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Miscellaneous Industries - Expo Liege 1905

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This group brought together objects from industries that could not be included in the programme of the previous groups. It included stationery, from the point of view of shaped objects; cutlery; goldsmith's and silversmith's work; jewellery; clocks and watches; bronze, cast iron and wrought iron work; embossed metals; brushmaking, leather goods, tableware and basketry; the rubber and guttapercha industries; travel and camping objects; and finally, bimbeloterie.

Group XV was divided into two parts: one, formed by the stands of the Compagnie des Bronzes and the jewellery and diamond industry groups, occupied the large bay in front of the main entrance to the halls; the other, completing the group's programme, was scattered in the downstream halls, next to the clothing group and in the first side bay of the Belgian section proper.

Let us now examine the objects shown in each of the group's classes and give some brief notes about their industry in the country. Class 92, under the heading of 'paper-making', included objects made from cardboard and paper.

In Belgium, grey and half-white cardboard and straw cardboard are mainly manufactured; the former is made with waste paper in a rolling machine, the latter is produced by the same process or by the so-called continuous machine; it is composed of several sheets of so-called mechanical cardboard, glued together by superposition. These boards are used by the cardboard industry. This industry includes the manufacture of all types of boxes made of paper-covered cardboard. The most commonly used is thin strawboard; the paper is generally free of wood pulp and highly filled. The boxes are made by machines and, for some operations, by hand.

Sometimes some cardboard objects are made by gluing several sheets of paper together. This is how cardboard for casket making, glossy cardboard, ticket cardboard for railways, theatres, milliner's cardboard and bristol and ivory cardboard for visiting cards are made.

Finally, we should mention playing cards, the production of which is a special industry, carried out in Turnhout, in the same factories where coloured paper is manufactured.

This city is one of the most important production centres in the world for this type of article. The factories there manufacture all kinds of card games, French portrait, English portrait, Indian portrait, Spanish games, Chinese games and tiny games for children.

This production consumes L900 tons of paper per year for a production of more than 100,000 large games, two thirds of which are destined for foreign markets.

Exhibitors of these different articles were present at the Exhibition. For cardboard boxes of all kinds, let us mention: Messrs. Jules Bichon, H. Bossut, both from Brussels; for registers, paper bags, folders and pouches: Messrs. Brossart-Tollet, of Wavre; Joseph de Grève, of Brussels; l'imprimerie industrielle et commerciale, of Liège; l'Imprimerie industrielle et financière, of Brussels; Laporte et Dosse, of Antwerp; Alexandre Lavoye, of Liège; les Papeteries anversoises, Moorrees et Cie; la Société anonyme des anciens établissements de Félix Mommen, of Brussels; la Société anonyme des Papeteries de Virginal, of Brussels; Van Campenhout, frères et soeurs, of Brussels.

Coloured and fancy papers for printing and cardboard, playing cards, were presented by Messrs Brepols and Dierckx; the Société anonyme Biermans, both from Turnhout.

In the showcases of the class, one could also find various inks by Mr. Leclercq-Vandervelden; parallelograms and drawing boards by Mr. Louis Makar; specimens of stamps on paper, envelopes, menus by Mr. Spée-Zélis. These three exhibitors were from Liege.

Class 93 dealt with cutlery. This industry has four important manufacturing centres, Namur and Qembloux where high quality cutlery is made. Lierre and Aerschot, which produce the so-called Flemish knives, which are rough-looking but solid.

The cutlery industry is practised in 42 factories, of which 12 in Aerschot, Lierre, 12 in Qembloux, 6 in Namur and 1 in Ghent. Annual production represents a value of 360,000 francs; exports account for 50,000 francs.

None of the large cutlery companies took part in the Exhibition; only two exhibitors were in class 93; one, Mr. Jacques Gustave, from Vielsalm, exhibited razor stones, faulstones and grinding wheels; the other, Mr. J.-B. Lemière, from Brussels, exhibited knives of all kinds, including trimming knives, which are the company's speciality.

Next come classes 94, 95, 96, comprising goldsmiths, jewellers and watchmakers.

At the head of these three classes, Mr. Jacques Ryziger, judge at the Commercial Court of Brussels, president of the Chambre syndicale des métaux précieux et de l'horlogerie, and member of the Commission supérieure de patronage, was placed as president. Before describing the marvellous aspect with which the exhibitors of goldsmiths, jewellers and watchmakers presented their objects, we will give a quick overview of the industries to which they devote their efforts.

The goldsmith industry, a true art, is very flourishing in Belgium; it extends to the manufacture of a host of luxury objects, in gold, silver, copper and brass, used for human adornment or for home decoration.

The manufacture of silver tableware, at a rate of 9/10ths, and more frequently 8/10ths, and above all that of white metal (an alloy of silver with 10 to 20 per cent nickel), have become very important.

Most silverware is finished by polishing, burnishing and chasing; dull silver is obtained by tempering, blackened or oxidised silver by treatment with sodium sulphide.

White metal pieces are sometimes gilded or silvered by electroplating.

Most goldsmiths are located in the major cities, especially in Antwerp, Brussels and Liege.

The diamond industry, although closely related to the above-mentioned industry, constitutes a very distinct speciality because of the importance it has assumed in our country. It flourishes in Antwerp, the opulent metropolis, practised, one would say, by the successors of those bourgeois who competed with their princes in luxury and generosity and whose wives surpassed the reigning princesses in terms of jewellery.

There are three cities where diamond cutting is practised: Antwerp, Amsterdam and Brooklyn (New York). Antwerp leads with an annual production of 75 million francs, surpassing Amsterdam by 40 million and Brooklyn by an even higher figure; moreover, the diamond cutting factories established in this city are in Belgian hands.

In the past, a large part of the diamonds processed in Antwerp was sent to North America; exorbitant import duties closed this outlet, and it was this fact that prompted some Antwerp residents to establish diamond cutting factories in New York. However, Belgian diamonds are still sold in the most remote countries of the world.

The rough diamonds used in the Antwerp cutting factories come from South Africa, with a very small part from Bahia (Brazil).

The properties of diamonds are well known: they are natural, crystallised and almost pure carbon, which scratches all bodies and cannot be scratched by any other than itself.

It is on this property that the entire diamond industry is based.

Four operations are necessary for the preparation of the diamond that will soon sparkle in the jeweller's window; they are burning, cleaving, cutting and polishing.

Burning is the preliminary operation for roughening the rough diamond, which is still covered by a grey, rough envelope.

For this purpose, a very hard diamond, set on the tip of a mechanical lathe, removes, by friction, the grey envelope of the diamond to be worked, which a worker presents to him on all its faces, after having previously set it in a mass of fusible alloy which finishes the diamond tool. The powder thus obtained, the "égrisée" to call it by its name, is carefully collected, as it will be used for the sawing and polishing operations.

Then comes the most delicate operation, that of cleaving or splitting, the aim of which is to extract the largest regular geometric solid from the shapeless diamond. This operation consists of two distinct phases: notching and splitting.

The diamond to be split is set in a special putty at the end of the ferrule of a handle-shaped tool. Using diamond sticks with increasingly sharp edges, the cutter makes a notch in the stone to be treated, then, introducing a blunt steel blade, he removes the notched part with a light sharp blow.

As this operation can only be carried out in certain directions, it results in a great loss of diamond. This is avoided by using mechanical saws that cut the diamond against the grain. The stone, set in a mass of aluminium, is sawn by steel discs, coated with oil and grit and rotating vertically.

Next comes the cutting, which consists of giving the diamond its general shape and priming, by friction, the breech and even certain facets of the jewel.

A final operation, polishing, gives the diamond its transparency and brilliance; the precious stone, carefully set in a sort of cut tassel, is presented to an iron or non-tempered steel grinding wheel, coated with grit and oil and turning horizontally.

In Antwerp and a few suburban municipalities there are about 45 diamond cutting factories, one of which, the "People's Cutting Factory", has about a thousand mechanically operated lathes.

The metropolis has a professional school for diamond work, attended by young people from the upper middle class, and a "Diamond Exchange" where special brokers meet who completely own the market for worked diamonds.

Such is the aspect under which the luxurious industries of goldsmithing and diamond cutting present themselves in Belgium.

It was not useless to sketch them here in order to give more interest to the marvellous stands occupied at the Exhibition by the most important representatives of these industries.

The compartment, which they had formed by an intelligent grouping of their showcases, was a real wonder. It was situated in the central gallery of the upper halls and followed the no less luxurious pavilion of the Decorative Arts.

The windows were clear, long and frail; under their translucent glass, diamonds in pearls, aigrettes and ornaments trembled, glittering and as if fragile; Next to them were jewels of muted or brilliant hues, precious vases set with pearls, those trifles which constitute the feminine adornment, scarabs mounted as brooches, a snake coiled into a ring, a bracelet, a diamond held by a thin gold thread and destined to sparkle, like a dewdrop, on the pink and tender lobe of the ear.

A thick carpet on the floor helped to dampen the sound of footsteps, to create that special silence which reigns in the halls of sumptuous palaces; it seemed that the visitors, mute with admiration, were silent, as if afraid that the clash of a little noise would cause their dreamy enchantment to vanish.

Two communities and individual exhibitors shared the exhibition space.

The first of these was the jewellery community, which presented both goldsmiths' and jewellery. In addition to three individual exhibitors, Messrs Herman Joël, from Ghent, Otto Wiskemann and Knein-Coutelle, both from Brussels, seven companies belonging to this group exhibited goldsmith's and silversmith's objects. Emile Anthony and Wolfers frères, of Brussels; Fallon et fils, of Namur; Femand Hardy and Wolfers frères, of Liège; Frans Hoosemans, of Brussels; Wolfers frères, of Brussels; Mrs. widow Georges Paquet, of Liège; Mrs. widow Simonet, of Brussels. Among the objects presented by these exhibitors were silver or white metal planters whose motifs, inspired by flowers, harmoniously matched the bouquet of real flowers, dishes in which supple undines lay as if lost in the material, boxes covered with a tasty patina, and a host of tastefully executed tableware, the price of which was not at all inferior to that of the raw material used; The jewels, very diverse, were also of real beauty and their colours were delicate and rich at the same time.

In this order of objects, it is advisable to add to the houses belonging to the Jewellery community, certain exhibitors belonging to the same community, but restricting their exhibition to jewellery and fine jewellery. These were Mr. Joseph Coosemans, from Brussels; Edmond Divoort, from Brussels; F. Van Hemelrijk, from Antwerp; Léo Strydonck, from Brussels.

Special mention should also be made of goldsmiths specialising in religious objects (monstrances, chalices, candelabras, etc., enriched with gems,
enamels): J. Dehin frères, of Liège; Richard Hellner, of Brussels; Emile Pirotte, of Liège; J. Wilmotte fils, of Liège.

Because of the importance it has assumed in recent years, we should also mention imitation jewellery, used not only by people whose state of fortune does not allow them to buy real pearls, but also by socialites who are reluctant to put jewellery representing a whole fortune within reach. The Brussels houses Jazowski, Knein-Coutelle, Simenon and Loonis-Gérard, from Antwerp, presented a whole lot of imitation jewellery.

The showcase of Mr. Gustave Wolfers, from Brussels, who exhibited a whole swarm of crosses of Belgian and foreign orders, was also noteworthy - and certainly very special.

When he visited the jewellery and goldsmiths' sections, the witty Mr. Francotte bowed deeply to these doubly precious jewels.

Finally came the opulent Antwerp diamond community, whose honorary president was Mr. Louis Coetermans, Consul of Persia in Antwerp.

A small elliptical pavilion had been built by the association. Inside, in solid safes, the precious material to be worked or already shaped was stored. On the side facing the space left free in the central bay, on the side of the German section, was a sort of long, glassed-in cage where a few workers were engaged in the successive manipulations that we have described above; the public
The public was keenly interested in this lesson.

Finally, the outer sides of the pavilion were hollowed out, at man's height, into small niches where rested, on cushions of neutral tones, the jewels, the necklaces, some of which constituted the big prizes of the Exhibition tombola; next to it, one noticed the rough diamond, presenting quite well the appearance of worn and dirty glass.

Eight Antwerp houses were part of the above-mentioned group; only one was from Brussels. These were the Antwerp firms Ad. Adler, Coetermans-Henrichs, Armand Dreyfus, Michel Feher, Himmelblau et O^, Maurice Polak, Ries et Cie, Tolkowsky and the Brussels firm of Ryziger et fils; the latter exhibited a Liège staircase designed with diamonds, worth 500,000 francs.

The Belgian goldsmiths' and jewellers' section had a remarkable beauty of appearance and importance.

It was here, above all, that the modern and very accurate concern to produce works that are not only beautiful because they are made of metal or of a material of great price was revealed.

In the order of classes, watchmaking succeeded them. This industry, although it is practised almost everywhere, does not enjoy a high level of importance in Belgium. Only four Belgian watchmaking firms took part in the Exhibition: Henri Adam, of Brussels; A. and J. Fourdin, of Mechelen, with a tower clock ringing on two bells; the sons of Jacques Meyer, of Brussels, with a showcase of watches and parts; and A. and J. Fourdin, of Brussels, with a clock and a watch case.
J. Tollebeck et Cie of Lombeek-Sainte-Catherine, with a tower clock and related parts.

The programme of the next class, class 97, was more extensive; it included bronze, cast iron and ironwork, and embossed metals.

As soon as the visitor entered the Exhibition through the doors of the central portico, a luxurious pavilion, open on all sides, presented itself to him. It was the stand of the Compagnie des Bronzes, designed by the talented architect, Mr. Jules Brunfaut. The Société anonyme de la Compagnie des Bronzes showed itself in a truly seductive light. One could see in its stand something other than an army of statuettes placed next to each other on display shelves, without any concern for the decorative effect they are likely to produce. The objects were displayed on tasteful shelves, laid here and there in an artistic and lively disorder. One could see art and furniture bronzes and chandeliers of great beauty. This interesting company still manufactures the so-called lost-wax casting, a very delicate process which preserves the artist's "touch" in the metal facsimile, his particular "touch" which other reproduction processes almost entirely rob.

In the same type of exhibition, we also noted the firms J. Dehin frères, of Liège, Luppens et C^ of Brussels, whose interesting bronzes decorated the office of the Belgian Brewery Association; the Vojave factories, of Brussels, which presented two bronze lamp posts executed according to the drawings of the architect J. Brunfaut; Alphonse Van Aerschodt, of Brussels, and J. Wilmotte et fils, of Liège.

Ironwork is very flourishing in Belgium; a marvellous industry, which preserves unexpected and charming tones in the material it uses, giving it a certain kinship with the ceramic and pottery industries.

Numerous ironworkers had laid out their work along the first bay that opened up, on the right, after the passage under the North Belgian railway. They were Messrs. Alexandre, of Marcinelle, with lampstands, lanterns and chandeliers; O. Alexandre, from Liège, with a wrought iron inkwell; A. Arens, from Antwerp, Moest-Poncin, from Liège, Van den Broeck Henri, from Tournai and Lierre; finally, the artist and blacksmith Louis Van Boeckel, from Lierre, exhibited numerous objects revealing in their author a man in love with form and colour and translating into this crude material, iron, the most supple flowers, the most delicate foliage with a happiness and delicacy that never failed to arouse the greatest admiration.

A new company, "L'Oxhydrique", from Brussels, also presented us with pieces of ironwork, interesting because they were made using the oxhydric torch.

We should also mention the Serrurier et Cie company from Liège, which exhibited various works in worked and embossed metals.

Next was class 98, which dealt with brushmaking, tablet-making, basket-making and leather goods. Only the first three of these industries were represented.

Let us note the most diverse products of the brushmaking of the important house Delhaize frères et Cie; the objects in engraved and sculpted wood of the Boissellerie artistique de Villers-devant-Orval, the pipes in briar root of MM. Breyer frères et soeurs, of Arlon, whose rustic and original pavilion stood on the banks of the Meuse, opposite the Palais de la Ville de Liège; the pipes of all models of Mr. J. B. Vinche, of Brussels; the combs of Mr. Scuri, of Liège; finally, the products of the Van Oye establishments, of Brussels, including the Société anonyme des Produits du Rotin and the Vanneries des Flandres.

The rubber and gutta-percha industry, as well as travel and camping goods, made up the programme for class 99.

About ten Belgian factories were involved in the manufacture and processing of rubber; Liege and Brussels in particular had a number of firms that could be considered first-rate. Two of these factories each employ 300 to 350 workers, the others have a staff of 40 to 60 workers.

Belgian production is in no way inferior to that of French, German and English competitors. The most widely used gums are those from Para (superior quality and negrohead), whose market is in London, and those from Congo, imported by Antwerp.

Rubber from Mexico, Colombia, Java, etc., is also purchased in the Liverpool and Hamburg markets; the gutta-percha used in the manufacture of certain articles, because of its eminently insulating qualities, comes mainly from Borneo and Manila.

Most Belgian factories supply industrial articles, but many have specialised.

Thus, an important factory in Liège deals with the manufacture of tyres for cars and motorbikes; it has managed to equal in its products those of the most renowned English and French companies.

An establishment in Cureghem is mainly engaged in the large-scale production of English sheeting and balloons, toys, teats, etc.; certain firms in Brussels, Menin and Sclessin have taken as their speciality the manufacture of parts in hard rubber, more or less flexible, for spinning mills, paper mills, sugar factories, etc., hoses of all kinds, fabrics and waterproof clothing, etc.; finally, a factory in Aalst has restricted itself to the manufacture of galoshes.

Let us also mention, among the materials manufactured by the rubber industry, ebonite, a highly vulcanised rubber which, in addition to its rigidity, has the property of being a poor conductor and of being unaffected by chemical agents.

Ebonite is used to make tubes for chemical products, boxes for electric accumulators, rollers for spinning mills and paper mills, telegraphy and telephony equipment, physical, chemical and surgical instruments, and certain parts used in armoury, etc.

The exhibitors in the class we are looking at included the leading representatives of the rubber industry.

They were the former establishments De Vriendt, of Forest-Brussels, with rubber waste, tarpaulins, leather mats; Messrs. A. Charlier, of Louvain, with stuffing of all systems and seals known as "Securitas"; A. Cornand, of Vilvoorde, with waxed and oiled fabrics; Michel-Jackson, of Menin, with various rubber articles including waterproof clothing.

A special mention should be made of the Manufacture générale de caoutchouc de la Meuse, in Sclessin, which presented raw and manufactured rubber, ebonite, gutta-percha and waterproof clothing; the Manufacture liégeoise de caoutchouc Englebert fils et Cie, which exhibited its various products made of soft, hard rubber and gutta-percha and especially its "Continental" tyres; the Société anonyme Colonial Rubber, of Ghent, which offered for our examination objects made of soft rubber for industry, and objects for travelling and camping. The houses Donaux and Desmet, of Brussels, were represented by "hummingbird" travel trunks; the house Adolphe Fontaine, of Brussels, by travel articles; the Veuve Silas-Guillon, of Brussels, by "swallow" trunks; Jules Truyen, of Liège, by trunks, bags, cases, etc.; Van Neck frères, of Brussels, by trunks, bags, cases, etc. Van Neck frères, from Brussels, with objects for camping equipment; Vlaminx and Blondieau, from Vilvoorde, with garden umbrellas, beach and camping tents.

The bimbeloterie industry (class 100) completed the group of miscellaneous industries. Although this industry is represented almost everywhere in Belgium and in some cities it sometimes reaches a real importance, only one Belgian company exhibited in this class: the former establishments De Vriendt, from Forest-Brussels, which presented multicoloured confetti for the visitors' examination.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905