1897 Velo Dame au Bon Marche, Paris

Le Jardin d'Acclimatation 1901 polar bears

Opened on 6 October 1860 by Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, the ‘Jardin d’Acclimatation de Paris’ or the ‘Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation’ as it was first called, was a Paris Zoo (not to be confused with Paris Zoological park in Boes de Vincennes). It was directed by Isidore Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, son of the naturalist Etienne Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, until his death in 1861.

During the Siege of Paris (1870-1871), many of the animals in the zoo were cooked and served by chef Alexandre Etienne Choron.

From 1877 until 1912, the Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimatation was converted to ‘l’Acclimatation Anthropologique.’ In mid-colonialism, the curiosity of Parisians was attracted to the customs and lifestyles of foreign peoples. Nubians, Bushmen, Zulus and many other African peoples were ‘exhibited’ in a human zoo. The exhibitions were a huge success, and the number of visitors to the Jardin doubled, reaching the million mark.

A miniature road system for children operated by the Paris police was removed in 2008.

You can compare the Jardin d’Acclimatation de Paris in 1901 and more recently in the pictures above and below.


In the 1890s, the famous Paris department store Au Bon Marche ran a series of chromo cards and also pop-up zoo books featuring the Jardin d’Acclimatation de Paris.

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This was the era when ‘trade cards’ such as these were given away for publicity purposes.

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Among the many products available at its department stores, Au Bon Marche also sold very smart bicycles, particularly aimed at its many rich female customers.

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1897 Velo Dame au Bon Marche, Paris

19″ Frame

28 x 1 3/8″ Wheels

(Now sold)

This may be the only surviving nineteenth century bicycle sold by the Paris department store Au Bon Marche. It is in very well preserved condition, having been restored by a French collector some years ago. The nickel is good, and there is the remains of box lining on various parts of the frame. It is fixed wheel, with an 1896-1899 style of chainwheel, matching period pedals and inch pitch block chain. I have assumed a manufacture date of 1897 because Au Bon Marche presumably sold upmarket bicycles: coaster brake hubs went on sale in 1898, so would have been an option from that time on.

The bicycle is in good riding condition., The front tyre is a rare surviving early ‘le gaulois bergougnan’ with its name etched not on the sidewall as usual but all around the tread surface. It has some damage to the sidewall so, if this bicycle is to be ridden regularly, it would be better to replace the front tyre and preserve the original one.



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The le Gaulois Bergougnan soldier was a major competitor for Michelin’s Bibendum, below


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au Bon Marche 1


au Bon Marche 3

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1897 Velo au Bon Marche 15


A novelty shop called Au Bon Marché had been founded in Paris in 1838 to sell lace, ribbons, sheets, mattresses, buttons, umbrellas and other assorted goods. It originally had four departments, twelve employees, and a floor space of three hundred square meters. The entrepreneur Aristide Boucicaut became a partner in 1852, and changed the marketing plan, instituting fixed prices and guarantees that allowed exchanges and refunds, advertising, and a much wider variety of merchandise. The annual income of the store increased from 500,000 francs in 1852 to five million in 1860. In 1869 he built much larger building at 24 rue de Sevres on the Left Bank, and enlarged the store again in 1872, with help from the engineering firm of Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel Tower. The income rose from twenty million francs in 1870 to 72 million at the time of the Boucicaut’s death in 1877. The floor space had increased from three hundred square meters in 1838 to fifty thousand, and the number of employees had increased from twelve in 1838 to 1788 in 1879. Boucicaut was famous for his marketing innovations; a reading room for husbands while their wives shopped; extensive newspaper advertising; entertainment for children; and six million catalogs sent out to customers. By 1880 half the employees were women; unmarried women employees lived in dormitories on the upper floors.

The architecture of the store was very innovative for its time; the 1869 store was constructed by the architect Louis-Auguste Boileau. Alexandre Laplanche ornamented Boileau’s ironwork technology. Louis-Charles Boileau, his son, continued the store in the 1870s, consulting the firm of Gustave Eiffel for parts of its structure. Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, the grandson of Louis-Auguste Boileau, worked on an extension to the store in the 1920s

au Bon Marche Chromo 1



au Bon Marche Chromo 6

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1897 Velo au Bon Marche 15






1897 Velo au Bon Marche 15

au Bon Marche Chromo 1


1897 Velo au Bon Marche 15



1893 worlds fair columbia exhibition chicago


Human zoos, also called ethnological expositions, were 19th and 20th-century public exhibitions of humans, usually in a so-called natural or primitive state. The displays often emphasized the cultural differences between Europeans of the West and non-European peoples or other Europeans with a lifestyle deemed primitive. In the 1870s, exhibitions of exotic populations became popular in various countries.

Isidore Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, director of the Jardin d’Acclimatation de Paris decided in 1877 to organize two ethnological spectacles that presented Nubians and Inuit. That year, the audience of the Jardin d’acclimatation doubled to one million. Between 1877 and 1912, they presented around thirty ethnological exhibitions.

The Paris Expositions (World fairs) of 1878 and 1889 had similar exhibitions, and the 1900 Paris World Fair presented the famous Madagascan diorama. In fact these continued as late as the thirties: the 1931 Paris Exposition was so successful that 34 million people attended it in six months …while a smaller counter-exhibition entitled The Truth on the Colonies, organized by the Communist Party, with critiques of forced labour, attracted very few visitors.


Although zoos no longer have ‘natives’ on display, of course mass-tourism has allowed westerners to visit them in their places of origin. I didn’t think about that element until I researched this page. I lived and worked in Asia through the 1990s, and often visited the local Long-Neck Karen village in northern Thailand that Thais ran for tourists (northern hill-tribe people were second-class citizens in Thailand). The village was distasteful. Definitely a ‘human zoo.’ I used to sit with the Karen women who were selling their crafts to the tourists, and together we’d take photos of tourists with my camera (in a good-natured way but it made the point). Guitar-making was one of their traditions. The guitars were made from a local hard wood which was much thicker than wood used in western guitars. With wonky fretboards and a deep tone they were ideal for blues played in open tuning and it was fun to play each others’ styles. I still have my ‘long-neck’ guitar.


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1913 au bon marche paris

1897 Velo au Bon Marche 15

Human Zoos – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_zoo