Expositions of the July Monarchy

Paris: 1834, 1839, 1844


Arthur Chandler


The decade spanning the years 1834-1844 saw France in some of the most tranquil years of her existence. Four years after the close of the 1844 exposition, France would expel her last king; and yet, in the early years of his reign, Louis-Philippe, successor to the exiled Charles X, seemed to many French people the ideal compromise between monarchy and republicanism. With guaranteed limits on royal prerogative and authority, French industrialists could feel free to pursue their dreams and schemes without the smothering taxation and meddling that flourished under Charles X. When one group of businessmen told Guizot, one of Louis-Philippe’s ministers, that they had little or no influence in the political life of France, Guizot gave them a knowing smile and replied, "Gentlemen, leave politics to me. Just go out and get rich ("enrichessez-vous")." For almost two decades, French industrialists and entrepreneurs did just that.



1834 Expo report Detail.jpg

"Consumer products for the masses"

There were plans to launch the eighth industrial exposition in 1832, but the scheme was thwarted by two major events: revolution and disease. Paris in 1832 was the scene of a full-scale riot. Hundreds of citizens were shot, and for while it seemed that the newborn regime of Louis Philippe might die the death of the old regime. The rebellion was quashed, and lives in memory today primarily in the pages of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The same year, a terrible cholera epidemic swept through Paris — and much of Europe — killing over 20,000 people in a single year in the capital. Under such circumstances, the government wisely delayed an event that would have brought together crowds of people in a single locale. By 1834, the violent social upheavals were over, and the cholera epidemic had done its worst. France was on her way to recovery, and to the enjoyment of a decade and a half of comparative tranquility.

The exposition of 1834 marks a new level of development for these events. It is the first one for which a significant complex of buildings was erected. The four large, elaborate edifices were designed and supervised by M. Moreau. The buildings were constructed with care and thought to their placement in the Place de la Concorde, aligned on the axis between the Church of the Madeleine and the Chamber of Deputies.

The exterior decoration was simple and unclassical, but well-proportioned, and expressive of the interior spatial requirements of the exhibits. Each building was 76 meters long and 46 meters wide. On the inside, each building was divided into four aisles 13 meters long, and enclosed a courtyard 50 meters long and 21 meters wide. Their symmetry and simple spaciousness lent a dignity to the buildings that accorded well with their dramatic placement on the Place de la Concorde. The only flaw seems to have been the zinc covering of the iron structural members, which were not joined tightly enough and allowed rainwater to seep through in some places.

One of the 1834 exposition buildings

One of the 1834 exposition buildings

It was a remarkable effort for a complex of exhibit buildings destined to serve only two months, from the first of May to the thirtieth of June, 1834. But the ordinance for the exposition, issued in October of the preceding year, decreed that Paris would host an industrial exposition every five years. Such was the promise; but in this case, the vow was made good up through 1849, the year of the final national industrial exposition. The French government was now committed, if not to a permanent set of buildings, then at least to the periodic continuity of the event itself.

The significance of this commitment should not be overlooked. Up until 1834, there had been hopes and promises of hosting future expositions; but internal and external events had a way of delaying their execution. Now there was a commitment comparable to the old sense that established the great fairs of the Champagne and the Foire Saint Germain. And if the new "fairs" lacked the religious connection of their predecessors, they had the advantage in the seriousness of the enterprise itself. The old fairs were for personal trade and profit. The new expositions were for national prestige and the advancement of industry in all of France.

In the preliminary letter sent to all prefects in France, Commissioner Thiers laid out the new criteria for submissions to the exposition juries:

Dear Sir:

I wish to count your district among those who will distinguish themselves by their industrial products. I am speaking not only of luxury articles or products for the wealthy. We are especially looking for consumer products for the masses [les consommations propres aux classes les plus nombreuses], with a happy combination of high quality and low price.(1)

We can detect here a motif that will sound again and again in the reports of the later universal expositions: high quality and low price, fulfilling the promise of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” This Utilitarian ideal, which must count as one of the nineteenth century’s most permanent additions to social philosophy, here finds one of its first public policy voices in France.

The exposition of 1834 also marks another valiant attempt to classify all its products into a series of inclusive categories. There were nine such classes; and, taken together, they give us a glimpse into how the collective judgement of a group of certified intellectuals classified the products of industrial technology in 1834:

1. Arts alimentaires (food and food preparation)

2. Arts sanitaires (health)

3. Arts vestiaires (weaving processes and clothing)

4. Arts domiciliaires (home products)

5. Arts locomotifs (transportation)

6. Arts sensitifs (products for smell, hearing, etc.)

7. Arts intellectuels (calculation, measurement and applied engineering)

8. Arts préparatoires (education and training)

9. Arts sociaux (social amenities)

This system is a marked departure from the previous systems, which attempted to classify by the nature of the product or the process. The 1834 system is based, not on the product or its ancillary discipline, but on the nature of its use in society. This social agenda — if we may term this classification system as either an outcome or an outgrowth of such an agenda — will emerge in full force at the 1855 and 1867 universal expositions.

A first effort is often beset with uncertainties and confusions; and the exposition of 1834 manifested these contrarieties and uncertainties to the fullest degree. The classification system brought nothing but chaos to the exhibit halls. The public, which had come to amuse itself and learn something about the state of manufactures in France, found the organization of the exhibits haphazard and unfathomable. The main hope of the planners was that the exhibits in each class would, by their very juxtaposition, promote comparison and contrast. The main result, according to one visitor, was "complete pell-mell." (2)

Suppose you were a visitor to the 1834 exposition and wanted to see bronze statuary. You knew that such statues would be there, but where? You survey the categories. There is no section for "fine arts," so you a left to puzzle over whether a statue is a social artifact, a product for the senses, something for the house, or something else entirely. You enter one of the buildings; and, even though the exposition is in its second week, you find you way blockaded by boards erected to keep you out of the aisles where workmen are still toiling to finish the last exhibit booths. Finally you find the bronzes. There they are — in company with canons, clocks, cymbals and medallions. Is this equestrian figure done in the style of Louis XIV? The style of the Napoleonic Empire? What makes it notable enough to be displayed here? There are no answers to these questions.

Small wonder, then, that the public found itself flowing past the tumble of products looking for the unusual and bizarre. In the tapestry hall, there was always a crowd before one large work made entirely out of cat skins. It was no doubt a clever assemblage; but it drew a disproportionate amount of attention simply because of the moral questions it raised. Other works nearby, displayed with great taste and order by the Sallandrouze and Lamornaix company, were far more indicative of new directions in method and style of weaving. But the bizarre thrill of staring at catskin rugs outweighed the intellectual advantages of comparison and contrast.

The other outstanding contradiction of the exhibits was the product of conflicting directions in the society at large. The old luxury trade still existed; but side by side was a new market for cheap products tastefully done. The letter of invitation by Thiers had called for just such exhibits, and the major retail houses and their suppliers responded with hundreds of products that fitted this bill. The reports on the exposition speak for the first time of la consommateur — perhaps the first general usage of this term in context and with the connotations it still holds today. A new style — if style we may call it — began to emerge in products designed and manufactured expressly for this new consumer: the comfortable. Later writers, such as Ernest Renan, would rail against this so-called style as a vile importation from England, where the tasteless middle classes had sacrificed beauty to a kind of slovenly utility. But in 1834, the idea was still new; and there was money to be made in this new style for the masses.

In some cases, the marriage of technology to the arts of decoration worked splendidly. The 1834 exposition introduced the public to wallpaper mass printed and rolled onto cylinders. This innovation, the product of Zuber manufacturing in Mulhausen, fulfilled the social ideals of the exposition planners. Such products were inexpensive, moderately stylish, and could be used to dress up the plainest walls with lively scenes or abstract patterns.

From the Zuber company's wallpaper series, "Scenes from North America," displayed at the 1834 exposition (click the image for an enlarged view)

Other firms were also attempting to bring the products of expensive hand-work into the price range of the middle classes by means of automating the production process. Wood engraving, enameling, and wood-inlaying were three such fields where costs were reduced by automating the process of production.

Steamboat Engine Design 1834 exposition

Steamboat Engine Design 1834 exposition

The jury reports take pride in pointing out the steady progress in all realms of technology and manufacture. The only really revolutionary product shown at the 1834 exposition was "elastic tissue" — sheets of rubber. There was no clear sense yet what this "India-rubber" might be good for; but there was the sense that tremendous possibilities existed for this protean product.

In his assessment of the 1834 exposition, Stéphane Flachat observes that this event and its predecessors was taking on a the character of "une fête nationale," and therefore was obliged to demonstrate "the morality and utility that drive the progress of ideas and mores."(3) In these words we can discern the emergence of Progress, that capitalized ideal that will, in future exposition, come to stand as the major god of the nineteenth-century’s intellectual pantheon.


Exposition bronze medal celebrating "The Useful Arts"

Exposition bronze medal celebrating "The Useful Arts"




"The path of improvement and progress"

The organizers of the 1839 exposition were acutely aware of the advantages they enjoyed over their counterparts of previous expositions. To begin with, there had been five years of peace since 1834 — perhaps five of the quietest years enjoyed by France for many a decade. In addition, the exposition had been planned for six years. The decree of 1833 had set a five years cycle for the staging of these events. Such decrees had been issued before in previous regimes, but with indifferent success. Current events, usually political, invariably intervened to delay the exposition beyond the hoped-for date. The 1839 exposition took place on schedule; and the final two national industrial expositions likewise took place at five year intervals.

One of the happiest results was the careful planning and thoughtful execution of every stage of the 1839 exposition. King Louis Philippe was not slow to see the advantages in the event. Since 1823, it had been customary for the king to issue a decree formally calling for the exposition to take place. But Louis Philippe, taking great pains to demonstrate a keen interest in the entire affair, delivered the inaugural address. One day before the official opening, he and his family made a tour of every exhibition hall. Then, during the succeeding weeks, he returned to inspect with great attention every one of the exhibits on display. His visits were accompanied by a throng of exhibitors, continually shouting "vive le roi, vive la reine, vive la famille royale!"

Bookstand, by Georges-Alphonse Jacob Desmalter, exhibited at the 1839 exposition  Luxury items still competed with technological inventions at the expositions of the July Monarchy.

Bookstand, by Georges-Alphonse Jacob Desmalter, exhibited at the 1839 exposition

Luxury items still competed with technological inventions at the expositions of the July Monarchy.

Having found the 1834 classification system for exhibits inadequate, the organizers of the 1839 exposition changed it once again. Now there were eight basic categories:

-- Fabrics

-- Chemicals

-- Metals and Minerals

-- Fine Arts

-- Agricultural Utensils

-- Ceramics

-- Precision and Musical Instruments

-- Miscellaneous

Each group had its separate commission that examined the products and recommended awards to the central jury. The groups themselves were further subdivided into sections, and further subdivided into divisions within the section. The system proved cumbersome, and would be changed again for the next exposition. In the entire history of the national and international expositions in Paris, no two of them ever employed the same system of classification.

By 1839, these industrial exhibitions were taken very seriously by all manufacturers. An award by the jury was a badge of pride, an official emblem that expert representatives of France had deemed the exhibitor one of the nation’s outstanding talents. But voices demanding greater fairness arose among the exhibitors. At the 1839 exhibition, it was discovered that some of the members of the central jury were exhibiting products from their own firms. These products were immediately declared ineligible for prizes, and the exhibitor-jurors had to content themselves with displaying medals they had won at previous expositions.

There were other contentions as well. In the musical instruments division, a controversy arose regarding the display of the manufacturer’s name on the product. Though it was standard practice for the makers of pianos and wind instruments to display their company names on the outside of the instrument, many exhibitors, especially the piano manufacturers, felt that the names themselves would unduly influence the jury. A Pleyel piano, because of its famous name, held the advantage over an entry by a newcomer to the field. As a result of the controversy, names of manufacturers appearing on the instruments had to be erased or covered so that the jury could judge the products by tonal qualities and responsiveness alone.

Pleyel piano exhibited at the 1839 exposition

Pleyel piano exhibited at the 1839 exposition

Still other exhibitors complained of the high-handed treatment they received at the hands of the the juries or commission members. One writer, André Fichet, wrote a pamphlet suggesting revisions in the method of selecting and placing exhibits. He and some of his colleagues had evidently had a bad time with the directors of both the 1834 and 1839 expositions, and so he offered to the public this scenario:

An Exhibitor arrives, and speaks to the Director: Monsieur , I am honored to greet you.

The Director does not respond to the salutation. He says: "What do you want? " in a condescending voice.

Exhibitor: Monsieur, I am an exhibitor. Here is my admission card.

Director: Let’s see it. What’s this? The jury let you enter 15 items? The jury is nothing here. I’m giving you permission to exhibit one piece, and no more.

Exhibitor: But Monsieur, I have already gone to the expense of of bringing the 15 pieces that the jury said I could exhibit.

Director: It’s nothing to me, sir, if the jury doesn’t know what it’s doing.

Exhibitor: Monsieur, I will not be able to exhibit at all.

Director: You will not exhibit? Are you trying to threaten me by refusing to exhibit, I’d like to know? If you think you’re hurting me, you’re deceiving yourself.

Exhibitor: Monsieur, I don’t get your drift. What are you trying to tell me by all this? You’re happy that I will not be exhibiting? Surely you know that I took all this trouble of mounting an exhibit so that everyone would get a good chance to see my work.

Director: You haven’t done any better than the others. You’re all the same.

Exhibitor: Monsieur, you insult me.

Director: Ah! Impertinent words! Guard! Throw this man out!

The guard comes, and shows the exhibitor the door. Such is justice.(4)

With 3,381 exhibits mounted by at least that many exhibitors, it is hardly surprising that some dissatisfaction should occur. If the Director of the scenario above had been allowed to speak in his own voice, he might have pointed out that the total exhibit space allotted for the 1839 exposition was inadequate. The 1834 exposition held the products of 2,447 exhibitors in a total exhibit area of 14,288 square meters. The 1839 exposition saw over 3,000 exhibitors squeezed into 16,500 square meters. The crowding was so bad that, at the last moment, a new exhibit hall had to be hastily constructed to house the overflow.

For their part, the members of the 1839 jury prided themselves on their diligence in carrying out the duties of their office. Commissions met every day, and their members were constantly visiting the exhibits and inspecting products. For their final deliberations, the central jury met no less than thirty-one times, each meeting lasting from four to six hours. And finally, the juries had to prepare lengthy written reports of their proceedings.

According to the official report, the jury made its decisions and distributed prizes on the basis of four principles:

1) Useful inventions and improvements classified according to the importance of those results that affected manufacturing;

2) The extent of the factories and their topographical location;

3) The intrinsic and commercial quality of the products; and

4) Low cost made possible by progress in the means of production.(5)

Each of these four criteria expresses an aspect of social, economic, and even moral philosophy held in common by the organizers and jury members of the exposition. The response of the king to the exposition report supported these assumptions, thereby giving them something of the nature of an official philosophy for the exposition.

The first criterion affirms the belief that invention is best when it allies itself with industrial production. The report specifically notes that the jury rejected any works whose sole or main value was novelty. Gone are the days of the ostrich feather carpets. Only those inventions that can be applied to manufactures are deemed worthy of entry in the national expositions.

The second consideration — topographical location — might seem puzzling at first, and perhaps at odds with the insistence on quality and direct application to industrial development. But what the government was trying to encourage was the spread of manufacturing and new techniques of production outside of the traditional urban centers. As one English writer noted in 1854:

The business theory of France at this time promoted] progress of popular education by means of municipal libraries open to all readers, of commercial and drawing schools, of local museums, of free exhibitions of works of art, & etc., and the liberal rewards and aid given to any desirous of prosecuting studies serviceable to the community, but not remunerative to the student.(6)

The guiding idea was that French industrial progress should not be situated in Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, and other major centers alone. The government encouraged the establishment of manufacturing centers throughout France, aided the effort by means of encouraging popular education, and rewarded the results by taking geographical location into account when judging the exhibits at the exposition.

The third criterion is clear enough. It allowed judges to evaluate the products on their own merit, and the commercial value of each item as a function of quality and market potential.

The fourth category is one we have encountered before, and becomes more and more important, rising to its peak in the 1867 exposition, then declining in importance — or, at least, in the prominence with which it was featured in the official reports. The bon marché (bargain goods: good quality at a low price) ideal can be seen in two lights. The strict economic interpretation of bon marché might see only "large sales and small profits" as the inspiration for mass production of cheap goods. But in the minds of the exposition organizers, bon marché is a kind of capitalist’s socialism, an enactment of the Utilitarian ideal of "the greatest good for the greatest number."

Above these economic and social considerations, the jury members and the king affirmed the values, even the necessity, of two spiritual forces that made the exposition possible: Peace and Progress. "Peace, which is the soul of industry," states the author of the Rapport, is the first and most necessary of all conditions that supports the "marvelous results" of French industry. The king agreed. In his response to the jury, Louis Philippe affirms that, now that France has won her independence from external powers, she is free to return to a state of peace and "follow the path of improvement and progress."(7)

The exhibits of the 1839 exposition showed steady advancement in the major areas of industrial development. Steam engines were more numerous and more efficient. The Jacquard loom was improved, as were cotton and wool spinning machines. The ancient arts of stained glass production — a novel feature of the 1834 exposition — continued to improve, and enriched the Gothic Revival in architecture. But there was one area in which a dilemma developed which, in its larger implications, would haunt French industry for decades to come: lack of industrial standards.

The problem surfaced in the musical instruments exhibits. Among a considerable number of stringed instruments on display, only one double bass was shown. It was judged not worthy of an award. But the jury, in its comments, complained that the main problem with this instrument, which ought to be "the soul of orchestras,"(8) was that no two seemed to be of the same dimensions. The sizes of the violin, the viola, and the cello were fixed. But until instrument makers agreed on a standard size for the double bass, the sound quality would be uneven, and performers would have to adjust their technique to each and every instrument that they played.

The problem was more pronounced in the woodwind section, and underlined the inherent difficulty in any technological advance in an area where older construction techniques were well-established. The German Theobald Boehm had introduced a number of improvements to the construction of the flute. Some French manufacturers began to produce Boehm-system flutes; but each manufacturer also modified the fingering system to take advantage of the improved tone quality. They also continued to make flutes — called "ordinary flutes," to distinguish them from the newer experimental models — for purchasers unwilling to change from the old ways. The result was that judges were unable to play and compare the Boehm-system flutes. As a consequence, only the ordinary flutes won prizes. Here was a case of a clear improvement to an instrument which was, for the time, unable to gain acceptance because the manufacturers were unable to agree on a fingering system to accompany the structural improvements of the instrument.

The specific problem in the musical instruments section found its counterpart in almost every branch of French industry. Individual manufacturers were reluctant to incorporate improvements in their products; or, if they did incorporate them, they did so in such an individualistic manner that parts for one machine or instrument could not be used in another made by a different manufacturer. This lack of standardized parts and an agreed-upon system of operation would continue to haunt French industry for the rest of the century.

In retrospect, it is obvious that the most innovative display at the 1839 expositionwas this Daugerrotype camera cabinet made by Daguerre's brother-in-law, Alphonse Giroux:


This is the world's first commercially-produced camera, a device destined to exert a profound influence in almost every phase of life in the world. However, in 1839, the "Daguerrotype mania" was just beginning, and the exposition judges gave no award to either Daguerre or Giroux. Instead, the jury awarded Giroux a silver medal for this jewelry box:




1844 exposition building on the Champes-Élysées

1844 exposition building on the Champes-Élysées

"Iron, and more iron, and yet more iron"

The exposition of 1839 had marked a turning point in the European awareness of the Parisian industrial expositions. The reports on all the expositions from 1798 until 1834 were all French, with most of these published in Paris. There were ten catalogues or reports on the 1839 exposition: six published in Paris, two in Austria (in French), one in Germany, and one in Sweden. Germany in particular was paying very careful attention to the Parisian industrial expositions. In 1842 there was a modest exposition in Mainz. Then, in 1844, Berlin hosted a major industrial exposition. It was open only for three days; but it boasted the work of 3,040 exhibitors — only slightly less than the number exhibiting in Paris in 1839. France sent observers to the Berlin event, and reported back to the government in two separate documents.

In fact, the Berlin exposition was not the first such event. Other, more modest shows had been staged in Munich, Darmstadt, Breslau, and Berlin. Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, England, Russia, Poland, Italy, Austria, Belgium, and Holland had also hosted similar industrial expositions. But the 1844 Berlin exposition was a clear sign that others were starting to take expositions seriously, and were willing to mount them on a scale that rivaled the Parisian events. The central jury of the 1844 Parisian exposition was well aware of these rival or imitative expositions in other countries. The Catalogue Officiel expressly called upon the government to send agents to observe and send back reports on the proposed Berlin and Viennese expositions.

The jury of the 1844 exposition nationale had some new problems to deal with, even before exhibitors could be invited to participate. To begin with, there was the question of who should be permitted to exhibit. There were a number of applicants for admission who sold the products of others, but did not themselves manufacture anything original. The jury was mindful of their duty to encourage French commerce; but they reluctantly concluded that only producers could enter their own products in the concourse. Otherwise, many small inventors would be crowded out by the large commercial retailers.

M. Cunin-Gridaine, Minister of Agriculture and Commerce and a long-time exhibitor at the industrial expositions, set further restrictions on the nature of entries. At the 1844 event, there would be no eccentric or useless exhibits. This restriction applied not only to artisans who had ostrich feather carpets, but to scientific instruments as well. In the mind of the exposition director, devices for measuring planetary orbits might be interesting to savants, but had no place in an industrial exposition where commercial application and social utility were the justifications for all exhibits.

Furthermore, the minister decreed that every exhibitor had to fill out forms declaring his name, home address, nature of their work, date of the foundation of their establishment, number of workers employed, quantity and kind of raw materials employed in the manufacture of the products, annual value of the business (further divided into national consumption and foreign exports), and more. To the exhibitors themselves, the paperwork might have seemed a burden. But the minister was doing his best to collect data for a composite picture of French industry and commerce. The data-gathering marks a new stage in the French government’s awareness of the nation’s total industrial strength.

While the exposition director was attempting to maintain a clear vision of what kind of exhibits fit the overall vision of the exposition, the jury was dealing with problems of a different kind. One of the major dilemmas facing the jury had to do with the distribution of awards. This process had, by 1844, become so complex that the judging took place over an entire week after the official closing of the exposition. The five part orders of distinction — gold, silver, and bronze medals, honorable mentions and favorable citations — in themselves presented no problems. But since it had been a practice not to duplicate awards to any exhibitor who had won a medal at a previous exposition, the system grew complicated. Exhibitors could win new medals for the same product if the jury considered that there had been a "superior" improvement in the article. But what if the article had been modified to the extent that it was entered as a different work, and therefore capable of being considered for a new medal on its own merits? What about articles that were combinations of older works which themselves had won medals? Was it fair to judge works entered by prisoners in the same light as those made by free men? Small wonder that it took the jury thirty-one special sessions to arrive at its final list of awards.

As with the exposition of 1839, King Louis Philippe enthusiastically gave his blessings to the new event. The king and the royal family solemnly opened the exposition by making a grand tour of all the exhibits, then returning every Monday for a more detailed appraisal. So frequent were these royal visits that the exposition building had one special "royal salon" set aside for the king’s use, and another room, located just off the private entrance on the south side of the hall, set aside exclusively for the queen.

There were some 3,969 exhibitors, making the 1844 exposition by far the largest to date. Most of the exhibits were arranged within forty galleries inside the grand hall. Altogether, the visitors would have to travel down five miles of aisles to view all the displays. The eight-part system of classification created the usual blend of order and confusion:

1 — Fabrics

2 — Metals and other Minerals

3 — Machinery

4 — Precision Instruments

5 — Chemical Arts

6 — Fine Arts

7 — Pottery

8 — Diverse Arts


The disposition of articles within the hall made general sense — though some visitors must have found it odd to see billiard tables grouped with musical instruments, and Daguerreotypes with swords and clocks. What no one could fail to notice, however, was the large statue of Saint Louis placed in the precise center of the structure. There were other bronze statues at the exposition; but these were on display as specimens of the foundryman’s skill. The Saint Louis statue is yet another instance of the attempt by exposition authorities to invest the event with something of the venerable quality of religion and tradition. Perhaps Louis Philippe was also anxious to draw the public connection between himself and his namesake. The dramatic effect of the colossal statue was somewhat diminished, however, because of the placement of the work between six displays of iron bedsteads.

Perhaps the most significant exhibit at the 1844 exposition were a number of Daguerrotype plates. They were exhibited between the display of artists' tools and the exhibit of lithographs -- betraying some uncertainty in the organizers minds as to whether this new process would be an adjunct to the traditional fine arts or a new form of imagery.

Daguerrotype of Louis Daguerre, 1844

Daguerrotype of Louis Daguerre, 1844

This camera, made by the Swiss firm of Schiertz, won a bronze medal

This camera, made by the Swiss firm of Schiertz, won a bronze medal

Jules Burat, symbolic picture of the heralds of the new age ushered in by the Dauguerrotype and the stereoscope, printed in a catalogue of the 1844 exposition

Jules Burat, symbolic picture of the heralds of the new age ushered in by the Dauguerrotype and the stereoscope, printed in a catalogue of the 1844 exposition

The 1844 atmosphere of the 1844 exposition was enhanced by the addition of solemn music. Hector Berlioz was commissioned to write and conduct a huge symphonic and choral work, Hymne à la France, for the opening ceremonies. He also adapted his Apothèse (from the Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale) by supplying new words for the choral part.

The 1844 exposition also featured entertainment — an anticipation of the Midway sections of later universal expositions. To the delight of visitors who had expected to see only serious industrial products, several vaudeville skits were presented at the exposition. One piece in particular, Dagobert, took aim at the "Gallery of Corsets," one of the exhibits at the exposition:

Oh! what a misfortune for ladies,

That Paris reveals all its mystery,

And at the grand show it a trade is

To show up our shapes and their history!

So many are these revelations,

So great are the tricks they discover,

That we have lost all expectations

Of imposing again on a lover. (9)

The Corsair, one of the leading satirical journals of the day, got into the spirit of fun with a lament that corsets were a grave instance of false advertisement!

In spite of such satirical jabs at some sections of the exposition, the public, for the most part, took the event seriously. Here they could see a number of familiar products either improved, manufactured more cheaply, or both. They could marvel at the new inventions, such as the incubator. They could see a whole gallery of Daguerreotype images — perhaps the most innovative and far-reaching of all new products on display. They could take pride in the new Koechlin locomotives, France’s main hope in the growing railway construction competition with England.

The exposition commissioners were aware that, in spite of the brilliance and variety of products displayed, the iron machines were the most important of all products exhibited. In their address to the king, the commissioners acknowledge that not everyone will realize this fact immediately:

But, Sire, of all the arts, it is that of the construction of machines that has risen the highest by its progress and which should, by its importance, hold our greatest regard. This opinion will doubless not be obvious at first. (10)

Hall of Machines at the 1844 Exposition

Hall of Machines at the 1844 Exposition

The report then goes on to recount the brilliance of other exhibits, all admirable in their own way. But the temporary enchantment wears off when the perceptive observer comes to the exhbibits of machine:

But as soon as we leave the dazzling spectacles of magnificance and richness and enter the vast circle of machines, which shows us iron, and more iron, and yet more iron, the illusion vanishes, truth emerges, and the soul is at once seized by the grandeur of these silent devices, so productive when active. Iron is the agent of force. The power of nations can in a sense be measured by the amount of iron they use.(11)

This statement marks the definitive point of transition from fabrics to machines as the focal point of French industrial development. Not the product, but the mechanical means of making and transporting  products have become the central figure in the expositions, and in the national agenda for industrial production.


On July 29, 1844, King Louis Philippe presided over the distribution of 3,253 awards at a ceremony in the Tuileries. He personally gave out the thirty-one Legion of Honor medals that were awarded to exhibitors of highest distinction. After the ceremonies, some 250 award-winners were invited to a banquet in the gallery of the Louvre. This was truly the moment, as one observer commented, when it seemed as though the industrialists were the new nobility of France. At the meal’s end, the king raised his glass in a toast to the exposition and to the spirit of French industry.

Bronze medal, 1844 exposition

Bronze medal, 1844 exposition

It would be the king’s last such toast. When five years had lapsed and the final French national exposition was underway, Louis had been driven into exile. Four years after the glorious ceremony in the Tuileries, he had been forced to flee ignominiously out the back entrance of the palace. Never again would a king preside over a French exposition.





1 Quoted in Bouin and Chanut, page 39

2 Stéphane Flachat, Industrie: Exposition de 1834 (Paris, 1834), page 33

3 Flachat, page 34

4 André Fichet, Principes Pour préparer une Exposition (Paris, 1834), pp. 2-3

5 Rapport du jury centrale, Tome Premier (Paris, 1839), page xxxi

6 Cyclopedia of Useful Arts, Mechanical and Chemical, Manufactures, Mining, and Engineering, edited by Charles Tomlinson. (London, 1854), page v

7 Rapport du jury centrale, Tome Premier (Paris, 1839), page L

8 ibid., page 350

9 The Art Union, August, 1844, page 236

10 Rapport du jury centrale, Tome Premier (Paris, 1839), page LVIII

11 ibid., page LIX




Opening Date: May 1

Closing Date: June 30

Site: Place de la Concorde

Exhibitors: 2447

Top Official: M. Thiers



Opening Date: May 1

Closing Date: July 28 (Distribution of Awards)

Site: Champs Elysées

Exhibitors: 3382

Top Official: M. Martin



Opening Date: May 1

Closing Date: June 30

Site: Champs Elysées

Exhibitors: 3696

Top Official: M. Cunin-Gridaine





Catalogue des produits de l’industrie française, admis à l’exposition publique, sur la Place de la Concorde, en 1834 (Paris, 1834)

"Discours du Roi à l’occasion des récompenses accordées à l’industrie nationale...," Moniteur, July 15, 1834

Dupin, C. Rapport du jury central sur les produits de l’industrie française exposés en 1834 (Paris, 1836, 3 volumes)

Exposition de 1834. Nouvelle découverte. Mémoire sur un papier de sûreté destiné à prévenir toute espèce de faux en écritures publiques or privées (Paris, 1834)

L’Exposition de 1834, journal de la société centrale pur encouragement des sciences, des arts, et l’industrie nationale, paraissant tous les jours pendant l’exposition des produits de l’industrie (Paris, May 3-12, 1834)

Flachat, Stéphane. Industrie: Exposition de 1834 (Paris, 1834)

Fichet, André. Principes Pour préparer une Exposition (Paris, 1834)




Catalogue officiel des produits de l’industrie française, admis åa l’exposition publique dans le Carré des Fêtes aux Champs-Elysées (Paris, 1839)

Exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1839. Rapport du jury centrale (Paris, 1839)

Gabalde, B. and Duret, A. L’exposant de 1839. Publication spéciale et complète sur les produits de l’industrie française admis au concours quinquennal. (Paris, 1839)

Livre d’honneur de l’Exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1839. Revue descriptive de l’élite des produits. (Paris, 1840)

Moléon, J.G.V. de. Description de l’Exposition industrielle et artistique de 1839. (Paris, 1839)



Art Union, August, 1844

Catalogue explicatif et raisonné des produits les plus remarkable admis à l’exposition quinquennale de 1844 précédé d’une vue du palais de l’exposition aux Champs-Elysées (Paris, 1844)

Curmer, L. L’industrie. Exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1844. (Paris, 1844)

Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française, 1844. Catalogue officiel (Paris, 1844)

Exposition des produits de l’industrie française en 1844. Rapport du jury centrale. (Paris, 1844, 3 volumes)

Halphen, Gustave. Rapport sur l’exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française de 1844. (Paris, 1845)

Kuhlmann, C.F. Exposition des produits de l’industrie de 1844. Rapport du jury départemental du Nord. Analyse de la situation industrielle du département (Lille, 1844)

Livret de l’exposition des produits de l’industrie, année 1844, contenant la liste générale des produits exposés.... (Paris, 1844)