World Exhibition Paris 1878

New Technologies

May 1, 1878 - October 31, 1878

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Exhibition of the Gas Lighting and Heating Company

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The exhibition of the Parisian gas lighting and heating company.

A short distance from the Creusot pavilion, next to the one where the Ministry of Public Works had housed its interesting exhibition, one could see an elegant chalet with a jagged roof; this was where the appliances of the Parisian Gas Lighting and Heating Company were exhibited.

The reader will be grateful to us for devoting a few lines to this great company, which constitutes in our country, as it were, a national enterprise, and whose organization, so perfect and so accomplished, serves as a model not only in France, but also abroad.

Let us speak first of the gas itself.

Few people know the name of its inventor.

The man who first discovered the use of gas and its application was called Philippe Lebon, and it was in 1799 that he took out a patent to secure the ownership of his invention.

Shortly afterwards, Philippe Lebon saw the possibility of using gas as a driving force.

Today, the problem has been solved, thanks to the Lenoir machine, which appeared in 1860 and which has so far been found to be perfectly adequate.

The Compagnie Parisienne is nevertheless engaged in the study of a new gas machine, recently devised by M. Otto, which seems to solve in an even more satisfactory and more general way than the previous ones, the problem of the application of lighting gas to the production of motive power.

This machine combines the advantages of the Lenoir machine and the Langen and Otto machine, without having the disadvantages: form well suited to small installations, elimination of electricity, silent operation, reduction in gas consumption. We believe it will be a real success.
Two specimens of these machines were in operation at the Exhibition: one in the special pavilion of the Company, the other inside the Champ de Mars Palace.

As M. Camus, the active and eminent director of the Company, has rightly written in one of his interesting notices, the construction of gas machines offered particular difficulties. The time that elapsed between the first tests and the construction of a really practical machine gives the measure of the efforts that had to be made to reach the goal that Philippe Lebon had in mind.

But the distance between the realisation of an invention and its industrial exploitation is often very great. In 1863, the Lenoir machine was about to be forgotten. The high cost price discouraged the manufacturers, who could not find in the selling prices, even excessive, the remuneration of their work. The Compagnie Parisienne, which supplies the gas necessary for the gas machines operating within its perimeter, had the idea of being satisfied with the profit made on the gas thus consumed and of manufacturing machines to sell them at cost price. By this combination, which reconciled its interests with those of the public, it preserved for Parisian industry the benefit of an eminently French invention.


The Company, as we know, is responsible for the lighting of the capital; constituted on a definitive basis in 1855 by the merger of the various companies which, at that time, shared the lighting of Paris, it found itself, at the time of the annexation which took place in 1860, obliged to light 7,000 hectares instead of the 3,288 which primitively made up the Parisian area.

The gas produced in the various factories is directed to Paris by means of large-diameter pipes which converge towards the centre of gravity of consumption situated in the vicinity of the Pointe Saint-Eustache. These outlet pipes, of which there are 20, where the gas flows at certain times of the evening at a speed of 5 to 6 metres per second, can deliver more than 130,000 cubic metres per hour. All of them communicate with each other, forming a vast reservoir from which smaller pipes draw, which themselves branch out infinitely to bring the gas to a suitable pressure at all points in the capital.

The result of this arrangement is that all the factories contribute to the supply of the network served by the Company, so that, in the event that one of them should, by accident, suspend its production, the lighting service would be instantly assured by the gas coming from the others. The length of the pipelines established both in Paris and in the suburban communes is 1,759,259 metres.

The maximum diameter of these pipes is 1 metre; the minimum diameter, at the ends of the network, is 0.054 metres.

The average diameter is 0.150 metres.

Since 1856, the Company has only laid leaded and bituminous sheet metal pipes. The use of this system has made accidents and pipe breaks extremely rare and has reduced the losses of the pipeline by half, but it did not lend itself well to the connection of the pipes to each other. The lack of rigidity of the sheet metal did not allow the use of cast iron connectors. This was remedied by the use of lead fittings fixed with clamps. These lead fittings meet the same needs as the cast iron crosses and elbows, while having the advantage of being able to be manufactured immediately, in each case, according to the respective positions of the pipes to be connected.

At the same time, the need to keep the gas in charge during the day, for industrial and domestic heating, provoked necessary and important improvements in the pipeline works. The Company proposed to eliminate the use of welding and consequently of fire in this work and to carry out openings and piercings of pipes without causing gas escapes. It has achieved the first goal by replacing welding by the application of parts made in the workshop, and the second by manufacturing special tools which allow the opening and drilling of the sheet metal without giving rise to the gas in the pipe, which is isolated by the introduction of rubber insulating balloons on both sides.

It is easy to understand, therefore, why consumption, which was only 40,774,400 cubic metres in 1855, rose to 116,171,727 cubic metres in 1865; in 1877, it reached the figure of 191,197,228 cubic metres, i.e. almost five times what it was at the beginning.

-The unceasing efforts of the Company to spread the use of gas and to facilitate its use in the most elegant hotels and in the most modest interiors, in the vast shops as well as in the most cramped shops, have been instrumental in the achievement of these happy results.

The reduction in the price of gas also contributed to a certain extent to this increase in consumption.

In 1855, the city paid an average of 30 centimes per cubic metre for gas to the old companies; the rate for individuals was 40 centimes.

The new agreements reduced the municipal price to 15 centimes per cubic metre and the price for private lighting to 30 centimes.

The Company illuminates not only Paris, but also fifty-one communes in the Seine and Seine-et-Oise departments.

The total number of public spouts amounts to about 42,486.

As for the number of private spouts, it may be estimated at 1,200,000.

The Company supplies gas to 124,178 subscribers; the gas is registered by special meters which are tested in the Company's laboratories, controlled by the Municipal Service and stamped by the Prefecture of the Seine.

The capital of the Company consists of 336,000 shares, with a nominal value of 250 francs, representing a sum of 84,000,000 francs, and 266,000 bonds, representing 111,745,000 francs.

These securities are regarded as a first-rate investment, and it is not surprising when one considers that the gross receipts of the Company amounted in 1877 to 69,103,784 fr. 65 c., while in 1856, the first year of its operation, the receipts had only reached the figure of 14,030,183 francs.

The pavilion of the Gas Company at the Exhibition cost one hundred and fifty thousand francs, and a visit to this exhibition was of the greatest interest.

Between the machines -Lcnoir and Olto and Langen- operating in the centre of the pavilion, there were extremely curious plans, as well as scale models of all the gasworks equipment. Chemical production also had a large place.

At the back was a showcase in which, in glass jars and bottles, the various products of coal, notably tar, naphthalene, paraffin, benzine, phenic acid, and the dyes: picric acid, aniline, fuchsin, alizarin, etc., whose discovery has produced such a profound revolution in the dyeing industry, were enclosed.

In another showcase were exhibited various silks and fabrics dyed with these materials in the most vivid and beautiful shades.

The production of gas is for the Company a source of various and very lucrative exploitations.

Thus gas gives :

1° Coke, about 450 million kilograms per year.
2° The dust resulting from the crushing of the coke.
3° Tars.
4° A large number of chemical products used for specific purposes.

Nothing is lost, everything is used; thus the stinking water that is recovered from the sumps and which has remained around the gas pipes is used to make ammonia.

The exhibition of the Parisian Gas Company naturally includes all the tools, meters, models of pipes, etc., etc.

In conclusion, we will give the reader the figure of the quantities of gas delivered annually to the public by the Company since the year 1855, when it was founded:

In 1855... 40,774,400 m3
1850.. . 47,335,475
1857.. . 56,042.640
1858.. . 62,159,300
1859.. . 67.628,116
1860.. . 75,518,922
1861.. . 84,230,670
1862.. . 93,076,220
1863.. . 100,833,258
1864.. . 109,610,003
1505.. . 116,171,727
1866.. . 122,334,605
In 1867... 136,569,762 m3
1868.. . 138,797,811
1869.. . 145,199,424
1870.. . 114,476,909
1871.. . 87,481,346
1872.. . 147,668,331
1873.. . 154,397,115
1874.. . 160,652,202
1875.. . 175,938,244
1876.. . 189,209,789
1877.. . 191,197,228

©Les Merveilles de l'Exposition de 1878