In 1908, the delegates of the permanent exhibition committees, meeting at a congress in Brussels, founded an international federation under the presidency of Senator Emile Dupont, president of the French Committee.
The promoters of the Ghent Exhibition and the municipal administration, judging it a good opportunity to start their propaganda abroad, invited the Congress to a reception in Ghent.
Several members of the new federation and in particular all the representatives of the French Committee accepted the invitation and abroad, among whom it is appropriate to mention in particular were received with the greatest cordiality by Mr. the burgomaster E. Braun, surrounded by the aldermen, the municipal councillors and the leading members of the Société d'étude de l'Exposition universelle.
The project that was being developed was naturally the subject of all the conversations and the French were particularly attentive to it.
The relations thus begun continued; meetings took place in Paris between Messrs G. Cooreman, Jos. Casier and Maurice de Smet de Naeyer and the members of the French Exhibition Committee, Mr. Dupont, who played a leading role in the circumstances. Without hesitation, and although its efforts were already dispersed by its collaboration in other exhibitions, the French Committee decided to participate in the 1913 exhibition and a first convention was signed to this end.
In the meantime, diplomatic steps had been taken by the Belgian Government with the Government of the French Republic; the latter gave its official support and the Ministry of Trade ratified the provisional agreement; following an old practice, it entrusted the French Committee with the organisation of the participation in the Ghent World's Fair. At the same time, the Minister of Trade invested one of the most eminent civil servants of the Department of Finance, Mr. Pierre Marraud, Director General of Registration, Domains and Stamps, with the high functions of Commissioner General.
Immediately, the French Committee discharged its mission to an organising commission which was placed under the presidency of one of the main notabilities of Parisian commerce, Mr. Charles Legrand, President of the Chamber of Commerce.
From then on, France's participation in the Universal Exhibition entered the period of realization.
Indeed, while the Parliament, rallying to this official participation, voted the necessary credits and the three Ministers of Commerce, who had succeeded each other in power, Messrs Fernand David, Guist'hau and Jean Macé, continued their most absolute support, Messrs P. Marraud and Ch. Legrand began the propaganda and took care of the organizational work. The latter, strongly supported by his colleagues on the French Committee, in particular by the President, Mr. Dupont, and by the Secretary General, Mr. Roger-Sandoz, made use of his long experience as an exhibition man and acted mainly in the sphere of commercial organisations.
Mr. P. Marraud used his insight, his qualities as a man of science and his familiarity with work to determine the goal to be pursued and the results he wanted to obtain; he left no stone unturned to this end.
Travelling through the productive regions of the whole territory of the Republic, he became the apostle of a new and peaceful crusade, speaking eloquently to the hearts and minds of his compatriots, making them understand how much their participation in the Ghent enterprise was necessary; it was to be a new triumph for France; by winning an industrial and commercial victory in 1913, they would give Belgium a mark of affectionate sympathy.
Mr. Marraud and Mr. Legrand surrounded themselves with eminent collaborators who cooperated in the setting up of the French section and acquired unquestionable titles to the recognition of their compatriots.
The Commissariat General was thus composed of Mr. Marraud, Commissioner General, and Messrs. Eugène Regard, the worker of the first hour and Mr. Marraud's constant collaborator, Sasias, Chief Secretary, Duboulot, Hignette, Georges Marraud, Sornay and Chaumont, Assistant Secretaries, Berge, Delegate of the Commissioner General for the festivities, the conferences and the external services, and finally, three Special Commissioners, Mr. François Crozier, Consul General of the Republic of Antwerp and Special Commissioner for the marvellous French colonial participation, Mr. Félix Aufaure, who assumed the heavy task of General Reporter, and Mr. Momméja, who was responsible for the preparation of the report. François Crozier, Consul General of the Republic in Antwerp and Special Commissioner for the marvellous French colonial participation, Mr. Félix Aufaure, who assumed the heavy task of general reporter, and Mr. Momméja.
The Organising Commission was composed of :
Mr. Charles Legrand, President ;
Vice-presidents: Pierre Arbel, L. Bonnat, V. Lourties, Senator; Daniel Merillon; Marcel Saint-Germain, Senator; Albert Viger, Senator;
Secretary General: Mr Gaston Roux;
Deputy Secretaries General: Mermilliod and Georges Vinant;
Treasurer: M. Jean Faure;
Deputy Treasurer: Auguste Guyot;
Members: MM. Gabelle; Jules Hetzel; Jules Niclause; E. Sartiaux; Senator Noël,
Déion, deputy; A. Sartiaux; Poupinel; Jules Cohen; Dreux; Louis Bonnier; Pérol; David Mennet, Georges Donckèle; C. Chabrié; P. Templier, Doctor Beurnier and Georges Pallain;
Messrs Emile Cère, Max Réville, Léon Dellile, Léon Druyon were the devoted and tireless secretaries of the administrative services.
The architecture department was entrusted to Mr. Joseph de Montarnal, who had held the same position at all previous exhibitions.
The good word that Mr. P. Marraud had sown throughout France and his energetic tenacity in action, the constant and untiring devotion of Mr. Charles Legrand, the unceasing efforts of all the members of the General Commission and the members of the Organizing Committee, produced such results that the most optimistic hopes were largely exceeded: France, in fact, occupied in 1913, a covered area (90. The number of exhibitors and the number of awards obtained were also significantly higher.
The French participation was distinguished by its homogeneity, as well as by the importance and value of each of its sections. Independently of a main block of halls which, starting in the middle of the Cour d'honneur, extended over a length of several hundred metres to the right of the Avenue des Nations, it still possessed, scattered throughout the Exhibition grounds le palais de l'Alimentation, le palais de la Marine marchande, le palais des Beaux-Arts, le palais du Génie civil et de l'Economie sociale, le hall des Chemins de fer, le pavillon des Chemins de fer Paris-Orléans, et enfin les palais et pavillons réservés à la section coloniale.
The main block of halls, which we mentioned earlier, was divided into several palaces. Towards the main entrance of the Exhibition was the Palace of Luxury Industries, which was separated from the Palace of Metallurgy, Mines, Aeronautics, and the Machinery Gallery by the pavilions of the cities of Roubaix and Tourcoing; then came the Palace of Agriculture and Horticulture and the Palace of the City of Paris, which, at the other end of this group of halls, formed a new and very decorative entrance.
We would like to be able to study in detail the exhibitions contained in each of these numerous premises; alas, the framework of this work prevents us from doing so. We shall, however, insist on the Palace of Luxury Industries and that of the City of Paris; they were admirable manifestations of French elegance, art and taste.
The French participation presented more than an exhibition of material products; it was completed by the participation of French thought and intelligence, which embody all that Latin civilisation has of greatness, beauty and ideals: this was the mission of the artistic solemnities and conferences which imbued the Exposition with an intellectual and worldly atmosphere. The most eminent men - economists, politicians, poets, critics, pedagogues and philosophers - took turns at the podium of the Conference Hall every week.
Thus, one after the other, the pages of an engaging, instructive and varied encyclopaedia were flipped through. Cinema, in its best role, served to illustrate the geography of France.
In the railway equipment hall, the most picturesque sites of the most beautiful French regions, the famous cities, their monuments and their customs, were shown on the screen. France also triumphed in the field of art, especially opera, with its galas at the Royal Theatre and its grand auditions at the Palais des Fêtes.
The worldly note was finally reflected in the great ceremonies and banquets which the French Section hosted.
The most amiable spirit and the most elegant animation reigned in the midst of these agapes.
This unceasing attention of France to a work to which she had made such an important contribution was also to have happy consequences in another respect; it attracted the stream of visitors who flocked to the World's Fair. Private companies and major newspapers organised numerous excursions to Ghent; and the railway companies were keen to make the journey easy and accessible to all.
In a hundred different ways, France did not spare its sympathies and its encouragement for the grandiose work carried out in the old capital of Flanders. M. Massé, Minister of Trade, the Ministers of Agriculture and Public Works, a delegation of more than one hundred members of parliament, and the municipal councillors of Paris made a point of paying the Ghent Exhibition an attentive and benevolent visit. The celebrations organised on these various occasions were a great success.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle & Internationale de Gand 1913