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Dead medium: Rene Dagron, Pigeon Post Microfilm Balloonist
From: bruces@well.com (Bruce Sterling)
Source(s): http://www.sarthe.com/visiter/cult/cultdrag.htm

(((bruces remarks: It would appear that Rene Prudent Dagron, the central figure in French communications during the Seige of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War, has not been entirely forgotten by his grateful nation. The Siege of Paris, with its bizarre deployment of pigeons, dogs, floating copper balls, hot-air balloons, microfilm, postcards, money orders, and telegraphy, is the most dramatic and unlikely Dead Media tale of all time. (See Working Notes -04.5). )))

"Rene Dagron est ne en 1819 a Beauvoir, devenu Aillieres- Beauvoir depuis. Il part s'installer a Paris et en profite pour etudier la physique et la chimie. Il invente un microscope et travaille sur la mise au point de photos microscopiques.

"Il presente ses inventions a l'exposition de 1867, en particulier une photo microscopique d'un millimetre de cute sur laquelle est 'gravee' le portrait des 450 deputes de l'epoque. Son procede est d'abord utilise pour la decoration de bijoux.

"Lors du siege de Paris pendant la guerre de 1870, la capitale est coupee du reste de la France et en particulier de Tours ou se retranche le gouvernement provisoire.

"Des le 18 septembre 1870, la capitale est encerclee par les Prussiens. Pour communiquer, Nadar qui constitue dans l'urgence une compagnie de ballons.

"Il envoie, des le 23, un premier ballon qui quitte Montmartre en transportant 125 kg de depeches. Pendant les cinq mois du siege, 64 ballons quitterent Paris. Il etait possible de faire sortir des ballons de Paris, mais au gre du vent, les faire revenir dans la ville etait impossible. Nadar repensa a Rene Dagron qu'il avait vu a l'exposition de 1867. Aussitut, Dagron fut emmene hors de Paris par ballon pour perfectionner son procede photographique. Sur une pellicule de collodion de quinze centimetres carres, ultra legere, il reussit a faire tenir 3 000 depeches. Les pellicules ainsi constituees etaient ensuite acheminees vers Paris par pigeons voyageurs.

"A l'arrivee, les volatiles etaient liberes de leur precieux fardeau et les pellicules projetees sur un agrandisseur, recopiees et distribuees. Sur 355 pigeons partis de Paris en ballon, seulement 57 rentrerent a leur colombier. Mais il transporterent au total un million et demi de depeches, le record etant detenu par un pigeon qui transporta 18 pellicules soit 54 000 depeches. La carriere des micro-films venait de commencer."

(((And now, an unintentionally comic machine translation, courtesy of AltaVista's "Babelfish" service.)))

In English:

"Rene Dagron was born in 1819 in Beauvoir, become Aillieres-Beauvoir since. He leaves to settle in Paris and benefits from it to study physics and chemistry. He invents a microscope and works on the development of microscopic photographs.

"He presents his inventions to the exposure of 1867, in particular a microscopic photograph of a millimetre on side on which is 'engraved' the portraits of the 450 deputies of the time. His process is initially used for the decoration of jewels.

"At the time of the head office of Paris during the war of 1870, the capital is cut remainder of France and in particular of Turns where is cut off the provisional government. As of September 18, 1870, the capital is encircled by the Prussians. To communicate, Nadar constitutes in the urgency a company of balloons.

"He sends, as of the 23, a first balloon which leaves Montmartre while transporting 125 kg of despatches. During the five months of the seige, 64 balloons left Paris. It was possible to make come out of the balloons of Paris, but with the liking of the wind, to make them return in the city was impossible.

"Nadar reconsidered to Rene Dagron whom he had seen with the exposure of 1867. At once, Dagron was taken along out of Paris by balloon to improve his photographic process. On a collodion film of fifteen centimetres square, ultra light, he succeeds in making hold 3 000 despatches.

"The films thus made up were then forwarded to Paris by carrier pigeons. On arrival, the birds were released from their invaluable burden and the films projected on an enlarger, recopied and distributed. On 355 pigeons left Paris in balloon, only 57 re-entered to their dovecote. But it transported on the whole a million and half of despatches, the record being held by a pigeon which transported 18 films is 54 000 despatches. The career of the microfilms had just begun."

Bruce Sterling (bruces@well.com)