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Tourists in the Sewers of Paris

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Image taken from: http://corckscrew-balloon.com

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 19th century.


Image taken from: http://corckscrew-balloon.com

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.


From the Dictionaire de Paris

 

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