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Already six years ago now, in April, 2002, Poupendol published this study of the Fernand Martin's famous toy " Bécassine Casseuse d'assiettes ". Having been asked for more us by Internet users who remember it but had not registered it, by  others who heard it speaking but had no internet, this inexhaustible and charming subject finds today its place here for the happiness of all the collectors of this small hero more than centenarian,rooted well now in the French patrimony. Good reading, second reading or discovered.

Inexhaustible subject of fascinating searches, Becassine will celebrate her centenary in 2005. Perennially fashionable classic and indestructible among our heroes of comic strip, she carries us along numerous discoveries in unexpected encounters in nearby domains not only of the Doll with Bleuette but even the automaton!

Much more than a simple silhouette, it is the delicious small full person of an hilarious assurance which challenges time. She gave place to very numerous realizations and interpretations of which the most famous is, naturally , the doll realized by Reine DEGRAIS (1), from 1949 - doll in jersey, faggot of kapok and dressed in the famous suit.

However, been born in 1905 of Joseph Porphyre Pinchon's imagination, she inspired very fast and very variously numerous manufacturers of toys.



And so in the " Semaine de Suzette " appeared notably advertisements for one " Bécassine Casseuse d'assiettes " (  p. 143 , n° 9 of April 2, 1914, and p. 159 , n°10 of April 9, 1914, with details given p. 175 , n°11 of April 16, 1914. As regards of an ingenious small mechanical automaton from the beginning of century, it was necessary to look! Nevertheless, Frédéric Marchand's remarkable work " The Historic of Toys Martin " (Publishing " the Motorist " 1987-) and the National Institute of the Industrial Protection helped us there beyond our expectations.

And we discovered Seraphin Fernand Martin, brilliant self-taught, inventor of the first-rate toys of sheet steel, from the end of past century (2). It is indeed he who created in 1912 this new toy the " Casseuse d'assiettes ". Giving up his affair to Georges FLERSHEIM (3), this last one deposited in 1913 the relative patent, under the number 458.560, (asked on May 29, 1913 and issued on August 9). This toy will obtain the Big Price for the Competition LEPINE, which it had not been possible to award in F. MARTIN. This last, big friend of the famous Prefect, was at the origin of the first-rate Competition and member of the jury of the section "Toys"!

Then the Great War arrived. It seems that the " Semaine de Suzette "  stopped the broadcastingof the " Casseuse d'assiettes ". Any more no advertisement appears. In 1915, Georges FLERSHEIM is killed during the attempt of a cannon of his conception. In 1919, the factory of toys MARTIN-FLERSHEIM is resold in the family BONNET. Registration in the Commercial register of the Seine is taken under the naming " Victor Bonnet and Cie, successor of the house Fernand Martin ". Effectively manufacture is boosted, either with new models, or with the former models MARTIN, mechanisms and aesthetics being improved. So our toy is reborn renamed " Madelon, Casseuse d(assiettes ", Bécassine's name having been, meanwhile, deposited and its use subjected to precise financial conditions. The production of the new buyer is henceforth identified with initials " V.B ". (And later " VEBE ").

The patent of this toy describes the awkward person as a " small maid ". It is  not at all " Breton's " question, and even less " Bécassine ". But it seems to think that Henri Gautier, director of the " Semaine de Suzette " in informed businessman, perceived advantages to be fired of the association of this successful toy with the heroine of his newspaper. An agreement had been probably concluded with the manufacturer to diffuse the " Casseuse d'assiettes ", under the name of " Bécassine ". This  Bécassine's  name was deposited   in 1910. But the toy so put up for sale by Publishing GAUTIER, had exactly no " look " of our heroine. The dress was blue or red, and not green - pea. The hypothesis of a series with dress painted in green, red camisole and black rubbans was attractive. Frédéric MARCHAND, specialist of toys MARTIN, is formal : no special series ever seems to have existed. 



 So let us have we two very similar toys. Let us examine them and see their resemblances and their peculiarities. Both are naturally of size, principle and conception absolutely identical.

To the left, still holding the plates Bécassine of 1914.
To the right, V.B's Madelon.

"Fernand Martin" (" F.M. ") is so in sheet steel. In black corselet, in red long skirt or blue - flag with white apron, the quite painted in the hand. She wears on the front a necklace with the catholic cross, these molded and painted in gilt. She has hoofs. Stamped " F.M. " in the back of the headgear, she measures about 17 cms. The key of animation is fixe (4 )
"Victor BONNET" (" V.B ") is slightly different in the presentation: Always in sheet steel, dress with lithographed long skirt blue - sky with white peas. By top, a small dickey with sleeve in tissue of white cotton squared with fine red scores, with collar of white cotton. And a cotton white apron. The chain and the cross disappeared. She wears also lithographed hoofs and measure also 17 cms in height. The key is always fixed permanently.

They are so very close, not to say similar, in some vestimentary details near. Of any manners, it is about the exploitation of the same patent. Only presentation changes, little but enough so that one can easily distinguish them.

Fernand MARTIN


Let us go raise her: The mechanism is the same. Becassine (or Madelon) transports with dignity plates which abruptly jump and fall again, in the big dismay of our hero, whose sour glance upward, takes the sky to witness. The dozen plates (metal fortunately) was always colored shell of egg at Fernand Martin. It seems that Victor BONNET took out them in the same tint, but sometimes dotted with gilded stars (Cf. Frédéric MARCHAND's book). ( 5).

The Patent, conceived by Fernand Martin but deposited by FLERSHEIM is so very interesting. Admire it sharpness and precision. Unexpected document, isn't it?


Any reproduction rights (text and photos) even partial, rigorously reserved © Registration of copyright B.N.F. 1998 official list 4-D4 PER-88



Illustration taken from "La Semaine de Suzette", of July 30, 1914 ; "Bécassine en Apprentissage".


Note 1

First advertisement in the " Semaine de Suzette " of August 11, 1949, n ° 32, page 383

Note 2

This personality outside the common was born in 1849. From the youngest age, he invented and made toys (In nine years he built and sold one "sou" small crossbows to his companions ). In 1880, he installs the first factory of toys, which prospers quickly, so much because of the indubitable commercial qualities of its director, which especially in the profusion of remarkable inventions launches on the market.

Note 3

It seems that one of the clauses of the contract for transfer was the preservation of Fernand Martin's name, and its abbreviation " F.M ", which meets on all the toys invented by the assignor and commercialized by the new owner.

Note 4

Had For a long time we have believed that the " F.M. 's Plates breaker " was, in its time, delivered in a simple limp cardboard, without registration. During a recent auction - Paris-Drouot on December 22, 1995, by M°M° Poulain and Le Fur-we discovered its original box with printings and illustration.

Note 5

See also, " Les jouets de France ", of Léo Claretie 1920, Delagrave, and " L'âge d'Or des Jouets " of Jac Remise, Lausanne 1967