"When visiting universal exhibitions, the worker has more than once recognised, among the objects that the crowd admired, pieces that came out of his hands that bore no trace of his name. He may also have regretted not exhibiting under his name a work undertaken and executed by him at home. The Imperial Commission wanted to make room for the industrious worker, trying to produce by himself. It instituted class 94, specially intended to receive products of all kinds manufactured by workers working on their own account, either alone or with the assistance of their family or an apprentice, for trade or for domestic consumption. In the other classes, the products are shown under the name of those who caused them to be produced and brought about their complete execution; here, on the contrary, the hand of the worker is revealed by his personal work, and the craftsman makes himself known by his work. "
It was in these terms that the admission committee of class 94, presided over by M. Sajou, defined its task when it published, in August 1865, an appeal addressed to all workers as well as to all industrial leaders.
This appeal was heard; more than three hundred exhibitors, almost all of whom were master craftsmen, were admitted to place before the public's eyes the work conceived by their individual intelligence and executed by their hands.
It was thus a small exhibition within a large one, since it included products of all kinds, and so varied, that the admission committee, composed of eighteen members, was obliged, for the purpose of researching and examining the products, to form itself into eighty-eight sub-committees. The work lasted without interruption from July 1865 until the opening of the World's Fair on April 1, 1867.
Class 94 occupies two rooms in the French section of the Palais de l'Exposition Universelle, starting from the Clothing Gallery, just opposite the national costumes, and bounded in their length by the exhibition of Algeria and the French colonies, which separates them from the exhibition of the Netherlands. Between these two rooms and the machine gallery, there is only the thickness of the national costumes exhibition.
Our engraving elegantly gives an accurate idea of the main showcases where so many precious, curious and interesting objects are grouped. On the right, we see the cathedral of Caen, reproduced in all its details by means of the cutting saw; on the left, this monument, surmounted by a Genie, is the masterpiece of the carpenters of the Duty of Liberty. This rich lamp post is the work of a skilful modeller, Philippe May; finally, this large oval contains the portrait of the Emperor, executed in paper mosaic by Captain Saint-Alary of the 59th Line.
Here the reader pauses to reflect. - What does an infantry captain have to do with the master craftsmen, he asks himself, and how does the admission committee for class 94 explain this classification?
The answer is easy. The admission committees of groups other than the first and tenth have systematically referred to class 94 all objects that were the product of purely individual and manual efforts, regardless of the exhibitor's social position. This is why we find, in the class reserved for master craftsmen, the names of Mr. Captain Saint-Alary, Mr. Jules Pautet, honorary sub-prefect, and Mme de la princesse de Beauvau, admitted as a chamber worker.
Mme. Charles de Beauvau deserved this exception or this honour. As a worker, no one surpasses her: see rather the three beautiful tapestries which are faithfully reproduced at the head of our engraving, and whose union would form the most artistic of screens. The Swan Child, the Peacock and the Rooster have been reproduced by the fairy needle of Mme de Beauvau with the talent of a consummate painter.
This is not the fantasy of a great lady. Mme de Beauvau teaches this kind of tapestry to poor young girls, makes them work under her eyes, and the rather important product of these works, - one speaks of about twenty thousand francs per year, - is employed by the princess in the interest of her protégés. To be sure, Madame de Beauvau is not a worker like any other, but neither is she a princess like any other. The jury of the tenth group awarded her a silver medal. It could have been engraved with the words 'Work and Charity'.
Class 94, better divided than other more ambitious classes, revealed two considerable inventions, rewarded, the first by a grand prize, the second by a gold medal.
The grand prize went to Mr. Dufresne, an eminent artist, sculptor, chiseller, inventor of an economical damascene process, which puts this type of ornamentation within the reach of all pockets. But this is only his least important title.
Mr. Dufresne has invented a process of gilding with mercury and fire, which presents no danger to the health of the workers. This process is not only theoretical: we have seen it applied in a large scale in one of the main gilding workshops in Paris, that of Messrs Picard père et fils, rue de la Perle.
Let us try to explain the merit and simplicity of the process of Mr. Dufresne, who generously disclosed it to the Academy of Sciences.
Usually, gold is fixed on copper after having soaked the latter in a mordant, which is none other than an acid bath of mercury azotate. If silver could be prepared in the same way as copper by means of the acid bath, gilding on silver would not present any danger. But this is not the case; the mercury azotate would corrode the silver. The silver piece must therefore be coated with an amalgam of mercury and gold; the worker, with a glove on his hand, presents the piece on lighted coals and the amalgam is spread with a small brush until it is perfectly gilded. The glass mantle which descends from the furnace frame cannot therefore be lowered completely, and moreover the skin of the hands and forearms, insufficiently defended by the gloves and sleeves, absorbs a certain quantity of mercury vapour with a deleterious effect.
M. Dufresne had the very ingenious idea of neutralising the acid bath of mercury azotate used for gilding copper; it then becomes harmless to silver. The gold is applied to the pile or in sheets on the silver soaked in the neutral bath; from then on it is enough to place the gilded piece on the fire for the amalgamation to take place without the worker interfering. He lowers the glass mantle completely, moves away if he wishes, and when he returns after a few minutes to remove the piece from the fire, the gilding is perfect.
This method of gilding presents, moreover, advantages which make it superior to the ordinary processes; for example, it makes it possible to increase at will the thickness of the layer of gold, which it was not possible to obtain until now.
The value of Mr. Dufresne's process has been studied and confirmed by the highest scientific authority that can be invoked in such matters, by Baron de Liebig, President of the Xth Group. It is therefore in all security and with full knowledge of the facts that the international jury crowned this beautiful discovery with a great prize.
The other off-line result, whose disclosure was favoured by the class of 94, was the square turning lathe made by a watchmaker, Mr Bastié.
Turning square was, in industry, a dream, a chimera. "I will teach you to turn square," was said among the workers of Paris in the manner of a proverb equivalent to "I promise you a white blackbird for the week of four Thursdays. "
However, the square lathe exists; it works; the improbable has been achieved; human tools have been equipped with a new machine.
The original idea did not belong to Mr Bastié, but to one of his former comrades, who had conceived it himself after seeing a mechanical planer in operation. The Gordian knot of the square lathe is a parallelogram frame, with internal teeth, which is set in motion by a gear wheel; the four corners of the rectangle have no teeth, which produces a sort of escapement or fall which is communicated to the lathe's object holder. The wheel thus descends to meet the tool in accordance with a rectilinear plane, then withdraws, and is represented on the tool, and so on; by arranging the mechanism, a piece of wood, stone or plaster can be cut at will, with four, six or eight sides.
The machine of the first inventor was based on a correct principle; but it did not work; the weight of the object to be turned dragged the lathe or even broke the teeth of the gear.
Mr. Bastié took this invention, which had been abandoned as impractical, and gave it life. All he had to do was to place two wheels side by side and mesh them, making them run in opposite directions. The central axis of one of these wheels supports the object to be turned; a graduated counterweight is attached to the central axis of the other. When the machine is set in motion by a pedal belt, one of the two wheels cannot be lowered without raising the other and vice versa. The play of the machine thus balanced is as elegant as it is precise.
The Emperor, whose attention is always on the alert, knew of Mr. Bastié's invention and had awarded him a silver medal before the Exhibition. The international jury awarded a gold medal to Mr. Bastié, whose machine, when executed in a large scale, seems to be particularly applicable to the cutting of stone balusters. It would result in a saving of more than fifty per cent on labour.
Artists abound in class 94. Are they not, in fact, artists, and the rarest, that Mr. and Mrs. Yernaz, the son-in-law and daughter of Vechte, our great sculptor-chiseller, of whom they are worthy pupils? What fine damascene and what delicacy in their iron and silver embossing!
And Gonon, the founder, who, following in his father's footsteps, has rediscovered the secrets of lost-wax casting, which had disappeared since the Keller brothers?
And Baudoin, the restorer dear to Sauvageot? Baudoin who, in a piece of boxwood eighty millimetres high and ninety-five millimetres wide, carved in the shape of a Gothic L, sculpted eight medallions, containing twenty-five characters and recounting eight main episodes in the life of Saint Louis?
And Milice, the retired tapestry-maker from Beauvais, who continues, with his only resources, to weave works of art that the great manufacture would not disavow?
And Poux, the first of our bronze chisellers? Look at his Milon of Crotone! It is a reduction, at the point, of the famous group of our Puget. The chiseller's work has given different values to each part of the composition: flesh and hair of the man, fleshy parts and bony parts, nails and hair of the animal, bark and fibres of the tree, the chiseller's tool has described everything, nuanced everything, characterised everything.
M. Poux's Milon of Crotone is placed, along with four other no less remarkable works by the same artist, in a showcase where all the pieces of chasing in bronze, silver or galvano, exhibited by the Society of Bronze Manufacturers, are gathered.
This society, presided over by M. Barbedienne, has instituted competitions for all the co-operators of an industry or rather an art in which France occupies the first rank, and it has placed in class 94 the most estimable works of its winners.
Among these works, the international jury distinguished, in addition to the works of M. Poux (silver medal), those of Messrs. Eugène Michaux, embossed and chiselled ornaments; Jules Abeille, flower tray; Dulac, Triumph of Bacchus, which we would like to call the triumph of repair, the chiseller having voluntarily chosen a piece remarkable for the defects of the cast iron; Lenoir, four paintings of garlands of flowers, in cast and chased bronze; Ferdinand Levillain, two finely modelled plaster cups; Attarge, a box and vase in chased galvano; Auger, known as Roger, a vase with bas-reliefs modelled in wax. Let us also mention the Snake Charmer, a bronze chased by M. Lebeau, and the Dance of May, chased by M. Lavigne.
Those whom I do not name will forgive me; the jury, I am sure, would have liked to reward them all, so fertile is this noble industry of art bronze in talent.
A mirror border, sculpted in wood by Mr. Émile Vallier, is still linked to serious art. The finesse of Mr. Émile Vallier's hand is all the more remarkable as this exhibitor usually works for the manufacturers of common chairs. It is the honour of class 94 to have brought to light some of the elite talents contained in the compact mass of workers.
And what do you think of Mr. Eugène Monnot, who applies to ordinary clocks and paperweights a projection of the terrestrial globe, by means of which one obtains, in a constant manner, the time of all the points of the globe? It is not the invention that surprises; the principle was known. What arouses sympathy, we were going to say admiration, is that a simple tailor could, by devoting the hours that are usually reserved for rest after long days, learn astronomy in depth; it is that a craftsman, whose meagre salary represents, on average, 3 francs 50 centimes to 4 francs per day, had the courage to build up a scientific library, estimated at several thousand francs. What hardships! What sacrifices! What a life of labour and virtue!
A singular fact, constant enough to attract the attention of the observer, is that a fairly large number of discoveries or commendable works were made by workers outside their current speciality. Thus, it is a goldsmith, Mr. Bastié, who executes the square lathe; it is a tailor who exhibits a universal clock. We could quote a day labourer, domestic and rubbing worker, Mr. Marmande, who invented an ingenious system of fitting for scythes; two setter workers, Mr. Lamour and Mr. Roullet, who created mechanical toys with natural movements, which prove an astonishing knowledge of the laws of mechanics and of human or animal anatomy.
We would like to continue and complete this study in such a way that no real merit remains in the dark. But the abundance and variety of the objects gathered in class 94 discourages description.
Let us mention, however, the admirable typographic work of M. Moulinet, who, using printing nets, i.e. simple blades of lead, reproduces, by means of juxtaposed or criss-crossed hatching, the principal effects of relief engraving. The portraits of Gutenberg, Béranger and especially the line drawing of the group of Daphnis and Chloe are true masterpieces. The typographical corporation is proud of Mr. Moulinet, one of its prud'hommes, who is as respected for his character as he is honoured for his talents.
The Bibliothèque nationale et l'Ecole mutuelle, a collection of cheap books published by a society of typographers, is an attempt which cannot be ignored, and which aims at the diffusion of the masterpieces of the French language as well as books of elementary instruction. To sell a volume, suitably printed, at a rate of twenty-five centimes for a paperback copy and thirty-five centimes for a bound copy, while making a reasonable profit from which their colleagues without work benefit, such is the tour de force, such is the good work that the associated typographers have achieved.
Special mention is also due to the Société de l'industrie des ébénistes du faubourg Saint-Antoine, the Société ouvrière des bronzes d'imitation, and the Société ouvrière des bronzes pour la fabrication des appareils à gaz. The main products of these last two companies are displayed in the workers' house in Paris, built in the park near the Rapp gate. It is there that one must study this intelligent, economical and conscientious manufacture.
So far we have only talked about French products. To tell the truth, foreigners took almost no part in the exhibition of class 94, and we have every reason to believe that the profoundly democratic and egalitarian idea which determines the meaning of this event has not been well understood outside our borders.
According to the official catalogue, five foreign nations contributed to the class 94 exhibition, namely: Austria for ten exhibitors, Canada for one, Spain for two, Greece for five, and Hesse for three.
But, in reality, only one Spanish product could be found; Greece did not send any of its own; only one Hessian, the Canadian and a few Austrian products arrived at their destination.
The damasks of Mr. Alvarez, of Toledo, are original and well executed; the Canadian product consists of two pairs of shoes, of the crudest workmanship.
On the other hand, Hesse offers us, in the person of Mr. Otto Egner, of Ehrbach, delicate sculptures on ivory, far superior, let us have the courage to admit it, to the much vaunted work of the ivory makers of Dieppe.
In Austria, we must examine the monstrance executed in silver repoussé by M. Razek, according to the rather mediocre design of a famous Viennese architect; the varied products of the industrial society of Transylvania, and finally the tinder industry, which provides me with the opportunity of a final pause.
Mr. Joseph Kindl, from Zirer, exhibits Hungarian tinder headdresses and whole tinder skins in the prepared state. According to some historians, the agaric or mushroom that provides tinder took its name from the Agarid, a region of ancient Sarmatia, which would be no other than present-day Hungary. The fact is that agaric is the object, in this country of great oaks, of a national industry, of which Mr. Kindl is for us the revelation, because the vast Dictionary of Trade of Guillaumin, this so complete repertory, does not even mention it. Mr. Kindl's headgear, caps or hunting bonnets, made of one piece of amadou, are supple, warm and light. The agaric skins, which come from mushrooms whose caps are more than a metre in circumference, are admirably prepared and as soft as the finest velvet.
Here space is lacking in our pen; but the class 94 has already found its special historian, and we point out that the monograph published by Mr. V. Vattier is very complete and very accurate. It contains many details and notes which could not be included here.
Class 94 is completed by class 95, that of work in action; whoever has seen one must go and see the other. This is the best use that a studious and intelligent visitor can assign to the leisure of his morning.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée