Feeds:
Posts
Comments

The Birth of Mass Shopping

An advertising leaflet of the word’s first department store

.

Christmas time is also shopping time, so let’s talk about the history of shopping. The oldest shopping malls were the weekly, monthly, or annual fairs open to all kinds of weather. The rest of the time people had to do with local products. What the shops offered was further restricted by a law that permitted selling only one type of commodity. For instance, umbrella merchants could not sell eye-glasses and vice versa. Poor choice of merchandise was common even in large cities until the appearance of public transport. The first omnibuses in Paris started operating in 1828, and they allowed people to venture out of their neighborhoods.

.

The precursor of shopping malls. Toward the first half of the 19th century, glass-ceilinged passages equipped with gaslights and lined with shops and restaurants, married retailing with leisure

.

The first shopping malls began as narrow streets provided with glass ceilings. These were called passages, and many are still functioning in Paris. The 1830s saw the birth of magazines des nouveautés. These were novelty shops that offered various commodities organized in distinct departments on several floors around a glass-ceilinged courtyard.

.

Railways were the agents of change in shopping

.

Past the mid-century, the railway changed all that. Trains brought provincials and foreign visitors, who would have never left their home otherwise. They all wanted to see the sights and to shop, shop, and shop. Unfortunately, all Paris had to offer these avid shoppers was the lack of retail space. The rise of the giant department stores begun.

Aristide Boucicaut

The first on the market–and in the world–was Au Bon Marché. Founded in 1838, it survived the competition of the other novelty magazines by shrewd display tactics and remained the leader in innovations. The genius behind modern shopping science was Au Bon Marché’s next owner, Aristide Boucicaut who took over the magazine in 1852. He had many tricks up his sleeve, including placing related merchandise at the opposite ends of the store. You bought fabric in one corner, and to get a sewing thread to put the fabric together, you had to cross the store passing seductive displays of fashion accessories that would enhance the new dress. Nearly all the shopping strategies, including the orgiastic sales that influence us today, were invented by Boucicaut and his clever followers in these early days of mass shopping.

.

.

The most important strategy, still employed today, was to bring people in by promises of a good deal (bon marché in French) and keep them there by offering luxury surroundings and classless hospitality. People came, both wealthy and poor. Upper-class women, for whom the streets were not safe, found there a pleasant change from the confinement of home. For the lower classes, never before invited into a palace, it was a self-esteem building experience. Here, they could enter freely and be waited upon, the same as the rich.

.

.

At the time of Boucicaut’s death in 1887, the Au Bon Marché covered nearly 100,000 square feet, employed 1,788 people, and was earning 77 million francs a year, making it the largest retail business in the world.

.

Galleries Lafayette

.

Other spectacular shopping temples rose in the streets of Paris, such as Au Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. Both are still on the same level of attraction as the Eiffel Tower.

.

Related posts:

Crinolines and Impériales: Public Transport in Paris

The Guide to Gay Paree 1869 – Part 5: Shopping

.

If you enjoy reading these posts, support the author by purchasing her books on Amazon:

Victor Gabriel Gilbert A Cup of Coffee

 

The Victorian dress had many layers, and the body remained fully covered except for the evening dress where deep cleavage and short sleeves were tolerated. As for domestic servants, hot weather or not, they remained stuck in their long-sleeved uniform. Shirt, corset, corset protector, bodice and an apron on top: that’s the crosscut of the Victorian maid’s outfit.

The following video shows the maid’s clothing in every detail. Besides watching the model adding layer after layer, you’ll learn many interesting facts about the working condition of Victorian servants.

.

.

Many thanks to the Prior Attire for this video and their fine work!

.

Related posts:

Fashion Enigma: The Secrets of the Victorian Restroom

Paris Downstairs: The Upper Servants

.

If you enjoy reading these posts, support the author by purchasing her books on Amazon:

.

While Sunday in the Anglo-Saxon world–in London and in New York–meant only godly thoughts and strict rest with church, prayers, and roast beef for entertainment, Parisians were out for serious fun. Sunday, especially a summer Sunday, meant a trip beyond the city limits. For many, the goal was their favorite guinguette (‘gang-ette), an establishment with music and dance on the outskirts of Paris where wine and food were significantly cheaper than in the capital.

One of the Parisian favorite guinguettes was the Moulin de la Galette, a medieval windmill standing on the Montmartre hill and offering a magnificent view of the city. Before electricity made them obsolete, there were some three hundred windmills in Paris, of which only four remain today.

Pierre-August Renoir’s famous painting Dance at the Moulin de la Galette (1876) depicts the jovial and comfortable atmosphere that reigned on the outdoor dance floor:

.

.

What better way to perceive the mood in this ball than testimonials! Thanks to the press, it is still possible to read them again. Extract from the Intransigeant of May 28, 1882:

Last Sunday I was at the ball. At the Moulin de la Galette ball. I went there – with two friends, the big big X… the devil’s innkeeper, and the big little B… librettist and dominotier, a bearded, illuminated, pot-bellied like a monk of Rabelais; the other bald like an egg and yellowed like old ivory.

I adore this bastringue, with its large rectangular hall, with a polished floor, all shining – its orchestra with bellowing trombones, squealing flutes – its youthful couples whirling in the waltz, hopping in the polka, swaying in the quadrille; it’s tables where other lovers consume, hand squeezing the hand with tenderness, the classic salad bowl of sweet wine or absinthes to which the bland addition of barley gives a sickly, chlorotic tint, a pale greenness or a greenish whiteness – the color of drowned faces …

The enduring popularity of this guinguette is best illustrated with a photo from 1938

.

Other popular guinguettes dotted the banks of the rivers Seine and Marne, where Parisians went to enjoy water sports. Again, Renoir is here to show us what it was like. We see the company digesting lunch, but there is a dance floor somewhere and musicians waiting to strike a quadrille.

.

Pierre-August Renoir: Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881)

The popularity of guinguettes, which took a dive in the second half of the twentieth century, is now on the rise again.

.

Related posts:

Absinthe: The Rise and Fall of the Green Fairy

Parisians in 1842: The Working Class

.

If you enjoy reading these posts, support the author by purchasing her books on Amazon:

Victorian Passion

.

If we judge by the vintage photographs, our ancestors appear to be stiff and unsmiling individuals. It’s hard to see how–with all that propriety–they managed to give way to their feelings. Only paintings and illustrations allow us to see that our great-great-grandparents’ hormones worked at full capacity and that they, too, got caught in the swirl of passion.

.

Here is how we know them…

…and it is not hard to believe that all these children came via the stork delivery

Fortunately, art took another approach and here is a gallery of Victorian passion that proves it was not so. From seduction to conclusion:

.

.

.

Related posts:

The Jolies Madames

We Procure our Ballerinas to Wealthy Men

.

If you like these posts, support the author by buying her books:

Working Class Clothing

1 boys

Léon Frédéric: The Boys

An excellent article on the My Daily Art Display blog—where you’ll always find excellent articles—focusing on the Belgian painter Léon Frédéric (1865 – 1940), offers a rare look at the 19th-century peasant clothes. For those who research the history of fashion, such images are uncommon as the material they find prevailingly depicts upper-class clothing. Yet peasants formed the overwhelming part of the 19th-century’s population, and the newly-built railways brought them into cities in large numbers. Their simple clothing, mostly of somber colors, did not differ from that of the working-class city dwellers.

In his cycle, The Age of the Peasant, Frédéric’s portrayal of four peasant generations gives us the opportunity to follow the working-class people as the hardships of life wrote wrinkles on their faces. More about this realistic painter and his work here.

1 girls

The Girls

1 the bethroted

The Betrothed

1 married couples

Married Couples

1 the elderly

The Elderly

Related post:

Fashion Enima: The Secrets of Victorian Restroom

If you like these posts, support the author by buying her books:

titles

liberty

Eugène Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People, 1830

 

During the Industrial Revolution, many children and adolescents worked in the suburbs of Paris. When out of work, they evolved in bands. Ragged and hungry, they roamed in the streets of the capital. The titis or gamins of Paris laughed at everything, didn’t hesitate to steal, and were adepts at vulgarity.

titi 2

 

The Parisian titi is embodied in the guise of Gavroche, a street child full of banter, mischief, and resourcefulness in Les Miserables. Victor Hugo moreover fondly calls him “this little great soul” when he collapses under bullets, during the barricades of 1830.   The child brandishing pistols in Eugène Delacroix’s painting  Liberty Leading the People (1830) is often cited as the main source of inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Gavroche.

 

Today, this heroic figure has been reduced to a kitschy character to charm tourists. Titi’s postcards can be purchased in every souvenir shop. Like all the Parisian fauna, the titi/gamin has been immortalized on film and in songs. Here is the most popular one along with other versions of the tacky art:

 

 

 

 

Related posts for People of Paris:

La Grisette  

Where the Revolutionaries Lived

 

If you like these posts, support the author by buying her books:

titles

1

Giuseppe de Nittis: The Salon of Princess Mathilde, 1883

 

One of the largest differences between the Brits and the French was their attitude toward women. The British gentleman suffered women where he could not avoid them and avoided them where he could by seeking refuge in men-only clubs. The Frenchman, on the contrary, did not feel bright unless there were women around. He did seek them out during his leisure time and he was keen to converse in their company. The French were never afraid of clever women and they allowed them to rule as the salonnières.

 

1

A 17th-century literary salon.

 

The tradition of the Parisian Salon was an old one. It began in the seventeenth century and was largely abandoned during the WW1. The salonnières, who hosted these gatherings in their homes, held power. Political plots were hatched, new literary trends were started, scientific discoveries were publicized, and new artistic talents were launched under their influence.

Could you, yourself, become a salonnière?

Who knows? Maybe you already have every asset to revive this ancient tradition. Let’s see what it takes:

You must be a woman. Salons were always run by women. It did not matter whether they were respectable or not. A princess could compete with a courtesan for the same guests.

You must be rich. Your house must offer an agreeable background for the sophisticated exchange of ideas. A well-run Salon may provide a Wednesday dinner for some thirty seated guests and a Saturday reception for about one hundred. Quality wine was a must. Good food was expected as well.

You must have a complacent husband or no husband at all. Very rarely, a husband would hang around and co-host the events. The ideal husband would content himself with a visit to his mistress and allow his wife to rule the crowd.

You must have a great man. Salons were built around a great man who served as a magnet to attract other desirables. He could be a philosopher, a politician, a music composer, or a famous author. Often, the great man was the salonnière’s lover and her goal was to make him even greater.

You must be attentive to new trends and courageous enough to start one. Depending on the type of your salon, you must be aware of what goes on in politics, culture, or science. You must read the latest novel, meet the latest polar explorer, or recognize the right time to introduce new talent.

You must be a social expert. It is important to be well-informed about your guests and careful not to invite two bitter enemies. Knowing the latest gossip is always helpful in that matter and having your spies in competing salons is a clever way to stay on top of things.

You must be a woman of authority. Your salon, your rules. If the conversation does not go the right way, you stop it politely, but without any room for appeal. It is your choice whether you allow an uncontrolled flow or, on the contrary, whether you choose a subject of conversation and insist that the guests stick within the limits.

You must be ready to make it a full-time job. Seeing new trends coming, finding the right guests, sending out invitations, supervising the staff, choosing wines and menus, listening to all relevant gossip, and all the plotting and scheming that goes into it, will take your entire waking time.

 

Related posts:

How to Succeed in Paris

The Goncourts: Gossip Inc.

 

If you like these posts, support the author by buying her books:

titles

Meet the Bouquinists

1

 

You can’t miss them, the bouquinists.  Along the Seine, nine hundred of their bottle-green boxes with 400,000 second-hand books figure as one of the symbols of Paris. They hark back to the medieval times when manuscript sellers chose the riverbank near the university to trade their goods.

Booksellers frequently had problems with authorities if the contents of the books displeased the powerful. Should the city police be on the lookout for a forbidden material, the owner of a small folding stand was at an advantage, especially if he offered non-censored pamphlets and scandalous gazettes.

In 1859, after many tribulations with the law, the bouquinists finally obtained the authorization to exercise their profession. The Town Hall set up concessions, allowing the salesmen to install the boxes in fixed places. Only second-hand books, antique art prints, and old magazines can be sold in these stands, although–if you take a closer look– you’ll see plenty of kitschy recent pictures of Paris. The average foreign tourist prefers that to antique French books.

Year after year, the number of the stands keeps increasing: 156 in 1892, 200 in 1900 at the Universal Exhibition, and 240 in 1991, the year in which the second-hand booksellers were listed as the UNESCO Heritage. Today, three kilometers of bouquinist stands can be seen along the Right Bank from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre and on the Left Bank from the Quai de la Tournelle to the Quai Voltaire.

 

 

 

Related posts:

Greetings from Paris: Expect the Unexpected

The French Art of Peeing without Getting Wet Feet

 

If you enjoy these posts, support the author by buying her books on Amazon:

titles

10

Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809 – 1891)

 

In 1845, the French social reformer Victor Considerant wrote: “Paris is an immense workshop of putrefaction, where misery, pestilence and sickness work in concert, where sunlight and air rarely penetrate. Paris is a terrible place where plants shrivel and perish, and where, of seven small infants, four die during the course of the year.”

before

Paris before Haussman

Indeed, urban reform was long overdue in Paris. Neglected by the kings, who preferred Versailles, the city was overcrowded and dirty. In the narrow crooked streets, diseases spread quickly as did social unrest. Napoleon I made a few attempts at beautifying and sanitizing the capital but, being too busy with disseminating misery across the European continent, he never really got down to it on a large scale. After the Waterloo defeat, plans for a better capital were shelved and it took his nephew, Napoleon III, to begin the greatest urban project ever achieved. Napoleon III might not have been the greatest warrior–the French still prefer his (in)glorious uncle–but he was a mover and shaker of the practical sort. Paris still benefits from his industry while Napoleon I’s conquests are long gone.

Having spent part of his exile in London (see The English Courtesan who Made a French Emperor published here) he brought to France the idea of English urbanism. He found a man with a similar vision and with boundless energy in Haussmann, the Prefect of the Seine. Together, in seventeen years, they made Paris what it is today.

 

during

Piercing a new boulevard during the Haussmannian transformation

 

Announcing his motto Paris embellished, Paris enlarged, Paris cleaned up, Haussmann didn’t take prisoners in his war against the old. All that was ugly, dirty and disease-ridden became history. He pierced wide avenues and established rules for standardized buildings. He created a square by district and projected dozens of parks, gardens, and woods. He built new churches, bridges, theaters, and railway stations. He enlarged the city, which then went from 12 to 20 arrondissements. Underground, Paris got a sophisticated water and sewage system that – to this day – is one of the tourist’s sights of the city.

 

etoile

Paris after Haussmann (Place de l’Etoile)

 

The titanic work has always been controversial in view of the methods used to achieve this incredible result. To modify Paris in this way, Haussmann did not hesitate to destroy nearly 18,000 houses that hampered his vision of straight and wide boulevards. He excluded the working classes for whom the new dwellings were unaffordable. Haussmann was finally deposed in 1870, a few months before the fall of Napoleon III and the Second Empire.

 

1852

Notre Dame in 1852

1gar_st_mich

Notre Dame after Haussmann’s intervention

 

Thanks to Napoleon III’s vision and Haussmann’s ruthlessness, Paris is the city we know today. Such a colossal project cannot be achieved without a totalitarian approach and would be impossible to realize in a democracy with its many rules and laws.

 

opera

The Avenue de l’Opéra, one of the new boulevards created by Napoleon III and Haussmann. The new buildings on the boulevards were required to be all of the same height and same basic façade design, and all faced with pale-ochre stone, giving the city a unified look.

 

Related posts:

The English Courtesan Who Made a French Emperor

The Eiffel Tower Story

 

In the Gallery of Achievers:

The Inescapable Sarah Bernhardt

 

If you enjoy reading these posts, support the author by purchasing her books on Amazon:

titles

 

film

.

Let me justify an excursion to New York in this Victorian Paris blog. The movie, you are about to see, is neither Victorian nor French but it is history as you have never seen. So let’s make this exception to the blog content by showing images of slightly post-Edwardian America in a lively and unusually realistic version. They are worth your attention.
.
In 1911, a team of Swedish filmmakers visited New York to bring back to the Old World images of daily life in America. Like all footages of the time, the speed and the visual quality allowed a lot of room for improvement. When we watch the early movies, we see black and white ghosts rather than people. Not with this film-restoration. It brings us a perfect image, with color and sound. Have a look at this realistic slice of history and watch it with awe.

.

film

.

Related posts:

Americans in Paris and the Kissing Protocol

.

If you enjoy reading these posts, support the author by purchasing her books on Amazon:

titles

%d bloggers like this: