The Barrois family was one of the earliest French dollmakers to use porcelain heads. The heads were probably not made by Barrois but purchased from French or German porcelain factories. Eugene Constant Barrois inherited the business from his father in 1847, although he was still a minor and didn't take control until 1852. Eugene may have focused on supplying other dollmakers with heads. Many porcelain heads on French fashion dolls were marked with Barrois' initials, E. B. Since it was possible to commission heads in various stages of completion, Barrois may have decorated the heads. He used such innovations as glass eyes and open mouths on his heads. His chief French competitor in this business was Claude-Joseph Blampoix. Barrois was a main supplier of heads for Jumeau until 1872, when Jumeau built its own porcelain factory.
Paris--Claude Joseph Blampoix
During the mid 1860s a wooden-bodied doll was evolving in France. Blampoix, along with Anqueulle, Jumeau, and Bru, experimented with articulated wooden bodies. Blampoix had started in the dollmaking business in 1839, making leather bodies for German or French porcelain heads. He had become well known and respected in the doll industry by the time he received a patent for his process for inserting glass eyes in porcelain heads. In 1865 Blampoix's advertising listed him as a maker of articulated doll bodies as well as heads. His wooden bodies used tongue-and-groove jointing on realistically shaped arms and legs. These bodies were very similar to those made by Jumeau at this time. In 1868 he transferred his business to Louis Charles Dalloz.
Paris--Bru Jeune and Co.
Leon Casimir Bru, the youngest son of a weaver, sought his future in Paris where he eventually found work with a dollmaker, Serre-Schneider. By 1867 he was able to open his own doll manufacturing business, under the name Bru Jeune, thereby distinquishing himself from others with the same name and expressing his position as youngest son (Jeune=Junior). He acquired bisque heads from Eugene Constant Barrois and asked that his heads be marked "B.Jne et Cie." or "B.J." His first dolls represented adult women in fashionable clothing, designed and sewn by his wife. Bru tried to make his dolls distinctive in the crowded French market. His ideas led to patents for a smiling doll, a two-faced doll, and articulated bodies. While his first heads for bébés had faces similar to those used by Jumeau and other French dollmakers, his second generation heads had fuller and lower cheeks. This face became identified with Bru dolls, although other makers tried to copy it, including J. D. Kestner and Gebrüder Kühnlenz in Germany.
François Gaultier's father worked in a porcelain factory in Berry, near Vierzon and Foecy, France. In 1857 François married into a family making porcelain doll heads in Charenton. Gaultier built a porcelain factory near Saint Maurice in 1867 and in 1872 gained a patent for cutting out and inserting glass eyes in bisque dolls' heads. Gaultier was a main suppliers of heads for Jumeau and other French dollmakers. Many of the heads made by Gaultier are marked with an incised F. G. Gaultier probably made only porcelain doll parts and did not assemble dolls. In 1882, his son joined him in the business and in 1885 François turned over the firm to him and became mayor of Saint Maurice.
Gesland started making dolls in Paris about 1860. In 1872 Julien Ernest Pannier patented a metal armature doll body. Pannier, whose business was making and selling doll clothes and accessories, was not equipped to produce the doll so he sold the patent rights to Eugene Gesland. Gesland padded the metal armature and used a stockinette (knit cloth) covering which he marked "Gesland." The bodies were made in adult fashion doll proportions as well as bébé proportions. It is believed that Gesland bought heads from François Gaultier. The firm operated under various owners until about 1928.
In 1845 Pierre-François Jumeau established in Paris a dollmaking company that would set standards for quality and establish France as a leader in the fledgling doll industry. At this time businesses were very much a family affair. Sons and daughters were expected to help with the family business and to carry the business forward upon the retirement or death of the parents. Pierre-François's family operated a fabric shop in the Remalard in 1837 and Pierre-François decided to become a traveling cloth salesman. His business took him to Paris where he met and married the niece of one of the few dollmakers in France, Lucius-Junius Herissey. The marriage gained Jumeau part of the Herissey business, which had a bright future due to the growth of the luxury trade in France and of international markets, especially in the Americas. Jumeau learned much about the doll industry and was interested in product innovations and changing working methods.
At this time the guild system was still in evidence in France. Toymakers were concentrated in one district in Paris and almost all work was family work. People worked in their homes, and for children the family business took priority over schooling. Doll's heads came mostly from Germany and most dollmakers were assemblers who mounted heads on hand-sewn bodies made of leather or cloth stuffed with sawdust. If the doll was dressed, the clothing was usually stitched on and was not intended to be changed.
After the death of his wife in 1844, Jumeau established his own company. Jumeau recruited about 50 sewers, stuffers, dressers, and finishers who would either work in the shop or in their homes and would be paid by the piece at week's end. Jumeau divided the tasks among his workers according to their talents and for efficiency. Jumeau produced more dolls than the French market could absorb, but with advertising he found new customers world-wide, especially in the French colonies and even in China.
The early Jumeau dolls had papier-mâché (imported from Germany) or wax (imported from England) shoulder heads with human-hair wigs. The French disliked the painted hair on German porcelain heads. Bodies were usually leather and sometimes had stitched fingers. Although Jumeau sold undressed dolls, the optional clothing Jumeau provided was of exceptional quality and detail. Jumeau was an innovator in providing wardrobe dolls whose clothing could be changed. Jumeau provided dolls at a wide range of prices with the clothing constituting the highest cost. By 1848 Jumeau had become the largest doll manufacturer of his time, and in 1851 he was invited to represent France at the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London.
Jumeau Porcelain Factory
In 1872, Pierre-François Jumeau opened a porcelain factory at Montreuil with the sole purpose of making doll heads. At this time his son Emile-Louis took over more responsibilities with the company. Emile-Louis wanted to create a doll different from others on the market. He became increasingly aware that little girls preferred dolls that looked like little girls rather than adult ladies. In 1877 the Jumeau firm introduced the Bébé Incassable, with a Jumeau-made head on a fully articulated composition body.
Over the next twenty years, the Jumeau firm offered refinements to make the heads more aesthetically pleasing or to offer greater realism. Jumeau used heads based on the look achieved for its adult fashion dolls (poupées) for its first child dolls (bébés). The expression is a comfortable, pleasant look, typical of those seen in painted portraits or early photographs, when a pose would need to be held for several minutes while the light exposed the slow film. Child dolls had slightly fuller chins and lower cheeks than the adult fashion dolls. The bébé head was largely unchanged from 1878 to 1899 except for changes in the marks on the back of the head. When matched with the type of body used, these marks are very helpful in determining when the doll was made. The unusual head in this group is the long-faced, or triste (sad), doll that was modeled by Albert-Ernst Carrier-Belleuse and offered by Jumeau from 1879-86. The series of Jumeau dolls shown here illustrates heads with various marks and the range of sizes offered by Jumeau.
Paris--Madame Leontine Rohmer
Rohmer visited the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1855 where she discovered the budding French industry of dollmaking. She patented several improvements for doll bodies, but her most distinctive contribution was a pivoting head in 1858. Rohmer heads turned on an axis provided by a long metal shank that can be seen at the top of the head. The look of the Rohmer was between an adult fashion doll and a child, and they could be dressed in either adult or children's clothing. Rohmer's husband and brother-in-law were mechanics who helped with the articulation of the dolls. Some of the dolls were dressed by Leontine's mother. It is not known who made the china heads for Rohmer. In 1880 the Rohmer family retired from dollmaking.
Paris--Schmitt & Fils
Although we do not know who created the first bébés, Jumeau, Schmitt & Fils and Jules Nicholas Steiner should be considered pioneers. Schmitt & Fils had been making toys since 1854 in Paris. In 1878 they exhibited bébés at the International Exhibition. They may have had their own porcelain kiln as they held a couple of patents involving the manufacture of porcelain heads, as well as an 1879 patent for a jointed all-bisque doll. They also could have commissioned Jumeau to make porcelain heads for them, as some Jumeau records suggest. Schmitt & Fils made a jointed composition body which had a distinctive flat bottom that made it easier for the doll to sit.
Paris--Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets (French Society for the Fabrication of Dolls and Toys
In 1899 several French dollmakers and one German toymaker combined their resources to become a syndicate called, Société Française de Fabrication de Bébés et Jouets or S.F.B.J. as it is known to doll collectors. Salomon Fleischmann, a German doll and toy manufacturer, had established his company as the main supplier of German toys and doll parts in France by the 1890s. He also moved to Paris, married a French woman, and established a doll assembly plant there. His dolls were inexpensive but attractive to a growing number of middle-class customers.
His contacts with struggling French dollmakers led him to propose the S.F.B.J. syndicate. The owners of such respected firms as Jumeau, Bru, and Gaultier as well as several minor firms were convinced by Fleischmann to contribute their assets including trademarks, patents, factories, materials, and machinery to the new syndicate which would be directed by Fleischmann. All of the contributors had failing businesses, largely as a result of German cost-cutting competition, and were ready to leave the business. Jumeau and Fleischmann contributed the bulk of the assets and many of the new S.F.B.J. dolls were old Jumeau dolls, that had been more economically produced in Fleischmann-directed factories.
Fleischmann selected from each manufacturer the items which sold the best or were the cheapest to make. New creations were also added to the S.F.B.J. line, with new patents and trademarks. Although Fleischmann was forced to leave France during WWI because of his German citizenship, the S.F.B.J. company remained a competitive force in the doll industry until the 1950s, when plastics dominated. S.F.B.J. was slow to transfer production to this new material which required costly equipment changes.
Paris--Jules Nicholas Steiner
On Steiner's first patent, issued in 1855 for a mechanical doll, he listed his profession as a clockmaker. By 1858, he had married a dressmaker and established his mechanical toy business. Steiner, like Jumeau and Schmitt, was fascinated by the challenge of creating an articulated child doll. By 1875, he had enlarged his workshop and was making jointed dolls with bisque and soft parts. He may have added a kiln to make his own porcelain heads or he may have commissioned Gaultier to make his heads. His bodies were first carved of wood, but he soon began using molded composition. Steiner leased his doll business in the 1880s to J. Bourgoin, who continued to run it under the Steiner name. Steiner occasionally contributed to the business until his death in 1902.