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Agriculture - Expo Paris 1889

Agriculture at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

When you leave the Champ de Mars, passing in front of the panorama of the Transatlantic Company, you come to the galleries reserved for the Agriculture on the Quai d'Orsay. These galleries extend, in a double row, to the Esplanade des Invalides. Although more modest in appearance than the major industries, and especially the luxury industries, agriculture has nonetheless wanted to adorn itself to make a good impression in the midst of the splendours that surround it. It has succeeded in proving that, even in things that seem to lend themselves the least, French taste never loses its rights.

The decoration is sober, but it frames well the enormous amount of work and effort that these galleries contain. Without doubt, the simple onlooker has nothing to do here; but anyone who cares at all about his country's affairs, once he has had a first look at the immense variety of objects on display, will be struck by the interest he will find there.

First, there is the exhibition of the Ministry of Agriculture. The role of this ministry is complex: it contributes, through the competitions it organises and the subsidies it distributes, to the creation and propagation of progress, and, above all, it directs agricultural intelligence. The usefulness of this ministry, denied by some chagrined minds, is obvious; it is shown by the fact that the institution is imitated everywhere, even in countries which, like England, have long been considered to be ahead of us in the way of agricultural progress. In addition to the bronzes and objets d'art which it distributes in regional competitions, the Ministry of Agriculture exhibits publications which do it the greatest honour; in the forefront is the Agricultural Statistics of 1882, the masterly work of M. Eug. Tisserand, and which, according to the unanimous opinion of the most competent men of all countries, is the best that has ever been produced by any nation.

The Ministry of Agriculture presents another special exhibition: it is installed in the Pavilion of the Forests, on the Trocadero. We spoke about this earlier.

The agricultural educational establishments have shown great progress in the last ten years; this progress has been made under the impulse of M. Tisserand, who is endeavouring to provide all the regions of the country with schools of agriculture appropriate to their special needs.

The National Agronomic Institute is in the forefront. The work of its professors, like that of the professors of the National Schools of Agriculture of Grignon, Grandjouan and Montpellier, shows the progress of French agronomic science, which counts numerous successes every year. Consult the tables and photographs that cover the walls, and peruse the notices that accompany them; at each step you will find discoveries whose practical consequences are most often immediate, and sometimes take on rapidly gigantic proportions for the development of public wealth. Leaf through the yearbooks of these schools, and you will find the names of farmers who are the honour of the country.

The National Veterinary Schools of Alfort, Lyon and Toulouse play another role; they train civil and military veterinarians. In the countryside, the former are charged with the mission of safeguarding flocks and herds against the diseases that tend to decimate them; the latter provide similar services in the army. The progress of veterinary science has been rapid in recent years; it has benefited greatly from the new avenues opened up by the work of M. Pasteur.
The role of the practical schools of agriculture is more modest. They are recent creations. The first one dates back to 1876; today there are about twenty-five of them, in as many departments. They are of varying importance, but all train educated farmers who love their future profession. Some of them have special aims in addition to the basic teaching of agricultural matters. Here, dairy farming; elsewhere, irrigation, viticulture, or arboriculture. The models of teaching material, the work of their teachers and students, the products of their crops, give proof of their great vitality. Now we come to the Agronomic Stations. There are no less than fifty of them. These establishments work for agriculture in three main ways: through research into general physiology, through cultivation trials on the various varieties of plants and the use of fertilisers, and finally through chemical analyses of the composition of fertilisers, arable land, etc. Not all of them are included in the Exhibition galleries, but those you will find there present many subjects for study.
The Departmental Chairs of Agriculture also belong to what might be called the Scientific Exhibition of Agriculture. It is the teaching carried from canton to canton by nomadic professors; it is, moreover, the living teaching by demonstration fields intended to strike the minds of small farmers and to show them what small advances are often sufficient to increase yields in great proportions. The farmer, who has passed by fields of this kind, learns by sight much more quickly than by the most learned demonstrations.

Here, on the other hand, are the publications relating to agricultural education, the teaching methods and procedures devised for rural primary schools, the results of research carried out by farmers or by agronomists working with their own forces.

Isolated farmers, especially small farmers, who are the most interesting, often shrink from the expense of attending an exhibition like the one in Paris. Fortunately, agricultural associations of all kinds, agricultural societies, comices, and unions, are perfectly able to group their efforts.

The communities which appear in the galleries of the Quai d'Orsay are very numerous, and they have succeeded admirably in showing the results of the persevering efforts by which agriculture fights against bad luck.

This character is quite special to the Exhibition of 1889.

The collective exhibitions of the agricultural associations show, by the sheaves of cereals which they offer to the eye, by the types of plants of all kinds: textiles, fodder, etc., with which they have furnished the stands, varied examples of the results either generally achieved, or obtained by the most skilful and most learned cultivators, in the various regions between which agricultural France is divided. A happy rivalry has been established between these associations; an elegant arrangement of the galleries is the consequence.

Among the principal exhibitions of the agricultural associations are those of the Société des agriculteurs du Nord, which includes in its ranks several of the most renowned farmers in France; of the Société du Pas-de-Calais, which competes with the North in all industrial crops; of the Société d'agriculture de Meurthe-et-Moselle, where the special products of Lorraine agriculture are shown above all else; of the Société horticole, vigneronne et forestière de Troyes, where a magnificent specimen of the reafforestation of the Champagne region is displayed; of the Comice départemental de l'Aube ; the Comice de l'arrondissement de Reims, where the rich current products of the transformed Champagne pouilleuse are shown; the Société d'agriculture de Meaux, that of Melun, the Comice de Coulommiers et Provins, which share the direction of agricultural affairs in the large department of Seine-et-Marne; the Syndicat agricole de Seine-et-Oise, where market gardening is most happily combined with ordinary farming; the Comice de l'arrondissement de Chartres and the Syndicat d'Eure-et-Loir, which represent the famous Beauceron agriculture; the Comité du département du Cher and the Comité départemental de l'Indre, two neighbouring departments, but which have a rather different aspect; the Comités de la Mayenne and d'Ille-et-Vilaine, representing the agriculture of the West, which has cleared such large areas of moorland; the Syndicat des cidres de l'Ouest and the Syndicat de la Guerche-de-Bretagne, which are concerned above all with the cultivation of the apple tree and the production of cider, as well as with the expansion of the trade of this excellent drink; the Agricultural Society of Deux-Sèvres, a department in which livestock production is one of the main sources of wealth; the Agricultural Committee of Haute-Saône, a country of livestock and cereal cultivation; the Agricultural Society of Doubs, which is especially concerned with the progress to be made in the manufacture of Gruyère cheese by the pastoral associations known as fruitières; the Agricultural Society of the Haute-Loire, another famous country of livestock farming; the committees of the Lot and Lot-et-Garonne, and of the Comice de Bazas, which bring together the varied products of the South-West region.

Each of the associations represents hundreds of exhibitors, whose efforts can be judged and would have gone unnoticed without the strength given by the community. Two great advances stand out above all from the whole of these exhibitions: a marked increase in the yield of cereals, and a complete revolution in the cultivation of sugar beet.

This revolution has taken place in recent years under the spur of necessity. The French sugar industry has had to transform its old methods in order to combat the formidable competition from German sugars; it has had to ask the growers for a raw material more suited to its needs. The growers have solved the problem with a truly surprising speed; they have increased the sugar content of the beet they harvest by more than half. On the other hand, the rich beet seeds that we were used to asking for in Germany, are produced today in France in equally good conditions in terms of richness and in much better conditions, if we take into account the needs of the soil and the culture. This is what anyone who wants to have a fair idea of the transformations shown by the products exhibited in the galleries of the Quai d'Orsay must remember.

Here, on the other hand, are farms that are a credit to the regions in which they are located.

Exhibitions of grain mills, veterinary surgeons, veterinary instruments and products, and farriery, are also in their place as auxiliaries to agriculture.
Here is a branch of agricultural production whose tools and processes have been absolutely transformed: it is the dairy and the production of butter. The example came to us from the Scandinavian countries, and it has been fruitful. Today, butter is made with machines that do away with all manipulation. Instant skimming, churning and kneading take less than an hour, and you can get excellent butter the same morning the cows are milked. Two dairies equipped with these devices are established in elegant chalets on the esplanade des Invalides: an English dairy and a Danish dairy installed by Pilter; they are not the least attractions of this vast group of so varied buildings. As for the dairy's crockery, it has also been significantly improved in recent years.

The farmyard is, like the dairy, the domain of the farmer. Here too, progress is evident, to the point that a new word, poultry farming, has been coined and has entered into common practice. Poultry farming can still be found on the other side of the Pont d'Iéna, at the bottom of the Trocadero.


The agricultural galleries that we have quickly traversed are those that run along the parapet of the quay; another row of galleries runs parallel; it is devoted to agricultural tools and machinery. Most of the French manufacturers are represented here. Here again, immense progress has been made: the old heavy and inconvenient equipment has been replaced by light equipment and instruments, of unfailing solidity, which do the greatest honour to the genius of our manufacturers.

The general quality of the construction of French agricultural machines is at least equal to that of machines of foreign origin. As far as steam engines and threshing machines are concerned, the proof has been made; at the most recent international competitions, French manufacturers have won over their rivals. If it is a question of farm implements or farm interior instruments, French workshops give at least as good products as others; for ploughs especially, one cannot find anywhere as good instruments as in France. Steel has become almost universally used in manufacturing; some manufacturers even use this material exclusively for all parts of their instruments.

Two galleries are devoted to agricultural machinery. In the first, they are in motion; a large shaft, which runs through the whole gallery, transmits to them the force given by an electric motor. But it is above all in the special competitions which will follow one another during the Exhibition that one can best appreciate the agricultural machines; these competitions will take place on the farm of Mr. Menier, at Noisiel (Seine-et-Marne).

It is mainly through machinery that foreign agriculture is represented at the Exhibition, particularly in the English and American sections.


Viticulture is one of the principal branches of French agricultural production. For twenty years it has been struggling with a terrible enemy, phylloxera, which has caused it cruel losses; in some departments, the area of vineyards has been reduced to a quarter or a fifth of its former extent. The plague has spread to almost the entire wine-growing territory.

But the French winegrower, at first disconcerted, did not allow himself to be brought down by the disaster. It is above all this work of reconstruction that is shown in the galleries devoted to viticulture: it is one of the glories of agriculture today, because all wine-producing nations, tested in the same way, come to look for examples and models here.

If the reconstitution is not complete, it currently covers one fifth of the destroyed vines, and above all it is established on solid bases which absolutely guarantee its future. The cultivation of American grape varieties, grafted with our old French grape varieties of far superior quality, is now the antidote for the production of French wines against the attacks of phylloxera.

Here, as in the neighbouring class, the influence of the communities is manifest; it makes it possible to bring together and highlight a great number of efforts which, without them, would remain ignored and without profit for the wine growers.

The Central Agricultural Society of the Hérault has produced a striking reconstruction of the vines in this department; it is a statistical map which strikes the eye by its ingenious combination of colours. Next to it are the products of the new vines.

Southern viticulture is also represented by the collective exhibitions of the Agricultural Society of the Gard, the Central Agricultural Society of the Aude, the Agricultural Society of the Pyrénées-Orientales, etc.

In the Gironde, by the collective exhibitions of the Société d'agriculture de la Gironde, the Comice agricole de Libourne, the Comice de Cadillac.
In the Beaujolais and Maçonnais regions, through the exhibitions of the Regional Society of Viticulture of Lyon, the Agricultural Society of Chalon-sur-Saône.

In order to prepare good wine in favourable conditions, the cellars must be suitably fitted out and equipped; viticultural equipment is therefore of great importance. The exhibition gives, in this respect, complete satisfaction.

Here, first of all, is a model winery, such as is now common in the south of France; it contains tuns of several hundred hectolitres, a mechanical engine, wine pumps capable of delivering up to 25,000 litres per hour, filters, a "Pastaurisateur" for automatic heating of the wines, complex and ingenious piping, which connects the equipment to each other, and finally, all the accessory equipment such as jugs, siphons, etc. In the large vineyards of the South of France, where the grape harvest yields tens of thousands of hectolitres of wine each year, steam now plays an important role in facilitating the rapid processing of these enormous quantities of liquid.

The model winery is framed by the special exhibitions of the manufacturers of viticultural instruments. In no other country has viticultural and vinicultural equipment acquired such perfection as in France. This equipment makes it possible to cultivate the vine in the most economic conditions, to prepare and preserve the wine in such a way that it develops all its qualities and that it improves as any wine worthy of the name must do.


A special class is devoted to useful and harmful insects. For the latter, it is difficult to indicate in an exhibition the procedures to be adopted to destroy them. As for useful insects, only two species are known: the bee and the silkworm.

Beekeeping or bee culture is not very popular in France; this is a pity, because it can be the source of good profits without much effort. Mobilist beekeeping, i.e. with mobile frame hives, is today the latest word in progress; there are several excellent models at the Exhibition.

The situation is different for silkworm rearing. These unfortunate insects have been decimated for a long time by terrible contagious diseases; we owe to M. Pasteur the discovery of the means to prevent these diseases. This was even, incidentally, his first claim to the gratitude of farmers; since then he has added many others. Through the application of the methods he indicated, the yield of silkworm breeding has more than doubled. France has no longer had to import foreign seeds, and its export trade in seeds has assumed unhoped-for proportions. French sericulture is tending to regain the honourable rank it had lost.


To agriculture, we finally attach what relates to the culture of water: freshwater fish farming and marine fish farming. It is on the bank of the Seine, in two pavilions of rather modest appearance, that the fish farming exhibition is installed.

The main purpose of freshwater fish farming is to restock rivers. In a number of agricultural schools, in several establishments of the Ministry of Public Works, in the aquarium of Trocadero (which one should not forget to visit), the processes of artificial fertilisation of eggs, incubation and rearing of fry are practised in increasing proportions each year. This rearing concerns mainly delicate fish, trout, salmon, etc., and foreign species whose acclimatisation in French waters seems to be useful. The young fry are then released into the water to repopulate the rivers, to the great joy of fishermen. This is the work of general utility whose results can be seen in the pavilion.

Another purpose of fish farming is to raise delicate fish in closed waters until they are delivered to the market. Models of this can also be seen at the exhibition.

Oyster farming is the main purpose of marine fish farming. In this respect, our marine coasts are rich in oyster beds, the production of which has been a great source of wealth for sailors. The main fact of recent years is the notable improvement of Portuguese oysters by the application of the methods used for the ordinary oyster; interesting demonstrations of this will be found at the Exhibition on the Quai d'Orsay.

Finally, two major events should be mentioned which will complete the agricultural part of the Universal Exhibition: an International Congress and temporary exhibitions of domestic animals.

The International Congress of Agriculture will be held in the halls of the Trocadero Palace, from July 4 to 11, under the presidency of M. Méline. Its main purpose will be to study the causes and effects of the agricultural crisis, as well as the remedies to be applied.

The Temporary Domestic Animal Competitions will comprise two series: International Cattle, Sheep, Pig and Farmyard Animal Competitions, from 11 to 22 July, and the International Horse and Foal Competition, from 1 to 10 September. According to the statements of the breeders gathered at the end of April, the first of these competitions will be of exceptional importance; more than 2,500 bovine animals are registered, which has never been seen anywhere else. It will give, like the horse show, a striking demonstration of the progress that French breeding continues to make.

© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889