Marking the centenary of the French Revolution and centred around the monumental Eiffel Tower, World Expo 1889 in Paris was a hotbed of ambitious ideas. One of these, though it received little attention at the time, was the concept of hydroelectricity, presented by French engineer Aristide Bergès.
As well as the many cutting-edge technologies introduced at Expos over the years, some more ordinary – but not less important – items of daily wear have also made their début, including the bra.
His most famous creation having just turned 130 years old, it is only natural that Gustave Eiffel occupies the “E” spot in the Expo Architecture series. Undoubtedly the most recognisable and the tallest Expo structure ever created, the Eiffel Tower – built for World Expo 1889 Paris – is not only an icon for Paris and France, it is also a symbol for World Expos.
The idea behind the Tower was first floated by Expo Organisers, who wanted a 300-metre tall welcome tower to greet visitors to the event which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French revolution. Among 107 proposals submitted, it was Gustave Eiffel’s innovative wrought-iron lattice design, developed by engineers Maurice Koechlin and Émile Nouguier, that was finally selected. The structure’s final design was concluded after contributions by architect Stephen Sauvestre, who added the iconic arches to its base.
Expo 1889 Paris is remembered for introducing the world to the Eiffel Tower. However, it was also the site of another important debut: French visionary engineer Aristide Bergès’ demonstration of hydroelectricity, a concept known as “Houille Blanche” or “White Coal”, that swept through Europe and the world.
In the mid 19th century, the industrial revolution made coal the major source of energy and thus, a precious commodity. So when at the Expo, Bergès’ exhibit informed visitors about an alternate energy source, he called it “Houille Blanche”, to draw attention from visitors and to highlight the energy potential of water from the mountains, which had been ignored in favour of coal.
Expo 1889 in Paris is most famous today for the Eiffel Tower, but it was equally a major gathering of inventors, producers and artists from across the globe. While earlier Expos had mostly focused on manufactured products and machinery, by 1889 there was increased interest in other sectors, notably food and beverages, including beer.
At Paris’ first Expo in 1855, samples of beer were presented, but exhibitors did not take part in competitions. The widened scope of Expo 1867 allowed brewers to increase their presence, with 40 exhibitors showcasing their selection of beers. By the time of Expo 1878, this participation doubled, featuring mostly French and Belgian beer producers as well as a growing contingent from the United States.