Paris in bombing battledress
September 8, 2017 4:53 PM   Subscribe

During the First World war, Parisian shopkeepers taped their windows with elaborate and often stylish designs to prevent passersby from being hurt by flying glass splinters during Zeppelin bombings and Big Bertha shellings.

The complete "Paris in bombing battledress" ("Paris en tenue de bombardement") photo series is available on the website of the French national library. The shops shown on the pictures are now gone, except two: the Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery shop at 22 Place Vendôme which hasn't changed since 1896, and what is probably the Bon Marché, the first department store in Paris. Arthus Bertrand, another jewellery shop, was still there in 2009 but later moved to a street nearby. Most of the buildings still exist, including the magnificent Art Nouveau headquarters of the "National Society of Automobile Ambulances" (the first building made of reinforced concrete in Paris), now a restaurant, and the surgical instruments shop of the Rue de l'Ecole de Médecine, now a movie theatre.
posted by elgilito (9 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
I had never heard of this, and I absolutely love it. People can be so beautiful, sometimes. Even in the midst of unimaginable horror, we make art. We take something ugly and fearful, and turn it into a symbol of the unconquered creative spirit. Lovely.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:23 PM on September 8, 2017 [23 favorites]

I saw an ad for "breathable silk boxers" which looked like they were girding for a zapplin raid.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2017

After reading this after about 100+ posts on FB about saying not to bother putting tape on your windows for a hurricane because it doesn't help I have to wonder, was it effective? I realize that a lot of modern windows are safety glass but in and after college in Florida, I lived in many, many apartments that had the cheapest sheet glass money could buy.
posted by mcrandello at 6:24 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have to wonder, was it effective?

If nothing else, it says "Even if this store is sacrificed, I care about my fellow citizens." Which has to be good for moral.
posted by happyroach at 1:25 AM on September 9, 2017 [10 favorites]

WWI. The more I look into it, the greater the depths - and heights - appear.
posted by doctornemo at 7:13 AM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Taping modern glass can be worse now because safety glass is meant to shatter into tiny bits. If you tape it, you're making big chunks out of those that can become more dangerous projectiles. Old pane glass was better off taped since you didn't want a million razor sharp shards flying around and slicing you to ribbons.
posted by msbutah at 7:39 AM on September 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Absolutely wonderful. I wonder if there's some kind of statement to be made about the French love of beauty vs. the American relative indifference to it.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 7:55 AM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

what is probably the Bon Marché. Well no, that was the Grand Bazar de la Rue de Rennes, which was destroyed in the 1960s and rebuilt as a modern-looking department store (now a FNAC).
The Brits were also taping their windows during the Blitz. In the Japanese movies (animated and live action) Grave of the Fireflies, one can also see windows taped with star designs.
posted by elgilito at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

A beautiful way of saying "we are all in this together". I don't think the effectiveness matters. Humans are truly amazing and wonderful sometimes - I often forget that.
posted by double bubble at 8:43 AM on September 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

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