Park Hotel accounting part 2

This post is a follow-up from post “Park Hotel accounting“, analyzing accounts Shanghai Park hotel for 22nd October 1938. The original post was looking into the purchase side of the hotel accounts, this post is looking into the revenue side. In October 1938, the international settlement had been surrounded by the Japanese army since Aug 1937, travelling to the rest of China was difficult and only few ships came from abroad to Shanghai. It is then not surprising that the room part of the revenue is low, nearly the same as the F&B, as tourists and businessmen travelling were very few.

The above picture is the daily earnings report for the date of 22nd Octobre 1938, summarizing all the earnings of the hotel including rooms, restaurants and other guest services. Besides Park Hotel had four restaurants as well as room service, details of which can be found on the Park Hotel leaflet that was show in post “Advertising Park Hotel“.

For F&B, on the list is “sustentation”. This large post (44% of revenue on that day) probably covered breakfast and maybe some more small snacks along the day. It must have been reserved for the residents and their guests, as no revenue is booked from outside.

The grill room was located on 14th floor, overlooking the race course. Numbers show that it was the most popular restaurant of the hotel by revenue, with more than 70% of restaurant revenue on that day. Notably, wine revenu was higher than the food showing that it was popular to drink alcohol while eating grilled meat, as it is today. The restaurant attracted many customers from the outside, as the least part of the revenue comes from residents (about 15%). The largest part (56%) was city, i.e. external regular customers with accounts at the hotel who did not need to pay cash, but where sent the “sheet”, meaning the tab, for collection at the end of the month. Finally, about 27% was cash, meaning external customers that did not have a credit line.

The dining room French cuisine on 2nd floor was much less popular (representing 6% of revenue), with most customers being residents of the hotel. The Chinese restaurant had little more success (about 10% of the revenue).

The hotel also had a lounge and a bar that was massively selling drinks, amounting to 30% of total F&B revenue. The place must have been popular in town, as residents only accounted for a third of the revenue, while city and cash accounting for a third each. The main feature of Park Hotel lounge was a full view of the race course, this made the lounge and bar particularly popular during the racing season. The races were organized in a Spring and Autumn season. The Autumn season would start in October with races on weekends culminating on Champion’s day in November. 22nd October 1938 was a Saturday, it was probably a day of races, explaining the strong attendance of the bar and the grill room which both had view on the race course.

A substantial amount was also spent on cigars, probably mostly in the bar. Telephone was also a source of additional revenue as Park Hotel was one of the places where people could make international phone calls. It was the location for the first international call with the USA attended by Soong Mei-Ling, wife of the Chang Kai Shek in 1935 after AT&T started transpacific telephone service. With the international settlement surrounded, international phone calls were surely of high demand at that time.

For more information on the accounts of Park Hotel, please go to post Park Hotel accounting.

Media appearance in Chinese

The last weeks have been very active, with me taking part of the Shanghai Style and fashion festival organized in the city. This was the second edition, I attended the first one last year (see post “Night out at the French Club” for more details). Only this time, I got really involved in it.

I was invited to give a short speech about Old Shanghai, and Art Deco at the opening ceremony. It was rather short but intense, I had to speak in Chinese. My speech was mentioned in daily Shanghai morning post.

The next step was really new to me, as I was part of a tour on Hunan lu that was broadcasted in an internet livestream. Once again, I was only a sidekick with a short speech but it was definitely a first for me, media appearance in Chinese.

French concession detailed map

Maps are an essential took for understanding history. I recently found an amazing map of the Shanghai former French concession. Finding all information on it is a real challenge, but also very rewarding.

The below map was downloaded from a public website. It is clearly the scan of an historical map of the Shanghai French Concession. The title is “Plan de la Concession Française”, “Changhai”. The website mentioned the date of 1920, but it’s clearly from a later date.

The shape of the map clearly shows the full size of the former French concession, after 1911. One specific point for finding the date of the map is the presence of the Cercle Sportif Français (Corner Route Bourgeat and Rue Cardinal Mercier / today Changle Lu and Maoming Nan Lu) , officially opened at the end of 1926. At the same time, the Canidrome is not mentioned on the map, in the block Route Lafayette / Route Cardinal Mercier / Avenue du Roi Albert (Fuxing Lu / Maoming Nan Lu / Shaanxi Nan lu). The part of the Rue Cardinal Mercier next to the canidrome was not even built, with the Morris Estate covering both side of the current Maoming Lu. As the Canidrome opened in 1928 and needed some time for building, the map can be dated from 1927.

Looking at the details more in-depth, very interesting information is found in the lower right corner. First of all, the date of the design is written. The map design was finalised on 28 April 1927, by “l’ingénieur en chef” (the chief engineer) of the Shanghai French Municipality whose signature is printed on the map. Furthermore, the print work is mentionned as “T’ou-sé-Wé”. This was the orphanage of the ZiKaWei (XuJiaHui) Jesuits complex which was also an art and craft school run by the Jesuits priests. The framing of the map is also very nice, with a square motive on each corner. The map was printed on brown paper with 4 color (Black, Orange, Blue, Green).

On the top left corner is added some information probably stamped later in red. “Police Jour C 1514 / Nuit W 6675” as well as “Incendie Jour C 79 Nuit W 79”. I guess those were the police and fireman phone number for day and night service.

The size of the map is mentioned to be 12 x 28 inches (30.48 x 71.12 cm), with a 1 : 8750 scale. I am somewhat skeptical of a map size in inches, this must be an approximation as this French map was surely an integer number in cm. Futhermore, I have seen a very similar French Concession map, with original map about 140 cm x 60 cm).

This map is very highly detailed and of very high quality. Since it is signed by the chief engineer, it was made for the French Consulate, or most probably the French Municipality. This makes it an official map of the French Authorities. Those cadaster maps are extremely rare nowadays, this was a lucky catch. If you need the original full size file, download link is below.

Shanghai French Municipality Letter

Separated from the Shanghai International Settlement, the Shanghai French Concession had an administration on its own. Beside the French Consulate located on the Bund, the French Concession also had a French municipal administration as well as municipality building. The French Municipal Council (Conseil Municipal) was in charge of the city’s management, as opposed to the Consulate representing the French state. Although the French Municipal council was presided by the French Consul General, it regularly tried to distance itself from the Consulate’s influence.

While foreigners, and even more French people, were only a minority in the French Concession, the French Municipal Council had mostly French members as well as 3 foreign members. Chinese members were added in 1914, as a condition for the final extension of the French Concession. Members of the French Municipal Council were elected and including known people of the French community like René Fano, and Lucien Basset. Hugh Martin who I wrote about in previous posts was a also a member. The most famous Chinese member was surely gangster Du Yusheng.

Documents from the Municipalité Française de Changhai are pretty rare, so I was very happy to get this original envelop from the Municipalité Française from 1936. It was posted on 27 June 1936 at the Shanghai Post office, probably the General Post office on Sichuan Lu, as the character Zhong (center) is used below Shanghai. It was stamped with the 12 (probably 12 o’clock) batch. As discussed in previous post “General post office“, this was carried by the Chinese post, with Chinese stamps on the letter.

This was a registered letter, “Recommandée” is written on the envelope, as French was (and still is) the language of the international postal association. This also meant that a coupon was attached on the letter that was detached when the letter was actually delivered. As no mention is about the route to France, I assume the mail went by boat.

I was curious about the destination, ” Etablissements Ph. Lafon in Tours. The company was specialized in floor mills equipment. Below is an add from 1919 but I found pictures of machines from this company from 1950s. I have not found any company importing this brand in Shanghai, but maybe the Shanghai municipality was buying or looking at buying equipment from this company.

Jewish refugees after Shanghai

The story of the 20.000 Jews from Central Europe who took refuge in Shanghai in 1938 to 1939 has been documented quite a number of times in the last decade. Although it was not so well spread when I started this blog, it is now recognized in and out of Shanghai, including in the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum in Hong Kou district.

What is less well known is how they all left China, while some of them remained in Shanghai until the early 50’s. A number of books have been written by some of the people who went through it all, including the excellent “Stateless in Shanghai” from my friend Liliane Willens. However, they tend to focus on individual stories. It also seem that people went on with their new life and wanted to put it all away, until many years later when some wrote their own story.

This is where the recent article from Jewish News of Northern California is interesting. It shows how a place like San Francisco organized a welcoming effort for those refugees after leaving Shanghai. Another interesting point is that a number of those people stayed in San Francisco, and recreated a little bit of Shanghai way of life there, just like they tried to recreate some of their European life a few years before in Shanghai. In that case, it was not only individuals that moved, but a whole community that recreated itself and continued to exist many years later carrying the Shanghai spirit with them, long after having left the city.

The article can be found at: https://jweekly.com/2022/08/17/75-years-ago-this-week-san-francisco-was-port-of-hope-for-jewish-refugees-from-shanghai/

Asni`eres Art Deco

The 1920s and 30s was a period of intense building in Paris outer districts and in Paris close suburbs. Away from the grand building of Central Paris, buildings in suburbs tend to be a little smaller, with more space around. They are more similar to the ones of Shanghai former French Concession.

As a stopover before flying back to Shanghai, I spent a day in Asni`eres/Seine, a very close suburb to Paris. Asni`ere is familiar for French people, as French standup Fernand Raynaud (1926-19730) mentioned it in one of his most famous pieces, asking for phone number 22 in Asni“eres in the 1950 (see video below).

Like many cities in the Western part of Paris, it was built up before and after WWI, so Art Nouveau and Art Deco are plentiful. Another similar exemple is much more though after Boulogne-Billancourt (see post From Boulogne to Nanjing for more details). Walking around the city, I found a number of nice Art Deco examples.

With such a sunny and hot weather, it felt even more like in Shanghai, surrounded by Art Deco buildings.

Shanghai customs house 1860

Travel books from the late 19th century are a good source of information about Shanghai at the time. However, the engraving that come with them are often wrong or invented. I recently receive the picture below, a extract from French review “Le tour du Monde” (around the World) from 1860. Unlike some others in the same review, this one seems pretty true to the original scene.

The above engraving was made from a painting from Pierre-Eug`ene Grandsire (1825-1905), a well known French painter. As the painter did not travel, it was made from a description or an earlier drawing from French marin officer M de Trévise. The picture must have been a great success, as it was later used for other publications in the UK.

Published in 1860, the picture is a reflection of 1858 or 1859. Control of the Chinese customs was handed to the British in 1854, and in 1857 the Shanghai authorities spent 6800 taels to built the customs office that was located on the Bund. From some sources, it seems that the building was originally a temple on the river side. The engraving is quite similar to the few pictures of the building that there taken later. The shape of the building was kept, though the actual proportions and size of the building is somewhat flawed.

A picture of the early Shanghai customs house, courtesy of https://www.hpcbristol.net/

In 1893, it was replaced by a more western building, as seen below. That building was demolished in 1925 and replaced by the current customs house in 1927.

The 1893 Shanghai Bund customs house (Shanghailander.net own collection)

Jacques Baudouin’s Shanghai Club

Thanks to his title, this particular has been coming up in my research about Old Shanghai for years. Having been disappointed by Old Shanghai novels a few times, it took a long time before I tried my luck on this one, which turned out to be quite a good read.

“Shanghai Club” is an historic novel written by a French China researcher. Only available in French, it take the reader through the life of French man Charles Espagnac, a former soldier who got involved in the destruction of Yuan Ming Yuan in 1860. Little is known of him until 10 years later, when he comes to Shanghai and create a transport trading company that will become one of the power houses in Shanghai trade.

When many Old Shanghai novels take place in the 1920s and 30s, the author choose to take us back in the late 19th century, when Shanghai was really a small trading outpost, far from being the gigantic city it later became. What makes the novel really standing out if the quality of the research and how is it applied in the novel. Actual historical events like the Taiping revolution, or the 1884 Sino French war are integrated in the narrative. The book also escapes feeling like a history lesson, while showing in the author’s in-depth knowledge of the topic.

Life in the tiny town that was Shanghai then and the relationship between the French concession and the international settlement as well as their citizens is also in line with actual historical research about the period. The author clearly have a strong experience and knowledge of China, making the Chinese characters of the novel very real. The best example is comprador Joseph Lui, a Chinese catholic that was the interface between Charles company and the Chinese World. Besides real history, invented characters and events fit well in the story and the period.

The plot of the novel is pretty thin, with only a few characters. It is far away from masterpieces like James Clavel’s Tai-Pan, but the book really does bring the reader in the early Old Shanghai atmosphere. As opposed to my favorite genre, this is not a crime novel, though crimes take place in the novel. The book is a great read, giving a soft history lesson about a period that is less covered, while keeping the reader entertained.

While writing this article, I discovered that the book has a sequel “La Reine du Yangzi”, that I will try to find and read.

Short trip to Lyon Art Deco

After 2 years without foreign travel, I was able to get back to France. The trip included a short day in Lyon, with some Art Deco photo opportunities. This post follows another post about Lyon Art Deco from… 2012.

Lyon has a lot of Art Deco architecture (See one of the best sites on the topic… in French only). Unfortunately, I did not have so much time to visit it apart from walking around between business meetings, so I focused on the business district of Lyon 3rd district. The first stop was this beautiful building on Avenue Maréchal de Saxe, that features really of lot of the Art Deco ornaments.

Later I walked up Cours Lafayette, one of the main boulevard leading to Lyon Part-Dieu station. Bordering the 3rd and 6th district, that were developed in the 1920s and 1930s, it really goes trough Art Deco splendors in Lyon and is located very close to Palais de Flore, on the Art Deco Lyon icon.

It was a really short view of Lyon Art Deco, but was a nice a sunny reminder of a style that is so present in Shanghai.