Plan of Champ de Mars, Paris 1889
This is a twenty-six by forty-eight centimeter plan of the Champ de Mars during the Exposition Universelle of 1889, used by visitors at the time of the fair, a bold political statement on the part of France, as well as an overwhelming success. The Third Republic was established in Paris in 1870, and by 1884, when preliminary studies for the the Exposition Universelle were launched, many political issues were still largely unresolved. In 1870 Napoleon III surrendered at the Battle of Sedan during the Franco-Prussian War. Two days after the defeat Republicans proclaimed the advent of the Third Republic. The Franco-Prussian war ended with Paris's capitulation in 1871. A group of Parisians found Prussia's terms humiliating and wanted to keep fighting. Later dubbed the Communards, they established a dictatorship in Paris known as the Central Committee of the National Guard, later renamed La Commune. However, before La Commune could put its principles into effect, The National Assembly sent troops into Paris to eradicate the uprising. Even with the elimination of La Commune, there was great dissention within the government. There were conflicts between and within the Left and Right movements. An economic depression began in France in 1873 and worsened into the 1880s, affecting agriculture, industry, and small-scale trade. Citizen unrest was clearly evident in the popularity of General Georges Boulanger, who promised a reform, if not revolution, of the existing government.. In 1888, when Boulanger was at the height of his political esteem, the threat of governmental crisis was very palpable.
It was under these circumstances that the Paris exposition of 1889, to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution, was planned. Prime Minister Jules Ferry first proposed an exposition in 1880, with three political goals of "reconciliation, rehabilitation, and imperial supremacy" in mind (73, Silverman). The exposition would portray the Third Republic in a prestigious light, restoring pride and confidence in the flagging government. It would boost the economy, bolster the metal industry with the erection of immense pavilions, and create new job opportunities for workers. Political and social differences would be suspended for the duration of the fair.
Several sites were considered for the exposition, including the Champs Elysées, the Bois de Boulogne, and Bois de Vincennes. The Champ de Mars, which was finally selected as the main location for the exposition, has had a rich history. Comprising the stretch of land reaching from the Seine river to the École Militaire, it was used as the military school's parade ground. In 1790 the Fête de la Fédération was held on its grounds, and King Louis XVI took an oath to uphold the new constitution. In 1794, it witnessed the rally of the Supreme Being, a significant episode of the French Revolution. Since then, the Champ de Mars has been the site for several...