1956 Chambre de Commerce Map of Saigon, Vietnam

Plan Saigon-Cholon / [Saigon-Cholon Map]. - Main View

1956 Chambre de Commerce Map of Saigon, Vietnam


Vestiges of French colonialism in Saigon.


Plan Saigon-Cholon / [Saigon-Cholon Map].
  1956 (undated)     14 x 20.75 in (35.56 x 52.705 cm)     1 : 10500


This is a c. 1956 map of Saigon published by the city's Chamber of Commerce and the Mutual Association of Commercial and Industrial Employees of South Vietnam. It primarily shows the city's two main centers of Cholon and Saigon soon after Vietnamese independence.
Colonial Saigon
This map faces towards the northwest and clearly represents the geography of Saigon, situated on the Saigon River and its tributaries with two historical urban centers at Cholon towards bottom-left and old Saigon towards right-center. Cholon was historically inhabited by overseas Chinese and was the largest concentration of the Hoa (Chinese) ethnic minority in Vietnam. Although they were important for commerce with the outside world, the Chinese population was often looked at with suspicion and even hatred by local rulers. As a threatened minority, the Hoa cooperated with outside forces, namely the French and Americans, as a means of protection, which caused them to be targeted again once Vietnam was reunified in 1975.

As for Saigon, the pre-existing city dates back centuries but grew significantly under the Nguyen lords in the 18th century. It was renovated by the French starting in the 1860s to craft it into a colonial city, with a set of new structures including an opera house, a cathedral, and a palace (all near center-right), initially built for the King of Cambodia but later to become the home of Saigon's colonial governors and South Vietnam's presidents (it was damaged in an assassination attempt against Ngo Dinh Diem in the 1960s and rebuilt as 'Independence Hall'). The colonial-style building of the Chamber of Commerce, indicated with a long, thin arrow stretching from top-right, is now the Hồ Chí Minh City Stock Exchange. Also worth noting are the three large park areas in green on the map: the Hippodrome (at left, later the Phú Thọ Horse Racing Ground), Tao Dan Park (right-center), and the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens (at right). Though there is no legend, the map shows streetcar and rail lines running through and beyond the city. The verso (back) includes advertisements for French businesses in Saigon, presumably members of the Chamber of Commerce.
Wider Context
Although undated, this map dates from just after Vietnamese independence and the division of Vietnam according to the 1954 Geneva Accords. French influence was greatly diminished because of independence, but individual French nationals and businesses continued. Some one-fifth of the European population (including British, Dutch, and others aside from French) were mixed-race 'Eurasians' who often could attain a degree of the social and legal rights as Europeans but still faced discrimination from the white population. This era of collapsing French colonialism in Vietnam, replaced soon afterwards by increasing American intervention, has been captured in works of literature and film like Graham Greene's The Quiet American and the 1992 French film Indochine.
Publication History and Census
This map was published by the Chambre de Commerce and the Association Mutuelle des Employés de Commerce et d'Industrie du Sud-Vietnam. At bottom-right is the text 'I.F.O.M. Saigon' but whether this was a publisher, or some other organization is unclear. The date is difficult to know with certainty, but the reference to South Vietnam in the second organization's title indicates that it is from after 1954. Given the rapid decrease in French influence after 1954, it likely dates from soon after that date. The map has not been found by us in any institution's holdings and has no known history on the market.


Chambre de Commerce, Saigon (c. 1867 - 1955) was the main organization for French business interests in Saigon in the era of French colonialism. It appears to have operated briefly following the end of French colonization in 1954 and its final date of operation is unknown. The organization's former building is now the Hồ Chí Minh City Stock Exchange. A new Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie France-Vietnam was founded in 1998. More by this mapmaker...

Association Mutuelle des Employés de Commerce et d'Industrie du Sud-Vietnam (fl. c. 1946 - 1960), initially the Association Mutuelle des Employés de Commerce et d'Industrie du Cochinchine, was an unaffiliated trade union based in Saigon primarily for French colonists. Unlike other trade unions active in Indochina/ South Vietnam at the time, the organization did not have an affiliation with any Communist or Socialist movement, or the powerful Confédération Générale du Travail. Their affiliation with the Chambre de Commerce suggests they were a politically moderate union of skilled professionals. Learn More...


Very good. Previous repair evident at bottom-left margin.