Monday, February 22, 2016

Givet, Gambier and Blanc Garin Clay Pipe Manufacturing

The town of Givet in the French Ardennes, 

The Meuse river flows through Givet

a town that pledged allegiance to King Louis XIV of France in 1678

a town of strategic importance, it was reinforced by Vauban,

Fort de Charlemont as reinforced by Vauban

a town that inspired the English painter William Turner,

Givet by Turner, 1839

Givet by Turner, 1839

on the border between France and Belgium,

records in 1720 a clay pipe manufacturer under the name of Agnès Denison. An enterprising immigrant from nearby Namur in Belgium she found in Givet access to a very special kind of clay. Pipe makers from Gouda had, as early as the 17th century, identified the derle or marga argilacea from Andenne as perfect material for making pipes. The clay would be loaded on barges that made their way down the river Meuse... 

The Meuse river around Namur, 1650

or up to Givet. In turn, Givet's priviledged location also made it easy to deliver her production with Brussels and Maastrich less than 90 miles away... 

To top it all, Givet was a garrison town that created a ready demand for her pipes among soldiers.

The French artillery corp, the bombardiers was created by Louis XIV in 1668. Note the seated bombardier smoking a pipe. Printed ca.1880, Paris by Firmin Didot for Racinet

In 1780 Jean Gambier from Dieppe came to town and set up the Gambier clay pipe manufacture. 

The Art of Clay Pipe Manufacturing 1771

In 1817 his son Joseph took over and it is around that time that the characteristically French figural pipe bowls ("Têtes de Pipes") appeared. 

In 1831, the caricature of French King Louis Philippe and his progressive transformation to a pear was published in the satirical paper La Caricature, delighting opponents of the regime and attracting the wrath of the King, leading to prison sentences for famous caricaturist Honoré Daumier.

The famous cartoon of Louis Philippe as a pear, drawn by Honoré Daumier after the sketch by Charles Philipon and published in La Caricature in 1831

Gambier was quick to create its own version of the caricature...

Extremely rare caricature of King Louis Philippe after Daumier's cartoon. Courtesy Musée Carnavalet, Paris.

the production and distribution of which were soon declared illegal by the French courts...

Courtesy Musée Carnavalet, Paris

In 1834, Gambier  introduced what would become its most popular model,

The most popular Gambier pipe was the Jacob introduced ca 1834

Eleven models would be offered (N 3, 9, 948, 998, 1008, 1008 Bis, 1498,...)

On the 16th of June, 1834, Jean-Claude Blanc Garin and Jean Baptiste Guyot set up their clay pipe making operations in close proximity to the Gambier compound.

The Blanc Garin Factory in the forefront, a glimpse at the Gambier factory top right hand side

In January 1837, Jean Claude Blanc Garin died. Marie-Thérèse, his wife, also known as Veuve Blanc Garin, stepped in, bought-out Jean-Baptiste Guyot's thirty percent share, 

secured a 10,000 Francs bank loan and brought in Charles Blanc-Garin, a relative, as sale director.

Charles wasted no time and, in 1838, Blanc Garin became the first pipe manufacturer in Givet to print a catalog. 

(Lith. L. Lacourt à Givet)
There were 271 different models


with a preface written by Marie-Thérèse Blanc Garin (or Charles?) that demonstrates an aggressive commercial vision, some of it squarely directed at Gambier:

"The manufacture of pipes known around the world under the name Veuve Blanc Garin employs around 120 workers who manufacture 15 to 20,000 pipes a day. 

The collection of its models is composed of what is the most novel as of today and a selection of those is presented in this catalog.

Its vast and convenient location made it possible to double the number of its workers without the quality of its product ever being affected.

The kilns, built using a new process, bake with a whiteness and sharpness that can not be found in most other manufacturers given that those manufacturers use coal ("charbon de terre") for the baking.

The belgian pipes marked 46 PV and JC are of particular interest given their ability to easily season ("facilité à culotter"), fast and black. The clay is imported from Belgium and Holland with the utmost care and cleanliness.

Its warehouses being always abundantly stocked with pipes of all kinds allow for prompt shipping of purchase orders which are fulfilled with exactitude and without inclusion of products that were not ordered.

The breadth of its trading across France and foreign countries is a proof of the superiority of its products that compete with those of other manufacturers on the very grounds on which those other manufacturers stand.

The shipping crates are very well finished and constructed from poplar wood or fir tree: in one word, no detail is neglected so that ladies and gentlemen merchants and customers be satisfied."

Voltaire. N° 245

Bédouin. N° 233

Mathieu Lamberg, Astronomer. N°258

Gambier responsed by producing its own catalog in 1840.

Blanc Garin's quality of execution and savvy marketing brought the company international recognition. The company released its first (and only) pipe d'étalage to be displayed by its most deserving retailers.

Pipe d'étalage of Abd el Kader, marked "BLANC-GARIN & GUYOT A GIVET , Height: 10 inches (25 cm)    "Courtesy Amsterdam Pipe Museum
In 1848, Gambier and Blanc Garin employed a total of 330 workers, rollers ("rouleurs"), molders ("mouleurs") and trimmers ("tramasseuses" or "trameuses"). 

A year later, at the Exposition de la Seconde République (aka l'Exposition Nationale des produits de l'industrie agricole et manufacturière) in Paris, Gambier presented this pipe d'étalage commonly known as La Cinquantenaire. It was awarded a gold medal.

the Roller, Molder and Trimmer Team

Gambier and Blanc Garin would continue to offer new models often driven by the popularity of men and women of the time.

From Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo in 1853
advocating the end of poverty and misery in front of the French Parliament,

Victor Hugo by Dantan for Gambier in 1849

to Napoléon III who took the power from this very Parliament by force,

and whom Hugo called "a traitor to France".

Engraving of Napoléon III for the Exposition Universelle of Paris in 1867

In 1860, Gambier opened a sales office in London.

Covent Garden Market, ca 1860

After the sudden death of Charles Blanc Garin in 1866, the surviving partners decided to sell to Gambier in 1867. 

In 1868 Gambier was at the height of prosperity, employing 600 workers and  manufacturing 2,200 grosses (316,400 pipes) per day. [Nivoit, "Notions élémentaires sur l'Industrie dans le département des Ardennes", Jolly, 1869] This amounts to 3.7 grosses per worker, compared to the 1.2 grosses per worker recorded by Blanc Garin in 1838.

Diane de Poitiers by Gambier, 1865-1885 - Height 10" (25.5 cm); diameter: 8" (20.5 cm) Courtesy Amsterdam Pipe Museum

Gambier printed a second catalog in 1868.

Gambier catalog 1868

Le Christ by Gambier, Courtesy Piasa-Collection Mazaleyrat

 Gambier had to shut-down its operations during the war of 1870. 

French soldiers in the Franco–Prussian War 1870–71

After the war, Gambier faced a shrinking global demand for clay pipes in the face of the growing popularity of briar pipes and cigarettes. 

1880 Paris Opera House
 It employed 410 employees in 1880. 

1886, pour les Pipes Aristophane J. Gambier

Warning to Smokers, Pipes Aristophanes Terre Endosomoide by J. Gambier, Paris with a warning against counterfeit pipes with names such as AMBIER, AMERIE, ANNIER

 Models were specially created for the British market.

Queen Victoria Golden Jubilee Pipe - 1887 and Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield Pipe by Gambier

In 1890, Gambier bought a pipe manufacturer in Lyon, Noël Frères.

That same year, the Duc d'Orléans gained wide popularity , when he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to two years in prison -  but not before he had made a declaration that moved every patriotic Frenchman. In a vibrant voice he cried out in court:"Prison will be less cruel than exile, for this prison will be on the soil of France",

Photographer: Walery, Photographer to the Queen, Regent Street, London, ca 1890

Gambier quickly capitalized on popular demand.

Le duc d'Orléans "Ier conscrit de France" Gambier Clay Pipe 1890, L. 5cm/2" ; H. 5cm/2", Musée Louis-Philippe, Eu, France

Gambier still employed 216 in 1900 when it received a special mention at the Exposition Universelle of Paris:


Mme veuve Hasslauer, de Champeaux, Quentin père et fils, clay pipe manufacturer, in Givet (Ardennes)

This enterprise is over a century old, its foundation dating 1780. It is the manufacturer of the famous Gambier pipe. In 1900, it was the only one exhibiting clay pipes. Thanks to its engraving, chasing and custom order departments and their wonderful tooling, the "maison" Veuve Hasslauer, de Champeaux et Quentin, has successfully covered all the themes and created an infinity of novelties. This manufacturer can be considered as the first, as much in France as abroad, for the manufacturing of clay pipes. The products on display had the merit of presenting, in a charming way, the whole range of pipes, from the simplest to the most artistically molded.

The international jury further described the state of the clay pipe industry in France:

Currently, only three large clay pipe manufacturers survive, namely the Gambier manufacturer (widow Hasslauer, de Champeaux et Quentin succession), in Givet; Fiolet in Saint-Omer, and Souffaire, in Onnaing (Northern France).

These operations employ, together with smaller manufacturers, between 700 and 800 workers, producing around 1,200,000 francs worth of pipes per year, a third of which is exported.

Production is quite substantial, if one takes into account how little an individual pipe costs.

Clay pipes are still manufactured using old methods. The raw material is, as has always been, clay, that was used in the old days in a quasi as-is form and is today refined, in order to manufacture smoother and more elegant end product.

Progress achieved in this manufacturing process consists in artistic moldings of the bowl and the production of polychrome pipes, an innovation attributed to the Widow Hasslauer, de Champeaux et Quentin manufacture.

After the closure of its London office in 1896, Gambier turned its attention to the U.S. market, covering political campaigns,

William Jennings Bryan pipe made by “GAMBIER A PARIS”. Mold Number 1683. Bryan was running against William Taft in the 1908 U.S. Presidential race. Pfeiffer, Gartley, and Sudbury (2007)

William Taft (1909-1913) pipe made by “GAMBIER A PARIS”. Mold Number 1684. Pfeiffer, Gartley, and Sudbury (2007)

In 1909 Gambier employed 102 workers.

Location and drawings of the Pipe manufacture, as of 1914

During the first World War, and while the briar pipe had become a favorite of the French poilu, the clay pipe remained in favor among French soldiers.

Gambier stopped operations in 1926.

Key milestones and estimates of Gambier's workforce from Guy Declef ("Terres Ardennaises").

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