Bodywork and carriage making, upholstery and saddlery are progressing everywhere; but France and England, or rather Paris and London, are and will remain for a long time to come the main centres of production in these industries.
There is good production, who can dispute it? in Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United States, but only in London and Paris is there very good production.
An active rivalry has been established between these two cities to the benefit of all the others which follow them, but so slowly and from so far away that it is doubtful whether they will ever reach them.
The progress of any great industry is the necessary and forced consequence of the importance of its outlets. The producer who manufactures relentlessly and to satisfy the needs and demands of a large clientele, understands that, in his own interest, he must do better every day, in order to deprive the competition of any possible chance of success.
This is what the coachbuilder does in France and in England. It has established vast workshops where it supervises the work of wheelwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, locksmiths, saddlers, saddlery makers, plasterers, lantern makers, painters and sculptors. No detail escapes the company's attention, and it can therefore vouch for the excellence and perfect execution of its products in their smallest parts and in their entirety.
The qualities that must be present in luxury, or private service, coaches are solidity, lightness and elegance of form. Gala carriages, horse-drawn carriages, coupés, landaus, victorias, phaetons, American cars, all cars, however different they may be in construction, cut and design, are relatively as solid, as light and as elegant as each other when they leave the workshops of a master.
The large share which France and England have obtained in the prizes awarded by the jury, shows a superiority which the most jealous rivalry cannot dispute.
We can even say, after a serious examination, and without echoing the recriminations of a few malcontents, that the jury was much more severe than benevolent towards the majority of our coachbuilders, saddlers and harness makers. In the opinion of the best judges, many of them deserved better than they obtained, and such a one has been forgotten, who, in the opinion of some, is worthy of being placed in the first rank on the list of awards.
The only reproach that, in our opinion, can be addressed to the jury is that they did not have the courage of their opinion and that they were rigorous for fear of being accused of favouritism.
Thus, Messrs Lelorieux frères exhibited a pram of the most elegant form and of the most extreme lightness. The builders did not manage, without great difficulty, to give this vehicle, which is usually quite heavy, the quality which distinguishes it and should have recommended it to the jury; but on the pretext that its great lightness made its solidity doubtful, we did not think we should give them more than an honourable mention.
MM. Million-Guiet et Cie were treated a little more favourably but not more justly.
They also exhibited a pram whose solidity, despite its great lightness, is guaranteed by its purpose and the hard service for which it was ordered. This vehicle is intended to operate on the steep, barely traversed roads of the United States, and has therefore been built under quite exceptional conditions. One only has to look closely to appreciate the merit of its fine, solid construction.
The beautiful coupe that came out of their workshops is especially remarkable for the application of the new type of eleven-spring and boom assembly. It is certainly one of the most charming novelties that amateurs can admire at the Exhibition. Never before has the most comfortable car combined such a smooth suspension with such easy access.
MM. Million-Guiet et Cie apply this new system to all their carriages, and they do well.
Their carriage cannot fail to have the honours of imitation very soon; but the glory of the invention will not be disputed by anyone, and this glory will be more lasting than that which a higher distinction would have given them.
MM. Belvalette frères and M. Ehrler were awarded the gold medal. All we can say is that after a very curious and interesting examination of each of the cars they exhibited, the entire audience, without distraction from their fellow competitors, confirmed the judgment of the Commission and approved the decision of the jury.
Mr. Kellner, the patented inventor of a pram whose doors can be opened without having to lower the windows, obtained a silver medal which his exhibition would have deserved without his gala carriage, which is nevertheless the main part of it.
The form of this court carriage, of a severe taste, but perhaps a little heavy and too much collected; its richness of ornamentation and gilding, its beautiful carved gallery, its broad seat, splendidly embroidered, its luxurious interior but without excess, its four splendid lanterns, of an exquisite design and the finest chiselling, everything, in this work bursting with gilding and the most vivid colours, attracts the eyes without tiring the glance.
Mr. Kellner, being a supplier to several foreign courts, was able to establish and execute this princely vehicle without any risk. It is certain that if Italy and Germany had not both made such a large slaughter of kings and dukes, he would have found a buyer long ago; but his noble clientele is numerous, the Exhibition is not yet closed, and one must hope that such an expensive work will not remain for him.
The prams of Mr. Desouches and those of Mr. Ed. Bouillon could not fail to attract the attention of the Commission. A silver medal was rightly awarded to them. Mr. Desouches is credited with an ingenious mechanism for opening the doors on the inside. Mr. Ed. Bouillon also exhibited a small Sociable, which is a real jewel.
It is topped by an elegant velum, a charming shelter against the sun or the rain.
Messrs. Délayé, uncle and nephew, exhibited a very brilliant ceremonial carriage, which a rich Prussian lord hastened to buy, at the very beginning of the Exhibition. In its entirety and in its smallest details, it is a quite remarkable work which does the greatest honour to the manufacturers.
Let us also mention two very beautiful pieces: a phaeton of marvellous lightness, with a one-piece boom, and a rich wheelchair of the most exquisite form.
We are astonished that Baron Haussmann did not buy it on the very day of the opening, to put it at the disposal of all the noble ladies who were to visit the Champ de Mars in succession. He would have shown gallantry, and his city council would not have chided him for such a small expense.
The jury only awarded Messrs Délayé a bronze medal, which they refused.
Without having an exaggerated sense of his merit and the value of his works, one has the right to protest when one believes them to be unjustly ignored and belittled.
Let us not forget to mention the beautiful ceremonial and hunting carriages of M. Gustave Brassart.
Let it not be supposed that we end this account without mentioning Messrs. Binder, the princes of carriage-making; perhaps we should have named them first; but whatever place is assigned to them, they always take their place; in this they resemble those majesties who, outstripped by a brilliant escort, are nonetheless everywhere recognised and acclaimed, even though they come only afterwards.
Out of the competition, MM. Binder frères nevertheless wanted to make their presence felt at the Champ de Mars: they took at random from among the hundred models that can be visited on the Boulevard Haussmann, a gala car, a coupé d'Orsay, a carriage and a victoria-duc, four masterpieces of construction, elegance and good taste. Everything that comes out of their workshops can be indifferently delivered to the criticism or rather to the appreciation, not only of connoisseurs, but of the most skilful of masters.
French saddlery is no less worthily represented than coachwork: it has exhibited harnesses of such richness and of such graceful and elegant form that the crowd stops in front of the windows which contain them, with as much admiring astonishment as before the splendid displays of Froment-Meurice and Christofle.
A complete harness is made up of a host of parts: the mantelet, the collar, the croupière, the reculement, the bridle, the lines, the guides, all of which are entrusted to special workers, who are constantly seeking to make happy modifications to the work entrusted to them; this is how, little by little, they have arrived today at near perfection.
But all the changes made in the shape and arrangement of the various parts of the harness are not so much the result of the taste or fancy of the owner or the workman, as of a constant study and a deeper knowledge of the horse. It is to make the service less tiring and gentler that the Roduwarts, the Lambins, the Hermes, the Reegs, and so many others, are each day in search of new improvements.
The gold medal was awarded by the jury to Mr. Rodriguez-Zurdo, from Madrid, and to Mr. J. J. Roduwart from Paris.
The very rich harnesses exhibited by the former are especially remarkable for their trimmings and magnificent stitching on morocco.
The harnesses of Mr. J. J. Roduwart are very rich, but a little heavy in form, perhaps; they have been made, however, with the greatest care, and of such noble breed as the horses for which they are intended are, none of them will have the right to complain. If I should ever learn that Mr. Roduwart has been appointed President of the Humane Society, I should not be surprised, and I should congratulate both the protectors and the protected.
When one arrives in front of the showcases of Mr. Remières and Hermes, one stops, then goes from one to the other without losing attention and admiration; one then naturally turns one's eyes back to the exhibition of Mr. Roduwart, and asks oneself how and why he obtained the gold medal, when his peers, to say the least, obtained only the silver medal. Jury decisions sometimes present themselves as completely unsolvable problems.
Mr. Reeg must be of the race of the old masters; the smallest parts of the pieces exhibited by him are treated with that meticulous care which indicates the taste and conscience of the true workman. There is in his showcase a saddle which, in the judgment of connoisseurs, is not only a masterpiece of workmanship, but a marvel of elegance and good taste. The jury awarded him a bronze medal, which the brave Mr. Reeg accepted with as much gratitude as if he had not deserved better.
It is unfortunate that the Commission did not know that Mr. Reeg managed, by dint of research and hard work, to free himself from the tribute that all his colleagues still pay to England today. Three of the saddles he has exhibited are lined with pigskin, which he has prepared. This skin has the suppleness, softness and smoothness of the finest skins that Messrs. Roduwart, Remières and Hermes bring from London at great expense. Mr. Reeg has thus made a saving of more than 60 per cent for French industry.
Mr. Cognet, the inventor of an articulated pommel, has been better treated and happier. He was awarded a silver medal.
The bits, stirrups and spurs of Mr. Loiseau are pieces of the finest workmanship: it is a real piece of polished steel jewellery which deserves the silver medal that the jury awarded him.
The safety bit of Messrs Lambin and Lefèvre is an ingenious invention worthy of the attention of masters and apprentice riders.
Messrs. Boyer and Paturel, Mr. Legrand and Mr. Chaudron received the same medal for their whips, whips and sticks; comparing their products with those of Messrs. Swaine and Adenay, of London, to whom the jury very justly awarded the same distinction, one is happy to see that in our country this industry has no longer any rivalry or competition to fear. But in fairness, did not Messrs Boyer and Paturel, Swaine and Adenay, deserve better than they got?
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée