The idea of building a metro in Paris was born in 1855, and a year later the Mayor’s office received the first plans for consideration. Over subsequent years, a number of other projects were submitted for consideration.

By 1896, the streets of Paris were overrun with traffic; in addition, the World Exhibition of 1900 was approaching. Therefore, on 7th July 1897, after a long discussion, the Municipal Council adopted the 1896 Paris Metro revised project. On 30th March 1898, the legal contract for the construction of six metro lines was issued; the construction of the first line starting in November. It was necessary for the project to be finished in time for the opening of the World Exhibition on 14th April 1900. However, owing to the large volume and complexity of the work, the first line was only commissioned after a three-month delay.

The original opening of the Metro was scheduled for Bastille Day, 14th July, but on that day a full omnibus strike was announced. The opening was postponed first to the 16th and then finally set for the 19th July.

Right up to the last moment, the transport company remained concerned about the commissioning of the Metro. The opening of the first line went almost unnoticed as the World Exhibition had overshadowed all other events taking place in Paris at that time. Parisians simply did not know that the Metro had opened! The newspapers devoted only a few lines to this news.

At 1 p.m. on 19th July 1900, eight stations of the Paris Metro opened their doors. In the first hours, the number of passengers was very small. But by 3 o’clock in the afternoon, word about the opening of the Metro had spread, and soon there were no empty seats in the trains that ran every 10 minutes. The next day all the local newspapers wrote the most flattering reviews about the Paris Metro, noting its coolness and cleanliness, comfort and speed.

Text and photos: Boris Kogut