World Fair of Paris 1889

Centenary of the French Revolution

May 6, 1889 - October 31, 1889


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Turkish Tobacco

Turkish Tobacco at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

Architect(s) : Pucey

Should the French Tobacco Board allow foreign exhibitors to sell tobacco from their countries within the Exhibition grounds?

Such was the question that arose, and one that was bound to present some difficulties in finding a solution. By allowing foreign tobacco to be sold for several months, was there not a risk that consumers would become unaccustomed to French products, and above all that smuggling would open a door that would be very difficult to control?

The Régie was in favour of absolute prohibition; but exhibitors from all countries demanded so much and so loudly that the Administration had to give in, subject to its control rights.
Special stickers are affixed to the products of foreign factories; these stickers confirm that the entry duties have been paid. Moreover, the sale is made under the direct and constant supervision of the State.

So many precautions, one might say, for a few unfortunate cigarettes. Many people find the tobacco monopoly excessive and the prohibitions which prevent the sale of this merchandise like any other vexatious. They also protest against the exaggerated price which, it is said, results from the monopoly.

Basically, this is to consider the question in reverse. Tobacco is not expensive because there is a monopoly, but there is a monopoly because tobacco is expensive. A tax that is three or four times the value of the object sold offers such a premium to smuggling that all possible arrangements, all imaginable precautions, would have failed before the skill of the fraudsters enticed by a large profit.

The simplest means of collection was to radically suppress all sales of tobacco outside the State. This is what was done. Unquestionably, French tobacco is expensive, but there is a small compensation: it is good...

Yes, it is good... despite the daily complaints. It is even excellent if you compare it to the current tobaccos of our neighbours, the Belgians, the Swiss, the Germans, the Italians.
I know that a packet of tobacco is sometimes adorned with logs as big as your finger, that many cigars don't draw, that some cigarettes are full of rubbish. But do not complain too much, smokers, my brothers, and bless your fate which does not force you to burn the cut hay of the Belgian manufacturers, the insipid cigars of Hamburg, the short Veveys and the Gransons of our friends the Swiss.

Be sure that the connoisseurs of these countries would give something from their own pockets to have the small vexations, accompanied by the guarantees of quality of the French management.

Besides, in all the countries neighbouring France, if you want to smoke something more or less suitable, you smoke French tobacco.

This is for ordinary tobacco, but at the Exhibition, what is sold consists of luxury tobacco and cigars, and, moreover, the non-participation of Germany guarantees us against the invasion of its vile cigars from Hamburg.

It is, of course, America that has sent the most samples of tobacco and cigars. There are at least thirty houses in Havana that are giving tastings of their products. El Salvador, Chile, Ecuador, offer cigars hitherto unknown in France, as well as American cigarettes, remarkable for the sweetness of their tobacco and especially the amusing vignettes which decorate the boxes and packets.

Europe does not want to be left behind, Spain and Austria are competing, Switzerland and even Belgium are claiming smoking success. For the latter two countries, I must confess that the claim seems exaggerated.

Russia has more right to expect a victory. Its tobaccos are already very much like those lovely Oriental tobaccos which the Ottoman Imperial Administration sells in a charming kiosk copied from the Achmet Fountain in Constantinople.

This pavilion is situated in the gardens, near the Palace of Fine Arts and the Directorate... Mr. Pucey, the Parisian architect who was in charge of the construction, had above all to carry out a reconstruction of the Constantinople kiosk, the plans of which had been drawn up and sent by Mr. Vallain, head of the Sultan's building department. Mr. Pucey has done this task very well, and the Turkish kiosk, consisting of a large room raised on a terrace, is one of the most beautiful on the Champ de Mars.

It is of the best oriental style, a lacework of stucco and a mosaic of bright colours. Tasted there, the tobacco of the East must have a very different flavour than under the banal ceiling and between the sad walls of one of our Western houses.

One can go through the whole range of oriental tobaccos in a few minutes, for the Ottoman imperial administration wanted all the provinces of the empire in which it has factories to be represented and, from latakieh to tombeki, all the flavours of oriental nicotines are at the disposal of amateurs.

The English Indies sell their tobacco in the Indian serai, installed on the Champ de Mars.

As for the Dutch colonies, which produce a lot of tobacco, and a lot of good tobacco, they sell their products in the Javanese kampang, where the entire population of a village in Malaysia lives.

Well, in spite of all these facilities, do you want my opinion... Here it is:
What is still smoked most at the Exhibition is our scaferlati or our caporal, or our Châteauroux cigar.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - Henry Anry.