In 1764, the King of France Louis XV
awarded a group of entrepreneurs in the town of Saint-Etienne
|Cassini's map of Saint-Etienne in 1764.|
the monopoly over the manufacture of all weapons for the French troops as well as any request from foreign governments, the American insurgents, the order of Malta or the Compagnie des Indes.
The Royal Arms Manufacture of Saint-Etienne (MAS) was born.
|Grenade launcher with grenade, Manufacture de Saint-Etienne, 1760|
12,000 weapons were being produced each year when French Revolution happened.
|Musket Modèle 1777 in service from 1777 to 1826|
|Detail of the Musket Modèle 1777|
The city was renamed Armsville during the revolutionary period and production increased to meet demand of the revolutionary army fighting at the borders against the Royalists supported by European royal families.
The French Empire saw the production increase threefold to meet the needs of the Napoleonic Army in its conquest of Europe.
In 1838, the annual production was well over 30,000 firearms.
In 1854, army captain Treuille de Beaulieu designed a remarkably powerful pistol
that would be standard equipment for Empereur Napoléon III personal guard, also known as l'escadron des Cent-gardes.
|Cent-gardes parade on the Champs-Élysées by Paul-Albert Girard (1869)|
In 1864, a modern factory was built, new steam-powered machines were installed
|The Manufacture in 1866-1868|
and the first military standardized bolt-action rifle, the Chassepot, was produced from 1866 on,
|The Chassepot in service from 1867 to 1874|
then the Gras rifle after 1874.
|Gras M80 Model 1874 rifle in service from 1874 to 1886|
The MAS began manufacturing the MAC-designed Lebel rifle in 1886.
|the "Lebel revolver" in service from 1892 to 1960. It was the standard issue sidearm for officers in the French military during the First World War.|
In 1888, the Manufacture Francaise d'Armes et Cycles de St.Etienne started operating under the trade name Manufrance , the first French mail order company.
It mainly specialised in shotguns (Robust, Falcor, Ideal, Simplex)
and bicycles (Hirondelle);
however, they covered other products, ranging from fishing rods to household items, such as wall clocks and pipes...
|Briar, meerschaum and porcelain pipes in the MAS catalog ca 1900|
Most of the products sold by Manufrance were made by third party manufacturers, then labeled and retailed by Manufrance. The above pipes were most likely manufactured in Saint-Claude, less than 120 miles away.