Paris World's Fair 1855

Exposition Universelle.

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Quick List Info

Paris World's Fair 1855 Catalogue

Dates Open - May 15 to November 15, 1855. Exhibition was open on Sundays.

Attendance - 5,162,330 visitors, of which 4,180,117 for the industrial exhibition and 935,601 for fine arts.

International Participants - 42 nations and kingdoms and more than 17 colonies. Other sources state 53 foreign states and 22 foreign colonies represented, plus France, three provinces of Algeria, and 8 French colonies.

Total Cost - Total Cost $2,257,000, with Palace of Industry (paid for by French government bringing total cost to aorund $5.7 million). Loss of $1.6 million reported.

Site Acreage - 34 total acres with 24 acres covered. Location was the Champ de Elysees.

Sanction and Type - Prior to the Bureau of International Exhibitions. Paris 1855 would be considered a small scale registered event today.

Ticket Cost - Season ticket - $20, Daily ticket 20 cents (1 franc), Friday (reserved day) $1, Sundays 8 cents.

Photo top center: Interior of the Palais de Industrie, Paris 1855. Unknown original source. Column Top: Official catalogue of the Paris 1855 Exposition Universelle, Exposition Authority. Both courtesy Pinterest 1855 World's Fair, Paris.

London 1851 Machinery Department

Other Histories of World's Fairs to Check Out

History of the Event

Palace of Industry, Paris 1855 Universelle Exposition

The French were still at war in the Crimea with Russia and London had hosted the first World's Fair in London in 1851, so Napoleon Bonaparte III (not the original) announced that this time their series of national expositions would be international and it would be held in 1855 with a newly constructed Palais de l'Industrie as its main building.

On March 27, 1852, Napoleon III decreed construction of the overdue Palais de l'Industrie, originally meant to hold national expositions. It was to be built by a private holding company, the Compagnie du Palais de l'Industrie, which would hold title until 1899, then it would revert to the government. Government donated the land where today's Grand-Palais is, guaranteed shareholders 4% interest on investment, and conceded to Compagnie the right to charge admission for events there. The 1855 Universal Exposition was announced by decree on March 8, 1853.

The exposition was to be the first to include the fine arts. They were housed in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, a temporary building behind the Palais de l'Industrie. The universal exposition of Art encompassed the works of 28 countries, including France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, which was not yet unified, (work exhibited under sponsorship of Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony, and other smaller principalities), and Great Britain. Russia did not participate due to the Crimean War against France. In some sections of the exposition, Russian businessmen did exhibit.

Exhibitors filled the four buildings despite their late finish; the total number of exhibitors were 23,954 with French 11,986, and foreign 11,968. 21,779 of the exhibits were in the section on industry, 2,175 for the fine arts section.

Above photo. From stereograph of the Palais de Industrie 1855, George Stacy, 1865. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Lithograph of the interior of the Palais de l'Industrie during a ceremony for exhibitors, November 15, 1855. Photo courtesy University of Maryland Digital Collections.

Interior Palais de Industrie
The Palais de Industrie was the main building of the fair, one of four constructed. It was permanent, 765 feet by 354 feet, made of stone, 545,934 square feet, with a roof of reinforced glass. It would last until torn down in 1897. There was a large second building, round, surrounded by a large gallery which displayed the Crown Jewels of France. A third building was a large temporary annex, 446,955 square feet, on the right bank of the Seine River; it held machinery and raw materials. The fourth building was the Palais de Beaux Art with 173,768 square feet.

The outcome of the exposition was a financial loss borne by the state and the Palais not considered as special as the London Crystal Palace. The short span between those two fairs may have contributed to the loss, although the appearance of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the fair showed that it did have international backing. They were the first British monarchs to set foot on French soil for over four hundred years, since 1422. That cemented the Franco-British alliance, no small feat of itself. Some state that the confusing exhibit classifications were the cause to the loss. Probably hard to pin it on that.

Perspective of Historians

Historian Margit Mogenson - "All these exhibitions were projects of the official France and as such born to provide "national pride" - for the emperor (1855 and 1867) and for the republic (1878). However it is more difficult to say to which extent the citizens and the public agreed or matched the official policy, especially early in the period (1855)."

First Paris Expo

Palace of Industry, Paris 1855

International Participants
Nations and Colonies

Listed as Exhibitors:

Germany (not country till 1870); Anhalt-Dessau et Coethen, Grand Duchy of Baden, Bavaria, Brunswick, Frankfurt, Hanover, Hesse, Grand Duchy, Duche de Nassau, Prussia, Saxony, Duche de Saxony, Hanseatic Towns, Wurtemburg, Other German States.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Spain and Colonies, Pontifical States, Greece, Italy, of which (not nation till 1861); Sardinia, Two Sicilies, Toscany. Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands (Pays-Bas) and Colonies, Portugal and Colonies, United Kingdom, United Kingdom Colonies - (Australia, Canada, British India, Guyana, others including Malta, Ionian Isles, West Africa, Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, West Indies, Tasmania, New Zealand).

Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, United States, Latin America - Guatemala, Costa Rica, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, New Granada (Columbia), Hawaii.

French Colonies - Martinique, Guadaloupe, Reunion, Senegal, Algeria, Gabon, French India, French Oceania, French Guyana

Expo Tidbits
Loss of the exposition measured against possible $10-30 million estimated benefit to Paris in 1855 from visitors. Estimated 160,000 foreign visitors, including 40,000 British.

British government spent $250,000 for expenses of their national exhibit.

The McCormack reaper and Goodyear treatment of Indian rubber recieved grand medals of honor.

Paris 1855 introduced the sewing machine.

High one day attendance: Sunday, September 9, 1855 - 123,017.

Palais de l'Industrie (until 1897).

Paris 1855

Those in Charge

Organizers for the fair included Frederic LePlay, Commissaire ge'ne'ral, and Prince Napoleon, President of Exposition, cousin to Napoleon III himself.

Sources: London Times; New York Times; Fair News; Ephemeral Vistas; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller; History of Fairs and Expositions; Worlds Fairs from 1851-1893; Les Fastes du Progres; Official Report of Paris Exposition; Reports of the U.S. Commissioners to Vienna 1873; Bureau of International Exhibitions; Art & Politics of the Second Empire, Mainardi; World's Fairs from London 1851 to Chicago 1893; History of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

Photo column top: Palace of Industry, Parijs en de Wereld-tentoonstelling in september 1855 by ms. Rethaan Macare. Utrecht 1856. Courtesy International Institute of Social History. Middle: 1855 Paris Expo Palais de l'Industrie. Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

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