1878 Exposition Universelle

The 1878 Exposition Universelle allowed for the creation of exhibition spaces that still effect how individuals interact with the city itself. Following years of military struggle and defeat, France was able to reestablish itself as a superpower on the international scale through her success in hosting the exhibition.

Following the embarrassment of the Franco-Prussian War and the horrors of the Paris Commune, the Third Republic hoped to regain its strength and portray itself as superior to the Second Republic with the 1878 Exposition Universelle. Due to the financial constraints of the 1870s, the French government was in no position to cover the event cost of 32 million francs, yet the government felt the exhibition was well worth the expense to revitalize Paris as a world power after the shame of the previous decade (Allwood 58). The magnitude of the attention placed on the city during an exposition was enough to renew the world's confidence in Parisian society. Once again taking place on the Champ de Mars, the exhibition also extended across the Seine to include Trocadero Hill. The construction of the new Palais de l'Industrie fostered innovation in building a temporary structure with a basement and ventilation for the numerous machines housed in the site.

Across the Seine, the Trocadero was meant for permanent use and displayed the modern construction techniques of the time, with elevators, electric lighting, and air conditioning (Mattie 48). The space was modeled after a Roman amphitheater beneath a highly decorative dome that was meant to be used for years to come. The Palais du Trocadero was the only structure from the 1878 Exposition Universelle that remained following the exhibition that summer and served as a museum space until the building was partially demolished for the coming 1937 World's Fair ("From the Palais"). Due to backlash towards the complete destruction of the Palais du Trocadero, sections of the old building were maintained when creating the Palais de Chaillot in 1937. The center of the original building was removed in order to construct an esplanade, but the wings of the Palais du Trocadero were kept as part of the expansion. The glass ceilings of the 1878 Exposition Universelle still remains in the Palais de Chaillot that currently sits atop Trocadero Hill.

By expanding the exhibition space across the Seine to Trocadero, the planners of the 1878 Exposition Universelle created a lasting legacy for visitors of the space to interact with city of Paris. Following the 1889 construction of the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero Hill became a popular area for tourists and locals alike to take in the sites of the city. Adolf Hitler even visited Trocadero in order to capture the iconic picture of him surveying his new conquest. Visitors of the 1878 World's Fair flocked to the space in order to observe the splendor of the building and the exhibitions that were spread across the Champ de Mars, much like current visitors enjoy taking in the activity in the same area. While the physical structure of the space has been altered over time, the general interaction of visitors with the site has remained relatively constant, regardless of their knowledge of the area's history. Presently, thousands of visitors flock to Trocadero Hill each day due to the site's unique vantage point above the city. Most of these people are unaware that the origins of this space emanated from the Exposition Universelle in 1878. Nevertheless, these tourists and locals alike behave in the same ways as the former visitors to the Exposition Universelles by taking in the sites and sounds of the city from such an iconic spot.

The construction of the Palais du Trocadero, coupled with the Palais de l'Industrie and the impressive technological displays at the 1878 Exposition Universelle once again asserted the superiority of France on an international level. The spaces created for the World's Fairs still draw crowds to the area as they continue to represent Parisian splendor. Visiting the Exposition Universelle and viewing the country's technical advancements caused one touring reporter to write, "Paris was at last herself again" (Wilson 36). By welcoming the world to Paris, the French government demonstrated their people's continued resilience and industrial prowess, despite a period of economic and political trouble. The spaces that were created for this exposition reflect the lasting legacy of superiority that France wishes to portray to all of her visitors.

Images

Palais du Trocadero

Palais du Trocadero

The Palais du Trocadero was built for the 1878 Exposition Universelle, and remnants of the building still remain today. The building and surrounding space allowed for the millions of visitors of the World's Fair to view the exhibition space on the Champ de de Mars from above. | Source: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division. "The Trocadero, Exposition Universal, 1900, Paris, France.jpg", 13 May 2018. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Trocadero,_Exposition_Universal,_1900,_Paris,_France.jpg View File Details Page

Hitler from Trocadero

Hitler from Trocadero

Hitler, Speer, and Breker in front of the Eiffel Tower following Paris' occupation in 1940. The site of the Palais du Trocadero offers an incredible view of the Champ de Mars, which has been enjoyed by visitors since the 1878 Exposition Universelle. For this reason, the view of the city was perfect for Hitler to create this iconic shot and continues to draw visitors everyday. | Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. "Hitler, Speer y Breker en Paris, 23 de junio de 1940.jpg." Wikimedia Commons, 13 May 2018. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hitler,_Speer_y_Breker_en_Par%C3%ADs,_23_de_junio_de_1940.jpg View File Details Page

The Right Wing of a Former Palace

The Right Wing of a Former Palace

This is a contemporary image of the right side of what used to be the Trocadero Palace. Though the focus is placed on the gold inscription and aging statue, the centuries-old architecture is still going strong. | Creator: JoAnn Michel View File Details Page

A Salute to the People

A Salute to the People

Another image of what was once the right wing of the Trocadero Palace, this shot includes the grand staircase that eventually leads to the esplanade. In it, people are captured on the stairs beneath a saluting French flag. | Creator: JoAnn Michel View File Details Page

A Symmetrical Salute

A Symmetrical Salute

This modern shot of the Trocadero Plaza shows a large, open space where the center section of the palace used to stand. Tourist stream in and out of that open space, and are captured between two flying flags. | Creator: JoAnn Michel View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Brantley Sanders, “1878 Exposition Universelle,” W&L Paris, accessed October 20, 2021, https://omeka.wlu.edu/wluparis/items/show/90.

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