“Paris is a party”Hemingway wrote. And the history of Paris, like that of all capitals, is linked to the history of its festivals. The Universal Exhibitions played an essential role: that of 1844 – then known as the National Exhibition – served to encourage the agricultural and technological development of France, that of 1855 to promote the products of industry and that of 1867 marked the height of the Second Empire and the triumph of liberalism.
The 1889 World’s Fair had a more symbolic meaning. Wanting to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, it was boycotted by many European monarchies, such as Germany and Austria-Hungary, but attracted more than 30 million visitors. Above all, she sees the construction of the Eiffel Tower fundamentally alter the Parisian landscape, to the astonishment of some and the admiration of others. Ironically, it was considered a temporary construction and had to be dismantled at short notice, while the Trocadero Palace opposite it was destined to last. However, it is the opposite which occurred, the tower was saved by obtaining by its creator of an exploitation concession.
What are we celebrating here? Between the piles of the Eiffel Tower, a crowd gathers at night, women, men and children, lit by the full moon and garlands of electric bulbs. A fairy fountain where naked women symbolizing the five parts of the world seem suspended in the air composes a strange ballet and reflects the official taste in the time of Sadi Carnot. Behind this luminous fountain rises the dome of the Palais du Champ-de-Mars, under which the inauguration ceremony took place.
What are we celebrating? A capital centenary in the history of France, obviously. The creativity and inventiveness of France too, in the presence of Eiffel and its tower which, no offense to its detractors (including Zola, Dumas fils or Maupassant) will no longer dissociate itself from the image of our country in the whole world. But the happiness of coming together, above all, to participate together in the advent of a new era, an era that we wish to prosper and which will be, before sinking into the nightmare of war. Hopefully we will soon find these women and men gathered to party, under the tower, or elsewhere …