At the turn of the century, Paris hosted an Exposition Universelle, known to the rest of the world as the World’s fair of 1900.
Among the wonders introduced to mortals were the Crystal Palace, a building made entirely of iron and glass, the Hall of Machines, and the diesel engine.
The Eiffel Tower had made its debut just over a decade earlier, but continued to thrill visitors.
It was also a time when Art Nouveau was introduced as a real force in art. During the World’s Fair, which began in April 1900, the Paris Métropolitain signs were introduced. The signs were designed by Hector Guimard, and remain in use today, over one hundred years after their début.
Aside from ordinary visitors who came from all over the globe to see the wonders in Paris, there were some legendary attendees as well. You might bump into Auguste Rodin, who sculpted The Thinker, who was at the Fair to showcase his work. Jane Avril, the dancer, was also in attendance. Alphonse Mucha, the Art Nouveau genius; Auguste and Louis Lumiére, the French brothers and film pioneers; and Thomas Edison, the American inventor.
I saw this video some time ago, and it is exactly like what I imagine visiting the World’s Fair must have been. Videos from that period exist – but most of them are performances. This one captures ordinary people going about their business, in a surreal environment that includes the Eiffel Tower, horse-drawn carriages, and a moving sidewalk.