" The toys of 
the Provinces  of France "

This article is extracted from a collection, complete, paged from 181 to 202, thus very short, was edited by Larousse in 1918 in the difficulties which we guess.

IIt is very rare and very difficult to find thèse informations on the toy and it is with pleasure that I make you share this discovery.

Full of informations that I would not know how to retranscribe you so much they are numerous, writtenvery smala, and maybe without evident interest for you, I however found there known nages of manufacturers or for fashion designers of dolls dating of just after the Great War.

They are often dolls in very few copies, of course, but interesting, unknown mostly, or known and inaccessible, of very beautiful quality in spite of the limitations due to the period.

However, a paragraph deserves in particular your attention: The one who hints at the surmoulage of the heads of the sculptor Donatello to realize these charming dolls.

 As you discovered it maybe, I discovered it myself with a lot of interest. Coming from Mister Léo Clarétie, a master in this domain, it is not one " we say " or " I think that " but certainly the true truth. He did not hesitate to communicate his informations which miss us so often.


  In 1914, Germany made a year 90 millions francs (of the time!) of turnover with the manufacturing of its toys. France made with difficulty 16 millions. And we bought it every year to the Germans for 15 millions francs. Such an inferiority, especially in the case in point, was regrettable in several points of view. Because the question of toys is neither frivolous nor unimportant. It appears under multiple aspects: economic, social, moral.

The economic question consists in not letting escape in favour of the foreign market the opportunity to make a big figure of offers, to increase the industrial production and the export, to obtain clauses less discriminated in commercial treaties, to improve the price rate of transport, to modify the customs duties in the entrance of the foreign products to us and the French products to the other nations. This subject would contain a long study.

The social point of view shows us an industry lying fallow which does not supply the work and the salaries of which it would be capable, to the workermen and to the workerwomen  that it should use on much more large number. If only France made itself the 15 millions francs of toys which it bought in Germany ! The former president of the Employers' federation of the French manufacturers of toys, Alexis Chauvin, had calculated that it was some bread for 60.000 workmen and workwomen. That it would be if the joueytière industry French set all its development!

As for the moral point of view, it would be necessary to deny it ignoring all the importance of toys as factors(ma in the education and the formation of the taste, in the aesthetic preparation of the young souls … Kaiser was convinced of it, him who went to the general stores to watch the sale of the small cuirassiers and the submarines for the German youth penetrated of the naval ascendancy of Germany.

The toy and private individual the doll are the first ones and inseparable companions of the childhood. We believe that the small baby deceives it rattle. No, he studies it, observes it, becomes aware of fundamental notions of space, volume. Later, the child does not part from his toy, horse or Baby; he talks with it, lectures it, punishes it, cherishes it; it is its friend, its confidant, its comforter, its close friend one can say.

When the hostilities burst, the French industry of toys and dolls was half expirante, stopped by the German competition.

The revival of the French toy was determined by the war. In 1914, Ladies of the world worried to give of the work to the workwomen of the sewing and some fashion, who stayed without resources.

They made them dress dolls for charity sales. But we noticed that the body of dolls was almost exclusively German. Even in Paris, the big Company of the Baby ( S.F.B.J. ) consisted partially of capital and German shareholders

And so we were brought to create a French chap of doll, which was asked to artists. A model was made by the big sculptor Antonin Mercié; we " surmoula " childish heads of Donatello; a model of art was daylight in the creation of these figurines which are the girls of our daughters …

Among the workers from the very beginning, it is just to quote Ladies Valentine Thomson, Rachel Boyer, Maria Vérone, Mégare, Renée de Viriane, Prevost-Huret, Margaine Lacroix, Désirat Laffitte, Sautter, founder of the federation of the toy, Ferrand, the baroness of Laumont, the company of which took a vast development, Lauth Sand, Eugène Simon, de Rochefort.

As in the time of Watteau and  Chardin, the artists did not disdain to supply in the craftsmen of the models signed Hellé, Rapin, Lepape, Sem, Fournery, Antonin Mercié, Fernel.

If articles so made are still of a too much raised price, it is because the time missed to industrialize them and produce them in series; it will be the progress of tomorrow and many groups work on it : the French Artistic toy, the Feminine manufacturing, The Doll of France, Francia, l'Exile, the Hope, the Bricon workshop, the Polish group of Madam Lazarski, creator of the rag dol being able to give to the girls the idea to make themselves dolls for their taste …

The industrialists looked for a supple and solid material to make bodies, arms and legs of the new doll ( regrettably, there, Léo Clarétie does not give us of indication on  their finds).

The national factory of Sevres, the porcelainiers of Boulogne and Limoges opened workshop for the manufacturing of china heads

All the efforts were made to subject to the public the new models. The Foires of Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, contributed to the commercial development of this galvanized and made look younger speciality.

Shows succeeded one another, in the Pavillon Paillard, in the gallery of Champs Elysées, in the store of the Charity ( sales compétition of France dolls  and the Allies, organized by Le Comte Brunel ) and twice in the Pavillon of Marsan where the presentation was particularly happy and studied with the aim of the adaptation of the executive to the object.

At the same time the regionalism woke up and made be reborn the art and the taste in our provinces, thanks to the initiatives of Madam Las Cases for the lozerian toy, Madam Oster for Auvergne, Madam Paul Simon for Brittany where the school of Quimper was created with the aim of this revival.

The illustration above already appeared, but in reduced size, in a previous communication of 2008 ( The French artistic Toy, Manufacturing of toys by the mutilated, in Bordeaux  (  Click,).  It is with pleasure that we found her in bigger size in the collection de1918 and that we can make it to you benefit.


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December 2011