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)


Paris Review, November 9, 1889 - Illustrated with a watercolor by Albert-Emile Artigue showing visitors listening to Edison's electric phonograph at his phonograph demonstration area at the Paris Exposition Universelle. (Source: www.phonorama.fr)


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


Two children on pictured walking on the Champs-de-Mars and at the Esplanade des Invalides to visit the Exhibition. All ages are amazed by Thomas' new Edison electric phonograph at the Universal Exhibition of 1889. T (E. Lamarque, illustrated by Adrien Marie, 1889.) - Source: www.phonorama.fr


"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


Reports of the United States Commissioners to the Universal Expostion of 1889 at Paris, Volume IV, Washington, 1891. p. 181


Edison's Telephone and Phonograph Department


Edison's name, fame and image were seen in a variety of exhibits and artistic forms. In the above "Telephone and Phonograph Department" hangs Edison's portrait. On one panel of the Mammoth Edison Lamp was a bas-relief of Edison. In an unknown location was an Edison Bust. (Edison Bust courtesy of Paul Israel and Allen Koenigsberg). His name was everywhere and his face, on display in his exhibits and in art that honored him, was synonymous with the United States leadership in new wonders of technology and science.


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.)


Mammoth Edison Lamp Display with Edison bas-relief in panel under the light bulb and the American Eagle.

Also see image AC0069-0000026-089.tif, Paris Exposition photo album for HD close-ups, NMAH Hammer Collection, Smithsonian.


Edison Telegraph Department


Edison Electric Lighting System Display


Edison Electric Incandescent Light Display




At the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889, Thomas Edison was allocated two stands, among the most spacious at this exceptional event. ("The Paris Universal Exhibition Album-1889," published under the patronage of the American Commission by W. Stiassny and E. Rasseti). (Source: www.phonorama.fr)


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.


For an excellent article on the 1889 Paris Exposition read "Revolution - The Paris Exposition Universelle, 1889" by Arthur Chandler - Revised and expanded from World's Fair magazine, Volume VII, Number 1, 1986.