Paris World's Fair 1937

Art et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne.

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Quick List Info

Paris World's Fair 1937 Poster

Dates Open - May 25 to November 25, 1937.

Attendance - 31,040,955, 185 days.

International Participants - 47 plus 16 colonies.

Total Cost - FF 1,443,288,391 ($57.25 million at 25.2 FF to $). Official figures, as of 12-21-40: Income was FF 1,661,024,345; Profit FF 217,735,953.

Site Acreage - 105 hectares (259.35 acres), of which 9.5 hectares were occupied by the buildings of France and guest countries. Location was the Paris city centre: Champs de Mars, in front of the Trocadero, to the banks of the Seine River.

Sanction and Type - Bureau of International Exhibitions General 2nd Category Exposition. Registered October 23, 1934 with theme "Art et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne" or Art and technology as applied in modern life. Second World's Fair, or World Exposition, sanctioned by the Bureau after Brussels 1935. Paris 1937 would be considered a "Special World Exposition" of the smaller registered event today.

State subsidies were FF 1,265,897,641 with Paris Council subsidies FF 351,000,000. A National lottery profit of up to FF 295,000,000 was awarded for 3 years to the Paris council.

Ticket Cost - 6 francs ($0.238 at 25.2FF to $).

Photo top center: Central avenue of the fair leading to the Eiffel Tower with pavilions of Germany and the Soviet Union facing off against each other. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Column Top: Official poster of the Paris 1937 Exposition, 1937.

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History of the Event

Germany Pavilion Paris 1937

It was a Parisian fair unlike the others which had graced the international exhibition landscape since its first in 1855. The Art et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne was smaller, held on the traditional site of most Parisian fairs near and surrounding the 1889 built Eiffel Tower. It was the first Paris fair sanctioned under the 1928 Bureau of International Exhibitions, the B.I.E, that remains today as the sanctioning body for world expos, not unlike the International Olympic Committee does for sporting events. But the most different aspect of this Paris exposition was in its position in world history, a history that would see, within a few years, a foreign power in countrol of the city of lights. Yes, Germany. And they were, even in their pavilion at the Paris 1937 fair, making no bones about their intention to be an imposing world power. Albert Speer, Hitler's personal architect, stole plans for the Soviet Pavilion and made sure that Germany's was taller.

Germany occupied the taller pavilion (above) with an imposing eagle and swatzika emblem atop it, directly across the Champ de Mars from the Soviet Union. Inside the German pavilion, there were propoganda films showing what it was like to be a National Socialist. In many ways these buildings foreshadowed a coming conflict, even if, at the beginning of World War II, they would be allies before engaging in one of the most destructive, if not the most destructive, armed conflicts in world history, the Eastern front of Germany versus Russia.

Above photo. German pavilion at the Paris World's Fair 1937. Courtesy Below: USSR Pavilion at the Paris World's Fair 1937. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

USSR Pavilion Paris World's Fair 1937
The fair had been planned for 1936, but depression caused a delay and added technology to the arts theme. By 1935, few plans had been set in motion, causing hasty decisions. The Trocadero was razed, replaced by the new Palais de Chaillot. Within three years, Hitler would be holding press conferences there.

Over forty nations built impressive structures to state their competing world views. The United States touted the New Deal. Italy showed it fondness for leader Mussolini. Russia exhibited the most expensive exhibit, showing off its precious stones as well as its technology. The pavilions were different from those at the previous Parisian expositions, modern-classical in design, almost cold. Besides the international pavilions that graced the site, thematic pavilions covering a variety of topics added to the luster. The Pavilion of Discovery showed scientific progress, as did the Railway and Air Pavilions. There were pavilions about Aluminum, Radio, and Linoleum. The Museum of Art, a legacy structure, invited patrons in to see art. Overall, there were eleven thousand exhibits in two hundred and eighty pavilions.

Other pavilions included exhibits devoted to Womanhood, Childhood, the Family, Chiarity, National Solidarity, Pavilion Of Water Transport, Amusement Park, Palace of Pavilion des Salons, Maison du Ravail, Pavilion of Gas, Pavilion of Exotic Woods, Pavilion of Bronze and Ironwork, Gardens of France, Pavilion of Graphic and Plastic Arts, Masion de Tourisme, Palais de Securite, plus Pavilions of Jewelry, Perfume, and Fashion.

The formal opening of the fair was held on May 23 by President Lebrun. It was still unfinished. One by one the various pavilions were completed. Germany on May 26. Egypt on June 16. Great Britain on June 20. The United States pavilion opened on July 4.

The expo was thought a failure overall, but the reasons were varied, in many parts due to world tensions that were in the boiling pot ready to explode. Attendance was half that of the Paris 1900 fair. It had opened three weeks late and was partially unfinished for weeks after the opening. Knowledge was hoarded. Optimism was missing. Plans to reopen the event for a second year moved forward, only to be stopped on January 1, 1938 by the French Senate in a 224 to 73 vote against. They couldn't spend the money on a fair; they had to spend the money on national defense.

B.I.E. Sanctioned

United States Pavilion, Paris 1937 World Expo

International Participants
Nations and Colonies (44 listed with National Pavilions)

Albania, Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lettone, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Pontifical State, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, USSR, Yugoslavia, Egypt, Union of South Africa, Canada, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Venezuela, Iraq, Japan, Siam, Australia, Chili (unofficial), China (unofficial). All official nations participants had national pavilions, except Albania and the Dominican Republic. There was also a pavilion of the territory of Israel.

Colonial exhibits for French colonies were in buildings on the Ile des Cygnes island, basically floating in the Seine. Morocco, Tunisia, Guadaloupe, Indochina, Martinique, Madagascar, Algeria, Reunion and Corsica, the Pavilion of the Levantine States, Algeria, French Equatorial Africa, French West Africa, and French India were represented, as well as Gabon and the Ivory Coast. Other nations included their colonial possessions within their own pavilions.

Expo Tidbits
Paris benefited from the exposition despite its preceived failures. Four million more people attended theatre and music performances in Paris than in 1936. Admissions to the Louvre and Versailles doubled. The Metro collected fifty-nine million more fares. Train travel increased twenty percent. Hotels had one hundred and twelve percent more guests.

Eiffel Tower was covered with flourescent tubes, and was a central feature with fireworks at night.

Tourists spent more than an estimated 2 billion francs.

Exposition did not have agricultural or livestock displays.

Museum of Modern Art .
Palais de Chaillot.

Paris World Expo 1937 Site Map

Those in Charge

Organizers for the fair included Upper Exposition Council: 42 members, president: Minister of Trade and Industry. Control Commission: President: Joseph Caillaux; Excecutive Committee: VP Julien Durand; Commissioner-General Edmond Labbe', Director General of Technology Education; General-Secretary Charles Ettore, council of state reporter; Architects: Chief architect Charles Letrosne (to Nov. 1935), then Jacques Greber, as well as Robert Martzloff for park and garden architecture. Finance Director Henri Pignerol, Paris council finance director.

Sources: London Times; Historical Dictionary of World's Fairs by Alfred Heller; Footsteps at the American World's Fairs by Stanley K. Hunter; History of Fairs and Expositions; La Page Francophone des Expositions Universelles de Jacques Bertrand; "Exposition internationale des arts et techniques dans la vie moderne Paris 1937" Expo 2000 Internet Site, by Ludger Derenthal and Andrea Lesjak. Les Fastes du Progres. Bureau of International Exhibitions.

Photo column top: United States Pavilion, Paris 1937. Courtesy Middle: Site map of the Paris World's Fair 1937. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Bottom: Other image of the site map of the 1937 fair. Courtesy Paul Dieleman.

Paris World Expo 1937 Site Map

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