Originally, in 1901, the competition created by Mister Louis Lépine, Prefect of Police of Paris, is  not called  " competition "  but  " Exhibition of Toys and Fancy goods ".
In 1900 the small manufacturers of toys and fancy goods nevertheless considered internationally as their quality and their inventiveness, suffer in particular from the German competition. This small business sector is especially concentrated in the district of the Temple and ifs manufacturers, independents of course, sell hastily various knickknacks in the various districts of Paris, in particular on the main boulevards  to the great displeasure for all the shopkeepers of the capital center

Mister Émile Laurent, General Secretary of the police headquarters, is alerted by the disorders caused by these small manufacturers and informs his superior of their slump. The prefect, rather than to multiply police patrols, sets up in 1901 a competition and exhibition of toys and knickknacks to make better discover their work and as a result regulate the business of street. He drafts the regulation, informs the press and publishes posters to attract numerous candidates in October, 1901.

 Mister Émile Laurent has then the idea to make the competitors of a legal protection benefit against the plagiarism: this free patent registration makes the inscriptions stream: 370 candidates present for this first edition of November 23rd, 1901 more than 700 inventions in the big hall of the Commercial Court. The exhibition of the games and toys, the hardware store, the items of furniture, housework, sport, mechanics, T.S.F, photography, attracts 125 000 persons !
Originally, a jury (elected municipal, academicians, scientists) distributes 50 medals ( golden, ruby, tans ) and reward the 7 000-francs first prize in cash to the inventor in party game, the mister Challes.

The next years confirm this success. The competition " Lépine " and the Society of the Small manufacturers and French Inventors, the SPFIF, ( become the AIFF, the association of the inventors and the French manufacturers) and becomes the organizer of the competition from 1902.

The article which Pouyloubrin proposes you today is from La Vie Illustratée on 1901, year exactly of the implementation of this famous competition, the newspaper of November 8th number 160 of the same year. " Approximately one month ago, the prefect of police Mister Lépine, whom the happy imagination is always on the alert, made placard in Paris attractive white lisérées posters in the municipal colors: blue and red. These dashing sheets informed the public that a competition of toys was established, which would be closed from 10 till 20 November and for which the Parisian small manufacturers could be registered until October 31st ". Yet, now we learnt at the end of last week that Mister Frémiet, sculptor, member of the Institute, Commander of the Legion of Honour, was among the competitors. We went to strike the door of his workshop.

«-Is-it real, my dear Master, with whom your made compete to the street vendors of Paris for the competition of toys ? »

 He dimmed the head to fix his glance over the circle of his glasses and says
« I am not going to compete because it is for them that I work »

 And he shows us the toy which it was occupied with modelling just now. It is a monkey to the strangely meaning face which has just discovered a pot where cooked a jar on the fire. It is beaten by a dented top hat, holds the lid of the left hand, plunged a leg into the pot and pulls of the jar with its right foot a head of chicken which it considers, the opened mouth, already in appetite.

Mister Frémiet, who does not like losing his minutes, started again modelling. From time to time, he takes advice of a plaster.

« But you work according to a model ?

«-Perfectly. A toy takenout of my hands has to have the same degree of perfection as any other work. It amuses me, it amuses me a lot, it amuses me enormously, but I work very conscientiously. This model is the molding from the macaque which died there is a few weeks in " the Jardin des Plantes." -

 »And the hat  ? »

Mister Frémiet straightens the head, looks at me and without a fold of the face quivers, because he is a surprising deadpan type, he says to me coolly :

«- This hat, Sir, in the cabossage near, it is the one of a painter, of one of my colleagues of Institut, who  was done quite specially by him, with quite small edges, quite flat, any goshawk…. it is very attractive … It goes very well to my monkey. Do not you find? »

 Mister Frémiet moves back slightly, winks, takes a little wax which he adds to the hat and raises slightly the edge, the famous flat edge so expensive to his colleague of Institut and who goes so well to his monkey.

«-Who gave you the idea to collaborate in this exhibition ?  »

«-Oh ! The idea does not come from me…. it is the Manager who asked me to make something, and who also made this request for Coutan, for Detaille and for Gérôme. This poor man Gérôme, he does not suspect what waits for him. You indeed understand that it is necessary of the color above, the tones, which have a very big importance. Then well, I thought of asking for collaboration with Gérôme.»
" And to whom you will ask  for the mechanism, because your toy, doubtless, will be articulated ! »

«-Certainly, it will be … But it's ont my business. You understand it is for the vendors of streets. " Mon singe à la marmite ", well ! It belongs to them to find the mechanism. I deliver them a model. They will arrange with. Sir Director did not ask me to articulate my toy. »

EAnd as I apologize for having interrupted the work of Master until ask him to pose in front of the objective of my friend Louis Piston and as I thank him for the patience, he says, by holding out me the hand:

«-But not, do not apologize, it is me who thank you. I assure you, this story amuses me, it amuses me enormously. It is likely, as long the expression of the macaque is funny and alive that this  story  will amuse not less the public. And Mister Lépine, one more time when will open the Exhibition on November 24th, will have deserved well of Mister Roujon - excuse me, Sir Director - of the good people of Paris.
. »

H. de Waroquier

Mister Roujon, manager of " Les Beaux Arts ", after agreement with the Prefect of Police, Mister Lépine, had asked four artists, di primo cartello,  Misters Frémiet , Gérôme, Coutan and Detaille, to execute each, for the competition of November 24th, a  toy, left in it conception, in their imagination. Mister Frémiet establishes the model because the manufacturers of toys will have to, we know it, articulate the artistic toys of a very funny " singe à la Marmite ". Mister Gérôme, him, imagined the most graceful toy of the competition. It is a delicious Greek doll, selling, included in a basket of wicker, tiny modern dolls. In the right hand raised in an attractive movement, she holds a small policeman provided with the famous white stick. The doll was executed wax and measures approximately 60 centimeters in height. The hair is  blond and the body, of an elegant and supple jet, is dressed in a tunic of gauze cremate falling harmonious folds on her slim feet. This charming model will be offered in prize to one of the prize-winners of the competition, and the prize-winner can make reproduce, or reproduce himself, the doll in such a number of copies which will suit him.

Very small history::

In 1900, in front of the difficulties met by the small manufacturers of toys and fancy goods, due to the foreign competition, the prefect Lépine takes the initiative to create in 1901 a competition and exhibition of toys to remedy their slump. The prefect Lépine, assured during his life  his support with public authorities and facilitating administrative procedures. Originally, the competition rewarded for a 100-franc prize ( gold francs of time! ) a small innovative manufacturer of toys or hardware store.
Since 1901, the competition Lépine constitutes a major event. It will make live in Paris impossible economic revival of the small manufacturers by creating this first one
 " Concours Lépine "
The prefect Louis Lépine is also for the initiative of the driving licence, the traffic circle, the speed reduction in town and the bright stick of traffic. As a matter of fact, a prefect of our time.


" La Vie Lillustrée ",  October, 1901 - March 1902


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June 2012