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Posts tagged ‘1889 Exposition Universelle’


The Phono Museum – ‘When Music Was Magic’

THE YEAR WAS 1889 and Belle Époque Paris was in the midst of a golden age. Relative peace, economic prosperity, technological and scientific innovation and a flourishing of the arts had superseded the catastrophe of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the bloody events of the Paris Commune. A spirit of optimism prevailed across the city.

In Pigalle, Mistinguett, (Jeanne-Marie Bourgeois), later to become the highest paid female entertainer in the world, was performing at the café-concert, le Trianon in Boulevard de Rochechouart, Aristide Bruant, dressed in his trademark red shirt, black velvet jacket, high boots, and long red scarf, was poking fun at the upper-crust guests who were out ‘slumming’ in this lower-crust territory and a new mecca of pleasure and entertainment, the now world-famous, Moulin Rouge, had just opened its doors for the first time.

Across town, the Champ de Mars, the Trocadéro, and the quai d’Orsay were hosting the gigantic Exposition Universelle, the latest of four World Fairs to be held in the city. The newly constructed and then still controversial Tour Eiffel stood at one end of the Champs de Mars at the entrance to the Exposition and at the other end, opposite the École Militaire, stood the Galerie des Machines, a vaulted building spanning the largest interior space in the world at the time.

While the American sharpshooter, Annie Oakley, was performing to packed audiences in Buffalo Bill’s “Wild West Show” at the Exposition, another American, the inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison, was the centre of attention in the Galerie des Machines.

The Edison exhibition occupied two pavilions, one dedicated to electric light and the other to the phonograph. Edison’s phonograph was not the only sound-reproduction device presented at the Exposition but it was the only one to hit the headlines.

No praise seemed too warm for Edison, the man who had ‘tamed the lightning with his incandescent lightening system’ and ‘organised the echoes with his phonograph’.


Thomas Edison, “The Types of Edison Phonographs,” The Paris Universal Exhibition Album (1889), CXLI

While both the Galerie des Machines and the risqué performances of Mistinguett have long since disappeared, Thomas Edison’s legacy lives on just across the street from the Moulin Rouge and le Trianon in Pigalle.

Phono Mueum

Opened in September 2014, the Phono Museum is one of the newest museums in Paris and the only museum in the city dedicated to the history of recorded sound.

Phono Mueum

Jalal Aro, Founder of the Phono Museum

The founder of the Phono Museum, Jalal Aro, is passionate about ‘talking machines’, mechanical sound-reproduction devices from an age when ‘music was magic’*. Although he is an enthusiastic collector and restorer of phonographs and gramophones he doesn’t see them simply as interesting objects, he believes they only have real meaning when they come to life and actually speak. Consequently, as well as his enormous collection of phonographs and gramophones he also has an even bigger collection of wax cylinders, records, posters and other memorabilia which occupies every nook and cranny of his Phono Galerie next door to the Phono Museum.

Founding the Phono Museum was Jalal’s way of sharing his passion for the history of recorded sound with a wider audience.

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

Jalal has a very democratic approach to sound. He believes these precious objects should be accessible to all and that becomes obvious when you enter the museum. For an admission fee of just €10, you can stay for as long as you like, explore the exhibits on your own or, if you prefer, Jalal, Charlotte, or one of the other staff will give you a personal guided tour of exhibits ranging from Thomas Edison’s 1878 tin-foil machine, to Emile Berliner’s 1897 flat-disc machine, magnificent two-horn, two-reproducer, dance hall machines, gramophones cleverly disguised as elegant furniture, talking dolls and lots more. All the exhibits in the museum work so the sound of music fills the air.

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

Last Sunday morning, before the museum opened, I went along to talk to Jalal about the museum and, very excitingly for me, to record some of the sounds of his ‘talking machines’.

Jalal Aro talks to me about the Phono Museum:

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

The museum is a non-profit organisation and, with no financial support so far from the City of Paris, it relies solely on ticket sales and voluntary donations to cover its costs.

As Jalal says in the interview, anyone making a donation becomes a valuable stakeholder in the museum. Click on this link to learn more:

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

In 1889, Thomas Edison’s phonograph captured the public imagination at the Exposition Universelle with a dream: ‘that of preserving humanly generated sound for – as the hyperbole went – eternity’**.

Visit the Phono Museum in Pigalle and you can share that dream.

Phono Mueum

With my thanks to Jalal Aro for giving up his Sunday morning to talk to me and for his permission to share sounds from the Phono Museum on this blog.

The Phono Museum is at:

53, boulevard de Rochechouart, 75009 Paris

Phono Museum, 53 Boulevard de Rochechouart

* When Music was Magic: history, phonographs and gramophones from 1879 to 1939 / / by John Paul Kurdyla.

** Musical Encounters at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair By Annegret Fauser


Gare du Champs de Mars

WHEN I TRAVEL IN Paris I mostly use either the Métro or the buses but rarely the RER. The RER, or Réseau Express Régional, of course does crisscross Paris but I only seem to use it when travelling further afield to the Parisian suburbs.


The RER Network across Paris and the Île-de-France

The other day I was on an RER train returning to Paris from a sound recording assignment in the suburbs when I alighted at the RER station ‘Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel’. Although I pass this station frequently on my regular 82 bus journeys I had never actually been inside so I took this opportunity to have a look round and, of course, to capture the atmosphere in sound.

Inside the Gare du Champs de Mars:

There are two unassuming entrances to the station, one at the junction of the Quai Branly and the Avenue de Suffren …


… and the other further along the Quai Branly at the Pont Bir-Hakeim.


Entering the station from the entrance close to the Avenue de Suffren the unassuming feel continues. There is no huge concourse but rather a narrow corridor leading to the ticket barrier.


There are only two platforms at the station conveniently named ‘A’ and ‘B’ and the signage is good too, which is just as well since thousands of tourists use this station to get to and from the most visited attraction in Paris, Le Tour Eiffel. Many tourists wanting to venture from the city centre to the Palace of Versailles also use this station.


It’s only once you pass the ticket barrier and have figured out which platform you need (for the Palace of Versailles you need Platform ‘A’ by the way) that you begin to get a different feel for this station.


RER Line ‘C’ – Direction Pontoise

The sweeping platforms are very long and from Platform ‘B’ you can look out across La Seine.


RER Line ‘C’ – Direction Versailles

Today’s Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel station dates from 1988 when the Vallée de Montmorency – Invalides branch of RER Line ‘C’ opened. This stretch of line used a large part of the infrastructure of the former ligne de petite ceinture dating from 1867.

Today’s station may have only been here since 1988 but it is in fact the fifth railway station to have occupied this site.

The first Gare du Champs de Mars was built to connect the Petite-Ceinture to the Champ de Mars and the site of the 1867 Exposition Universelle, or World’s Fair. This station was demolished shortly after the Exposition.


Bird’s Eye view of the site of the 1867 Exposition Universelle in the Champs de Mars

Image via Wikipedia

For the 1878 Exposition Universelle, again held in Paris on the Champs de Mars, another Gare du Champs de Mars was built.


Gare du Champs de Mars in 1878

Image via Wikipedia

This station was designed and built by the French architect, Juste Lisch who, amongst other things, also designed the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris. This station survived longer than its predecessor and it was used for the 1889 Exposition Universelle as well. In 1897 though the station was demolished and moved to Bois-Colombes on the outskirts of Paris.


The 1878 Gare du Champs de Mars in situ at Bois-Colombes

Image via Wikipedia

For the 1900 Exposition Universelle, this time featuring the newly built Tour Eiffel, another Gare du Champs de Mars was built and the line was moved closer to la Seine and extended to Invalides.


Gare du Champs de Mars in 1900

Image via Wikipedia

As well as a station for passengers, a goods station was built close by between the Avenue de Suffren and the Boulevard de Grenelle. After the 1900 Exposition the passenger station was closed, the goods station became a coal depot and from 1937 it was transformed into engine sheds. The former goods station was finally closed in 1971.

Although the 1900 Gare du Champs de Mars no longer exists it is possible to imagine something of it by walking along the Promenade du quai Branly between the Pont d’Iéna (opposite the Tour Eiffel) and the Pont Bir-Hakeim and looking back towards the Tour Eiffel. Along this stretch of the Promenade du quai Branly some of the original wall of the 1900 station remains.


Part of the original wall of the 1900 Gare du Champs de Mars

The Gare du Champs de Mars and its association with the Expositions Universelle held in the Champs de Mars close by is of interest to me partly because I find the history of these Expos fascinating (Paris also hosted the 1937 one as well) but also because Paris is bidding to hold the Exposition Universelle in 2025.

It just so happens that my local Mayor and Deputé (Member of Parliament) is leading the bid so I must ask him if we can expect yet another new Gare du Champs de Mars in 2025!