The Gold Skinned Men in Paris

The Gold Skinned Men in Paris.

Today I am looking for gold skinned men in Paris. Not golden statues, although there are many of those, and they are easy to be found. 

I’m reading James Joyce’s Ulysses, Episode 2, Nestor:

‘On the step of the Paris stock exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabble of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures.’

The Paris Stock Exchange is now not as it was a hundred years ago. It is the sign of progress. 

In the time of James Joyce, completing Ulysses in Paris in 1922, the Paris Stock Exchange (Paris de Bourse) was already a hundred years old. It sprang from individual monopolistic market places and was transformed into the Paris Bourse as one large public place where the securities trade could be conducted. 

The Paris Bourse building is actually called the Palais Brongniart. Before the building was erected, market places were evident since 1724, and stock exchange activities occurred in the Vivienne Gallery of the Mazarin Palace until 1793, and then in the Louvre, the Palais-Royal, inside the Church of Our Lady of Victories from 1796-1809, back in the Palais-Royal, and from 1818 in a building of the Convent of the Daughters of St. Thomas, a vast monastery extending from St. Augustine Street to Feydeau Street. Activities were also housed at the Commercial Court from 1826-1864 and the Paris Chamber of Commerce from 1826-1853.

The building of the Paris Stock Exchange—the Paris Bourse—began construction in 1808 in Brongniart Square in the 1starrondissement on the site of the Convent of the Daughters of St. Thomas. It was completed and opened on 4 November 1826, where it stands today. 

‘The goldskinned men quoting prices’ used the open out-cry system—shouting out the prices, as Joyce says in Ulysses, like a gabble of geese ‘loud’ and ‘uncouth.’

The open out-cry system was used for 150 years in Paris, until the 1980s marked a time for reform—computerized reform. The open out-cry system became the integrated computer trading system while still keeping a limited version of the out-cry system. By 1989 the Paris Bourse was fully electronic. 

Ten years later, in 1999, France’s four top financial institutions merged to become one new company, the Paris Bourse SBF SA. In 2000 the independent financial marketplace, the Paris Bourse, officially ended.

From 2000, Paris Bourse became Euronext Paris, part of Euronext and one of five consolidated pan-European exchanges: Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, and London. All that Euronext Paris conducts is regulated by France’s Ministry of Economics, le Comité des Établissements de Crédit et des Entreprises d’Investissement (CECEI), the banking commission, and the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF). Euronext became the fourth largest exchange in the world. 

In 2007, Euronext merged with the New York Stock Exchange, becoming the NYSE Euronext. So, over a period of a hundred years, the financial marketplace that was once a disparate system has become a truly global marketplace.

I leave the Place de la Concorde to cross the rue de Rivoli and the rue Saint-Honoré to reach rue Cambon, named after Pierre-Joseph Cambon (1756-1820), the chair of the Finance Committee of the National Convention. 

The building on Rue Cambon has arches that are now filled with iron doors and wrought iron railings. It is not a pretty building. And the building opposite—the Chanel building—is undergoing renovations. Overall, the street is noisy with jack-hammers and blocked with construction cranes. 

But all is not lost. This is Chanel Cambon street. This is where Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel (1883-1971) started her millinery business. Hats. It all began with hats in the basement of the limestone building of number 21 in 1910, before she moved along the street to number 31 in 1918—point zero—THE Chanel store. A hundred years later, the firm purchased number 19, with a second entrance on rue Saint-Honoré. And renovations continue.

Coco Chanel was indeed of the same vintage as James Joyce (1882-1941). Born a year after Joyce, Chanel lived a healthier, wealthier, and longer life. 

I imagine that the next time I am on rue Cambon, I’ll be seeing on the step of the Paris Chanel store the goldskinned women quoting prices on their gemmed fingers—or smart phones.  

But, I digress, and I continue my way along rue Cambon to rue de la Madeleine. I turn right and then right again onto rue du Quatre September—Street of 4 September, where the current Paris Bourse is situated in the 2nd arrondissement.

The Paris Bourse building looms large and imposing. It is open to the public, but not today, a Sunday. Today, the old Paris Bourse is closed and locked. In James Joyce’s time, the building would not have been fenced. The steps would be open to all, and bustling with activity.

Today, there are no goldskinned men on the step of the Paris Stock Exchange. Not a one. 

Published by MaNi

Martina Nicolls is an Australian author and international human rights-based consultant in education, healing and wellbeing, peace and stabilisation, and foreign aid audits and evaluations. She has written eight books and continues writing articles and thoughts through her various websites. She loves photography, reading, and nature. She currently lives in Paris, France.

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