France circa 1880
An Ile du Diable prisoner of war mahogany and brass cigar cutter made in the form of a guillotine.
Height 12 in (30 cm)
Île du Diable is rocky and palm covered. It rises 40 m (130 ft) above sea level. Its development as a penal colony was begun in 1852 by the government of Emperor Napoleon III. The island is surrounded by rocky promontories and shoals, strong cross-currents and shark-infested waters. Landing on the island by boat is so treacherous that prison officials constructed a cable car system to connect the island to the nearby Île Royale. They used the cable car for years to travel the 180 m (600 ft)-wide channel between the two islands.
Île du Diable was first used to house the prison system’s leper colony. With no understanding of the cause of leprosy (now also known as Hansen’s disease), nor means of treatment, societies isolated its sufferers. Well before 1895, the French converted facilities on the island to house primarily political prisoners.
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