The numerous and vast metallurgical establishments founded and managed by Messrs. Petin and Gaudet rank first in Europe among all factories of the same kind; and we believe that the Imperial Commission did a simple act of courtesy in awarding the first great prize to M. Krupp, of Essen, for his molten steels; if it had submitted them to the conclusive tests which Messrs. Krupp, of Essen, for his melted steels; if it had subjected them to the conclusive tests which even those of Messrs. Petin and Gaudet have undergone in England, surely it would not have assigned to these two eminent industrialists the second rank on its list of grand prizes.
But Messrs Petin and Gaudet understood that on the part of the Commission this was pure deference, and they themselves reserve the right to put Prussia in its rightful place at the first opportunity.
The Society they run has its headquarters in Rive-de-Gier. Its work is divided between several establishments, including industries related to the manufacture of iron: mines, wood and coke blast furnaces, forges, steelworks, and assembly and adjustment workshops.
It owns and operates the Saint-Léon oxidised iron deposit on the island of Sardinia, where 500 workers, called from France or recruited from Piedmont, mine more than 60,000 tonnes of ore each year.
It has a factory in Toga (Corsica), another in Clavières, in the Indre department, and a third in Givors (Rhône); this is the factory which supplies its steelworks with all the cast iron used in the Bessemer process; another at Saint-Chamond (Loire), where the puddling and rolling of all iron or steel parts and all the assembly and adjustment workshops are concentrated; a fifth at Rive-de-Gier (Loire), where all the parts requiring the work of large hammers are forged; finally, a sixth at Assailly (Loire), where the manufacture of steel is located.
The various workshops of the Petin, Gaudet et Cie Company employ a steam force of 6,000 horsepower, employ a population of more than 5,000 workers and produce 50,000 tons of iron or steel annually, representing a total value of 35 million francs.
When one thinks that the two men who direct these vast establishments and give them new activity every day, have created them with their own resources, that they have risen from the humblest ranks of workers to the first rank among the heads of the most important factories in Europe, one wonders if the country will ever be able to honour them enough and pay them a debt of gratitude which their services increase every year. This is doubtful; but fortunately, Messrs. Petin and Gaudet find in the work they have accomplished and the progress they have made in their industry their sweetest and most solid reward.
In a vast pavilion erected at the entrance to the Park, to the right of the Porte d'Iéna, are assembled specimens of all the products of the Company: magnetic oxidised iron ores, rock ores, pisiform ores, refined irons, wood smelting, iron fractures, castings and blast furnace slag. But what particularly attracts the eyes of the crowd is a magnificent trophy of tools made from Assailly steel, a molten steel ingot weighing 25,000 kilos; a steel cannon of 24 centimetre calibre, 5 metres 460 centimetres long and weighing 16,000 kilos. This piece, which is loaded by the breech, was ordered by the government.
We examine, with no less curiosity, the fine iron armour plates, some of which have been subjected to the toughest tests. But the penetration which they underwent was so weak and remained so clear around the central point, the bosses of the rear face were so insensitive, that it was shown that the material of which they are formed combines in the highest degree the two qualities most difficult to combine: hardness and malleability.
We have neither the time nor the space to describe and even only catalogue the seventy-six specimens gathered in the pavilion of the Rive-de-Gier Society, but we must point out: a second trophy made of all the types of springs used by the railways for locomotives and wagons: springs made of assembled sheets, spiral springs and springs of the Belleville system; finally, a bent shaft made of melted steel, a model of the machines installed on the ships of the imperial messengers. This shaft weighs 7710 kilograms. Breaks have been made inside the bend and at the end of one of the trunnions, which make it possible to appreciate the homogeneity of the material.
We have mentioned the tests to which the armour plates manufactured by Messrs Petin and Gaudet were subjected; and we have spoken of their guns without mentioning the tests they underwent. In order that we may appreciate their strength of resistance we must indicate them.
A rifled gun receiving steel projectiles of the weight of 60 kilos fired a first series of 200 shots, loaded with 12 and a half kilos of powder, then a second of 200 other shots with the load of 15 kilos. As the dimensions of the chamber did not allow the introduction of a greater volume of powder, the tests were repeated on a third series of 200 shots with 12 and a half kilos of breaking powder, and after these 600 shots the steel had not been altered in any of its parts.
Most of the famous Armstrong guns would have burst before undergoing a quarter of these tests.
It is understandable after what we have just said, that never has a grand prize been more legitimately won and better deserved than the one awarded to Messrs Petin and Gaudet.
We are astonished that these eminent industrialists who give work without interruption, throughout the year, to a population of 5,200 workers, who have founded relief funds in each of their factories, who, by means of an endowment, have set up a special provident fund, and ensured free medical service to the sick and injured, do not appear in the order of rewards granted to the heads of establishments where social harmony and the well-being of the population reign to an eminent degree.
©L'Exposition Universelle de 1867 Illustrée