EXPOSITIONS, Industrial. These began in a very humble way. The first in Europe was opened at the end of the last century, and continued not more than one week. The world was far from anticipating, in that age, the consequences of these great industrial strifes between nations. All their ideas were turned toward war, and in the thoughts even of the originators of the first exhibition, the character of this contest, apparently peaceful, was warlike to the last degree. The French minister of the interior wrote to the departmental authorities: "The exhibition has not been very numerously attended, but it is a first campaign, and that campaign is disastrous to English industry. Our manufactures are the arsenals destined to furnish the most deadly weapons against the power of Britain." Who could then have told that minister that sixty years later England would open to the industry of the whole world in London itself the forever famous crystal palace, and that there, under the auspices of universal peace, France would obtain, without ruin to any one, the greatest of her victories?
—What was at first but a simple contest between individuals engaged in industrial pursuits, tends to become a general periodic assemblage of all the productive forces of the entire world. It is proper, then, to render to the French nation, which was the first to give so many great ideas to Europe, the honor which is its due for the successive organization and development of industrial exhibitions. These great occasions have contributed in no less degree than the genius of that nation itself, to the progress of all industries, and it is probable that they will exercise a considerable influence on the solution of the most important economic questions of the day, by furnishing new elements of comparison which have hitherto been wanting.
—Nevertheless, the first exhibition, that of 1798 in France, was not very successful. France had barely emerged from the intestine and foreign troubles of the first republic; and Frenchmen during that fitful period had fought more than they had worked. Ten or twelve exhibitors only obtained medals; and about twenty honorable mention. Most of the great manufacturing cities of France were not even represented. However, some products worthy of note were exhibited, and the dawn of a better future was perceptible, for the government promised twenty silver medals and one gold medal for the next exhibition. A feeling of war invariably pervaded their councils, this gold medal was to be the reward of the manufacturer who should give the most disastrous blow to English industry.
—The two French exhibitions of 1801 and 1802, following too close upon the first, were not less remarkable as being the date of the appearance of names celebrated in the annals of French industry. Then it was that Jacquard was crowned, for his weaving-loom; Carcel, the ingenious inventor of the well-known lamp; Ternaux, for his woolen stuffs; Montgolfier d'Annonay, for his paper; Fauler, for his morocco leather; Utschneider of Sarreguemines, for his beautiful pottery. In 1802, owing to the peace of Amiens, the exhibition assumed a less bellicose character, and was visited by some eminent English statesmen. The most remarkable feature of it was the appearance of the first cashmere shawls in imitation of those of India, and copied from samples brought home by some officers of the Egyptian expedition. Twenty-two gold medals were then given to the most successful, and from that moment it was easy to foresee that the impetus given would not stop there. That was proved by the exhibition of 1806, which only lasted ten days, but where the number of exhibitors was ten times greater than in 1802.
—Many departments and industries of France which had not contributed anything to former exhibitions, figured creditably in this one. Lyons, Nimes, Avignon and Tarare shone there with a brilliancy, which since indeed has been greatly surpassed, but which created at the time an immense sensation on account of the prolonged absence of the representatives of those cities during the whole of the revolutionary period. Manufactories of cloth suddenly rose again from a long depression. Merino sheep began to be acclimatized in France; Elbeuf, Louviers, Sedan, again soared upward. Mulhouse sent some products. Thomire and Ravrio inaugurated bronze working. Cotton spinning was not yet represented, and it may be said that notwithstanding the encouragements of every kind lavished by the emperor on French industry, it was as yet only a period of learning and of incubation.
—France was quietly preparing, in the laboratories of her savants, the magnificent appliances which have since then raised her manufactures to such a height. Chaptal, Berthollet, Conté, Vauquelin, Thénard, d'Arcet, were all at work endeavoring to extract from science the secret of the new industries which burst upon the world almost simultaneously, when peace restored capital and security to labor; and thus is to be explained the great movement which began with the restoration and which still continues. The first of the three French exhibitions of the restoration took place in 1819, the second in 1823, and the third in 1827. That of 1819 aroused so much interest that the public demanded its prolongation for a month. It seemed as though France divined her new destiny. Progress manifested itself in everything. The number of exhibitors was more considerable than at previous exhibitions; machines, simple and original, bore witness to the genius of the French nation. Collier's shearing machines, Ternaux's cashmere shawls, some beautiful looking-glasses and magnificent samples of silk, marked the advance of the national industry. In 1823 there were renewed efforts; woolens were improved, silks multiplied and gained in quality; muslins, both plain and embroidered in the most tasteful way, appeared for the first time, but woven of fine imported thread. Parisian manufactures, such as paper hangings, bronzes, lamps, furniture, articles of luxury and of taste, shone everywhere. More than sixty-six departments contributed.
—But, of the three exhibitions of the restoration, the last, that of 1827, greatly excelled the preceding two, and it may be said that it was this one which chiefly contributed to the maintenance of the periodic character of exhibitions. It greatly surpassed all the others. Shawls commenced to rank among the most original products of French industry, the manufacture of cloth entered upon that new career in which it was destined later on to achieve such marvelous results; the prints of Mulhouse and of Ronen surpassed the most brilliant that had as yet been seen. The city of Lyons exhibited church ornaments and stuffs for tapestry of the rarest magnificence. The cambrics of Cambrai, the table linen of St. Quentin (Aisne), the manufactures of Roubaix, elicited universal admiration. Flax spinning now first appeared. Lithographing, Parisian cabinet making, and typography, introduced new and original designs. Attention was specially directed to very beautiful steam engines, the monopoly of which it was supposed had up till then belonged to England.
—But it was reserved for the reign of Louis Philippe to present the most brilliant series of exhibitions which have ever done credit to French industries, and to render those memorable shows popular throughout Europe. That of 1834, in grandeur and extent as much surpassed that of 1827, as did the latter all preceding ones. French industry evidently felt itself on a firm footing; new workshops were everywhere established; the spirit of emulation developed under a system of legislation which government investigations tended to render more liberal; new arts sprang into existence, and manufacturing seemed to proceed step by step toward reduction of prices, as being the most assured stimulant to increased consumption. The official reports, which were summaries by the president of the central jury on each of those great occasions, must be read as an exact statement of the progress achieved. That of Baron Thénard was particularly noticeable by reason of the deep research displayed, by the simplicity and sobriety of its style, and by the impartiality of its judgments. The king and the royal family were accustomed from that time to visit repeatedly, and with the most minute attention, all the galleries of the exhibition, lavishing encouragement on all exhibitors, and causing it to be well understood that the tendency of the new reign was pre-eminently pacific and industrial.
—It may be confidently affirmed that from this date industrial exhibitions had indisputably an economically useful character, due to the novelty of the information and to the variety of the facts which they furnished to scientists. These exhibitions would have been mere tournaments without importance, if political economy had not in time educed from them instructive comparisons on the prices of raw materials, on the rates of wages, on the effects of machinery, on the means of communication, and the customs laws of different countries. The proof of it soon came in 1839, when delighted Europe was able to appreciate the master pieces of industry in shawls, cloths, silks, crystal ware and printed goods; when the commissioners awarded prizes to the hydraulic wheel of Fourneyron, to the printing cylinders of Grimpé, to the steels of Jackson, to the pianos of Erard, to the cashmeres of Hindenlang, to Bréguet's chronometers, etc. The number of exhibitors had increased from 110 in 1798 to 3,381 in 1839, and the number of medals awarded, from 26 to 805.
—From this time forward industrial exhibitions counted whole armies of adherents. The limited space allotted them in the court of the Louvre, in the Invalides, in the Place de la Concorde, was no longer sufficient for their purposes. It became necessary, in 1844, to open to them the immense arena of the Champs Elysées, and to accord them a duration of three months. From this time on no one man could suffice to fill the office of judge; every commissioned judge became responsible for his own decisions, and these combined constitute to-day the annals of French manufacture. It is in these valuable collections that some day we shall have to study the history of the development of the different industries of France.
—From 1844 rivalry became general throughout Europe. Exhibitions were instituted in Belgium, in Prussia, in Austria, and in Spain. Every nation in turn manifested a desire to master its forces and to compute the resources at command for representation in these contests now everywhere opened throughout the civilized world. It is just this period between 1844 and the unlucky epoch of 1848 which presents the most varied and the most captivating interest. However imperfect the first attempts of the nations of which we have just spoken, as may be seen from the reports of the commissioners delegated by the French government, it was possible to judge, with a full knowledge of the matter, of the particular character of the chief European industries.
—In spite of the mystery everywhere accompanying the analysis of net cost, it was easy to discover in what the relative superiority of the great manufacturing centres consisted. Thus every country became better acquainted with itself and its neighbors. It was everywhere a complete revclation, and it may be boldly asserted that it was this example of Europe which succeeded at last in arousing England, and gave birth to the idea of a world's fair. This exhibition, as is known, was to have taken place at Paris in 1849. The French government took the initiative, and even hoped, after the violent convulsions of 1848, that France would worthily resume the rank from which she had for the time fallen. But anarchy then prevailed not less in the highest than in the lowest ranks of society. Scarcely was the government's project made known than the protectionist crowd affected to see in it danger to French national interests. Thus was the government thwarted, and, owing to this hostile element, was obliged to abandon the only productive idea which those troublous times had given birth to. The French exhibition of 1849, thus restricted, was nevertheless very remarkable by reason of the manifest progress in all the various branches of industry, and this notwithstanding the calamities which had overtaken them.
—Economists had a very difficult part to play in those critical times. They had to oppose, on the one hand, a herd of ignorant utopists who had swooped down upon society and clamored to make it the vile subject of their experiments; and, on the other hand, the great manufacturers who claimed to have a right of taxation as laborers did to have a right to work. All the laws of political economy seemed to be overthrown: under the pretense of affording protection, each man laid his hand on his neighbor's goods, some to demand bounties, others increased wages, and it soon became impossible to estimate the true value of things in the midst of this confusion of tongues and of these absurd pretensions of various interests. England did not miss the chance of realizing the great idea which the prohibitionists had thus caused to miscarry in France.
—It is from this time, properly speaking, that the new and complete character of exhibitions dates and although that of London left some things to be desired, it will not the less on that account continue to be one of the most important events in the history of political economy. Till then each local exposition had been only a more or less complete inventory of the productive powers of each nation. The English, in inviting the whole world to this memorable gathering, afforded all studious men an opportunity of satisfactorily observing the collected products of the world, and of noting the conditions and necessities of production among the different nations. We shall not speak here of the purely technical part of this vast subject, nor of the wonders of the crystal palace, nor of the immense concourse of sightseers who flocked to it from all points, all these interesting details will be found in special works. The capital fact of the universal exhibition was, that it afforded a synoptical view of all the products of the globe, furnished for the first time an opportunity of comparing fabrics of such different origins and natures, and of studying the productive genius of nations in their most elaborate as in their least important works. It was evident that there were no longer any industrial secrets in the world; that mechanical methods were about the same everywhere, and that everywhere also the tendency was to substitute machine power for manual labor. It was shown that wages were higher in the countries where machinery was employed than where hand labor prevailed, and that the surest way of stimulating consumption was to reduce prices by means of improved processes of manufacture.
—The London exhibition proved irresistibly the advantage of low prices in raw materials, and consequently the disadvantage of a customs system which loads them with taxes; it proved at the same time beyond all question what profit would accrue to nations from freedom to exchange such a rich variety of products. Thus, little by little, died away the prejudices held by the adherents of the prohibitory system, who would fain have drawn a line of demarcation between nations never to be crossed. These last, represented by their most skilled manufacturers, distributed the awards with perfect impartiality, honestly recognizing any superiority gained, and with steady hand holding up the veil of the future, no longer regarding labor from the narrow view-point of nationality, but from the height of the principle of freedom of trade.
—It was hoped to obtain on this occasion the secret so much desired of the net cost in all industries; but private interests were aroused, notably those of the middlemen, and this precious element of information was not obtained. Perhaps this is the less to be regretted as net cost prices are essentially variable; but it would have been interesting to have settled them officially for one given time, if for no other purpose than as data for future comparison. However, the most incontestable result of that memorable contest is the progressive tendency to render prices uniform in all the markets of the world, and to their reduction when free trade shall prevail. The exhibition established this also, viz., the futility of dreading competition, that is to say, of industrial rivalry. When industry was confined within the family circle there was a dearth of almost everything, and the result was poor manufactures, at a high cost. In proportion as the field of labor enlarged and as industry extended from the family to the town, division of labor took place and began to supply more completely all wants. And when production had spread from the town to the province, and, after the collapse of all internal obstacles, from the province to the whole state, an immense advance was again made. The only thing left to be desired, but the chiefest of all, is to extend to the whole world that contest too long confined within the narrow limits of the home market. Each nation of to-day has so much the greater need of expansion as it has become more powerful and wealthier, and it would be simply protracting its infancy to confine it within the limits of its boundaries, when the whole human race is standing before it with outstretched arms.
—The universal exposition proved that the greatest nations were the first called upon to take the initiative in effecting that commercial reform which took place in England, and of which the great gathering at the crystal palace was the natural consequence. It is in fact the part of the most advanced nations to overthrow the barriers which separate them from other nations, for they have the most need to do so. What would English industry be without the cotton of the United States, the copper of Russia, or the iron of Sweden? Does not all Europe get its lead from Spain, its beautiful wools from Saxony or Australia, and its silks from France or Italy? What country can to-day lay claim to producing everything? What heaven-favored land would try to reproduce the wines of France or of Spain? If fevers rage in Europe, quinine is brought from America. India rubber, gutta percha, to day essential materials in so many industries, are not indigenous to all shores; the coffee, the cocoa, the tea of our breakfast tables, and nearly all the medicines of all dispensaries, come from the most distant climes. Even for sulphur and salt-petre for making gunpowder France has to go to search in India and Sicily. The peasantry of most European countries scarcely ever eat meat and very seldom white bread, while the plains of Buenos Ayres teem with cattle, and New Zealand, the United States and Russia abound in corn.
—What do all these contrasts mean? That Providence has spread over the whole face of the earth with boundless liberality all that is necessary to the existence and comfort of man. The London exhibition has well shown that there is not a single corner of the world, however despised it may be, that has not its useful tribute to offer, our task is to exchange from pole to pole the bounties of nature. The home of the Esquimaux sends furs, the Sahara furnishes dates and ostrich feathers, some islets lost in the Pacific off the coast of Peru are covered with guano, used as a fertilizer of the reluctant soil of our northern hemisphere. The banks of Newfoundland have their cod, the coasts of Japan their whales. When olive oil and colza fail us, the East offers us sesame and Africa the earth nut; the opium of India pays for the tea of China, and so on of the rest.
—This is the moral of exhibitions: an inexpressible need of peace, reciprocal dependence of nations, abundance of all goods under the rule of liberty, and comparative dearth under the rule of restriction—what the great exhibition of London, the glorious daughter of all preceding and the mother of all subsequent ones, has revealed. We believe that exhibitions have greatly aided the cause of humanity.
J. A. BLANQUI.