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Hunting, Fishing and Gathering Gallery - Expo Paris 1889

Hunting, Fishing and Gathering Gallery at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889


Class 42, which brings together under its flag hunting, fishing and gathering, has a most modest entrance, which does not prevent it from having character.

But modesty suited it here; for, separated only from the door of the Drapery by that of the Portable Arms, it could not, without showing an insolent luxury and without even being assured of success, fight against this magnificent facade, which dominates all this side of the gallery of Thirty metres, with its great air and the richness of its decoration.

She preferred to stick to a pleasant rusticity, for which she asked for elements from the forests that usually serve as a hunting ground and sometimes as a fishing border.

Thus, on the façade, panels of various woods were simply placed, and false columns made of tree trunks of absolute length and regularity were placed between the columns.

On the pediment of the main bay, fishing and perhaps also the hunting of marine animals, is recalled by a ship's prow which advances, in vigorous relief. The pediments on the left and right are simple stuffed animals. This required no great effort, either of imagination or of execution. But it is a type of ornament that is worthwhile and which, moreover, fits in perfectly with the good-natured and unpretentious tendencies of this façade. There is, however, a mystery in this ornamentation: under the vessel "that splits the waves" waves have been placed that are intended to be split, and these waves resemble, feature for feature, the three ostrich feathers that serve as the usual coat of arms of the Prince of Wales' suppliers. Why?

Golden Book of the Exhibition - Alfred Grandin.


This is what we call class 43, and it is the title inscribed in the galleries, which does not fail to confuse the visitors, who see only furs and many other miscellaneous products, but not a single hunting instrument or dispatch. In fact, the catalogue contains the exact title: Hunting products. - Products, gear and instruments of fishing and gathering. Why did you not reproduce this clear title instead of this rather telegraphic title: hunting, fishing, gathering?

And finally, why have the fishing and gathering implements been completely set apart in a room forming a vestibule to the bodywork and Austro-Hungarian galleries, opposite the Belgian commissariat, while the main section is on the large thirty-metre gallery; this disorder is also found in many cases at the Exhibition.

Let us begin with the fishing and gathering implements, as the hunting implements form a completely separate section.

We find first of all quantities of rods for fishing various species of fish: trout, pike, etc., then floats of all systems, simple hooks or hooks imitating various species of animals sought by fish: worms, insects, shrimps, which hooks are dull or shiny, some of them are even very complicated. When the fish bites, a spring releases a steel point which is fixed in the head of the animal.

Along the walls are huge hawks, spider hawks. There is even the frog gun. It's a tube with a spring-loaded arrow in it; with the help of a string you stretch the spring and let it go in the direction of the frog, which is punctured if you haven't missed. You go to as much trouble to destroy the most innocent animals as you do to kill people, and that's saying something.

This section could also have been subtitled: rat and mouse hunting. There are more traps for destroying these rodents than for catching fish.

The traps, which were once reserved for fishing, are becoming one of the surest ways of getting rid of these animals. These traps are very well understood, one can catch dozens of rats per minute, real machine-gun traps, except that they do not give immediate death. The entrance is always free, the animals caught in the trap are caught again in other inner traps, which accumulate them at the bottom.

But the art of destruction does not stop there, we still have traps for foxes, weasels, cats, otters, badgers, polecats. Then there are the more serious traps for wolves, wild boars, birds of prey, and even the marauder trap. And finally, the large traps for the destruction of small birds en masse, those poor little creatures, so nice, but which also have the disadvantage of being so greedy.

Let's go through the Austrian-Hungarian sections, then the lace, clothing and fabric sections, and enter the main hunting and fishing section, through the thirty-metre gallery.

The first two showcases, which protrude slightly from the large central gallery, contain the products of hunting, but hunting of animals sought after for their rich furs. This hunt has nothing in common with the one which, every autumn, serves as a distraction to our amateur hunters. The fur hunters have been the subject of many novels, relating this continual life of danger and privation, full of adventure and anguish, where the man is never sure of tomorrow, even of the next moment, and does not sleep in good or bad hotel beds, but in the rocks, on the hard. They are no longer simple stages in the land or the prairies, but interminable races in the forests, in the ravines, in places where man has not yet passed, where one risks a thousand times to break one's neck, or to be massacred by the savages, who sometimes however become your auxiliaries when they know your goal, and where finally, it is a fight to the death between man and his prey, when the latter is called: bear, tiger, lion, etc.

The first furs we see are real furs: otter, beaver, astrakhan, chinchilla, ermine, wolverine, fox, bear, Abyssinian monkey (long-haired grey), black monkey (smooth-haired black), blue fox, silver fox, sable marten, black bear, tiger, etc. All these selected furs are, of course, very beautiful.

But while we are at it, let's enter the gallery through the logging section, which is mixed up, we don't know why, with the section we are dealing with. We find the same furs, there is no need for me to enumerate them, there would be nothing changed. And yet it is not at all the same; very peaceful hunters have conquered these otter and beaver pelts. Indeed, all the windows contain one or more rodents of rather beautiful size, presenting us with a goggling air the map of the house, they are beautiful rabbits, well fattened, well stuffed, and all these splendid furs, which should arrive from the most distant countries, are from us, they are rabbit skins worked and imitating with a perfect perfection, the rarest furs. After that, one no longer dares to pay exorbitant prices for furs, for fear of being cheated, the merchants themselves must find it very difficult to recognize them, it is only a matter of trust, as with pearls. There are blue foxes made of rabbit, magnificent, they are no longer those horrible furs with a slight bluish tint, whereas true blue foxes can have many shades, except the blue one. These are blue foxes that are rabbit-skinned in name only. Moreover, one of the exhibitors had the original idea of putting a superb rabbit on a throne, under a royal canopy, carrying in his paw the hand of justice, also royal, a golden crown between his two straight ears, his eyes aware of his superiority, and finally covered with an ermine coat, made of rabbit skin of course. Indeed the rabbit is king, the king of all animals by the hand of man, no hair could be as useful to the counterfeiter as his. Let us not forget yet another use, that of felt hats made of rabbit hair.

Our farmyard animals also provide a certain number of products, which are not, however, hunting or fishing, but perhaps gathering, among others feathers which are used to make pillows and mattresses, and whose tips, when the feather is large, are used to make toothpicks. The skin of the goose, covered with its down, similar to the quilt, is a kind of fur from which clothing ornaments are made, generally for children, under the name of swan down; it is also used to make rice powder puffs.

The pig and the boar provide their bristles which are used to make brushes or paintbrushes.

The horse and some other quadrupeds provide hair.

The elephant, so peaceful, is the object of a fierce war in certain regions; it is its tusks that are the object of the war. The ivory hunters have a very dangerous job: as calm as the elephant is if left alone, its anger becomes terrible against its aggressors. How many of these unfortunate people have been knocked against trees, dragged down by the animal's formidable trunk, or crushed under the enormous hammerheads which serve as its legs.

Let us now come more specifically to the products of fishing, and if I do not indicate the order in which all these products are displayed, it is because there is no order whatsoever, everything is mixed together, the plants, the animals and the products taken from the waters.

We see the scale and the mother-of-pearl, the one provided by the shell of the turtle, the other by the walls of various shells. The most beautiful mother-of-pearl is provided by the pearl swallowtail (avicula margariti fera), it is remarkable for its thickness, whiteness and brilliance, moreover the pearls are of the same nature as the mother-of-pearl provided by this mollusc. If the inside of the shell is irritated at any point, either by a puncture or a grain of sand, a pearly secretion is produced at the point attacked, which is deposited in concentric layers and produces a free or fixed pearl. And to think that this expensive product is only composed of chalk, lime phosphate and a little organic matter! It is true that the diamond itself is only crystallised coal. This proves that nature is much more skilful in chemistry than we are.

The sea also provides a product of quite domestic use, namely the sponge. As it is fished, it hardly resembles our toilet sponge. We would never, even if it were possible, want to use the gerbi (that is the name of the raw sponge), which we see in the shop windows; apart from the fact that in this state the sponge is very hard, it is brown and viscous. This animal (in spite of its appearance, it is indeed an animal) is an aggregation of individuals merged into a mass, formed either by the welding of several embryos, or by the welding of several neighbouring sponges, of any age. They reproduce either by ciliated corpuscles, or embryos which group together, or by eggs. They have no separate digestive, respiratory or reproductive organs. They are fished with tridents, or men dive for them with their hands. Greek divers are very bold in this, diving to twenty fathoms. The Syrian divers stay underwater longer, they go up to twenty-five fathoms, but are less skilful. The sponges are carefully washed to remove impurities and animal matter, then beaten with a mallet to remove shells and sand, then treated with acidulated water, which dissolves the calcareous salts, and washed again. The fine sponges are cleaned by hand, which increases their price.

Finally, we see another fishery product, a by-product, the whale. The whale is not pursued particularly for its baleen, but also for its oil and fat content. This fishing is extremely dangerous, because the whale can measure up to thirty metres in length, the length of the famous central gallery of the Exhibition. Its mass makes it very difficult to move, but woe betide anything that comes within range of its fearsome tail, all its strength is there and it is enormous. The first whalers were the Basques, and in the 17th century the English and Dutch followed. Nowadays, fishermen have great difficulty in finding whales, as they have fought so hard against them. When the animal has been signalled by the man placed at the top of the mast, they go down into the boats and row towards the whale; a man at the front of the boat carrying a harpoon, waits for the right moment to throw it at the enormous beaver, carefully avoiding the tail of the animal, which, simply wounded, turns around and with a tremendous blow breaks the boat and gets rid of his enemies. ... for a moment only, for new daredevils will come to help those who did not succumb to the previous catastrophe. The captured whale is dragged behind the ship and when it is dead, the blubber is removed, followed by the baleen. These baleen plates are attached to the upper jaw, six to seven hundred in number, like the teeth of a comb, and thus serve as a sieve for the water that the animal fills its enormous mouth with, which escapes through the baleen plates without being able to carry away the algae and small animals that serve as food for the cetacean. This enormous beast has enemies in its element which, although much smaller than it, are no less dangerous because of their skill. Thus the porpoises do not fear the whale, they rush into its mouth, attach themselves to its tongue, and torture it so much that the colossus dies of suffering. The sawfish cuts its skin and only releases its prey dead. The evolutionary movements of the whale are so painful that if, pushed out of the shallows by storms or any other cause, it comes to the coasts, it is fatally stranded, so that even on our coasts several have been found. Some of the paintings in the showcases of the Exhibition represent episodes of this whale hunt.

Let's finish the description of class 43 with the harvesting.

In the showcases we see a series of small brooms hung on strings, these are herbalist's plants laid out for drying, as at the door of our herbalists, who thus feel the need to make their customers swallow herbal teas made from plants covered with the dust of the streets of Paris. Druggists have found it more appropriate to present the same plants in glass trays. In medicine, one can never present products too well. We see mallow, marshmallow, cat's foot, poppy, etc.

Finally, the last showcase we have left to see is the exhibition of various barks, in particular quinquinas, grey, yellow and red. The first are tonics, the second febrifuges, while the red cinchona is mainly used in toothpaste, and a little as a tonic.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - S. Favière.