Isotta-Frachin Front Wheel Brake at the Salon de l’Automobile, 1910, Agence de presse Meurisse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright - Other Known Legal Restrictions

Popular to this day, specialised shows featuring the boldest, the newest and the most luxurious motorised vehicles have attracted wide attention since the late 19th century. The Paris Motor Show or Salon de l’Automobile - the first-ever of its kind - attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors at the dawn of the 20th century, covering over 6000m² and featuring around 220 exhibitors. Organised by the ‘Automobile Club de France’, the show initially took place at the Jardin des Tuileries - later at the Grand Palais - turned Paris into the European hotspot for car fanatics.

In the 1910s, the success of the event further increased, owing not only to the splendid range of car manufacturers such as Peugeot, Benz and Daimler, but also to the wide array of alternative vehicles on show: from bikes and boats to blimps and aerospace novelties. The “Aero” section of the show can be seen at the back of this scene.

The image above is a typical panoramic shot of the exhibition site. Its diagonal streak and bird's-eye view emphasize the vast amount of vehicles on show and make the most of the impressive dimensions of the exhibition space. The following two images highlight the grandeur of the event as well, yet in very different ways.

In this impression by French photographer Maurice-Louis Branger, there’s not a single automobile in sight. Opting for a shot of the ceiling instead of the floor, Branger nevertheless succeeds in capturing the glamour and the magnitude of the event.

The Grand Palais decorated for the Motor Show, circa 1925-1930, Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger-Viollet, Parisienne de Photographie, In Copyright
The Grand Palais decorated for the Motor Show, circa 1925-1930, Maurice-Louis Branger/Roger-Viollet, Parisienne de Photographie, In Copyright

Finally, this close-up of a motor built by Rolland-Pilain brings to the forefront the technique and mechanics at the core of the produce on show. Photo reports back in the day attest to the quality of the cars of this French constructor, mainly known for its RP (a French take on the Ford Model T) and 2 litres C23 (the Ferrari of its era). Although the firm went bankrupt in the 1930s, 110 Rolland-Pilain cars have survived to this day, of which half are still running.

Rollan-Pilain motor at the Salon, 1910, Agence de presse Meurisse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright - Other Known Legal Restrictions
Rollan-Pilain motor at the Salon, 1910, Agence de presse Meurisse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright - Other Known Legal Restrictions