also an oil painting by Castaigne in the Cabinet of American Illustration titled "Site of the new palaces – remains of the Palais de l'industrie in the background," showing a photographer taking pictures of the rubble of an 1889 exposition building.


Related Collections In Other Institutions

National Archives
Special Media Division
Still Picture Staff
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
tel. (301) 713-6625 ext. 234

Record Group 306, Records of the U.S. Information Agency, includes photographs from the New York Times Paris bureau of the Paris Exposition, 1889 [RG 306.2, series designation F]

Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF)
Collections speécialisées (Estampes et la photographie)
58, rue de Richelieu
75002 Paris, France.
Tel. (33) (01) 47 03 81 26

The Prints and Photographs collection in the special collections of the National Library of France has served as the legal repository for photographs since 1851. Nineteenth century photography holdings have not yet been entered in the BN-OPALINE online catalog. The Bibliothèque Nationale has images by Paul Joseph Albert Chevojon, Napoleon Dufeu, and a number of other photographers who covered the 1889 exposition.

Selected Bibliography

There is no recent comprehensive analytical bibliography of works on the Exposition. Books listed below are found in the Library of Congress general collections unless otherwise noted.

The most extensive coverage of the exposition is found in

Exposition universelle internationale de 1889 à Paris: Rapport général. Alfred M. Picard, ed. 10 vols. Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1891-1892. LC call number: T803.D2

This official general report by the French Ministry of Commerce is illustrated with heliographs by Lemercier, mostly after photographs by Berthaud, Chevojon, Levy, Mieusement, Neurdein, and others. Some heliographs are of prints and drawings. Volume 1 is on the preliminary planning of the exposition; Volume 2 the construction; Volume 3 the financial and commercial aspects and appraisal; Volume 4 liberal arts, fine arts, and education; Volume 5 furniture, textiles, and clothing, Volume 6 mining, petroleum, and crude industries; Volume 7 industrial-mechanical industries, electricity; Volume 8 agricultural and horticultural industries, Volume 9 anthropological and social history, history of work; and Volume 10 official, financial, and statistical reports on the fair.

United States. Commission to the Paris exposition, 1889. Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Universal Exposition of 1889 at Paris. House of Representatives, 21st Congress, 1st Session, Ex. Doc. 410. 5 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891-1892. LC call number: T803.E1U5

Contains double-page photoreproductions of selected exhibits and some individual paintings and art work. Commentary given on exhibit items, and brief information on exhibitors and manufacturers. Volume II, 841 pages, details the fine arts and education aspects of the U.S. exhibits, and contains photoreproductions of United States school building exteriors and interiors (labs) and some U.S. school/university laboratory building plans. A useful list of exhibitors and their works by country is appended.

Also of interest:

Angenot, Marc. Le Centenaire de la Révolution 1889. Paris: La Documentation Française, 1989. LC Call number: DC139.7 .P37 A54 1989

Provides a brief but excellent analytical bibliography and list of newspaper/weekly sources to explore. Pages 21-24 cover the popularity of and controversy surrounding the building of the Eiffel Tower, and give a brief overview of the success of the fair.

Findling, John E., ed. Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs and Expositions, 1851-1988. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990. LC Call number: T395 .H57 1990 [P&P REF]

Includes an overview (pp. 108-116) by Joy H. Hall on the planning, construction, and highlights of the 1889 fair, with some political commentary. A bibliography lists primary and secondary materials.

Halasz, Piri. "Paris 1889." Art Journal v. 49 (Fall 1990): 306-309. LC Call number: N81 A887

American artists at the Exposition Universelle and their works are presented, part of a traveling exhibit by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

Harriss, Joseph. The Tallest Tower: Eiffel and the Belle Epoque. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Company, 1975. LC Call number: NA2930 .H37

Eiffel's other engineering works and his construction techniques are studied as they relate to the construction of his masterpiece, the Eiffel Tower. A chronological history of the tower's inception, construction, and dedication is given, as well as its context as a product of the Belle Epoque. Illustrations of engineering details and architectural studies seen in drawings and photos from a variety of sources. 257 pp. Bibliography, pp. 246-250. Reprinted in 1989 by Regnery Gateway, Washington, D.C.

Levin, Miriam R. When the Eiffel Tower was new: French visions of progress at the Centennial of the Revolution. South Hadley, Mass: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; distributed by University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. LC call number: DC715.L473 1989

An exhibition at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, 1989. The Paris fairs of 1889 and 1900 are discussed and compared, with a section on posters. Photographs from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division are included. Color and black-and-white plates. Includes bibliographical references.

Nelms, Brenda. The Third Republic and the Centennial of 1789. New York: Garland Publishing Company, 1987. LC call number: DC340 .N45 1987

A scholarly treatment of the controversies surrounding the centennial of 1789 and the work of the various commissions in successfully preparing the fair that marked that centenary. An extensive list of sources, including archives, primary published sources, letters and memoirs, contemporary publications, and secondary published sources is found in the bibliography, pp. 268-304.

Walton, William. Chefs-d'Oeuvre l'Exposition universelle de Paris, 1889. Paris: G. Barrie, [c1889]. Call number N4803 .W3 [folio]

An introduction describes paintings exhibited by France, Great Britain, the United States, and other (mostly European) countries at the 1889 fair, followed by 125 plates, some in color.

Contemporary Periodicals:

Many contemporary periodicals of the time covered the exposition in great detail. Daily newspapers include La Bataille, Le Cri du Peuple, La Construction Moderne, La Croix, L'Égalité, La Lanterne, Le Matin, Le Parti Ouvrier, Le Parisien, Le Petit Journal, Le Petit Parisien, Le Rappel, Le Soleil, Le Temps, and L'Univers. Weekly newspapers include La Bombe, L'Illustration, Le Journal Amusant, Le Journal Illustré, Le Pêre Peinard, and Le Pilori.

Prepared by: Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist, Prints and Photographs Division. Last revised: Sept. 2001.


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