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History of the plcs Decamps

Here is the history of the maison Roullet Decamps.

Text written by Ms. Cosette DECAMPS

Dear readers,

I have the very great pleasure to talk to you about the subject that is most dear to me: the programmable controllers. They have occupied and filled all my life and I will tell you about from the point of view of the manufacturer.
The manufactures which we have occupied, my husband and i, was founded by my great grandfather: Jean ROULLET.


The genesis of the maison DECAMPS

How do I become a manufacturer of automata to 19Th Century?

There is no undisputable Jean ROULLET to this kind of business. It is do to it is composed are owned by BOURGEAT, small village in the north of the Dauphine in 1829.
I am sure he never heard the word "automata" when at 16 years, participating in the great movement of the peasantry toward the city, he arrived in Paris as I told my father, having yet to the straw in its hooves and not knowing neither read nor write.

While misdirecting himself, he learns a very good business, that of tool and die maker, i.e. the one that created the tool to be used to cut, stamp, coin. What is the starting point for any manufacturing mechanical.
His marriage with Françoise Midon, daughter of the merchant district of the Republic will facilitate its establishment. In 1865 the worker Jean ROULLET installs to its account in the marshes in the heart of the small Parisian industry as a mechanic toolmaker.

What were the other manufacturers in the 1800s?

Around him for jewelry manufacturers, bimbeloterie, toys. A 3 minutes walk from his workshop in the street of the four sons is the street of Montmorency in which we are not less than 10 manufacturers of mechanical toys.

Among them is Theroude, the oldest manufactures of mechanical toy automata of the 19th century whose name has come down to us. Founded in 1832.

Madam Barbara Spadacini has published in the magazine "toys and dolls" a very in-depth study of the implementation of Alexandre Nicolas Theroude, highlighting its intense creative activity. A score of patents are the witnesses.

It is pleased that we have these witnesses because the opens of Theroude is a little underrated. Thus it was very rare that we are being offered a plc in us saying: I have a Theroude to repair.

It is possible that a portion of its production is at the present time assigned to other manufacturers. It is known primarily for its mechanical subjects who were advancing in rolling and running various movements. Yet he created of the plcs much more complex, often of magnitude and nature of the groups of musicians running with games of organs.

Jean ROULLET has certainly well known Theroude, perhaps even has you there it worked for him. It is always the case that forced to make the tools and mechanical parts for toys, it was in its turn, want to create its own models, in association with one of her clients Mr Lamour, crimper. He went out a small subject who progressed by pushing a wheelbarrow. The movement of the market was carefully reproduced, and the wheel of the wheelbarrow ensured stability. Presented at the international exhibition of 1867, there he received a bronze medal.

Through this toy, we see that Jean ROULLET was a man of the metal. All the elements: the body, the legs, the wheelbarrow are pressed metal, only the head is in porcelain. It is also a modern man who believes in the machine. Its tooling allows him important productions in series at inexpensive prices.

Dr. Porot has found a very amusing article devoted to toys presented at the exhibition in 1867, in which the author's advice to Mr. Steiner to apply the processes for the manufacture of Mr ROULLET to arrive at prices that are not also prohibitive for his horse and its mechanical dolls.

Thus we learn that the small gardener costing 8 Frs 50 cts and manufactured by the processes Steiner, it would have cost 20.

If this small subject had a body which was akin to a metal pipe, it felt was not because he was dressed in costumes of satin which gave him the varied appearances. One of those who I have left is dressed in a costume of polichinelle. The brilliant success of this toy made him the subject of our fetish home and the emblem of our trademark.petit jardinier

The same principle could be applied to animals, but also to the subjects more major as this beautiful lady called "doll marchante" which the broad skirt could hide the stabilizers.

In 1868, the house à1870 Lamour and ROULLET figure in the trade directory as "toy factory automation systems patented". The terms "commission export" which are in addition of the 1869 show the importance taken in very little time by the manufactures.

The association Lamour ROULLET was of short duration, it ends in 1870. Jean ROULLET continues alone.

In manufacture new addition to the mechanical toys by the old processes. What are they, these former processes?

Presumably those of the style Theroude or the subjects are mounted on carts, and also of "parts has music" that is to say the automatons.

As well the small peasant des Adrets is become a Mr. who has gear on street: It is a manufacturer of automata.

In 1879 his only daughter Henriette marry his leader of workshop: Ernest Henri Decamps, and our trademark will be filled later by 2 letters: R D above the small gardener.

At the time, be manufacturer of automata has nothing of specially original, and I can give you a few names known and less known, there were certainly many other.

Among them we saw Theroude, ROULLET, the third head of displays, of course, this is Vichy. Gustave Vichy had a path more comfortable that Jean ROULLET. His father was watchmaker, he manufactured the workings and mechanisms for the toys, but also toys automatons. After the death of his father, he is installed in 1866 street of Montmorency, next door to Theroude.

He will bring to his manufacturing a lot of research in solid mouvementage and of mechanisms of watchmaking, focusing its production on the PLC more than on the mechanical toy, while ROULLET will continue always to carry out the two in front.

Gustave Vichy had to successor in 1906 one of its workers, Mr. Triboulet. The subjects of the latter have not always had the distinction of those of Vichy.

Other names are gradually forgotten, may be because they had no successors after 1880. This was the essence of the watchmakers.

Borel who in 1867 mixed pleasantly clocks and plcs, specialist of the dancers of rope, his works are presented in the book of Mary Hillier: "Automata and Mechanical toys ".

Desrosiers was in 1865 of the mechanical parts in music and the tables with mechanical clock in the tradition of the 18° century.

At the same time Maltete is announced as a manufacturer of mechanical toys, cocks and hens sing with Cree natural.

By Thibouville against is well known for its organs. In 1871 it is said only organ manufacturer to plcs with figures of monkeys.

After the war of 1870 appears Jean Phalibois. Las also we have a watchmaker who is recycled in the PLC. As Borel, it will house its subjects from globes, placing them on pedestals moldings similar to those of the clocks. This are often small scene has two characters. He also made as Bontemps pendulums to songbirds.

This was a very end manufacturer who with his son Henry, design of complex models, in particular the escamoteurs.

If Leopole Lambert appears only in 1889, he was already well before in the plc since it was foreman at Vichy before to settle into his account.

In a universe also restricts the mutual influences were inevitable, and many models are of the same inspiration. I want to for example these 3 smoking: a ROULLET, a Lambert, a Vichy.


As well, how can we discern the manufacturer if no signature appears on the PLC?

For the one who is "in the bath" the shapes of faces and body talk. Each manufacturer had its molds and more or less his style. But also several hundreds of different models. automate-4

Impossible to know all those faces by court. The only part of the plc, which is both constant and characteristic of each manufacturer, this is the mechanical. The mechanical does not lie, but it is invisible to the inside of the body or in a cradle (which is a lesser evil, because it can without damage open the bottom of a cradle, it was generally more than once).
For those who have access to the inside of the body of the plc, another recognizable element is the plate, which is the plate of mouvementage of the topic. It door brackets and levers, the form and the metal selected for the implementation of these elements vary depending on the manufacturer and also according to the times. The turntable may sometimes help to date the plc.

Is it possible to date a controller when there is no specific document?

In regard to the creations of automata ROULLET Decamps, there are some indices; we address these challenges on the shift to student their manufacture and their evolution.

Let's review the different creations - ROULLET DECAMPS:

The creation of the plc, its inspiration, is often exotic or theatrical. Unlike its rival the doll who is dressed as his "little mother" and sought to assimilate to the child, the plc him looks right out of the operetta. It is page, marquis, troubadour, bergere … Actor mute it is intended to be always in representation, a good place in the lounge, it will be its small number during family meetings. For it to do are effect without being too bulky, its size will average 50cm to 70cm.

When we reached these dimensions, it is no longer a question of metal body, and Jean ROULLET should it use the cardboard mold by hand. The starting point of a model is always its sculpture. Any factory of plc has its sculptor who is also molder. The clay is covered with plaster to create the mold that will be made of several parts in order to allow a easy demolding. Everything is mold up to the lesser accessory, such as for example the butts of this harp.

The molds are part of the wealth of a factory and the jealously kept the book, or they are listed. These valuable mussels are handed over to the "cartonniers" which are generally of cartonnieres. Some of them work in the factory, the other at home. Therefore, it is by having the body, the head, the hands of the subject that the mechanic fitter will begin to create his mouvementage. This is not a mechanical that we dressed to a body, it is a body with the lively.
In its early stages Jean ROULLET appears to have difficulty to bend to this principle. Its first models have a certain naivety, the subject is steep, the body is functional with a bust very long, almost cylindrical, essentially practical to accommodate the mechanical because the subjects are rarely on pedestals.
A much greater research is provided in his black player of the flute.Noir joueur de flute 1 This beautiful plc of 1 m 50 contained a small game of organ which might have just been from home Thibouville. The standoffs on the cylinder actuating the reeds of the organ also passed the movement to the fingers, which played as well in extent. Legs and hands in carved wood. Frames following the same principle, Zouave and Hussar were in custody to you, they measured 1m40.

automate-9This was not the models very childish. The division at the time is fairly clear between the PLC and the "toys" that animals are the merchants and sautants. The plcs are rather childish really animals. We cannot say that smokers who were privileged subjects have been designed for children. Here is a gentleman who is not only smoking, but also smoking his dog. One of the first models of plc closest to the child since he represents, is the girl in the piano. A small girl actually absorbed easily to one of her dolls but in gala dress. It date approximately from 1880. la fillette au piano
For the child also we create small scenes at its scope: the mill from the Chat botté, the bear sentry (the teddy bear, sentry or not, is always a favorite) and the intention of the small girls romantic: The Spanish serenade, the babies to the chat, the rooster, the bird has been a nice animated dolls to the heads of porcelain.
The clown in the cap is the first topic that the elegance of gestures is accompanied by a certain exquisiteness in the position of the legs. The closer we come to the end of the 19° century, more the importance given to the anatomy and to the grace of the attitude increase, witness this clown in balance on the rope and the malicious small clown on the moon.

automate-11 automate-11-(2)

This research in the elegance given to sculpture reaches its peak when the eldest son of Ernest Decamps, Gaston, a student at the school of decorative arts will have their say in the around 1900, which we will be worth: The charmeuse crêpe of serpent at the beginning of the 20° century. automate-12

To customize the topics, a particular care will be provided to the head, the body being much more interchangeable. Executed in cardboard, animated movements of eyelids, eyes, mouth, eyebrows, they will be sheathed in a end e layer leather for black models of the most ancient and the teeth in os will be located.
End 19 Th Century it abandoned the carton mold for the benefit of the staff with a basis of plaster, because it is easier to seal the mechanisms inside.

It is often the female characters or romantic who have porcelain head, on the Pifferari toy of harp, a very beautiful Twin has the elongated oval. For its heads the house is mainly provides home: Gauthier, Twin, Rabery Delphieu and later at home: Simon Hallbig, Limoges.
These heads will induce error in many of those who wrote on the plcs and Leie led "plc Twin" of the plcs ROULLET DECAMPS or other by relying only on the mark of the head, outside, in reality, different plc manufacturers to curtain experimented of twin, but Sister does never constructed of automata. On the contrary, when in 1892 the house ROULLET DECAMPS went out its patented models of dolls merged marked: Baby the intrepid, Twin made a special mold or was serious the password: Fearless and the 2 letters RD behind the head.

I know that the collectors attach less importance to the body of their doll that has their head. I must say that, with regard to the mechanical dolls this is a bit of a shame because the head is often not of origin while the corps with his mouvementage retains its authenticity and its value, the mechanism of a doll walker is not a thing so simple. One of the intrepid baby stopped to operate the that the feet of the doll were based more on the ground. It could as well be layer or sitting without it being necessary to make use of a detent . A year after the baby mechanical, the House took the patent system of the baby which launched its front leg when we gave a slight rocking motion to his bust.
Our dolls that represented a very important part of our production "toys" are almost totally unknown at the present time and assigned to other manufacturers. Here are a fearless which is still its key RD and which is yet quoted as doll Simon Hallbig because of its head.intrépide BB 2

I am very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Porot to have done a study of their subject and thereby placed in light this other aspect of the manufacturing process of our home.

automate-15Among the one that I had as a child, here is Toto and Tata, inspired by the cartoonist Poulbot, the kids of the butte Montmartre. We began to manufacture before 1914 and that lasted for 20 years.
In the field or the dolls are the queens, the animals are the kings. Ours were Marchant, current, jumping, piezoelectricity, when driving alone or hitched. They came out of their niches (patent in 1886) of their box of milk, their cabbages, etc. They are carefully covered with natural skin. The goats in kid death does, the rabbits in skin of rabbits, sheep and dog in lambs friezes.
The peacock walking turning the head, making the wheel was covered with real peacock feathers. In order to emplumer hens and roosters, a female worker was going all morning at merchants of poultry of neighborhood or the live chickens were awaiting their fate.
Of that a poultry was killed, it was collecting the feathers taking care to separate those of the body, the head and the wings. HAS almost a passage in oven, the feathers were glued one by one on the carton, and the animal perfectly reconstituted could push his-doodle-doo or lay an egg.
The son of years and of the catalogs, the models are additionnerent without almost never subtract to arrive at the respectable number from 511 in 1911. Dolls (not included)

This sustainability in the models is one of the factors which does not facilitate the dating of some of them. Let us take theautomate-16 Engraving which represents the valseuse, it is already at the time an old model since it is 2, and that there are 163. Also his costume thee it still reflects the mode of the second empire, long size, hair in the neck, slippers laced very high on the ankle. Between this time, say shortly after 1870 and 1900 it will change 3 times of costume but not of body or to movement. The behold in 1900 reading updo and crêpele, dress has fancies, slippers ballerinas. Thirty years separate approximately this manufacture of the first, only a fragile costume in natural silk and a head in porcelain that can so easily have been destroyed we allow for the date.
The valseuse is one type of case, we have seen fortunately all at the time that the sculpture of the body was changed in ROULLET Decamps, the chosen themes also.

End 19° century you abandon a little the bergeres louis 15 for the benefit of the clowns. The clown in the table presented here of the most remarkable models. The table changed 3 times of drawing with thin strips of paper which are superimposed. Around 1900 it is inspired by outright arts news.

Here is the famous dancer: the Bill Fuller and the clown Little Tich.

loi fullerautomate-18

This evolution in the choice of topics will be that our new creations is eloigneronst gradually of the child.


The great Hercules has been specially created for the universal exhibition of 1900 of after this that I was told my father, who was 18 at the time.
There is decline, opens the hand, the closes on the dumbbell and high it to end of arm in recovering, all with a perfect realism. By the quality of its movements, and by its large size, it deserves almost the name of phobic. Through him I already feel the influence of my father on the manufacturing of his parents.The best example being the charmeuse crêpe of snakes.

High in the National School of decorative arts in Paris, his studies allowed him a without fault in the proportions and attitudes of his future creations of plcs, whether they be human or animal.
The research of the perfection of the movement, the beauty plastic will be its goals. It will express perfectly in a short sentence: "The PLC should be a lively sculpture" and it will achieve beautifully with: the human snakehomme serpent Creates a little before 1930 and that figure since 1934 at the museum of arts and crafts to side of 2 other of its models which will be in the same vein, but in toy: THE elephant walker and the creeper Panther.

In addition, the inventive spirit of Gaston Decamps has always pushed to seek new ways. In 1909 an event of global impact, the arrival of the commissioning Peary at the north pole was the trigger for a momentum that continues: The creation of the first showcase of Christmas.

G. Decamps had the idea to propose to the shops of the good market in Paris a reconstitution with the automata of this spectacular arrival. Ridding the showcase of its garlands of light bulbs, he created behind the icebergs a effect of Aurora.

Has its small scale this upon arrival at the Pole had a very large impact, and from this date, the major shops and french foreign sooty have "their" showcase for Christmas.

A new rite was born. This showcase of "historic" it remains the project, a gouache discreetly colloree visible at the museum of cliff.

After the war of 1914 during which my father had the grief of losing his brother who was also his best friend, the plcs are scinderent completely of toys. They are resolutely for the shelves, to the publicity. Small subjects to music, the dolls merged, the animals drinkers, smokers or makers of soap bubbles continue to be manufactured in series up to 1930, 35 or 40 depending on the model.
After 1945 only the animals were kept next to the plcs electrical.
The designs and creations of several major scenes and their facilities in Paris London or Brussels became as important as the manufacturing of mechanical toys. The dolls always merged "Intrepid" see their fragile porcelain heads replaced by the celluloide.

All the toys french face a fierce competition with the German production of lesser quality but also much less expensive.

At plc, a single competitor, the JAF (toys and automata french) headed by Mr Acurcis which bought Triboulet, himself successor of Vichy.

Between 1940 and 1945 the company languished, lives on its stocks of metals because they are confiscated and also found that the potatoes.

The large department stores to refrain from showcases lively, young workers are required by the STO or go underground to escape it.

In 1945, Paris began to be reborn and the first showcase of Christmas will put in scene " les animals celebres " according to the drawings of Jean Eiffel. The cartoonist is in effect to the mode (its displays the Eiffel tower appellant de Gaulle "my grand" is anywhere in Paris).

The young buyers of large American stores are rediscovering our mechanical toys and we get the much-envied card "exporter" which requires a turnover of 5% for the export.

In the choice of their lively scenes of Christmas, the Galeries Lafayette practiced the alternation. After Eiffel, it is the turn of Peynet with "the heavenly orchestra", after Peynet, artist Albert Dubout "the marathon of the dance" and then to new Peynet with " le dream of Christmas", "the marriage of the doll" or even "the serenade to the fairy" .

Each year brings its share of creations for the major stores americans: Saks in New York, Marshall-Fields from Chicago, Dayton of Minneapolis. vitrine Saks New york

Belgium is not in rest and the Brussels Innovation decorated its throne hall of St Nicolas with mischievous elves and fairies of after Jean Eiffel.

For the spring in Paris, we dive two years of suite inthe adventures of Tintin.

This work of creation with the directors of the shelves of stores which are also artists was absolutely fascinating and exhausting because always performed in the emergency. Regardless of the vagaries of a manufacture without constantly renewed, the curtain was to rise the first week of November as inexorable as the three shots of theater.

The latest very beautiful storefronts are moving closer and closer to the show because we were equipped with very large decorators of theater as Lila to Nabili who worked for the Paris Opera and premiered the scenery of a magical poetry for "the queen of the snows" la reine des neiges

These glitzy entertainment offered free of charge to passers by the major department stores declined in the 1970s to be replaced by puppets to son less constly and who had the advantage of putting in scene dolls and teddy bears available for sale. But this was not our business.

Of the toy on the market the japanese arrived in force. In 1958, at the International Exhibition of the toy of New-York , i caused me to go to the obvious, minis cubs drinkers facts of drawn sheets running with small motors to batteries plagiaient shamelessly our teddy bear almost grandeur nature to the clockwork mechanism to and on the packaging Japanese it is well its photo contained therein.

No need to try to beat us on the niche price and quantity, we had what we were really interested: the creation the "sheep to five tabs". This was perfectly to my husband Georges Bellancourt.

Already in the 1920s, my father realized a elephant grandeur nature who could walk of the children on his back through the spokes of a large store in Chicago, or a lion grandeur nature to play with Raimu in Tartarin of Tarascon.

His most beautiful broken head, my husband the OTC to Patrice Chéreau. In the resumption of the Tales of Hoffman at the Opera of Paris which he presided in the implementation stage, Chéreau wanted the character key "Olympia" is a true plc and a non-singer mimics the plc.

Olympia was to move, cartwheeling, well on sing, accompanied his singing of the appropriate actions, and finally break. The whole being remote control. The voice of the singer was broadcast by the PLC, what the diva relegated in the basement appreciated little.

For the time it was a remarkable creation, but also exciting as are the sheep to 5 tabs for their creators, they are rarely profitable.

I had to find a solution that would enable me to ensure the abyssal hollow of the third quarter.

The idea was asleep since the 1960s. The house Roullet-Decamps founded in 1865 was going to be 100 years. One hundred years passed to the 10 of the street of the Royal Park in the heart of Le Marais, which at the time meant especially old buildings filthy and poorly maintained.

Property since the war of national education, this former hotel particular of 17Th Century between court and garden had seen better days, he still had a very beautiful painted ceiling at 1ER Floor as well as a remarkable wrought iron rail.

Funds from the cupboards we ressortimes the plcs in Jean Roullet for the install on the first floor under the painted ceiling. Dulcimer Player, flutist, major topics in costumes Louis XV and well as for other controllers found placed in front of the beautiful wrought iron rail.

Projectors and sono were ready, the journalists do we did not default, and a tremor in the public opinion has been reflected in the visits he had soon channel by groups. We announced in the media the nights where we would do our show.

This work lasted several months. The number of visitors was considerable.

Now, all the years, we programmerions exposure into a city of France. We had more of a time accompanied by exhibitions of French sales in large stores abroad : Dallas, Montreal, Osaka… We serve of attraction.

After 1981, this activity abroad disappeared but we the continued in France. Despite this small help, we feel well that our type of business based only on the creation of exception was sentenced. Commands such as the animation of a sea urchin in gold for Salvador Dali or valuable Harlequin musicians for the jeweller Mauboussin and some rentals of automata could no longer do live the six people who were still at home Decamps.

Yet, I could not resolve to the disappearance of the house R. D. .

Several hundreds of mechanical toys and automata ages of 50 to 120 years in prevented me. Based on the success of our "performances of automata", the idea of a final location of exposure was needed. I was leaving with a very simple idea: The historical monuments have numbers of buildings which are never visits because there is nothing to see inside.

I had an interesting collection but no financial possibility to offer him shelter. I suggested relating to exchange one against the other.

Has the national historical monuments fund, housed in the beautiful hotel Sully rue St Antoine in Paris, I received a sympathetic reception, and the list of prefects and architects of the historical monuments of all departments in the south of France i was released.

We were looking for a region to vocation rather cultural and very touristy the summer to ensure the maximum input to our future museum in a minimum of time to avoid the wear of the automatons.

The Dordogne and Lot, country of the Chateaux and the prehistoric caves, won the palme. The small town of Souillac possessed an abbey-church built in the 11th century whose reputation was more to do.

In a radius of 50 km was all that was more renamed in castles and prehistory.

The very young Mayor of Souillac, Alain Chastaignal and slew them tooth and nail to get the collection. With the State, no exchange was possible. This was therefore the purchase of the collection that was signed by Jacques Lang in 1985.

The abbey had been abandoned in favor of a former hangar at tobacco. Rectangular building well, easy to arrange but no charm which apolozise the cloister. In the spirit of Alain Chastaignal and mine, it was a first installment. It remained in effect several large animated scene and all the related items from 1920 to 1970.

These scene were to find their place around the cloister in the great halls in length.

We patientâmes several years… In 1992 the buildings where they were stored were sold and i had a year to vacate the premises.

Renouncing Souillac, I resumed my quest. In an interview (journalists like decidedly the plcs), i spoke of my project for the establishment of the "museum of the showcase of animated Christmas". This article appeared in the journal of the orphans of Auteuil, attracted the attention of a senator of Normandy which alerta the mayor of cliff, the little town that saw William the Conqueror. The latter was pummelled and shaved during the invasion of Normandy. Since its reconstruction, the mayor had a building of 500m² unoccupied.

The project was in my head for years. It was very simple: to present the scene of Christmas, it had to be replenished the facades of large department stores in the style of the time with small shops intermediaries to give an atmosphere of street.

Apart from the scenes presented, a part of the premises would serve to explain the process of manufacture, would be in a "home Decamps" symbolic or would be all the same present: a corner of sculpture workshop, casting, mechanization, decoration and trim; rendered the more living possible by the presence of dummies workers.

During the feasts of the anniversary of the landing in 1944, madam Anne D'Ornano, president of the general council of the Calvados inaugurated the opening of the museum of the showcase of animated christmas, renamed for the future English clientele "Plc avenue".

Although the restoration work on the scenes presented to Cliff have brought a reprieve to the maison Decamps, i owed the close in 1995.

She had duration 130 years but does not disappear completely.

Of the small gardener to Olympia, four generations had done live this company, combining technical expertise and creative imagination, faithful mirror of developments of french life during 130 years.

But the house Decamps will not completely disappeared, two museum in show: the national museum Decamps to Souillac and Plc Avenue to Cliff.

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