The general theme for the exhibition was innovative: place the emphasis on work. Previous exhibitions before 1855 had always celebrated the manufacturers and the owners. In 1855, the intention would be to honour the prototype builders, the designers, the craftsmen, and the workers …At the same time, the industry mystique was celebrated as the driving force behind the intensifying economic evolution taking place in France. Up to this point, France had lived under a Napoleon-esque regime of strict protectionism. The second emperor’s stay in England however had left him with a deep interest in the principles of free-exchange. Socially-minded and proponent of universal (male) suffrage, his wish was that the empire should bring well-being and a ‘good deal’ (bon marché, a new expression that played an important role in his ambitions) to the working classes. The French department store Le Bon Marché was opened in 1852, and the term became the regime’s watchword. *
Europe’s first international exhibition – the ‘Great exhibition of the works of industry of all nations’ – opened in London in 1851. It was an unmitigated success, with one million visitors through its doors, and £5 million in profit. France was one of its success stories. This triumph and the success of subsequent exhibitions held in Dublin, New York, New Orleans and Munich put an end to opposition to the idea in France, and Napoleon III – the driving force behind the initiative – managed to set up France’s first international exhibition in 1855.
Meanwhile, the ‘Grands Magasins’ department stores of Paris had started revolutionising shopping. The first such shop was Bainbridge’s in Newcastle, England, which opened in 1849 with 23 separate departments (thus establishing it as the world’s first ‘department store’).
Le Bon Marche in Paris was originally a small shop, set up around 1838. At that time, to find items they needed, people had to travel around the city and then haggle with the supplier. Opening in 1852, founder Aristide Boucicaut transformed it into a department store – a new concept in France – where customers could shop in one large store that stocked everything they needed …and at reasonable prices. The Paris Exposition (World Fair) of 1855 played a significant part in publicising the venture and, with a new bridge over the Seine and a merged omnibus network, visiting and shopping in Paris were vastly improved. The Boucicaut family was immortalised by Emile Zola in his novel Au Bonheur des Dames.
Alfred Chauchard was a clerk at the Au Pauvre Diable store with a salary of 25 Francs per month. In 1855, seeing the sales potential of Le Bon Marche, and appreciating the benefits if the Paris Exposition, he joined Auguste Heriot and Léonce Faré to rent the ground floor of the Grands Hôtel du Louvre. This hotel, built by leading financiers the Pereire Brothers, was the first to feature lifts (steam-powered). Their new department store was called Les Galeries du Louvre. Within ten years, with a staff of 2400, business was flourishing. By 1875, the owners bought the building. They transferred the Hôtel du Louvre to other side of the Place du Palais-Royal (where it is still today). After two years work, they re-opened it as Les Grands Magasins du Louvre.
1905 Velo Dame Grands Magasins du Louvre
21.5″ Frame (55cm)
This wonderfully preserved ladies’ bicycle is a neglected piece of French history. In the early years of the twentieth century Paris was the artistic centre of the world. The city’s department stores were the most fashionable place to shop and the country’s cycle industry, only recently established, was enjoying its boom years. The Grands Magasins du Louvre prided itself on its comprehensive stock of merchandise and, at that time, bicycles were very fashionable. So it’s not surprising that the company added bicycles to their range. However, their sale of bicycles appears to have been short-lived, and there is no historical record of which cycle manufacturer supplied the Grands Magasins du Louvre. I’ve been searching through Grands Magasins du Louvre catalogues from this era, but have yet to find a page for bicycles.
This Grands Magasins du Louvre ladies’ bicycle is in excellent condition all round and is ready to ride.
It became a hospital during WW1 (below)
1910 GRANDS MAGASINS DU LOUVRE CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
GRANDS MAGASINS DU LOUVRE: MADAGASCAR