World Exhibition Paris 1878

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May 1, 1878 - October 31, 1878

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The manufacture of furniture has taken on a very large extension in France, especially the manufacture of cheap furniture.

Cheap furniture exerts the most salutary and moralising influence on the needy population. The prospect of being able to acquire bourgeois furniture and to enjoy the dress and comfort of the so-called upper classes gives these good people first the habit, then the love of order and economy, virtues that keep them away from the cabaret.

Let's talk a little about the making of the furniture first.

According to the official catalogue, the manufacture of luxury furniture in France * was, until a few years ago, one of the monopolies of the Parisian industry; but, in recent times, a few important firms have been founded in Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, Nantes, Caen, Toulouse, etc.; nevertheless, Paris has remained the most important centre of manufacture.

The number of workers in the furniture industry in France may be estimated at about 27,000. In 1872, there were, in Paris alone, 4,340 manufacturing establishments, all specialities included, and 14,266 workers. If one compares these figures with those recorded in the 1860 statistics, it can be seen that, in this twelve-year period, the number of workers increased by 1,001 and that of bosses by 803.

The cabinetmaking industry uses indigenous woods, beech, oak, fir, walnut, for the manufacture of cheap furniture; exotic woods, mahogany, rosewood, thuja, rosewood, violetwood, whose prices vary from 20 to 70 francs per 100 kilograms, for the manufacture of luxury furniture, and finally, but more rarely because of their high value, amboyna, amaranth, lemon, maple and ebony. Precious marble and other materials, painted porcelain, and bronzes are used only for decoration and are only used to a relatively small extent in the manufacture of furniture.

The furniture industry employs only a very small number of children as apprentice turners, and women as cane makers or varnishers. Hourly work is tending to replace piecework, except among carpenters.

The rate of wages has risen since 1867; for cabinetmakers, it varies from 60 to 75 centimes per hour; for sculptors, from 60 centimes to 1 franc and 1 fr. 25 cent.

Mechanical means have been advantageously applied to the manufacture of cheap furniture; but in the luxury furniture industry, machines are only used to cut veneer and draw mouldings.

The value of the furniture, seats, billiards, etc., manufactured annually in France is about 80 million; in this evaluation, raw materials account for 33%, labour for 55% and general expenses for 12%. The Paris industry alone provides three quarters of the national production.

Customs statistics show that the export of furniture in 1875 amounted to 18,046,759 francs, 5,673,678 francs more than in 1867, and that the value of imports, which in 1867 was 1,225,188 francs, increased by only 414,071 francs to 1,639,259 francs in 1875.

The cabinetmaking industry is returning more and more to the manufacture of solid furniture; Renaissance and Louis XIII furniture is more sought after every day, and the industry has succeeded in copying the old forms in a very satisfactory way by adapting them to the requirements of modern life.

To help the professional education of apprentices, a society was founded in Paris in 1866, under the name of Patronage des enfants de l'ébénisterie, which created professional competitions to which all apprentices are called each year without distinction; at the same time a school was opened for the teaching of drawing applied to furniture, ornamental drawing and modelling. This institution will undoubtedly contribute to maintaining cabinetmaking in the position it has achieved.

Luxury furniture was widely represented; everyone admired the splendid sideboards, credenzas, bookcases, and sideboards of the 16th century or the Renaissance, exhibited in particular by the houses of Drouart, Laloude, Blanqui, Fourdinais, Gallais, Cablence, etc., etc.

The praise of these houses is well deserved, but we must say that they have outdone themselves this year.

It is true that this splendid international exhibition has aroused such enthusiasm and emulation in everyone!

For us, who are doing a popular work here, we will focus particularly on cheap furniture, which brings comfort within the reach of the worker and the small employee.

We will mention in particular the sofa-beds of the Leroux company.

The sofa-bed is one of the most useful creations of the modern mind, and it renders enormous services to people who are poorly housed, or who have a large family.

It has, in addition, generally a drawer in which to hold belongings.

The upholstered seats of Mr. Niderer have been highly praised, as well as the seats and furniture of Messrs. Rebegratte frères.

Let us mention an infinitely graceful piece of furniture, and let us say it quickly, as useful as graceful: the parachute cradle of M. Boivin.

A net supported by metal wires, affecting the spheroid shape, entirely envelops the cradle. The child can play, do whatever he likes, there is no fear of him falling out; the net also serves as a mosquito net and prevents flies and other insects from tormenting the baby.

This net opens in the middle and its two parts fall down to the head and the bedside of the cradle; if you want to enclose the child, you take each of them in one hand and bring them together until they are perfectly joined.

Nothing is more ingenious.

Another invention that must find its place here is the automatic carriage of Mr. Mégissier.

Everyone remembers seeing the inventor at the Exposition with his little boy, a charming baby, who walked alone, or sat down at will thanks to the automatic carriage.

This little device, by means of which children can easily learn to walk without effort or fatigue, and in which they can sit, stand and walk in the direction that suits them, all at the same time, without the help of the mother, is only 0.55m long and 0.40m wide; it weighs about 5 kilograms.

It can be used for all children, from the youngest to two years and over.

The trolley is equipped with racks to adjust it according to the age and size of the babies; it does not make any noise, as it is mounted on rubber wheels that do not scratch the floor or carpets; it provides a healthy and beneficial exercise for the child, without tiring him, because, if he slumps, he is seated on a small seat that a movement equipped with springs raises automatically.

When the child walks alone, he likes his little cart, thanks to which he strengthens himself through the exercise he gives himself; he makes a toy of it.

From the point of view of health and hygiene, the child is much better off in his carriage than in his mother's arms; he is ventilated, does not overheat, is not exposed to being carried by other children, and avoids, because he is alone, cruel accidents.

All the doctors who have examined the device have approved it.

This carriage is not at all awkward; its shape is elegant, its construction solid; the padded round is provided with a clasp and a belt with straps, which should not be neglected to put on the child, as well as the ventrière; for example, it is necessary to take care that the small brake always makes a stop on the wheel to prevent the movement of backwardness when the child sits down.

To complete the well-being of babies, the inventor applied the trolley system to small children's cars. It is customary to take these dear little creatures outside, either to a park, a square, a garden or elsewhere, to let them breathe the fresh air; as soon as they arrive, the mother or the nanny sits down, the baby remains to warm up, while the mother or the nanny works with her fingers or tongue. The child does not fully benefit from the outing.

The carriage remedies this inconvenience, because it is simultaneously a carriage and a cart, and provides both services at will, by a combination which is easy to use; the child, instead of being in his or her own carriage, is instantly in a cart, which he or she manoeuvres himself or herself, sits, stands up, walks, all according to his or her own will; by the same combination, the carriage becomes a car for returning home.

There is also a trolley with a padded back, which can be placed and moved at will on a train, as easily as one would a basket, so that one can use the trolley at home, and outside with one's train; this system is excellent during bad weather and winter, when one cannot take the children out; and in any season, especially summer, it replaces the car.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878