The Public Pissoirs Of Yesterday’s Paris
The enchanting public pissoirs of yesterday’s Paris, otherwise know as public urinals, are something we don’t come across that often nowadays. Public toilets are very common in all major cities around the world, but we don’t see these elegant public pissoirs anymore. Did they get so out of fashion?
Back in the 1860’s, Charles Marville, a French photographer, got the title of official photographer of Paris. This is when he started working on his series of public urinals from all over France’s capital city. Charles Marville was very passionate about his work and he wanted to show Paris in all of its might, beauty and elegance.
Until his death in 1879, he left a significant photographic heritage, documenting Paris’ richness, diversity and eccentricity. He photographed everything. Public furniture, elegant gas lamps and of course, public pissoirs. All his work can be found now at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.
During the Spring of 1830, Paris’ streets started being a place where public urinals were installed on a regular basis, on all of the city’s major boulevards. Since the French Revolution started pretty soon after these public urinals were installed, they began to be used as street barricades.
10 years later, in the 1840’s, these unique and elegant public pissoirs had a very fortunate comeback. The French pissoirs got modified a little bit and they were known as colonnes Rambuteau, serving both as a public urinal and as a support for advertising posters.
30 years later, in the 1870’s, the Parisian authorities went all the way with their public pissoirs and created more modern spaces for people to ‘release the pressure’. These structures were called vespasiennes and they came in a large variety of shapes and sizes.
In the 1930’s, Paris had 1,230 public pissoirs, but since people started having more and more private bathrooms in their own homes, the numbers decreased drastically. By 1966, only 329 public urinals were left on the streets of Paris and now there is only one left. It can be found on Boulevard Arago in the 13th arrondissement.