An outstanding part of Vincent Lam’s recent novel of Vietnam, The Headmaster’s Wager, set during the long years of the country’s colonial history involving the French, Japanese and Americans, is description of French influence in Saigon and the nearby Chinese community of Cholon. There are perhaps many who are unaware of just how beautiful the city was during the 1940s and 50s before it all began to crumble under external pressure. Looking for further images of Saigon during those years I came upon a site devoted to the history and culture of Vietnam across the years and it turned out to house a treasure of impressive ads popular during the French hegemony in that country. For those willing to challenge the French language, there are a dozen or more pages filled with pictures and ads from the old Vietnam.
Since I do not read French very well, my guess is the above graphic is an undated political propaganda poster by Jean Picard extolling the French as aides in the south’s war against the northern communists.
A fine example of French graphic art, extolling the beauty of Chinese Creek in Saigon.
The poster above advertises a popular tobacco company in Saigon during the period, one producing both cigars and cigarettes. One more superb graphic design.
In this poster we see a line of workers carrying harvested rice up a slope in the Tonkin Delta of northern Vietnam. The area is known for its rice production.
Poster for a French airline carrying passengers between Hanoi and Saigon
Another poster advertising the natural beauty of north Vietnam’s Baie de Ha Long, written in French as Baie d’Along
This ad for a garage is especially charming with its drawing of a black man. Interesting to note that such images were extremely popular in French graphic art during the early twentieth century.