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In doing some research about an unusual photo postcard in our archives of the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris, France, I always wondered about the story behind this card.

We tend to think that many marvels of engineering are from the later half of the 20th Century, this one dates right before the start of it. The title at the bottom of the card (shown above) Le Trottoir Roulant, literally means “moving sidewalk“. Translated into our modern idiosyncratic language, it means escalator not alligator!

Actual film footage titled Rue de l’Avenir et le Trottoir Roulant (Edison Moving Sidewalk 1900 Paris) of the moving sidewalk was uploaded to youtube on July 26, 2014 by Aurelien Talbot and can be seen below. Thank you Aurelien! We really appreciate your work.

I didn’t comprehend the expression Trottoir Roulant either, until I read the following book, The Triumph of Art Nouveau Paris Exhibition 1900 by Philippe Jullian, published by Phaidon Press, London and Larousse & Co., New York, 1974.

On pages 184-186 , a description follows: ” The exhibition of 1900, with its vast crowds of such diverse social origins, produced many unexpected meetings of this kind, spiced with an exotic flavour. The escalator, with its pavements moving at three different speeds, caused many an incident worthy of the vaudeville, separating families, sending old men sprawling, delighting the children and reducing their nannies to despair (116). In fact, this new means of transport was the jolliest attraction at the exhibition; it went all round the Invalides to the Champ de Mars, enabling visitors to go quickly from the Esplanade to the Palais de l’Electricite. From the upper stage of the escalator tourists could see right into the apartments along the embankment, and this caused a certain amount of ill-feeling…By spending a whole day on the escalator, one can learn something of the habits of the residents. However, many tenants, just to be awkward, deliberately keep their windows closed while the escalator is in operation. I can see why they want to shut the bedroom window, even during the day; it is ,  perhaps, from an understandable feeling of modesty. But it seems to me that they could be compelled to leave the other windows of their apartments open as long as the exhibition lasts…The escalator was also a favorite haunt of pickpockets who, while pretending to help a lady to change from one stairway to another, would snatch her handbag. ”

On February 12, 2015 a film with the title Paris 1900 : La Belle Époque, l’Exposition Universelle, l’Art Nouveau was uploaded to youtube by Erik Satie and can be seen below. Thank you Erik! We really appreciate this wonderful video.

The achievements made in engineering, not always match the expectations or behaviors of those subjected to them. Vive la France!!

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