Victor Vaissier, Le Roi du Congo
His charitable generosity, not to mention his distinguished and ample moustache, gave him near legendary status during the Belle Époque coinciding with America’s Gilded Age. In 1892 he built a fabulous home nicknamed “Castle of the Congo” as a kind of permanent spectacle which further elevated his profile and advanced his business.
As the nineteenth century celebrated like no other the discovery of the most distant countries, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, M. Vaissier chose much of his inspiration from the exotic plants and flowers of these regions. He even fancied himself in the image of King Makoko of the Congo, then under the French flag, and was known to occasionally dress in royal tribal garments. After his death in 1922, the company continued to run under a number of different owners and did not cease operations until the 1960s.
La Piscine - Musée d'Art et d'Industrie in Roubaix, having acquired an extensive collection has mounted an exhibition, sharing with the public the considerable output of this much celebrated man.
The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1.