International Exposition of Paris 1867

Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts

April 1, 1867 - November 3, 1867

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Class 20 - French and foreign cutlery

Class 20 - French and foreign cutlery at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1867

Cutlery is one of the industries that have made the most progress in the last twenty years. Mechanical processes, increasingly employed, have given precision and uniformity to the pieces manufactured; ingenious inventions have made the armhole simpler and more solid; the complications of the mechanism have been reduced, the use of springs avoided, and means of sawing and pressing the handles discovered. The stamping of steel sheets, the plating of iron, that is to say the substitution of iron for steel in the inactive part of the tool, have made it possible to lower the prices. They are still relatively high in France, but in Sheffield, Namur and Sollingen, manufacturers have reached the extreme limits of cheapness.

Class XX includes five categories under the heading of cutlery:.
1° Table knives, table knives and forks with precious metal blades;
2° Closing cutlery which includes spring knives of all kinds;
3° Cutlery with fixed blades, consisting of hunting knives, daggers and sharp knives of various kinds for use in many professions;
4° Cutlery including scissors of all kinds, secateurs, etc;
5° Razors.

Paris is the centre of fine cutlery. As early as the Middle Ages, the capital had guilds of cutlery makers, handle makers, engravers and gilders on iron and steel, who excelled in the art of chasing and damascening gold or silver. Their successors did not degenerate. Paris has only two hundred and sixty-nine cutlers employing only three hundred and twenty workers; but their products are so remarkable for good taste, elegance, perfection and often novelty of form, that their manufacture is famous throughout the world. The diversity of the operations in which they are engaged may be judged by their simple enumeration. They are divided into blacksmiths, file makers, temperers, grinders, stampers, cutters, adjusters, blade makers, piercers, sharpeners, handle makers and assemblers, welders, engravers, chisellers, damascene makers, ironers, polishers and wheel turners.

The first gold medal was awarded to a Paris company, Touron-Parisot. A student-worker in the workshops of Nogent (Haute-Marne), Mr. Parisot took over the business of Mr. Touron in 1839, and is today president of the Chambre syndicale des couteliers parisiens and a member of the Legion of Honour. What earned him these distinctions was the important modification he introduced into cutlery by associating with it the goldsmith's trade, which had until then acted separately. The pieces are assembled, engraved and chiselled under his supervision, according to models composed by him. We noticed in his exhibition a beautiful Venetian dagger, in the style of the Renaissance, with a pierced blade, with a steel guard inlaid with enamelled gold; two carving pieces whose ivory handles represent Mars and Minerva; a steel damascene toolbox; several closing knives with chased gold, mother-of-pearl or onyx fittings; a steel case with a fine gold damask blade; a knife with a damask blade, with a renaissance head taken from pieces; two chased chatelaines, the ornaments of which are taken from pieces, one in the renaissance style, in steel applied with gold, the other in the neo-Greek style, in silver applied with gold. Mr Parisot puts elegance into everything. He had the singular idea of raising the popular knife known as the Eustache to the dignity of a work of art; and, without changing its form, he made a spring-loaded Eustache, with a delicately carved wooden handle and chased steel fittings.

Cutlery and goldsmithing are also successfully cultivated by Messrs Cardeilhac, Languedocq and Marmuse jeune.

Mr. Marmuse aîné has devoted himself to perfecting sliding shears, pruning shears and fruit pickers.

Mr. Jules Pillault produces solid and inexpensive table knives.

Hunting knives, shears, table and pocket cutlery, leg of lamb handles and gardening tools are produced by the important Picault company, whose founder, a simple worker, did not have a hundred francs in savings when he set up in the rue Dauphine. He knew how to reduce the cost price by improvements in detail and new arrangements. Thus, by saving steel through the use of a grooved back, in which he fixed the blade, he managed to deliver razors at nine francs a dozen!

Mr. Luneteau's speciality may seem at first sight to be quite limited; it is that of nickel silver and silver knife ferrules; however, he distinguished himself sufficiently in this field to have attracted the attention of the jury, which awarded him a silver medal.

We have said that production in Paris is limited: it hardly exceeds two million, while that of Thiers (Puy de-Dôme) and the surrounding area amounts to no less than twelve million francs and delivers annually to the trade forty-eight million manufactured pieces, pocket knives, table knives, razors and scissors. Served by numerous waterfalls, easily supplied with coal and steel by Saint-Etienne, the factories of Auvergne are placed in the most advantageous conditions.

Formerly very crude, their manufacture has improved considerably, as the exhibitions of Messrs Charlet and Cornet, Sabaiier frères, as well as the collective exhibition of the workers of Thiers prove.

After the Puy-de-Dôme comes, in the hierarchical order of production, the Haute-Marne, for four million francs. It is Nogent which supplies blades to the cutlers of Paris. Silver medals were awarded to three of these manufacturers: Mr. Lécollier, for razors; Mr. Vitry, for scissors, knives and secateurs; Mr. Girard, for serpettes, secateurs, cleavers and slicers. The jury rewarded their razors. Messrs. Sommelet and Wichard, in Courcelles (same department), take steel in bars, and cut it, stamp it and improvise, so to speak, scissors with mechanics. They were rewarded with a silver medal for this invention, for which they made great and serious sacrifices, and which occupies a place in the series of improvements in cutlery.

Those who, before the establishment of the railway, travelled the route from Paris to Poitiers, remember that at the Châtelleraut relay station the coach was beset by women who insisted on offering knives, scissors, penknives and daggers. They were alternately insinuating or almost threatening; they followed you in the streets, at the table, ubique; they literally put the knife to your throat. Woe betide the traveller who did not have the strength to resist! He soon realised that he had only junk, and swore, but a little late, that he would not be caught again.

The cutlery of the district of Châtelleraut had fallen into disrepute; it was regenerated by M. Mermilliod, in Prieuré, commune of Cenon (Vienne), who obtained the gold medal. M. Pingault, of Châtelleraut, deserved a silver medal for the good and robust manufacture of his table cutlery, his razors and his sabre blades; but we would have liked better than a bronze medal for MM. Pagé frères, whose razors, table and kitchen cutlery, do not raise less the ancient reputation of Châtelleraut.

Among the French cutlery makers, let us also mention M. Guerre, who maintains the old reputation of Langres; Messrs Robert and Collin (Charrière house), who join the great manufacture of surgical instruments, that of knives, scissors, razors and gardening instruments. MM Granje jeune, David, Gimel, Cotte-Pradel, Daclos-Gonin, Archimbaud-Sannajust, of Thiers; M. Dufrêné, of Cannes (Alpes-Maritimes), whose razors resist so well to all causes of chipping; M. Aubret, of Pans, whose objects of small cutlery and polished steel have great elegance and finesse.

Great Britain did not give this time with all its forces: the cutlers of this country whose factories have coal and iron at their doors, and which supplies France with half of the steel it uses, are represented by only six exhibitors. The first gold medal was won by Messrs. Brookes and Crookes, although they did not show all that they could have done. All their wares are beautifully polished and well made; the knives and penknives are firmly held in place; but other manufacturers should have come to support the glory of Sheffield, twice honoured in 1855 with the great medal, for steel hardware, the usual tools of the various industries, saws, chisels, augers, files, planes, tools for curriers, locksmiths, mechanics, farmers.

The cutlery of Solingen (Rhine Prussia), sent knives, foils, knives, and Messrs. Kratz and Herder, who reach the ultima Thule of cheapness, were well worthy of silver medals. The knives, razors, penknives and scissors of Messrs. Banine, Farisséeff, Gorschkoff, Kaliakine, Kapoustine, in Pavlovo, government of Nijny-Novgorod, district of Gerbatov (Russia), attest the progress of Russian cutlery. As for the cutlery of Constantinople, Ismit, Brousse, Trebizond and Andrinople, it has not declined, but it remains stationary. At the Universal Exhibition of 1867, where England seems to have abstained, it is ultimately France that wins: Even if there were an influx of English cutlers, it would win because of the grace, the exquisite taste and the originality of its products.

©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée