Nothing is so curious to study as the origin and successive developments of a great industry.
I always remember seeing, at one of the last parties given by Mr. Gail, spread out on a velvet cushion, like a precious relic, the workman's booklet of the famous founder.
This booklet was as dear to him as a gentleman to his parchments: it was his entire beginning, all his sufferings, all his struggles, and it made the final triumph more appreciable. It was the memory of the first attempts and of the vast combinations cherished like a dream that was later to come true so wonderfully.
When Mr. G. Picon invented for his own use, and without aiming in any way at fame, his drink now known all over the world, he had no idea that he was laying the foundations of one of the greatest industries on earth. He called it "his tisane", and this "tisane" he offered to his friends, advising them to replace with it the absinthe whose fatal effects he had personally experienced.
The "tisane" has made its way: the "tisane" today sets in motion thousands of hands, it fills millions of glasses, it makes the machines of four colossal factories located in different parts of France and Algeria hum; it uses the work of an army of workers and the intelligence of a whole staff of engineers and distillers!
Herbal tea" is the family treasure of the honourable Picon house, and this treasure, far from growing old and diminishing, is constantly being perfected and renewed, thanks to the intelligent zeal of the modest and illustrious inventor.
The Picon pavilion at the Exhibition alone expresses the success of the famous liqueur.
On the esplanade of the Invalides, at the entrance to the Quai d'Orsay, close to the Concorde station of the Decauville railway, there is a ravishing Arab mosque, all studded with gold and glass, with its dapper dome, its polychrome stained glass windows and the inviting bay of its double Romanesque door, which is always open to visitors.
At the back of this little temple of hygiene, a white marble dresser where the instruments of sacrifice are displayed, muslin glasses, bottles of Picon bitters free of counterfeiting, topped with their glowing capsules and covered with their golden label on which a hand, wide open, proclaims the sincerity of the product as a sign of the trademark.
It is to the intelligent and enlightened initiative of Mr. Bouchy, the skilful director of the Rouen factory, that we owe this elegant construction.
Continuing the traditions of his family, Mr. Bouchy was keen to carry high the old reputation of our national industry.
It is difficult to give an idea of the admirable installation of his factory, of the order which reigns there, of the improvements which are daily brought there and it is pleasure to see the zeal and the devotion which brings in the execution of its task a true regiment of employees, workmen, collaborators in various capacities, under the higher direction of an elite intelligence.
Former officer of the active army, veteran of the African wars. Mr. Bouchy has brought to his new position all the loyalty, activity and firmness he had acquired in his first career; we can be sure that he does not let anything leave his vast sites that is not carefully controlled.
Very well assisted by his brothers-in-law, who manage with great skill the no less important factories of Marseille, Bordeaux and Bône, Mr. Bouchy is more particularly concerned with supplying Paris and the northern region.
It cannot be disputed that the Picon pavilion is the most successful and attractive example at the Exhibition of facilities created by individual initiative.
Mr. Bouchy felt, like the generous and unfortunate Commandant Hériot, that the country should derive some glory and some profit from the work of its children. While the other exhibitors only offer their products for a fee, he offers his free to all. It seems to us that the government has not taken sufficient account of his military generosity by forcing him to pay octroi duties for a liqueur that is distributed free of charge to all those who are altered at the Exhibition. We therefore hope that M. Rouvier will reconsider this error and that he will either authorise M. Bouchy to sell his products at the Exhibition, or exempt him from paying octroi duties. It seems to us, in fact, that when a French industry has acquired such importance as to be able to untie the competition of the whole world, we owe it some recognition from the national point of view, and that it is a false calculation to want to impose exceptional contributions on it, under the pretext that it has been exceptionally successful.
Thanks to the generosity of Picon, the two or three hundred thousand daily visitors to the Exhibition can see for themselves that they have a better appetite and feel more at ease when they have tasted the famous Algerian drink. Moreover, if one wants to be edified on the harmlessness of the bitter Picon, one must refer to the day of July 13, during which one saw, to the applause of the crowd, a whole line of pink babys, one of which was still at the breast, gaily absorbing, as usual, the paternal aperitif, and we doubt very much that the tiny inventors of other aperitifs would risk giving such proofs in support of their claimant leaflets.
We are too exposed to daily poisonings not to thank the house of Picon for the services it renders to hygiene, and we cannot pay too much tribute to the inventor of this anti-fever and aperitif drink which is gradually replacing the perfidious absinthe in the usual consumption, while declaring, which seems to us to be a duty, that the too numerous counterfeits of this liquor are even more dangerous than the green liquor.
A doctor with whom we spoke these last few days about the danger to public health created by the imitations of the great brands told us verbatim: "I would go so far as to prescribe AmerPicon in certain cases, if I were sure that one went directly to representatives to obtain it, but more often than not one buys under this name a solution based on high-dose aloe or even strychnine, which has of the authentic product only the colour and which alters the economy instead of stimulating the vital functions.
Picon's efforts have been amply rewarded, and the company has won major awards at the twenty-six exhibitions where its products are shown.
But success arouses jealousy: a number of pseudo-inventors have claimed to have discovered the secret of the composition of the brown liquor which borrows its curative virtues and pleasant taste from the plants of Algeria; they have only succeeded in obtaining a more or less similar colour and in replacing the simple products, carefully sorted and meticulously studied by Mr. Picon, with chemical products.
Relying on the good sense of the public to do justice to the frauds and counterfeits of which they were victims, Mr. Bouchy and his associates let it go on for a long time; but in the face of the protests that came from all sides, they were anxious to help educate their clientele and teach them to discern the authentic Amer Picon from the falsifications, which is why, without hesitating to make any sacrifice, they are offering free tasting of it in the magnificent monument we are presenting.
And to conclude, we send our best wishes to the Picon house, which already has its place in the Pantheon of French industry.
©Bulletin Officiel de l'Exposition Universelle de Paris 1889