Not far from the conference hall and before arriving at the palace of the bey of Tunis, one notices a construction of a singular aspect which affects the shape of an underground gallery, and where are side by side blocks of cement and polychrome mosaics.
Some people would have been indifferent to these pieces of mortar and concrete, if it were not for the original appearance of the construction that contains them.
And yet this attraction of curiosity is not enough to reveal the important interest which is attached to the exhibition of these specimens.
It is indeed on the quantity of lime and cement that the safety of the citizens who cross our bridges depends, as well as the increase that our trade obtains through the use of lime.
the increase that our trade obtains by the enlargement of existing seaports or the creation of new seaports.
For this type of construction, the most important point of which is solidity, there is no shortage of materials, but they rarely meet all the practical conditions. Moreover, it is not enough to be able to build, it is eminently necessary for the equilibrium of our finances that we be able to carry out public utility works economically.
Lime has the quality that it combines easily with various sands, and in particular with basalt, granite and flint erosions. Its hydraulic properties are very good, and its resistance to the action of salt water and sea winds makes it indispensable for underwater constructions as well as for those built in elevation in saline areas.
The hydraulic lime of Lafarge-du-Teil, used in the construction which is the subject of our engraving, has already given proof of its eminently hydraulic qualities, by the use which has been made of it in twenty-two different ports of the Mediterranean, the Ocean and the Channel.
The limestone layers exploited at Lafarge are part of the lower Neocomian marl, and constitute the bedrock that geologists have designated as criocerated limestone. It has been noted that the hydraulic limes whose deposits bear the signs of Neocomian crioceratites are those which possess to a greater degree the distinctive conditions of the best hydraulic limes. These deposits often consist of marl or clay, and more or less coarse yellowish limestones, sometimes in fairly thick continuous cou-< lies, sometimes in large lenses amidst marly silts and sands. The most powerful deposits are found in Languedoc, Dauphiné and Provence.
The quarries of Lafarge-du-Teil are open on 100 meters of frontage, 400 meters length, and formed of four superimposed compact banks of 2.5 meters height each, and where one finds at the same time excellent stones of construction.
Experience has had time to form for the limestone industry, perhaps more than for other industries. Of all the ancient arts, architecture is the one whose history has been written down to the last detail, not only in the books of Porcius Cato of Vitruvius, but also in the imperishable monuments that the ancients have bequeathed us.
I do not want to recall here the whole history of Roman cements, nor the formulas for the composition of the various mortars that have been used since Vitruvius. It is enough to point out that in the space of 35 years, the exploitation of the lime of Lafarge-du-Teil has managed to produce 90,000 tonnes annually, that is to say 90 million kilograms of lime. This production will certainly increase further with the junction of the Rhône with the port of Saint-Louis. Indeed, the factory is located on the banks of the Rhône, and is crossed by the imperial road from Lyon to Beaucaire. Thirty-four continuous fire furnaces, which devour 500 cubic metres of broken stone and 70,000 kilos of earth coal daily, contribute to the production that I have quantified above.
An army of 500 workers operates daily in this factory, where immense slaking pits feed 14 mills and 30 blotters driven by 4 steam engines.
The number of these workers has called for a philanthropic organisation to which we owe our praise; and if the products of the Lafarge-du-Teil factory are manufactured with conscientious solicitude, the workers who give movement to this production are the object of the most intelligent consideration on the part of their leaders.
Thus a relief fund, intended to provide free medical care, has been established; retirement pensions and savings banks encourage thrift; finally, healthy and abundant food and cheap accommodation are available to the workers.
We have learned that a chaplaincy will soon be set up in the Lafarge-du-Teil factory, and we believe that a primary school will not be forgotten.
The exploitation of the Lafarge-du-Teil quarries has given rise to another industry which is intimately linked to it and which consists of the application of the residues of this factory to the manufacture of polychrome mosaic tiles with inlaid and essentially adherent designs. The discovery is due to Messrs Da-mon and Rousset, whose factory is established in Viviers, near that of Mr Pavin de Lafarge. These inventors have succeeded in creating models with a great variety of designs and colours, and whose solidity resists all forms of friction.
The mosaic tiles of Messrs. Damon and Rousset allow, by their low price, an ornamentation accessible to the economic construction; they are admirably appropriate by their homogeneous composition and without mixture of any kind, for the covering of wet rooms such as: baths, laundries and hydrotherapy establishments.
In addition, the most diverse types and the soft shades that are obtained by the manufacture of Messrs. Damon and Rousset, facilitate the use of decorations of different styles, Etruscan, Pompeii, Roman or Renaissance.
In short, the industries of the Lafarge-du-Teil and Viviers factories are of the utmost importance.
Their solidarity is likely to favour economic production and can greatly develop their external relations, with the new outlets soon to be offered by the cutting of the Rhône.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée