The Paris Exhibition of 1878 was on a far larger scale in every respect than any which had been previously held in any part of the world. The total area covered over 66 acres, the main building in the Champ de Mars occupying 54 acres. The French exhibits filled one-half the entire space, the rest was occupied by the other nations of the world. The United Kingdom, British India, Canada, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Cape Colony and some of the British crown colonies occupied nearly one-third of the space set aside for nations outside France. Germany was the only major country which was not represented, but there were a few German paintings. The display of fine arts and machinery was upon a very large and comprehensive scale, and the Avenue des Nations, a street 2400 ft. in length, was devoted to specimens of the domestic architecture of nearly every country in Europe, and of several in Asia, Africa and America.
The palace of the Trocadero, on the northern bank of the Seine, was erected for the exhibition. It was a handsome structure, with towers 250 ft. in height and flanked by two galleries.
Exhibitors, journalists and officials submitted two copies of his or her photograph, one of which was attached to the entry badge. The ordinary tickets were not sold at the doors, but were obtainable at various government offices and shops, and from shops and peddlers in all parts of the city and suburbs.
The buildings were somewhat unfinished on the opening day, political complications having prevented the French government and the French people from paying much attention to the exhibition till about six months before it was opened; but the efforts made in April were prodigious, and by June 1st, a month after the opening, the exhibition was complete, and afforded an object-lesson of the recovery of France from the calamities of 1870 and 1871.
The decisions arrived at by the international juries were accompanied by medals of gold, silver and bronze.
The expenditure by the United Kingdom was defrayed out of the consolidated revenue, each British colony defraying its own expenses. The display of the United Kingdom was under the control of a royal commission, of which the prince of Wales was president.
The number of paying visitors to the exhibition was 13,000,000, and the cost of the enterprise to the French government, which supplied all the funds, was a little less than a million sterling, after allowing for the value of the permanent buildings and the Trocadero Palace, which were sold to the city of Paris. The total number of persons who visited Paris during the time the exhibition was open was 571,792, or 308,974 more than came to the French metropolis during the year 1877, and 46,021 in excess of the visitors during the previous exhibition of 1867.
It was stated at the time that, in addition to the impetus given to the trade of France, the revenue of the Republic and of the city of Paris from customs and duties was increased by nearly three millions sterling as compared with the previous year.