World Exhibition

20/05/1878 - 10/11/1878

New Technologies

Official Designation
Exposition Universelle de 1878, Paris

Area (ha)




After 1855 and 1867, Paris held its third World Expo in 1878. It was officially inaugurated on 1 May 1878 by Marshal Patrice de Mac Mahon. The day was declared a national holiday so all workers could attend the show. The Expo was then open to the public from 20 May to 10 November 1878.

The recovery of France

The project to host a new World's Fair started in 1876. At that time, Paris was only starting to rebuild itself following the Franco-Prussian War and a civil war. Ruins could even still be seen near the Tuileries. A World's Fair was a great opportunity to showcase the rebirth of Paris and present the Third Republic to the world. Despite the predictable absence of Germany, and several other nations, over 16 million people visited the Expo, a record for the times. The event brought a new found life back to a city marked by years of conflict.

The Palais du Champs de Mars and the Palais du Trocadéro

Like in 1867, the Expo was held on the Champs de Mars. The Palace of the Champs de Mars, a gigantic rectangular hall, occupied the space between the Seine and the Ecole Militaire. At the centre of the Expo site, national pavilions were grouped along the Rue des Nations (Street of Nations). The Iéna Bridge was expanded to facilitate movement inside the site that extended up to the Chaillot hill on the other side of the Seine. There, the architects Gabriel Davioud and Jules Bourdais built the Trocadéro Palace. The Palace was created to host the arts section, as well as a congress centre and a concert hall. At the Quai d'Orsay and the Invalides esplanade, visitors could also discover the agricultural section.

Emphasis on new technologies

The 1878 World's Fair was held at a period of great emulation in the field of physics and many technologies were showcased. Thomas Edison presented two inventions: an improved version of Graham Bell's phone, as well as a phonograph. Among many other inventions presented were Raoul Pictet & Cie's ice cream machine, Mouchot & Pifre's solar oven, the horseshoe-making machine by the Compagnie des Petites Voitures, the soda-making machine or the typewriter.

And thanks to Jablochkov's electrical candle (the light bulb), the hall of the Louvre stores as well as the avenue of the Opera experienced public lighting for the first time.

Main attractions:

Mr. Henry Giffard's giant steam-driven tethered balloon lifted visitors up to 600 metres above Paris. Another success was the empty head of the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in which visitors could enter via interior stairs. The whole statue was to be given as a present to New York City to celebrate the centenary of the American Independence, and become the icon we all know today.


The Palais du Trocadéro was destroyed in 1935 to give way to the Palais de Chaillot, built for the International Arts and Techniques Expo of 1937. However, the general foundations of the building, and several wings and mosaics were kept. The golden statues that were positioned around the palace (6 women that represented the continents and a horse, an elephant, a rhinoceros and a bull) were disseminated all over France until the Musée d'Orsay got them back and displayed them in the museum (except for the bull).

The premises of intellectual property

During the Fair, the famous writer Victor Hugo mentioned for the first time the concepts of intellectual and artistic property and he presided over the intellectual property congress.