Saturday 28 November 2015

Morris columns

Along with the Wallace fountain, the Morris column is an icon of Paris that everyone knows to see, but whose name is known by few.  Its main function is to advertise theatrical shows.

The original advertising column was designed by a German printer, Ernst Litfaß (or Litfass) and the first models were installed in Berlin in 1855.

The French version was created by Gabriel Morris, also a printer, in 1868.  Some served a dual purpose, for example to store cleaning equipment for street cleaners.

Before its introduction, advertising for theatrical events was a haphazard affair, with posters being hung on trees, lampposts and the walls of public urinals.  The city authorities decided to standardise the business and granted an exclusive contract to Morris.

Colonne Morris, Paris
21st century
Colonne Morris, Paris
circa 1885
The design has changed little in the century and a half since their introduction. The cylindrical column is topped by a hexagonal dome bearing the arms of the City of Paris.  There are several hundred installations in the city.

Many of the older models have been replaced and they are now maintained by JCDecaux, the same company that installs the city's bus shelters, advertising billboards and runs the self-service bicycle system, Vélib.

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons.)

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