Archive for the ‘business’ Category

In the mid-19th century, at a time when home stain-cleaning was the norm and dyeing of clothes a scary thought, Parisians had a remarkable alternative:

An art which has been recently brought to an astonishing degree of perfection in Paris, is that of dyeing, cleaning, scouring, and restoring almost all descriptions of habiliments; this has been effected by M. Bonneau, but not until he had visited the principal manufacturing towns, and had passed many years in studying the art scientifically, aided by persevering researches into the depths of chymistry, to which he is indebted for being able to perform that which has not until now been accomplished. I have seen instances of a soiled, faded, cashmere shawl, almost considered beyond redemption, committed to his charge, and reappear so resuscitated that the owners could scarcely believe it was the same dingy, deplorable-looking affair they had sent a fortnight before. The same power of restoring is effected upon all descriptions of satin, even that of the purest white, which, although so soiled as to be of a dirty yellow colour, is brought forth perfectly clean and with all its original lustre; with silks, merinos, gros de Naples of the tenderest tints, the process adopted is equally successful; blonde, guipure, and all descriptions of lace, no matter how discoloured, are restored to their original whiteness. With the apparel of men, the same advantages are obtained, silk, cashmere, velvet, and other waistcoats that many would throw aside as totally spoiled, or too shabby to be worn any longer, by being sent to M. Bonneau, are returned, having the appearance of being quite new. His establishment, at No. 17, Rue Lepelletier, just facing the French Opera, is well known to many English families; but having heard so much of the wonders he performed in reviving the lost colours of the elaborate borders of ladies’ cashmeres, and rendering them their pristine brilliance, I determined to visit his premises, upon which he carried on his operations, in the Rue de Bondy, No. 40. I there found everything conducted upon a most methodical system of regularity and order each room was appropriated to its peculiar department, and heated and ventilated by a certain process, and that which does M. Bonneau much honour, is, that all is so arranged, with the utmost consideration for the health of his work-people, by taking care that they shall be kept as dry as possible, and that a proper degree of warmth and air shall be admitted into every chamber. When required, M. Bonneau sends his men to clean furniture at persons’ houses, which would be rather incommodious to remove. When any article is sent to him, the bearer is informed what day it will be completed, and is sure not to be deceived, and he has an apartment so arranged for preserving whatever is confided to him, from any injury which might be caused by moths or other insects.

From How to Enjoy Paris in 1848 by F. Herve

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From Europe Viewed Through American Spectacles by Charles C. Fulton. Text written in 1873.


At the celebrated dry-goods establishment Au Bon Marché, which is extensively patronized by Americans, a new feature has been introduced this season. It having been noticed that American gentlemen frequently get impatient whilst their wives and daughters are shopping, and sometimes hurry them off before they have obtained all they want, a well-fitted-up billiard-saloon has been provided for their amusement whilst the purchases are being made. It seems to answer the purpose well, as the gentlemen are always easy to be found when it is necessary for them to come up to the captain’s office and foot the bill.

An American lady tells us that she went to a hair-dresser’s establishment this morning to get her hair shampooed, and, asking the cost, she received the answer that it would be three francs. After the operation was finished she was presented with a bill for nine francs and upon demurring was told that three of the additional francs were for putting her hair up again, two others for the liquid used, and the fourth for the use of the combs and brush. Can any of our Yankee shampooers come up to this sharp practice?

We stopped in this morning at the horse-meat butcher’s shop to look at the meat. There were nice looking sirloin steaks, spare-rib and sirloin roasts, knuckle-joints for soup, and genuine “salt horse” in abundance. We could not have told it from beef, except that the meat was darker red. The gentleman whom we accompanied assured us that he had eaten it as an experiment, and was of the opinion that it was more tender, as a general thing, than ordinary beef. “But,” he added, “I expect you have frequently dined off of it since you have been in Paris, especially if you have taken any meals at the restaurants”. Well, perhaps we have, but “where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise”.

The Commune, during their possession of Paris, destroyed, among other things, all the official records of births and marriages. As most of them were family men and women without marriage, or unconscious of their own parentage, the object was to place all on a level of “equality” in this respect. The work of restoring the records is now in progress as all who are not recorded are regarded in the eye of the law as illegitimate. It has made brisk work for the lawyers.

The Parisians have a singular way of signalizing events in their history by the naming of streets. One of the magnificent boulevards branching off from the Grand Opera-House was named Boulevard 2nd December, the day of the Napoléon coup d’état in 1851. The name is now changed to the Boulevard 4th September, the day of the dethronement of the Emperor and the proclamation of the Republic. Should there be another Empire proclaimed, the name will doubtless be changed again to suit the date of its occurrence.

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