1er May 1891: the Fourmies shooting

1<sup>er</sup> May 1891: the Fourmies shooting

  • Ants. May 1891. Military cantonment. Grand-Place.

    PERRON Louis (1823 - 1870)

  • Ants. Temporary hospital. The wounded.

    PERRON Louis (1823 - 1870)

  • Ants. Funeral of the victims.

    ANONYMOUS

  • Ants. Monument to the victims of May 1, 1891.

    ANONYMOUS

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Title: Ants. Grand-Place.

Author : PERRON Louis (1823 - 1870)

Creation date : 1891

Date shown: May 1891

Dimensions: Height 16 - Width 21

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Avesnois Ecomuseum website

Contact copyright: © Avesnois Ecomuseum - Photo R. Fenzysite web

Ants. Grand-Place.

© Avesnois Ecomuseum - Photo R. Fenzy

To close

Title: Ants. The wounded.

Author : PERRON Louis (1823 - 1870)

Creation date : 1891

Date shown: 01 May 1891

Dimensions: Height 16 - Width 21

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Avesnois Ecomuseum website

Contact copyright: © Avesnois Ecomuseum - Photo R. Fenzysite web

Ants. The wounded.

© Avesnois Ecomuseum - Photo R. Fenzy

To close

Title: Ants. Funeral of the victims.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1891

Date shown: 04 May 1891

Dimensions: Height 9 - Width 14

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Avesnois Ecomuseum website

Contact copyright: © Avesnoiss Ecomuseum website

Ants. Funeral of the victims.

© Avesnois Ecomuseum

To close

Title: Ants. Monument to the victims of May 1, 1891.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1891

Date shown: 01 May 1891

Dimensions: Height 9 - Width 14

Technique and other indications: photography

Storage location: Avesnois Ecomuseum website

Contact copyright: © Avesnoiss museum website

Ants. Monument to the victims of May 1, 1891.

© Avesnois Ecomuseum

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

The Fourmies shooting

1er May 1891, for the second time, workers 'organizations around the world prepare to act by various means, including the strike for the 8-hour day, in accordance with the directives of the Workers' International.

In France, the context is more repressive than it was the year before. Two infantry companies were mobilized.

At the end of the day, the soldiers shoot at several hundred demonstrators who are trying to obtain the release of strikers arrested in the morning and imprisoned in the town hall. "Because in Fourmies, it was on a kid that the lebel made its first attempt ..." (Montéhus).

Image Analysis

The setting and the consequences

The photographs and postcards kept at the ecomuseum of the Fourmies-Trélon region set the scene for these tragic events: the main square bordered by its dark brick buildings with, almost adjoining, the town hall and the church, on whose side the shooting took place. In the square, soldiers are stationed. There is nothing to say with certainty that this is a pre-shooting snapshot. The situation is exceptional enough to attract onlookers below the railing, but not worrying enough to prevent one of them from climbing up to the soldiers.

The second photograph shows a temporary field hospital where wounded soldiers (by throwing stones) receive treatment, as in any military operation. The atmosphere is flirtatious, and the photographer has obviously obtained permission from the authorities to be able to fix these images.

The church is still on the postcard showing Fourmies on May 4, the day of the funeral of the victims. The twelve cavalry squadrons, the nine infantry companies and the strong detachment of gunners mobilized for the occasion transformed it into "a formidable entrenched camp" (The small newspaper).

The last postcard shows the monument erected on the tomb of the victims in the cemetery of Fourmies. Simple monument, regularly flowered every 1er May and which becomes one of the places of memory of the labor movement.

Interpretation

The event captured by the photograph

The Fourmies shooting inspired an abundance of iconography which dramatizes the event, sometimes rewrites it and contributes to the construction of the symbol. Compared to the engravings, these photographs appear a little dull; even so, some of them, postcards, function as memory objects. Technical contingencies respond to this. The event can only be captured by the hollow photograph.

Fourmies is a small town of some 15,000 inhabitants, out of the way and that nothing particularly predisposed to attract national and international attention in this 1er May 1891. On the occasion of the funerals of the victims, seventeen provincial newspapers, twenty Parisians, two from Belgium sent reporters. Before the shooting, however, no journalist or photographer had been sent to report on the protest. Even less to photograph it (which would be the case for an official visit, for example).

In addition, photographic techniques do not yet allow us to capture the movement (in certain subsequent violent strikes, barricades were rebuilt to make postcards, as in Limoges in 1905). Only one of the preserved photographs shows the local secretary of the workers' party haranguing the crowd.

The manifestation of Fourmies can therefore only be understood through its setting or its tragic consequences. These images can only function as symbolic objects for those who grant the event an emotional force beforehand or participate in their imagination, constructed and transmitted by other means.

  • graveyard
  • funeral
  • strikes
  • hospitals
  • labor movement
  • workers
  • May 1st
  • working class

Bibliography

Pierre FAVRE, "Iconography of a shooting", in Madeleine REBÉRIOUX (dir.), Ants and the first of may, proceedings of the conference, Fourmies, May 1-4, 1991, Paris, Les Éditions de l'Atelier, coll. "Heritage", 1994.

Michel FRIZOT (dir.), New history of photography, Paris, Bordas, A. Biro, 1994.

Philippe GRANDCOING, "The barricades of spring 1905 in Limoges: the memory of the strike", in Alain CORBIN, Jean-Marie MAYEUR (dir.), The Barricade, Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, coll. “History of France in the 19th and 20th centuries”, 1997.

Odile ROYNETTE-GLAND, "The army in the social battle, 1871-1906", The Social Movement, No. 179, 1997.

To cite this article

Danielle TARTAKOWSKY, «1er May 1891: the Fourmies shooting »


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