Sunday, September 5, 2010

1900 Paris Expo and Canada

French Exposition still from YouTube.

 I've long been entranced with the glamour of 1900 France. And, lately, I was thrilled to find a hazy film of the 1900 Paris Exposition on YouTube.

While researching my story Threshold Girl, based on the Nicholson family letters, I stumbled upon an article in a magazine on about the Canadian Pavilion at the world's fair.

It appears that little has changed in 100 years with respect to Canada's image abroad.

The Canadian pavilion itself, situated near the Eiffel Tower, was ugly (from all accounts) and  hidden by too many trees.

The building contained a natural history exhibit, with a lot of moose heads, and an agricultural exhibit, with a lot of pre-wheat boom (Ontario) wheat and apples and berries (but no Blackberry) and a mineral exhibit, gold from the Yukon and asbestos from Quebec. Yawn.

 It also contained an exhibit on our forests, double yawn, and lots of fish and wood for sale. Oh, and maple syrup, maple syrup, maple syrup. Oh, and some petroleum products, although who in the heck needs that when cars run on steam?

The article I read begins by saying Canada's image (snow, ice, snow and more ice) has improved on the world stage lately because of our involvement in the Boer War... and so it's time to sell stuff to the world.

One item being pitched got my attention. Pelee island wine. Imagine! I just discovered the stuff myself last year. Not bad for the price.

I'm sure the French were as impressed with that product as they are today.

Pelee Island Wine Exhibit.

If you are Canadian, do you find this depressing? Anyway, they also had a railroad exhibit with pictures of our countryside designed to attract tourists. Hunting tourism was the big sell. (I think it still is.)

Oh and there was another exhibit:an education installation with a reproduction of an Ontario Classroom with notebooks and textbooks.

It was designed to show the French we weren't yokels, I guess.  (They still don't believe us.)

I can imagine this pavilion didn't excite most visitors to this fabulous event, who were too busy hopping on and off Edison's moving sidewalk. (There's also a film of that on YouTube.)

Still, I imagine the Nicholson women, Edith, 17, Marion,15, and Flora, 8,  read all about the Paris Exposition and dreamed about being there.

Twelve years later, in 1912, Marion was invited to visit Paris with family friends, but she didn't have the money. "Teachers will have to make more money if I am ever to see Paris," she wrote in a letter to her Mom.

Her friends brought her back a gift, so she writes in another letter. "Imagine me wearing a fancy Parisienne blouse."

Both Edith and Marion made it to Paris in their lifetime.

 Marion visited for a 1946 UNESCO Conference.  She was a Union Leader and represented  the Canadian Teachers' Association. She also took a side-trip to Austria to see her eldest daughter, Margaret, who was working with Yugolslav refugees.

Unfortunately, Marion died the very next year  of a heart attack.

Edith spent a summer in Paris in 1928 (ah, Paris between the wars when all was right with the world). She was with a McGill contingent. I imagine she was a chaperone for female students.

She spent all of her spare time at the Louvre and admired the great care the French took with their meals, 'even their boiled dishes.'

Canada's Food exhibit at Paris Exposition

For the article, page 387 (Canadian magazine.. canadian libraries)
The magazine is here