The Dreyfus Affair
Between 1894 and 1906 the scandal of the Dreyfus Affair rocked France and split it very deeply into two opposing camps: the pro-army, mostly Catholic, anti-Dreyfusards and the anti-clerical, pro-republican Dreyfusards.
Finally, Dreyfus, helped in part by the likes of the French intellectual Emile Zola, was fully exonerated but the affair embittered French politics and its ramifications spread out across the world.
In London, Frank Brock’s father, Arthur Brock the “firework king” never liked to be left standing when affairs were on the move, and as was his custom, he took a position and projected that with his fireworks.
On 22nd May 1896 the Daily Mail reported under the headline Dreyfus at Brock’s Benefit:
There was an impromptu Dreyfus demonstration at the Crystal Palace last night.
It was Messrs. Brock’s benefit, and it was, as usual, an immense success. Two hours before the firework display began thousands of people assembled in front of the terrace.
By nine o’clock fully 50,000 people, including at least 1,000 cyclists, who stored their machines near the main entrance, occupied the whole of the slope and terrace. The display, of course, was worthy of the firm who have given fireworks displays at the Palace for the last thirty-six years, and some very fine novelties were introduced.
These included set-pieces expounding the language of flowers, out of which evolved portraits of popular men and women. The crowd cheered lustily at several. Then a mighty cheer arose and echoed again and again: it was the picture of Dreyfus. Fifty thousand people cheered, as one man, with the voice of 50,000. When Dreyfus had faded, the face of Zola appeared, and the cheers burst forth again and again.
It was a splendid testimony of public appreciation for Messrs. Dreyfus, Zola – and Brock.”
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