The French artistic Toy

    Poupendol recently took again, by enriching it, an article which it had already published,
on the Toys manufactured by disabled ex-servicemen of  Great War.

     A reader of Bordeaux, Daniel SALMON, contacted us, indeed, he carries out research on the objects
 made in Bordeaux by the soldiers wounded and remained handicapped.
 He authorized us to publish extracts of his future work

 Poupendol thanks some very highly. .

The manufacture of toys by disabled soldiers,
 in Bordeaux,
during the First World War

    We are in 1916, during the Great War. Many disableds arrive at Bordeaux far from the front, in an area known for its beneficial air. The city has several hospitals specialized in the great traumatisms and a school of rehabilitation directed by famous doctors.

   Some patronesses of Bordeaux, under the impulse of Mrs Leon PROM decide to help the crippled soldiers and create “The Charity of the French artistic toy manufactured by disabled ex-serviceman”. They have then the idea to ask the military painter Job to draw models of new toys.


     Job is the pseudonym of Jacques Onfroy de Bréville. He is a famous illustrator of books for children. He is very known and estimated, even abroad and in particular in the United States to have illustrated the life of Washington. When the Great War arrives, Job has nearly sixty years but his ardour, his talent and his nationalism are intact. He does not  wish  to remain inactive in this conflict which mobilizes all the forces of the Nation. He is filled with enthusiasm for this charitable work and offers many models to it which will allow - according to the leaflet of the charrityshop - the unhappy soldiers, to manufacture wooden toys and “to tear off themself of misery, idleness and the discouragement”.

     The toys are in beech, output with the mechanical saw then are painted with the stencil key set.  The heads   are  manufactured  with stamping désign .The ” Poilu ", the most desired toy, request for it only more than sixty handling. Disabled reached with the upper limbs, even those having only one arm, can “benefit from the important advantages which are offered to them”. They perceive wages five francs per day and take part for the benefits of the company.

    A toy alone is sold between 2 and 6 francs. The animals on casters are worth from 10 to 15 francs. The prices of more sophisticated articles ( cattle shed, arch of Noah ) reach 35 francs.

  This operation makes possible to emphasize the French industry of the toy. Indeed, before the war, starting from Nuremberg, Germany floods Europe. It develops, in this field a turnover six times higher than that of France. However, in this time of extreme propaganda, it is advisable to prepare the brains, including young people; The German toys from now on will thus  be sulked.

     This manufacture of wooden toys  by disableds is rather current. There exist charityshops in Algiers, Lyon, Dinard, Clermont-Ferrand, Limoges and Paris. Most important is “ Toy from France” in Paris. Created by François Carnot, Avenue Montespan, it quickly becomes a manufacture installed in Puteaux which employs disabled ex-servicemen exclusively (See the precedents  Poupendol ).

   For the production of Bordeaux, it does not seem that the diffusion is important. To the difference of its Parisian competitor the “Toy of France”, the catalogues of the Parisian department stores do not announce it. The sale was ensured by the store of charity.  

" La Petite Gironde " ( title of a newspaper from the Bordelais ) pressed the population of Bordeaux 
to buy these souvenirs, specifying however that  
“if stock is considerable our American friends undertake to reduce it to blow dollars”.

Draughtsmen and 

     Always  in full war, with the exhibition organized to Paris in May 1916 by the Central Union of Decorative Arts to the " Pavillon de Marsan ", the section “Artistic Toys ” was very  well commented:

  The visitors admire a village of Carlègle, the frigate of Dauchez, coach  of Andre Hellé and the camp of Tommies by Guy Arnoux. Job does not appear there yet (the workcharity of Bordeaux is not operational). His toys will supplant soon in quality all the others.
    One can notice and commented that this humane initiative is not special in France, In Belgium especially artists for children took part in similar steps of benevolence.
    It is undoubtedly Caran d' Ache who, inspired by his native Russia, will conceive a series of dogs, elephants, bears with mobile head and other animals with casters. His friendship with Job will last until his death in 1909. It is probable that during the war Job remembered the wooden toys  of Caran d' Ache. Such for example this pretty dog.

This composition of a Station of ANTI-AIRCRAFT DEFENCE proposed in a catalogue of a Parisian department store is by Charles Carlègle and Andre Hellé.  The works of Hellé  last appear in the catalogues of New Year's gifts of " Le Printemps " since 1917 and until 1925 with the mention “French Toys manufactured by disabled ex-servicemen. ”


    As you can see it above, the catalogues of New Year's gifts of the Parisian Department stores were made a long time the echo of these productions of our disableds Great War and this during several years after the end of this one.

    Some, like " Le Printemps ", did not hesitate to devote their cover of New Year's gifts to these terrible events

     The exact date of the closing of the workscharities of Bordeaux, not more than the number of manufactured toys, are not known. It seems to think that the death of Mr. Leon PROM, who as  President of the Bank of Occidentale Africa, was to be the generous sponsor has speed up the end of the adventure. It comes at the time of  the beginning of 1921.

        Of this philanthropic and transitory episode there does not remain large-thing: the workcharity does not exist , absorbed by the close of the buildings. The splendid poster of Job, at the head of this site, is preserved in the museums.

    One can admire some toys in the museum of Poissy. The collectors tear off them, when they find some one.....

  Above, drawing offered by Job in 1922 for the luxurious Review of  Tourny Noël.

        Even if the initiative appears limited well in this ocean of suffering which was the Great War, we will have a thought for these disabled ex-servicemen who saw a little their relieved misery, by the workcharities of toys and artistic objects, in several towns of France and Belgium, and in particular in Bordeaux..

                                                    Daniel SALMON

P.S. Our visitors who would wish to take contact with Mr. SALMON will find his E.Mail here:    
 <  >

Any reproduction rights even partial,
rigorously reserved  
 © Daniel   Salmon. 2008