Sad is the impression which the visitor who ventures through the United States exhibition at first feels. Convinced of the power of the great Republic, filled with the idea that he is about to contemplate a splendid exhibition, such as would be appropriate to the first industrial nation on earth, he wanders through the narrow space reserved for the New World, with an astonishment and amazement that soon increases when, turning from side to side, he realizes that a few minutes have sufficed for him to observe all the objects sent from this eminently progressive country. Who is to blame for this disillusionment? Was it the French Commission, which had measured the place too strictly? Was it the American Commission that neglected the very interests it represented? Was it private trade? Was it the political situation?
For us, we sincerely believe that the first reproach is due to the American Commission. Indeed, the annexes were not so sparingly used that new ones could not have been reserved for the United States if they had asked for them. As for the industrialists, how can we believe that they would have hesitated to send their products to such a magnificent exhibition, the most beautiful that has ever taken place, the last, perhaps, that our eyes will see? There remains the cruel position of a people, after a civil war of five years.
This reason, more specious, seems to us as weak as the others. The United States cannot claim it. They are not in the situation of monarchical states, where financial and industrial debacles follow not only great wars, but the smallest diplomatic incidents. The United States, setting a great example to the world, has never lost confidence. During the years of rebellion, it continued to work, to produce, to advance. A few miles from the battlefields, the trades were working: do not the Republicans of North America know the nothingness of the glory of arms? Are they not self-confident, convinced that they have the future?
Only the American Commission is guilty, and the Commission is unfortunately the government.
Whatever the reason for this indifference, it exists and it strikes the public. All the measures seem to us to have been badly taken. Not only do connoisseurs regret, at every moment, that they cannot find hundreds of curious inventions that deserve a place of honour, but they also come up against a host of annoying obstacles in the middle of their journey. They search with great difficulty for a catalogue that cannot be found; the notices are rare; most of them have not been translated, or are poorly translated and not distributed; the employees, who are otherwise very polite, seem to be unaware of everything they should know. It is true that this is more or less the case elsewhere; but it was incumbent upon America, so justly praised, not to follow vulgar erring ways.
After these few reflections, let us point out to the public what we have noticed most curious in the interior exhibition. There are certainly many interesting objects, and what we have just said in no way detracts from the houses that exhibited. On the contrary, it is those who have refrained from exhibiting that we blame. As it is, this exhibition would be very beautiful coming from Costa Rica or Nicaragua. It is unworthy of the sons of Washington. We can do one article on what to praise; we could do ten on what to regret.
In the food galleries we noticed corn plants of gigantic size. The sorghum samples are also quite curious. Nearby there are models of saws that deserve careful study.
When maize was shown, cornflour was naturally shown. Cornstarch is an American food that can be made into puddings, creams, pies, soups, cakes, sauces, etc. It is not that it is a good food, but that it can be used in a variety of ways. It's not that it's very good, but you get a taste for everything, and the patients claim to be fine with it.
Among the machines in the interior are models of omnibuses which differ essentially from ours. The most beautiful is in the annex which we will discuss shortly. The paper bowl factory also attracts attention. This invention is indeed very convenient and very economical. For the mere price of laundering one can thus possess a new collar, and it is difficult to distinguish the material from which it is made.
The United States Navy is not really represented. A few lifeboats, and that is all. Mr. Beckwith has put in a specimen of a fishing boat that can hold 10,000 pounds of live fish. There is nothing special about the shape of the boat or the tank. There may, however, be some use for this novelty.
The minerals are certainly the remarkable side of this exhibition. There are a great number of them. California, Colorado, and Nevada have furnished much gold and silver. It has been an excellent idea to attach to the stones and ingots some very nice photographs of the sites around the mines.
If you continue towards the Central Garden, you will stop in front of Mr. Barlow's planetarium. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful we have yet seen. It is impossible for everyone not to have noticed it. Thanks to a mechanism as simple to move as it must have been complicated to execute, it is easy to see the relative positions of the Sun, Jupiter, Venus, the Earth and the Moon, at every moment of the day, at every day of the month, at every month of the year, and at every year of several centuries. Mr. Barlow has been awarded a medal of honour; if ever an award was deserved, this is certainly it.
The grace with which this system is explained contributes to its success.
The display case filled with stuffed birds is also worth a visit. All these birds belong to the northern states; those from the south are conspicuous by their absence. The pheasants have a special appearance, a superb guinea cock and a colossal wild goose.
On the left are specimens of wild adjustments. There are Indian women's ornaments, a rattlesnake skin used as a belt and as a preservative against bites, and various other accoutrements worn by the chiefs on feast days.
On the right is a small cotton tree, with its half-open fruit and its down, similar to snow. It reminded me of those magnificent fields of the South, which, under the breath of the wind, shake like a frothy sea.
The weapons are not numerous, but they are beautiful. One exhibitor called our attention to some fabulously rich revolvers. Are we better killed by these things?
Hear the pianos and examine the clocks. I could also say: hear the clocks. The one in the middle of the room where we are, which came out of the workshops of Mr. Fournier of New Orleans, is a masterpiece of clock-making. As for the pianos, they have been a huge success.
Do you know what a bathometer is? It is an instrument designed to measure the depth of water without the aid of a probe. The probe deflects, thanks to the currents. Moreover, when sounding deep seas, a lot of time is lost going up and down; this delay is caused by the friction that the water produces on the probe. This invention aims to remedy these difficulties. It consists, in general terms, according to the prospectus, in the compression of a fluid or fluids contained in a vase immersed by means of a weight, and automatically detached from the rest of the apparatus, when it touches the bottom; the vase and its accessories can be raised by means of a buoy, the apparatus being immersed without the aid of a line, and the buoy being provided with a signal which enables the operator to see it when it rises to the surface.
You can have this bathometer explained to you at the Exhibition in a more lucid manner.
The book trade is hardly represented except by the American Bible Society. This society, established in 1816, has received, since its origin, in donations and sales, more than 54 million francs. It has distributed over 22 million copies of the Scriptures in 50 languages or dialects, including Dakota, Mohawk, Ojibwa, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Benga, Grebo, Arrawack, Mpongwe, and Zuln, and has 17 first-class presses and 400 printers; 5,000 auxiliary societies, 2,000 directors (slightly more than the Century), and 25,000 life members.
That is why it exhibits some very unremarkable small volumes.
Not far from there, we find a model of a hospital. We regret that other models were not sent. There would have been some very original ones. If, for example, we had been shown a specimen of the houses where ice is made with the rain of living water, falling from the upper floor, would it not have been interesting? and these singular buildings, into which the pig enters alive and from which it comes out cervelas... and so many others, which it would be too long to mention, did they not deserve a reproduction?
It is useful to look at the military costumes and the flags of the regiments.... they are already things of the past, and, as Mr. Dufraisse would say, archaeological objects. Let us not forget to mention the books intended for the instruction of the blind.
No crystals, no furniture, or so little that it is useless to mention them. How much more favourably can we treat American art? But, if space does not permit, we shall examine the state of painting on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in a future article.
Let us now move on to the annex where a certain amount of machinery, looms and a knitting machine are still on display. The most striking thing is an enormous locomotive, as superior to ours, it must be said, as the improvement is superior to primitive industry. Here, indeed, not only is everything powerful and beautiful, but also
the drivers and mechanics are protected from the bad weather of the seasons by an elegant canopy; they even have seats for resting. Is it conceivable that Europe has waited so long to preserve train drivers in this way? These men are responsible for our lives.... it would be all the more reason to look after their health.
Next to this locomotive is the American omnibus model we were talking about earlier. This omnibus is charming; the outside is decorated with rather mediocre paintings, it is true, but bright and cheerful. The interior is vast, and one can fit comfortably without getting in each other's way. One more lesson for us.
Let us not forget to mention the American farmers' van. This van can carry a load of 4,000 pounds, which is all that can be pulled by a two-horse team. The box can be removed and a wire mesh placed over the van, and it can carry a load of hay or straw. It has a spring-loaded seat that can be removed and placed as the owner wishes.
It seems that the inventor of this van could not meet his orders. Starting from nothing, he has, in a few years, acquired a fairground of 1 million francs of income.
So he attached a photograph of his home to the van. It is made of brick, the window fronts and cornices are of marble, and the doors are of mahogany. It contains all modern conveniences, such as water and gas, and is heated by steam. It occupies a whole square, and cost $250,000, that is, $150,000 francs.
Almost all the industrialists of America like to publish the figure of their acquired fortune in this way, and to advertise the houses they buy or have built. It is rare that they do not add with a certain pride:
"My success shows what can be accomplished on American soil by industry, energy, judicious occupation (sic), and mechanical labor. "
The judicious occupation is the van... Edgar Poë did not have a sensible occupation.
This work would be unfair and incomplete if we did not end it with congratulations to the American buffet, one of the best kept at the Exhibition. Several of its drinks have been all the rage here and are acclimatised. The Soda machine is very ingenious. About twenty taps mix, in a silver mug, syrups of all colours and flavours, with iced seltzer. On hot days this refreshment is invaluable.
The Sherry Cobbler and the Mint Julep were surprising at first, but eventually won the day. The way of sniffing by means of a blowtorch seemed delicious.
The Sherry Cobbler consists of Sherry wine, a little brandy, a little powdered sugar, a little grated nutmeg and crushed ice.
For the Mint Julep, Madeira wine is used instead of Sherry wine, and the glass is topped with spearmint leaves, a few strawberries and small pieces of pineapple.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée