This group succeeded the typography section in the third bay. It occupied an area of 820 square metres and included the equipment and processes of the forestry and forest industries, their products, such as timber and construction wood, firewood, island and cabinet wood, esparto and basketry, alongside hunting weapons, furs and other products of the hunt.
Also of exceptional importance and interest was the installation of the gathering class at the end of the last bay.
Classes 49 and 50 dealt with forest products, island wood, firewood, cork oak and various related industries, spartan goods, basketry, etc.
Although forest products are not very suitable for decoration, the exhibitors had nevertheless managed to organise a very elegant class, thanks to the woods from exotic countries, presented in abundance, in the form of logs or marvellous veneer panels.
These woods, with their bright and varied colours, contrasted nicely with the uniform tones of the common woods, and the whole blended into a harmonious whole of the happiest effect.
It must also be said that from a subjective point of view, the woods are essentially decorative. Their sapid, resinous, bitter or sour smell, evoked, for the sensitives, decorations that were far more lively and beautiful than the most graceful fantasies of colours and lines created by ingenious assemblies.
The exotic woods, exhibited by six important Parisian firms, represented not only the trade in raw wood, i.e. in logs or squared logs, but also the all-important trade in veneer.
The exhibition of wood species originating from France was no less interesting; there were fine samples of oak, fir, poplar, ash and beech.
The related industries: braided wood, wickerwork, basketry, were also worthy of the visitor's attention. The careful workmanship, the curious colouring of the rattan and bamboo furniture, the shape of the furniture and the objects made attested to the concern of their makers to produce objects that were at the same time convenient, solid and had a certain decorative beauty.
Class 51, one of the most important of the group, included hunting equipment.
The participation of the French gunmakers, although they were reluctant to come to Liege, the very centre of the vital forces of this industry, was no less remarkable and produced on all an impression of vitality and accentuated progress.
The beautiful layout of this class, the graceful display cases, which were a pleasure to look at in order to admire some rifle barrel set with inlays or some precision weapon, contributed to giving this good impression.
In addition to various statistical tables, plans and armoury publications from the Saint-Etienne Proof House, the numerous specimens of the work of students from two schools in Saint-Etienne attracted attention.
The regional school of industrial arts, which includes courses in hammer and scallop engraving, chiselling, inlaying and repoussé, exhibited artistic specimens of real decorative beauty. Its composition course, forcing the young engravers to leave the role of copyist and to adapt their motifs to the surfaces and types of arms to be decorated, attested to a successful initiative.
Next to this, the practical school of industry, section of the armoury, exhibited specimens of spare parts giving, from the barrel to the complete rifle, the progressive development of its studies.
Between these schools and occupying a place of honour, the Musée d'armes de Saint-Etienne showed us a remarkable collection of masterpieces of armoury of all schools, and particularly of the French School of the 17th and 18th centuries. A similar collection, intelligently presented by M. j. Grivolat, director of the Museum, could have given a powerful interest to the French section of the armoury. The connection between the beautiful things of the past and those of the present was established at every step. One was sometimes deeply surprised to discover the prototype elements of modern inventions. One could see, for example, hammerless guns that were a hundred years old, revolver guns, guns with fixed barrels, with very ingenious shutter systems, repeating guns, rocker guns, guns with fulminating peas, etc. A series of exhibitors then occupied the other showcases; the most diverse rifles, from the ordinary rifle to the most sophisticated and ornate luxury weapons, rifle parts, carved and inlaid rifle woods, etc., were represented in this section.
In class 51, there were also products of fireworks, traps for harmful animals, and curious devices for training hunting dogs.
Hunting products were included in class 52. Three important trades related to the hide and hair industry were represented here. These were furriers, polishers and hair and wool merchants.
The fur industry has grown considerably in recent years, both in France and throughout the world, and yet furs have always been used for processing and manufacturing. The Romans were already talking about it. It is even said that coats of arms were created in the Middle Ages on the initiative of furriers. In fact, certain words that have survived in heraldic style, such as vair (grey squirrel belly), ermine, sable (sable), seem to justify this supposition. During the Second Empire, the vogue for fur became more pronounced and today it has become a necessity in the luxury clothing trade. As a result, the prices of furs have risen to incredible proportions. The finest sable skins, which in 1889 were barely 700 francs, are now sometimes over 2,500 francs, and ordinary furs have followed this upward trend.
A group of about ten Parisian furriers and a few individual exhibitors represented the fur trade with dignity. In high showcases, the precious furs were displayed, either thrown carelessly on the floor, heavy, thick, caressing, or laid out in boas, coats, etc., on mannequins.
Alongside the trade of preparing animal skins, another trade has been grafted on, which is now of considerable importance: that of the polisher. Lustriers are responsible for giving the fur a different colour from the original, either by dyeing in vats, in which case the skin and hair are impregnated with the new colour and the appearance is thus completely changed, or by a simple layer of dye on the tips of the hair to imitate the colouring of a more valuable skin.
This industry, which flourished in France, was represented by four large firms in Paris.
Class 53 (Fishing gear, implements and products, aquiculture), was, as its title indicates, the home of fish farming, a branch of national production to which more attention was beginning to be paid than before. The French Government had shown its interest in the methodical repopulation of its aquatic domain by exhibiting in this class wall charts drawn up by the Inspector General of this new service and relating to this question.
Three private exhibitors completed the French representation in this class with paintings of the same destination as those exhibited by the Government, with fishing articles and automatic parts relating to aquiculture,
Class 54 (implements, instruments and products of harvesting) consisted exclusively of plant products usually obtained without cultivation, with their derivatives. In addition to rubber, gutta-percha, bolata, cork, canes, carved handles, edible mushrooms, truffles, olive oils, orange blossom water, cocoa butter loaves, etc., a host of exhibitors grouped together a wide range of products, A large number of exhibitors grouped in this class the medicines obtained by the preparation of plants from France or exotic countries, such as numerous pills and pastilles, syrups, etc., and finally quinine sulphate obtained by the preparation of cinchona trees, of which one could see here
samples of which were on display here.
Class 54 concluded the allocations of group IX, the importance of which these few pages will have made clear.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905