Universal and International Exhibition of Liege 1905

75th anniversary of national independence

April 25, 1905 - November 6, 1905


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Social Economy

Social Economy at the Exhibition Expo Liege 1905

The organisation of the Belgian section of Social Economy, the extent, the perfect order and the artistic character of its installations, the admirable teaching which emerged from the enormous quantity of material, as judiciously chosen as it was methodically presented: this is what M. de Sadeleer, President of Group XVI, described perfectly in the speech he gave, in Liège, on 15 October 1905, at the banquet offered, as a token of sympathy and gratitude, to the Belgian section of Social Economy. This is what Mr. de Sadeleer, President of Group XVI, described perfectly in the speech he gave in Liège on 15 October 1905 at the banquet offered to Mr. Jean Dubois, Special Commissioner, as a token of sympathy and gratitude by the exhibitors of classes 101 to 110, headed by the presidents of the organising committees.

A Social Economy Exhibition, said Mr. de Sadeleer, is particularly difficult to organise. It is necessary, in fact, to call upon institutions, upon men who have no personal interest in exhibiting their work, and this work itself, in most cases, does not lend itself to being presented in a form attractive to the public. Hence a twofold difficulty to overcome.

Encouraged by high officials, and able to count on the devoted support of the eminent personalities who have agreed to serve on the Class Committees, our Special Commissioner has succeeded, by dint of energy and perseverance, in securing the support of all those in Belgium who, in any capacity, are interested in the progress of social questions.

The participation of official organisations, such as the Caisse générale d'Epargne et de Retraite, the Committees for the patronage of workers' dwellings, the Permanent Commission of the Mutual Aid Societies, and the various sections of the Labour Office, was secured from the start.

However, it was still necessary to obtain the support of our numerous mutual societies, credit, production and consumer cooperatives, agricultural credit societies, workers' housing construction companies, accident insurance companies, large industrial establishments that had founded institutions for the well-being of their personnel, and company managers who had made improvements in the field of hygiene or accident prevention.

To achieve this result, Mr. Dubois' zeal did not tire for a moment during a period of two years, and this, in spite of other, very absorbing occupations.

But it is not enough to enrol a considerable number of members, they must also be persuaded to give their participation the attractive stamp that visitors demand. And it is here that the success of the Social Economy section is confirmed, thanks to the constant efforts of its main organiser.

In a discreetly elegant setting, due to the talent of the architect Hellemans, the Special Commissioner has succeeded in arranging with perfect taste the tables, diagrams and furniture sent for the ten classes included in his remit.

We can affirm that the Exhibition of the different classes of Social Economy in Liege has surpassed everything that has been done in previous Universal and International Exhibitions. Maps, diagrams, photographs, statistical tables, surveys, reports from Committees and Societies, model plans, and projects for the construction of low-cost housing sent in profusely, demonstrate the considerable effort made in recent years, especially with regard to mutuality, retirement, insurance, the safety of workshops, and the improvement of housing for the working classes.

The Belgian exhibition in group XVI occupies a surface area of 1100 square metres and covers 3000 square metres of partitions.

This total area was nevertheless insufficient. No one will be surprised when I say, and I do so with great satisfaction, that the number of exhibitors in our group exceeded the figure of 1,500! We had to resort to annexes installed in the gardens and to this splendid group of workers' houses built on the lovely plateau of Cointe, which was like the crowning achievement of our philanthropic work and where the intelligent collaboration of the president of class 106, the devoted Mr. Lepreux, was of such precious help to us. Our work has also been the object of the most flattering appreciations of the Belgian and foreign press.

On 9 September last, a comparative study of the Social Economy sections at the Paris, Saint-Louis and Liège Exhibitions appeared in one of the major New York newspapers. The author, after highlighting the merits of the Liège installations, the beauty of the compartments, the appearance of the exhibits which attract, by themselves, the meditative attention of the public, concludes: For the first time in the history of exhibitions, the city of Liège has had installations truly worthy of the Social Economy. It was reserved for it to realise the most deserving of the exhibitions still known to this day. The Belgian section will remain memorable in the history of Social Exhibitions.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the international jury awarded the exhibitors of our group many high prizes. And you will allow me to say on this occasion that the jury was presided over by a man whose great authority and exceptional competence are recognised by all, by Mr. Morisseaux, the eminent predecessor of Mr. Dubois at the head of the Labour Office, to whom I am pleased to be able to pay a sincere and legitimate tribute here on behalf of Group XVI.


This outline of Belgian participation in the Social Economy group contains a gap that it would be unfair not to fill.

A large part of the success is due to the honourable president: his high personality, the universal sympathy he enjoys, the high functions he held at the Brussels 1897 and Paris 1900 Exhibitions, must have inspired full confidence in the directors of economic or social institutions, the heads of industrial establishments, and the men of work whose support was sought for the World's Fair in Liege.

Let us try to retrace the physiognomy of these ten rooms, the first of which, installed with discreet luxury, formed the Salon de l'Office du Travail: all the publications of this laborious administration were brought together there, and the organization of its various services was depicted in a large decorative panel, due to the talent so justly appreciated by Mr. Henri Baes.

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