Advertising at the Universal Exhibition of 1900

Advertising at the Universal Exhibition of 1900

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  • Entrance to the Swiss Village

  • Phono-Cinema-Theater

    FLAMENG François (1856 - 1923)

To close

Title: Entrance to the Swiss Village

Author :

Creation date : 1900 -

Dimensions: Height 7 cm - Width 11 cm

Technique and other indications: chromolithography, advertising card

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / MuCEM image Link to image

Picture reference: 08-533422 / 996.40.202.2A

© MuCEM, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / MuCEM image

© BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BnF image

Publication date: October 2020

Historical context

The world in miniature

The advertising card Entrance to the Swiss Village is one of the many drawn or photographed views that visitors to the 1900 Universal Exhibition could take with them when leaving Paris. There, it is erected separately to give sufficient space to its 23,000 m2: the entrance is on avenue de Suffren, immediately west of the Champ-de-Mars and the Electricity Palace.

This folklorist and ethnographic approach typical of the time indeed coexists with the exaltation of humanity's capacity for innovation - a central theme of the Universal Exhibitions. Their competitors are not to be outdone: Henri Lioret de France (1848-1938), specialist in phonographs, and the filmmaker producer Clément-Maurice Gratioulet (1853-1933), make attempts at image-sound synchronization in a small pavilion in the “Rue de Paris” where shops and restaurants are concentrated. Their Phono-Ciné-Théâtre promises to be one of the main attractions of the Exhibition.

Image Analysis

In the realm of illusion

The advertising card Entrance to the Swiss Village, chooses a perspective that highlights the folkloristic simulacrum proposed by Berne and the Confederate cantons. The card uses the codes of the souvenir photographic postcard by juxtaposing two particularly picturesque elements: a medieval-type gate and ramparts in the foreground, and snow-capped mountains in the background. The wind blowing the banners and the clouds reflecting the setting sun complete the illusion. Tiny but individualized by a meticulous design, characters represent tourists - both those who visit Switzerland and those who were able to walk through this “Swiss Village” in Paris in 1900. They took away the souvenir edited and offered by Suchard chocolates , whose name is printed both in red capitals on the blue sky and in blue and red cursive writing on the right rampart. The latter, in order to create doubt, bears engraved in imitation of stone three jars of the cocoa powder which made Suchard's world famous.

Unlike many advertising cards, the program card is presented in a vertical format in order to be closer to the performance poster of which it constitutes a reduction, while offering, as specified, a "Souvenir of the exhibition of 1900 ”. Divided in half vertically, the image on the left shows 23 flags of 20 nations (and three French colonies) hanging from a pole. They bear the inscription "See and hear famous artists" in the language of each of these countries. On the right, in the Art Nouveau style in vogue at the time, an elegant and sensual woman presents the program of "Animated Visions of Famous Artists" offered by the Phono-Ciné-Théâtre pavilion drawn in a medallion at the top right. The list offers, from Sarah Bernhardt to Mlle Réjane via the Coquelins, the flower of French actors converted to the multiplier power of the camera. The beautiful Parisian copy of Mucha's fairies leans nonchalantly on this device, already familiar to visitors, while a cylinder phonograph adorns the lower right corner - a sign of attempts at synchronization between filmed theater and declamations recorded in wax. Below, the precise address and telephone number situate the event in Paris and in the conquering modernity of the turn of the century.


The "Belle Époque" of advertising

The invention of chromolithography in the 1830s allowed the rise of mechanical reproduction of images and sparked an artistic creation specifically intended for advertising. In the 1880s, posters for shows were joined by those for luxury products, then more commonly consumed, in a climate of competition for an increasingly numerous national and international clientele. The reduced size of the advertising card has the merit of reducing costs with massive print runs and being able to be taken away, unlike posters. The largest firms of the time therefore took advantage of this medium to distribute their brand image free of charge; in order to retain customers, especially children, advertisers imagine creating thematic series that could be collected. Among other confectioners and manufacturers, the firm created by Philippe Suchard in 1826 in Neuchâtel had become in 1900 an important Swiss economic player renowned internationally. Cocoa imported from the colonies and transformed into powder for drinking with milk, candies and tablets, is gradually becoming an object of everyday consumption, benefiting from the exotic fashion and the advent of the sweet diet. The advertising card intelligently establishes an equivalence between Switzerland and Suchard which must remain engraved in the mind of the visitor who has inevitably been offered, in the Village, to consume this chocolate and to buy it to take away.

Attracting customers and making an impression are also the intentions of the Phono-Ciné-Théâtre program. The viewer is visually guided with the detailed representation of the pavilion, which should not be confused with its competitors. In addition to the Lumière Brothers and their already impressive catalog, the animated views are indeed the basis of the Cinéorama principle: standing in a facsimile of a hot-air balloon basket, spectators would see landscapes scrolling on ten screens arranged in a circular fashion. The device invented in 1897 by Raoul Grimoin-Sanson (1860-1941) attracted a crowd but for security reasons, no projection was finally organized. The Phono-Ciné-Théâtre broadcasts films by Clément-Maurice. Operator at the Lumière, he moved to production and direction in 1899-1900, with epic passages from the theatrical repertoire. Print advertising plays the card not of national particularism, but of international ecumenism. The flags, the languages, the use of the Art Nouveau style are all signals to Europeans and Americans who constitute the vast majority of the public. The story does not say whether he rushed to see on screen the unknown French stars apart from the "sacred monster" Bernhardt, especially since it is unlikely that the cylinders were engraved in English or Russian. . So it was the device that was the main attraction, as often in the World's Fairs.

  • 1900 universal exhibition
  • Universal exhibitions
  • publicity
  • chromolithography
  • Réjane
  • Bernhardt (Sarah)
  • Suchard (Philippe)
  • chocolate
  • cinema


Roland Cosandey, François Albéra (dir.), Cinema Without Borders 1896-1918. Accross Borders Images, Lausanne, Payot, 1995.

Marc Martin, Three centuries of advertising in France, Paris, Odile Jacob, 1992.

Pascal Ory, Paris Universal Exhibitions, Ramsay, 1982.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Advertising at the Universal Exhibition of 1900"


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