During the summer of 1889 all of Paris was abuzz. The eagerly awaited
Exposition Universelle, or World's Fair, was opening the first week of May
and would display French art, science, and technology to the world. Its centerpiece
was the newly completed, 7000-ton, 984-foot-high filigree iron tower rising
in the middle of Paris from a base of concrete. Three elevators would take
the adventurous up its sloping sides where they might obtain a view of Paris
never before seen by anyone except balloonists. The Fair and this architectural
marvel by an engineer named Alexandre Gustave Eiffel would also, it was hoped,
bring in much-needed revenues to help offset the debts of a just-ended engineering
disaster that was headed by Vicomte de Lesseps, who had hoped to join the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by building a ship passage across the Panama Isthmus.
On the other hand, there were marvels of travel closer to home to celebrate.
On June 1 the Orient Express, already in operation between Paris and Constantinople
for a half-dozen years, left Gare de l'Est for its first through trip between
the two cities. Heretofore the passengers had to detrain at the Bulgarian
border and complete the trip by ferry, a second train, and a ship. The new
schedule shaved some 13 hours from the old, with the Express completing its
journey in 671/2 hours. Among the thousands of visitors making their first
trips to Paris were, at different times, the 23-year-old Wassily Kandinsky
and the 26-year-old Edvard Munch, each of whom would carry his own revolution
into the next century. The pleasure of visitors to the city was indulged.
On Montmartre, a brand new cabaret, the Moulin Rouge, opened and the word “cancan”
became part of the international vernacular.
Southgate MT. Four Jockeys. JAMA. 2005;293(19):2318. doi:10.1001/jama.293.19.2318
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