French exposition St Petersburg 1901 and 1903

While Searching for interesting Martin related articles, I came across two interesting books (reports).
It are the reports of the exhibition catalogs of the French section at the international exposition in Saint Petersburg.
The first exhibition was held from 23-1901 to 23 January 1902 and the follow-up exhibition from 05-1903 to February 1904.
French toys were represented at both exhibitions.

1904 box label of the: Le pompier a l’echelle
In the list of exhibitions in which Marin participated, St. Petersburg 1901 and 1903 is mentioned

Why an exhibition in Russia (Saint Petersburg)
Due to the mutual quarrels of various countries in the late 1800s, friendships were dissolved and new friendships arose
France and Russia became good friends in those years, not only in terms of trade, but also militarily.
France and Russia had a (secret) treaty since 1893.

1901-1902

At the first exhibition 1901-1902 in St. Petersburg, Fernand Martin was responsible for the organization of the toy department.
This report was issued by the Secretary of Commerce, Industry, Post and Telegraphs
According to this report, the room dedicated to French toys was one of the busiest, the reason would be due to the universal reputation of the Paris toy industry, and based on:
-the superiority of its manufacture,
-the perfection of the craftsmanship,
-the elegance of the models
-the diversity of the constantly renewed creations,
Due to this reputation it could not help but attract an audience.
There was everything in the toy field to see from the cheapest toys to the most expensive.
The organization of the group of toy manufacturers was due to the initiative of Mr. Fernand Martin.
But the fight that French toys waged against German competition was very difficult because the price of labor in France was much higher than in Germany.
By making improvements to their tools, the French toy manufacturers were able to make up for the difference in cost.
The success at the Saint Petersburg exhibition was complete for the French toys and games. Most of the participating exhibitors had also taken part in the 1900 World’s Fair.

1903-1904

The second exhibition from 1903-1904:
This second report was also issued by the Minister of Trade, Industry, Post and Telegraphs
For the toy part the rapporteur was Leo Claretie.
After the great success of the first exhibition, Fernand Martin was enthusiastic to organize this second exhibition
But the enthusiasm among the toy manufacturers was very low this time.
Of course the toys had to play a large and prominent role again.
But it was not without some tension because of the very special situation of the French toy industry at that time.
Five or six years earlier there was only one group: “the French toy manufacturers”.
But now there are two groups, the big and the small manufacturers.
Increasing German competition forced manufacturers to produce faster and cheaply, but this required machinery, equipment, special tools and steam plants.
Only those who had the capital could follow the progress and fight back.
There were about one hundred and fifty at that time.
The small toy manufacturers were left isolated.
In 1901, the Prefect of Police, Mr Lépine, took care of them, made them compete, exhibited, encouraged and, brought them together.
In total there were about five hundred, grouped together in an association of French small manufacturers and inventors with Mr. Seigneurie as their president.
The major toy manufacturers argued not to participate in this exhibition because it was not cheap to exhibit, and they were all busy with the preparations for the St. Louis-World exhibition.

Exhibition 1903-1904 The French section with in the left corner the toy section with the Martin part

They also claimed that at the previous St. Petersburg exhibition, the toys were priced too high to be sold in Russia.
But that turned out to be a wrong argument, because on the first day of that exhibition, the representative received assignments weighing 400 kilos of Parisian toys within a few hours.
But Fernand Martin committed and with tireless tenacity managed to get some of his colleagues enthusiastic.
In the meantime, the group of small manufacturers also came to Martin and asked for permission to participaid in this exhibition.
But they could not and would not pay anything because they had no means of their own
However, it seemed to Martin that these small manufacturers were nevertheless interesting.
They were the traditional craftsmen of French toys.
By drawing up admission requirements for the 1903-1904 exhibition especially for their very exceptional and modest admission, it was still possible.
But Martin did not expect any resistance from any major manufacturers.
It turned out that in the group of small manufacturers there were some members who did not belong to the group of large manufacturers but who did have large workshops, many workers and good sales and therefore did not need to feel sorry.
So some had used their links with the small manufacturers to be included in “the small manufacturers group package“.
Because of this injustice many large manufacturers withdrew.
Very few large houses remained, while other factories were grouped under the beneficent banner of Mr. Seigneurie, which cost the organization more than it wanted and thought.
Ultimately, the Paris toys were represented by six major manufacturers and then by a community of small manufacturers consisting of twenty participants.

A part of the toy secion and on the left you see a part of the Martin toys

Pictures are “Free Public Domain” from the Getty Research Institute

2 gedachten over “French exposition St Petersburg 1901 and 1903

  1. Excellent detective work and nice documents. French exhibition reports of the time have to be taken with caution, as they were, especially those of Léo Claretie, fueled by strong anti-German feelings. No wonder therefore that the French toys were deemed in there as the most inventive and stylish, as the German toys were systematically mocked as plump and tasteless. In this context, Prefect Lépine promoted the Parisian toy industry in general as it was on its decline around 1900 due to huge importation of German toys into France. He created the Toy and Invention Exhibition in 1901, which later became the still existing Concours Lépine with the unique goal of giving a chance to starving French small and independent inventors versus autocratic big toy manufacturers. He didn’t succeed because already the first year the big toymakers under Fernand Martin’s lead perverted Lépine’s good intentions by massively displaying their own production at this exhibition. Last observation: the International Saint Petersburg exhibition wasn’t particularly under the auspices of the new and opportunistic Russian-French Alliance. Germany among many other countries was also represented at this exhibition.

  2. Hi Francois
    Thank you for your additional and much appreciated comments.

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