A Piece of History in Paris: Pellissier Jonas & Rivet

Entrance to Pellissier Jonas & Rivet, Paris

Entrance to Pellissier Jonas & Rivet, Paris

I came across the arch above on one of my Parisian wanders. It’s the entrance to a factory that no longer exists at 49 Rue de Bagnolet, near Père Lachaise. It attracted my attention because it is a rather lovely portico and because of the fact that I have no idea what the factory behind it would have looked like. I thought I’d do a bit of hunting to find out what this piece of history in Paris meant.

The first reference I could find for the company Pellissier Jonas & Rivet was on a Patents website for a fur carroting process, which, as you can see in the pdf in the previous link refers to a way of treating animal fibres so that felt-like properties are imparted to them.

Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter

Fur carroting before this time used mercury, which of course caused major problems for the workers using it. As I’m sure you know, the phrase “mad as a hatter” comes from the behavioural changes caused by mercury poisoning. Jonas & Rivet’s new process made use of a selection of acids  instead (presumably better for the workers (?)) .  The company is described as being an American hat making company.

Pellissier refers to the occupation of fur garment maker, so we can deduce from that they were either manufacturers of the felt for the hats or the hats themselves. They had branches in the US and France, as indicated in the picture at the top of the page.

Felt hat from early twentieth century

Felt hat from early twentieth century

In a Tariff Hearings document presented to the US Congress House Committee in 1908 the company appears in the name of Pellissier, Jeunes Rivet, Brooklyn, NY, so we can guess that they had a factory or head office in that neighbourhood and can only wonder why Jonas isn’t there. Or perhaps Jeunes is just a misprint or mishearing of Jonas.

Louis August Jonas was the Jonas of the firm and he made sufficient money that his son, George E Jonas, founded the Louis August Jonas Foundation in America. It provides opportunities for young people. He also founded Camp Rising Sun in Red Hook, New York. George (aka Freddie) was also a partner in the felt manufacturing firm for a time.

In 1953 a report appears in the Kingston Daily Freeman newspaper that the company’s plant in Walden, NY is up for sale, so they obviously had at least one other plant in the States, and I wonder if it was around then that the company wound up? And I wonder when the Paris workshop closed? And who was Rivet? I haven’t been able to find anything on him yet.

So what’s the point of this post? Simply that curiosity and noticing things are what keeps travelling and wandering the fascinating occupations that they are. The fact that the portico is still there means that someone somewhere decided it was important or attractive enough to keep it, even as the area around it developed. There are still traces of the past to be uncovered and isn’t it interesting to try to do that?

 

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13 thoughts on “A Piece of History in Paris: Pellissier Jonas & Rivet

  1. Lovely post, and a reminder that I have not been to Paris for way too long;the mad hatter and his tea cups image; and great summing up of the pleasure of travelling with curiosity and straying off the beaten track.

  2. Thanks for this research. I am the Historian for the Village of Walden, and we have been curious about this firm for a long time.

    1. Hello,

      As I explained in another message below, I am actually working (for my Master thesis in France) on the correspondance of the french guy who founded the american branch of the company your great great uncle, Louis August Jonas, managed after him.
      His name was François Rivet and he arrived in the US in 1891 to built the first factory in Brooklyn, NY (in Stocktown street).

      I would be more than pleased to hear from you. If you have any interesting informations you could or want to share about him or the company I give you here is my e-mail adress to contact me: fannyjsalmon(at)gmail.com.

      Thank you very much!

      Cordially,

      Fanny Jeanne Salmon
      French student in North American History (Sorbonne, Paris)

  3. Interesting post. I was a camper at Camp Rising Sun in 1968 and found your web site while browsing for information about the camp’s history. I would interpret the name change from Jeunes to Jonas as a U.S. immigrant’s attempt to make his name more acceptable in an anglophone environment. I suppose Louis August (a very French sounding name) emigrated from France and that he maintained his business partnership with Mr Pelissier and Mr Rivet in Paris while setting up a factory in New York. Jeunes, meaning “young” is a common name in France (as is the literal translation in anglophone countries).

    1. Hello,

      I think I would be able to answer to a lot of your questions on the subject. First: here is an article on the factory of the Pellissiers in Paris (it is wrote in French, sorry, but with pictures! It was an article made by a french journalist of le Monde).
      http://lafabriquedeparis.blogspot.fr/2012/12/les-poils-de-lapins-de-bagnolet-et.html

      I am a French graduate student of North American History in Paris. I work especially on the correspondances of François Rivet who emigrated in the US between 1891 and 1905 and who founded the American branch of this company. Pellissiers were two brothers (“Jeunes” means young in French as someone already noticed here, they were the second generation of this prosperous business), they were Rivet’s cousins.
      They were cutter of hatter’s fur which is only a part of the process of making hats. They had two factories: one in Paris and one in Brooklyn, New York (you could see the picture of the Brooklyn’s factory taken in 1900 and another of the one they had in Paris on the website I indicated above).

      So, has I said, François Rivet built the factory in Brooklyn around 1891-2 while his cousins were runing the factory that already functioned in Paris.
      After 14 years spent in America François Rivet and his relatives left (in 1905), but he kept an eye on the American branch because a member of the family stay in Brooklyn until 1910 (this what we know) to run the factory. Louis August Jonas, was an American (yes, yes, he was not French!). He took part to this company and stay associated to the Pellissiers until the mid’ 30’s. Actually Louis August Jonas died in 1915 and his son, George Edward Jonas, took his seat.

      Rivet retired in 1910 and died much later (in 1927) but his grand-son, André Chauvard, had been later associated to the Pellissiers(in the 30’s). He was the last one who ran the compagny in Paris (the factory was sold in 1957).
      The Pellissiers and the Rivet were from Auvergne, in the center of France. In Paris, by the end of the 19th century, they had a lot of connexions with the middle of fur mannufacturers. They exported in Brooklyn, a “savoir faire” of fur cutting exclusivly to provide the felt hat needed by Hatters in America.

      I hope it was usefull for you all! I guess I would be happy to heard form you: to know if you find out more in American about the Pellissiers and Rivet company!

      Kind regards,

      Fanny Jeanne Salmon

    2. The name is definitely Jonas. It’s German. Louis August Jonas was one of many children (I think ten) from the Rheinpfalz region of Germany. There were seven sisters and I believe three brothers. Louis’ brother Julius Jonas was my great-grandfather.

      1. Also, I forgot to mention that Louis was born “Ludwig” in Germany. There were originally 11 children in the family (born to Abraham and Rebekkah Jonas) but one child, Julianna, died at the age of 3.

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