Equal political conditions and the kinship of the reigning families have established between our country and Romania, which is sometimes called the Belgium of the East, a current of lively sympathy. The province of Liege, in particular, is known there in a very intimate way. Is it any wonder that many sons of the best Romanian families come to study at our university and that frequent contacts are established between Romanian industrialists and our own.
Thus, the Cockerill Company recently supplied the Romanian railway administration with equipment.
Such commercial and moral relationships should have encouraged the Romanians to participate in our World Fair. However, in spite of strong requests and a trip to Bucharest by Mr. G. Simonis, the Romanian consul in Liege, and the intervention of Baron Beyens, the Belgian minister in Bucharest, Romania decided not to participate in the Liege Exhibition. Economic considerations and the need to reserve for the possibility of a Jubilee Exhibition in 1906, on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty King Charles, prevented it from doing so.
King Charles, prevented him from doing so.
Baron Beyens, the distinguished and active Belgian minister to the Romanian government, whose praise cannot be sufficiently praised, approached the various administrations and found the most authoritative and active support in Mr. C. Alimanestiano, Director of Industry, Commerce and Mines at the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Commerce and Lands.
Baron Beyens then thought that if Romania's participation was limited to a product that it had every interest in making known, since it needed foreign capital for its exploitation, to a product worthy of attracting the attention of the financiers and industrialists of other nations, that is to say, to oil that was certainly destined to become the object of great industrial exploitation in the Danube kingdom, it would perhaps be possible to decide to have the Romanian government participate in the Liège Exhibition, where Romania's complete abstention would have been most regrettable.
In agreement with him, Mr. Alimanestiano, who had an admiration for Belgium that would suffice to explain the presence in our country of two of his younger brothers as students, one in Liège, the other in Gembloux, established that Romania could take part in a partial way in our Exhibition and represent, for example, all the importance and vitality of the oil industry that he knew more than any other, in his capacity as president of the Association of Oil Exploiters and Manufacturers of Romania.
They succeeded in rallying to their views Messrs Bratiano, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Stoicesco, Minister of Agriculture, Industry, Trade and Land, who obtained from Mr Stourdza, President of the Council, in addition to the promise of a subsidy, his consent to the organisation by the Association of Oil Producers and Manufacturers of Romania, with the support of the Government, of the exhibition of Romanian oil in Liege.
The matter seemed to have been decided when, in December 1904, the liberal party was replaced in power by the conservative party; this unexpected change seemed to compromise forever the project of a Romanian participation in the Liege Exhibition.
However, as early as March 1905, our Minister in Bucharest and Mr. Alimanestiano who, at the end of 1904, had resigned as Director at the Ministry, were not discouraged and resumed this project with an ardour for which the people of Liège are grateful. They conducted a vigorous campaign, and obtained the valuable approval of Mr. Take Jonesco, Minister of Finance, and Mr. J. Lahovari, Minister of Lands.
Thanks to these high influences, the Romanian participation in the Universal Exhibition of Liège was definitively decided, a subsidy of 25,000 francs was granted and paid to the Association
of Petroleum Manufacturers and Exploiters in Romania.
Competent and dedicated people then took care of its rational organisation.
First of all, let us mention Mr. Alimanestiano, who was helped by the powerful assistance of Mr. L. Mrazec, university professor and member of the Romanian Academy, Mr. Edeleano, director of the Chemical Laboratory of the Ministry of Lands, the members of the Petroleum Commission, among whom we should especially mention Mr. V. Bratiano, all the staff of the Commission and of the Laboratory, and lastly, Mr. N. Mancas, the secretary of the Association, and our devoted Consul in Bucharest, Mr. Jaumotte.
The Romanian Exhibition Committee was composed of Mr. Eugène Mavrodi, Romanian Minister in Brussels, Mr. Georges Simonis, Romanian Consul in Liege and Commissioner of this Exhibition, Mr. Max Lohest, Professor at the University of Liege, Baron Forgeur, Mr. Alfred Ancion and Mr. Fernand Petit, Secretary of the Petroleum Congress, all of whom live in Belgium; Mr. C. Alimanestiano, chief engineer of the Mines and president of the Association, O. Jaumotte, Belgian consul in Bucharest, also commissioner of the section, G. Boamba, managing director of the Steana Romana, G. Olie, general manager of the Internationale, Max Schapira, managing director of the Société Bouschtenari, Joseph Dupont, manager of the Crédit Belgo-Roumain, and N. Mancos, secretary of the Association, all of whom resided in Bucharest.
In Liège, it was Mr. Q. Simonis who, with an activity and devotion that cannot be sufficiently admired when one considers the multiple and absorbing occupations that he assumed, took care of the erection of the Romanian pavilion and the organisation of the section, powerfully assisted by his colleague Mr. Jaumotte (especially in the early days), whom his occupations later recalled to Bucharest. In a few weeks, the Pavilion was built! The work of the young Romanian architect, Mr. G. Cerchez, it stood white and dapper at the entrance to the Venues Bridge. A double staircase led to the first floor, where elegant, clear display cabinets grouped the various oil products of the Romanian soil and their different states in a very happy way; the walls were decorated with photographs, diagrams, charts, maps, drawings, etc.
The walls were decorated with photographs, diagrams, graphs, maps, drawings, etc. From the outset and without fatigue, one could see the uses of this useful product, acquire a notion of its development in Romania, and have, in a word, all the technical details that could be of interest to international traders, visitors to our Exhibition, while for those who were interested in the subject, various studies by competent specialists gave a very thorough understanding of the development of oil.
One of these, by the Oil Commission, of which MJVI. Alimanestiano, V. Bratiano and L. Mrazio, gave an account of the geology of the oil regions and the importance of the various exploitation sites, while another, due to MJVI. L. Edeleano and J. Tanesko, presented an in-depth study of the technological and industrial qualities of the various Romanian oils.
A manuscript of the new geological charter of Romania, a collection of various geological oil formations, completed by samples obtained from drillings in different wells and at different depths, a special charter of the oil-bearing regions, a collection of crude oils from numerous sites, formed the geological and scholarly element of oil formation in Romania.
Traders and industrialists could in turn study the various qualities and uses of this marvellous product of the soil, and at the same time become aware of the possibility of commercial relations with Romanian oil manufacturers.
This was achieved by an intelligently presented exhibition of oil industry charts showing centres of exploitation, pipelines, roads and transport lines, by land and water, export border points, depot stations, etc. Graphs gave an idea of the total production and by sites, by geological formations since 1857, the number and importance of the companies, the quantities exported and the countries of importation, the capital engaged in this industry, the number, the importance and the distribution in the country of the oil refineries.
Various documents were also added: photographs of the various sites and the main springs in operation, a collection of the products of the largest refineries, a plan and photographs of the Constantza oil well, a collection of the burners used by the railways to use oil residues as fuel, drawings of these burners, photographs of the locomotives and large ships on the Danube and the Black Sea using these residues, diagrams of the savings made on coal expenditure through their use, etc.
Finally, a collection of products from the Chemical Laboratory of the Mining Department, which also displayed tables showing the chemical composition of the various crude oils and their content of light benzines, lamp oils, lubricating oils, residues and other by-products, completed all that could be presented concerning the Romanian oil deposit, its exploitation, its uses, the ease of marketing, etc
We cannot better end this note on Romanian oil than by giving some historical information on its exploitation, taken from official documents.
Since time immemorial, the inhabitants of Wallachia and Moldavia have used oil seeps; Bishop Bandinus, in 1640, Raicevich, in 1750, Count A. Deminoff in 1837 already mentioned it.
However, it was not until 1857 that regular exploitation began in five counties: Prahova, Dambovita, Buzen, Râmnik-Sarat, Bacau. There was then serious activity: the figures for crude oil exports jumped from 41,018 fr. in 1851 to 1,685,545 fr. and for refined oil from 74,353 fr. in 1861 to 2,398,128 fr. in 1867, which is the most conclusive proof.
Unfortunately, the American competition and the poor state of the communication routes in Romania gradually rendered the efforts of the Romanian industrialists futile, and the exploitation, which was increasingly reduced, soon became null and void. Only in 1890, the constitution of the "First Romanian Company for Oil Trade and Industry, with a capital of 4,000,000 lei", marked the accentuation of a new exploitation.
There was still some trial and error, due to inexperience, but from 1900 the exploitation was on the footing of a very great activity and the arrival in Romania, in 1904, of 25 big banks and financial institutions, marks well the importance of the exploitation of the petroleum wealth in the Belgium of the East. This is only the beginning, and a very good one at that, as could be seen in the Romanian pavilion, and it is to be hoped that Romanian products will soon take a leading position on the international markets.
In addition to the oil exhibition, which was so complete and interesting from all points of view, and also wishing to pay a very respectful tribute to their beloved Queen Carmen Sylva, the members of the Oil Manufacturers' Association had reserved a small space in their pavilion for the exhibition of a charitable society: "La Furnica" (the Ant), placed under the high patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth.
This society exhibited original embroideries, the work of the domestic industry of the Romanian peasant woman, and these were so popular with the visitors, and in particular with the people of Liège, that an outlet was created in Liège itself. It is true that ladies of great devotion to everything that is the result of intelligent philanthropy and enlightened patriotism used all their persuasive activity. It was above all Mrs. Bilcesco and Mrs. Alimanestiano, respectively secretary and treasurer of the Society, who came to Liège themselves to organise the exhibition and were greatly assisted by Mrs. G. Simonis, wife of our distinguished fellow citizen, the Romanian consul in Liège.
The Régie des Monopoles de l'Etat was also allowed to exhibit its raw and manufactured tobacco in the pavilion, which was a well-deserved success in our city and was ranked among the best by the Jury, which awarded it the highest distinction, the Grand Prix diploma.
Such was the Romanian pavilion, which represented so much effort and dedicated activity, and whose success was confirmed by the Petroleum Congress held in Liege the same year.
It does honour to the country it evoked and to those who cooperated in its erection.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905