4.2 Napoléonic events


© Bob Denton 2018
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There can be little doubt that the notion of a World Fair was ignited by the ensuing series of ten French expositions (eleven if you include the 1798 event), organised to promote French agricultural and technological improvements. These industrial events were irregularly repeated through the first-half of the 19th century under a variety of administration; they ran in parallel with art exhibitions

After the 1798 event the Directory was overthrown in 1799, with Napoléon assuming leadership as First Consul. However, under Napoléon’s rule three expositions were organised with the clear goal of advancing the interests of French industry and hopefully to the detriment of British industry.

Napoleon Bonaparte

There was also a thrust to refer to all the exposition exhibits as ‘art’ – in order to raise the prestige of French manufacturing and industry. Of course, the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815 confused who might be prepared to participate as exhibitor or visitor.

4.2.1  1801, Paris, Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française

See 1801_Paris Exposition data sheet

In 1800 Napoléon had been victorious against the Austrians at Marengo (in Piedmont Italy) and the treaty of Lunéville was to be agreed with Britain.

Jean-Antoine Chaptal 1756-1832

Jean-Antoine Chaptal, comte de Chanteloup, was a chemist and agronomist. He was the founder and first president in 1801 of the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry and became heavily involved in a series of French expositions. This second exposition was readily agreed between Minister Chaptal and Napoléon’s Consulate, when he wrote to them, stating that ‘continental peace is assured […] we should hold another Exposition…’.

It ran from 19-24 September at the Cour du Louvre (Louvre courtyard). The venue selected in an effort to raise the perception of industrial products as works of art, it was also a more secure location at the heart of the city. François Chalgrin was again engaged on the organisation of the event.

1801 Cour du Louvre

There were 229 exhibitors drawn from thirty-eight French départements. Exhibits included: cottons, wools and textiles; carpets, porcelain and leatherwork; printing and agricultural machinery; minerals and alcoholic products.

Prize-winning exhibit

Notably an early Jacquard punched-card loom for automating the production of brocades was on show and won only a bronze award. The loom was subsequently better-received and prompted prizes to be offered for developments in the techniques of spinning, combing, and carding of wool. Though viewed with hostility by many, this did help to build a strong French textile business.

The Jacquard Loom

Napoléon and the other two consuls spent hours at the event, directly asking questions of exhibitors and boosting the morale of the industrialists. The government offered two cash awards (20,000 and 40,000 francs) for inventors of machines that might improve spinning, combing, and carding of wool.

4.2.2  1802, Paris, Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française

See also 1802 Paris Exposition data sheet

Napoléon’s personal prestige had expanded further. The following year his Concordat restated that the Catholic faith was the national belief of France. In March the Treaty of Amiens agreed peace between France and Britain, the Netherlands and Spain. Peace with Turkey and the retaking of Piedmont made France ever more secure.

The Troisième Exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française, was held between 18-24 September again in the Cour du Louvre. The event was collocated with the annual salon of fine arts held in the Louvre; Napoléon visited the events and purchased three paintings from the salon.

1802 Paris Cour du Louvre

The industrial exhibits were located in tented booths and porticoes around the courtyard and a copy of a Greek statue the Lantern of Demosthenes provided the centrepiece. There were 540 exhibitors from seventy-three départements with 240 awards made, twenty-six of them gold.

Based on the brief peace with Britain they welcomed British exhibitors and visitors, one notable exhibit was an English wool-spinning and weaving machine. A prominent British politician Charles Fox was surprised to see imitation cashmeres, a market Britain had previously controlled. It appears as if Fox’s report first sowed the seed for a British response to these exhibitions.

1802 Paris Exposition sketch

Napoléon invited all gold medal winners to have dinner with him and declared there would be another event the following year, but it was delayed when in 1804 he crowned himself emperor and he became engaged in major set-piece battles at Austerlitz (1805) and Jena (1806).

4.2.3  1806, Paris, Exposition Universelle Internationale

See also 1806 Paris Exposition data sheet

This fourth event, held under the First Empire had outgrown the Louvre. Instead it built some 124 structures on the Esplanade des Invalides.

1806 Esplanade des Invalides venue
Source Jacques Bertaux

It was run for twenty-four days, from 25 Sep to 19 Oct. There were 1,422 exhibitors from an expanded one-hundred-and-four départements.

1806 Exposition sketch

These were divided into thirty-five categories (the 1802 event had just fifteen) and prompted some 610 awards. It might be argued that this event was more international, ‘France’ included areas of Mulhouse Alsace (on the Rhine), Belgium and parts of Northern Italy. A stone event planned for May was merged with this one, displaying stones and marbles for architectural use.

1806 exhibit

There were two special awards created at this event, one for products exhibited by poorhouses and those produced by ‘houses of detention and correction’. Notably Nicolas Appert presented a method of preserving food

There was discussion of the next exhibition being planned for 1809, but the continental blockade and various military setbacks meant the show would not be held for thirteen years.

© Bob Denton 2018
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