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French Colonies - Expo Paris 1878

French Colonies at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1878

Our colonies! When we think of the past, we bitterly regret that they are no longer what they once were.

The colonies that France currently possesses are : - Algeria, Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe and its dependencies, Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Senegal and its dependencies, the trading posts on the west coast of Africa, Gabon, Reunion, Mayotte, Nossibé, Sainte-Marie de Madagascar, India, Cochinchina, Oceania, New Caledonia.

The reader will allow us to speak to him here about Algeria only from the geographical and administrative point of view, since we have already visited the Algerian pavilion in the Trocadero Park and examined in detail the very interesting and picturesque exhibition of our great colony.

The surface area of Algeria is forty-three million square hectares. It has three zones parallel to the sea:
1° The mountainous zone of the coast, which, except for rare plains of little extent, forms a bulge along the shore of the Mediterranean; it is occupied by the fraction of the Berber race known as the Kabyles. These mountain dwellers practise small-scale farming, work with iron, engage in a few crude industries, and live in stone houses grouped in more or less compact villages. This is the home of the olive tree, the vine, the fig tree, and on some points large livestock is raised.

2° The interior zone, formed, with the exception of a few mountainous massifs, by a series of plains stretching from the Tunis border to the Moroccan border; it is inhabited by populations to whom Dr. Warmer has given the name, somewhat baroque but very accurate, of Arabized Berbers or Berberized Arabs. They live in tents and move every year, according to the seasons and the needs of agricultural work, within a radius that does not exceed the respective limits of each tribe; there are no gardens or orchards, the trees are very rare; they possess numerous flocks of sheep and breed horses.

3° Finally, the zone closest to the desert, comprising immense steppes where cultivation is possible, on certain points, only in rainy years, near streams that do not dry up in summer, near abundant springs.

Education is, at present, completely organised in Algeria and gives the most satisfactory results.

From the commercial point of view, business is developing in a way that is interesting to note.

According to the last official statement, Algeria has brought in 1,920,831 fr. of furniture from France; 1,974,394 fr. of glass and crystal; 1,324,672 fr. of earthenware, porcelain and common stoneware; 367,013 fr. of coarse earthenware pottery.

Fabrics were no less successful. The following were imported from France: - 38,607,409 fr. cotton fabrics, 4,437,150 fr. hemp fabrics, 8,511,069 fr. woollen fabrics, 3,031,185 fr. silk fabrics, 1,441,390 fr. dry goods.

Algeria supplied for export: - 3,410,000 tons of iron ore (36 million francs), 14,300 tons of copper ore (1,400,000 francs), 35,700 tons of lead ore (11 million francs).

It exported 19,046 tonnes of bark (3,809,000 francs).

The export of esparto reached 59,000 tonnes of 1,000 kilograms each.

These few figures are sufficient to give an idea of the commercial development of Algeria and the progress of colonisation.

Let us now go through the exhibition of the other colonies.

Guiana has sent superb timber, from which the cabinet-making and building industries could profit greatly.

In addition to its tobacco, rum, rubber, coffee, manioc, spices, bamboo baskets, pottery made in the penitentiaries, and very curious flowers made from the multicoloured feathers of the birds that live under its sky, it has sent gold ores and nuggets from the Kourouaie and Approuague placers. In 1876, these placers brought in more than five million francs.

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, with a total population of five thousand, sent nets and fishing gear. Cod fishing is their main resource.

Martinique has sent collections of shells, weapons belonging to retrospective history, dye wood, tobacco, and especially coffee, as well as sugar, liquors, rum, tafia, etc.

Education is well underway and the student work on display is worth noting.

Guadeloupe has sent similar products. Let us note only the excellent guava jams made by Mme Toutoute, a Negress who has become one of the most important traders in the country.

Now comes Senegal with its arachnid gums, indigo, wax, birds of paradise, copperbirds, parrots and hummingbirds.

Here is Gabon, with its elephant and hippopotamus ivories; then Cochinchina, which is particularly noteworthy from a food point of view.

We noticed mainly smoked meat that had been prepared for ten years: this is buffalo meat beaten and dried in the sun, containing in a small volume a good quantity of nutritive matter, not very delicate of course; here are ducks preserved by similar processes; then swallows' nests, salted fish, Cambodian pepper, tobacco; samples of thao, suitable for replacing the baudruche; cotton, silk, mats and the loom for making them, fishing nets, Annamite boats; pig's leather and pelican feathers. Here is a model of an Annamite dwelling, books printed in indigenous characters, mouldings taken from Angkor-Wat, I in Cambodia; let us finally mention some very pretty small pieces of furniture inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and vases and planters made from elephant feet with tanned leather and polished nails, j Let us finally note the ivories of French India, its woods, its skins and its muslins, the preserved food, sugar, coffee, cocoa and vanilla of Reunion. We will finish by mentioning the pearl oysters of Taïti which constitute the greatest curiosity of his exhibition.

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878