1819 Paris FR – Exposition Universelle (5th)

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1819, Paris

Name:Exposition Universelle (5th)
Dates:25 Aug – 30 Sep 1819
Venue:The Louvre colonnade
Theme:That France’s industry was back from the disruptions of revolution and wars
Exhibitors:1,662 within thirty-nine categories
Awards:886 awards, with levels of award – citation, honourable mention, bronze, silver and gold
Visitors:No data
Legacy:France was once again on the way to becoming a commercial power in Europe

After the 1806 event the Napoleonic Wars diverted all attention in France, culminating, of course, in Waterloo in 1815. Ensuing years saw the Restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, by the ascension of King Louis VIII. The king soon came to realise the values that the revolutionary expositions had developed.

In fact, it was the city of Caen that first proposed he should resurrect these events. However, the Minister of the Interior, Élie-Louis Decazes, proposed it should again be held in Paris and at the Louvre. The Louvre was considered throughout Europe as an architectural masterpiece, it had been one of the residences of the King of France and it housed many key artworks of the world. This association with royalty and art raised prestige, something that Neufchâteau had started in 1798 when he housed award-winning exhibits in his Temple of Industry.

Élie-Louis Decazes (1780-1860)

Decazes wrote to all the regions asking them to submit products of high quality or of low-price having a general appeal. The monarchy also offered to pay all transportation costs incurred for such exhibits to be shipped into Paris. One driving force operating behind the scenes was Chaptal who as a previous Minister of the Interior had overseen the planning of the second and third expositions. Chaptal was the founder and first president of the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry, In 1819 he compiled a valuable study, De l’industrie française, that surveyed the condition and needs of French industry.

The 1819 Exposition in action

This fifth Paris exhibition was held in the Louvre colonnade and ran for thirty-five days, 25 Aug – 30 Sep. Some 1,662 exhibitors presented textiles, including cashmere, flock silk shawls and soie sina (white sina) silk, dyes, wool carding and refining equipment, plus steel and paper products…

There were five levels of award citation, honourable mention, bronze, silver and gold. These were awarded in thirty-nine categories essentially similar to those in 1806; in total 886 awards were presented.

1819 Gold award

Jacquard was awarded the Legion d’Honneur during this event’s closing ceremony.

There were six explanatory publications published after the exposition over the ensuing five years. These described the exhibits and award winners in some detail, early souvenir catalogues.

The dramatist Etienne de Jouy produced one of the most detailed in 1821 as, Etat actuel de l’industrie française, ou coup d’oeil sur l’exposition de ses produits dans les salles du Louvre, en 1819. The catalogue was the author commenting on his view of the state of industry in France. He railed against the tyranny of an ignorant, ambitious aristocracy.

However, elsewhere, De Jouy provided a very jingoistic commentary: Imagine twenty-eight rooms in the most magnificent palace in Europe, full of everything that can satisfy human needs, of everything that can perfect taste and luxury, of everything that genius can create, of everything that talent can bring into being. This is a true triumph for France, a more glorious triumph than anything she has achieved before.

Conversely, an 1819 anonymous account by the self-styled ‘Comte de C’, entitled Reflections on Industry in General, upon the occasion of the Exposition of the Products of French Industry in 1819, said that the sale of items turned it into a virtual bazaar, that the categorisation and traffic flow was poorly organised and that its hubris and overstatement only increased the jealousy of France’s industrial competitors.

Whichever viewpoint was the more accurate there was general agreement that France’s industry was indeed back from the disruptions of revolution and wars.

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