Sewers as a Source of Pride
Since the early 1800's Parisians have found
a source of pride in the sewers of Paris. The drawing on the left
depicts an early sewer on Saint-Denis Street in 1810. Although the
figures shown in the drawing are not tourists, the fact that an
artist was inspired to draw the sewer is a testament to its popularity.
Many drawings like this have been found from the first half of the
The representation here does not show great details
of how the sewers were arranged, however it is its depiction as
the main subject of the drawing which describes the sewers' growing
significance in the lives of Paris citizens.
Hugo's use of the Paris sewers seems to be an arbitrary choice
of escape. However, by 1858 sewers were being used not only as a
waste disposal system, but also as a tourist attraction (see
image to right). By the
end of the 19th century, the sewer tourist industry became so large
that the sewers were outfitted with mechanized carts for the tourists.
Perhaps it was the growing attraction to the sewers which enticed
Hugo to use them in his novel.
Below are some images of how the tours were organized in before
and in 1892 -- first by hand pushed carts, then mechanical ones,
and finally by full trolleys, precursors to today's subways.
Tourism in the Sewers: some interesting views
As you can see the sewers were (and still are) a very popular tourist
attraction. In the first image can be seen a cart being pushed along
the sewer by those who seem to be sewer workers. Riding in the cart
are seemingly well to do tourists reclining at a table in their
finery. In the second image, an early daguerreotype, are seen the
"roller coaster like" mechanical carts built for tourists
to ride in. Also clearly seen are the new pipes installed in the
sewers to separate sewage and drain water. The last image shows
the trolleys installed underground with the two separate sewage
pipes to either side.