For centuries people used their hands or simple tools to do daily work. But in Great Britain in the late 1700s, a big change took place. Inventors developed machines to do many kinds of work. Called the Industrial Revolution, this development spread through Europe and the United States in the 1800s. Huge factories were built to quickly produce goods. Railroad systems-great highways made of iron-were laid to move those goods quickly and cheaply. As countries traded goods, the shipping industry boomed. Many mines were opened to provide coal and raw materials needed for the factories, trains, and ships. The Industrial Revolution made many countries wealthy. In the 1870s, France discovered an iron mine near its eastern border. The mine helped France become a world power by 1880.
The country was eager to celebrate its success. France was approaching the one-hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution (1789–1799). During this historic event, the French king was overthrown. An elected government took his place. French leaders decided to combine the anniversary with an event that would celebrate the country’s modern success. In November 1884, the French government announced that a world’s fair would be held in Paris from May to October 1889. The fair would showcase industrial, scientific, and cultural achievements.