Exposition Universelle of 1889 and the Phonograph

The Eiffel Tower Illuminations 1889, Chromolithograph by George Garen


By Doug Boilesen, 2021

The Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris was a world's fair held 5 May to 31 October 1889 in Paris, France. "One important goal of the Exposition was to present the latest in science and technology. Thomas Edison visited the Exposition to visit a pavilion devoted to his recent inventions, including his improved phonograph."

Edison's phonograph and electric lights at this Exposition were heard and seen by crowds filled with wonder and admiration for those inventions.


Edison's Phonograph being demonstrated as part of the United States Exhibition Area by Paul Uestel (PM-2079)



Cover of L Univers illustré, August 24, 1889 - drawing by Paul Uestel (PM-2079)



Visitors Listening to Edison's Phonograph, Harper's Weekly, illustration by C. S. Reinhart, 1889


"Thomas Edison impressed the crowds by fashioning the shape of a pear out of twenty thousand electric bulbs that produced enough light for a small town (Findling 103). Edison exhibited all 493 of his inventions, including a phonograph that played both the American and French national anthems in the Galeries des Machines (Findling 103). His inventions inspired further innovation and promoted America as a superior technological power by displaying the magic of electricity in its ability to transform the world. Through his and other technological exhibitions, the world's opinion of what machinery could accomplish was permanently changed." From W&L Paris, extracted 2-11-2012)


Edison Telephone and Equipment Display





Edison's Telephone and Phonograph Department




Variety of Edison Phonographs including early tin-foil phonographs and Edison Talking Doll


The first 'Kruesi" tinfoil phonograph which Edison completed on December 6, 1877 was displayed for several months in 1889 "with Edison's exhibit at the Universal Exposition in Paris." (5)


The original Kruesi tinfoil photographed in Paris in 1889 (Courtesy Thomas Edison National Historic Park.)




Edison Electric Lighting System Display



Edison Electric Incandescent Light Display



Mammoth Edison Lamp Display




Edison Telegraph Department




Exposition seen from a balloon photographed by Alphonse Liébert (Courtesy Library of Congress)



The Chadron Democrat, Chadron, Nebraska August 27, 1889



Gustave Eiffel had an apartment at the top of the Eiffel Tower where Eiffel hosted Thomas Alva Edison on September 10, 1889. Edison presented Eiffel with an Edison Class M Phonograph.


Courtesy René Rondeau's Edison at the Eiffel Tower.


Wax figures of Thomas Edison and Gustave Eiffel sitting in front of an Edison Class M Phonograph (Gustave's daughter Claire is in the background). For more details and ephemera related to this meeting, see René Rondeau's Edison at the Eiffel Tower.

For more details about Edison and his family's visit to Paris (1), the Eiffel Tower and the 1889 Paris Exposition see René Rondeau's article Edison and the Eiffel in the June 2013 issue of The Antique Phonograph.

For W. J. Hammer's visit to the Eiffel Tower with Edison on September 10, 1889, see the typed unpublished reference by Hammer of that experience, provided by Allen Koenigsberg. (3)



The 2015 Disney movie Tomorrowland provides several phonographia factolas for Friends of the Phonograph. A key part of its story involves Gustave Eiffel's secret apartment at the top of the Eiffel Tower and an Edison record.

Visit Phonographia's The Eiffel Tower, an Edison Record and Tomorrowland to learn more about the movie Tomorrowland and its connections with Edison.