To begin with, it is worth making a list of some details (especially dates) taken from the accounts set out in Part I, adding further details from other sources.
-ca.1843 Louis Abram:
Mr Bougnol, known as Andrivet (from Saint-Paul de Fenouillet) met a shepherd that was smoking a briar pipe; in a short time he produced ebauchons and finished pipes.
-1849, Paul Émile Poitras:
F. Vassas discovered that in the Pyrenees and other places in the Mediterranean briar wood was used to carve rough pipes, and so decided to start up a business in briar pipe manufacturing.
-ca.1850 from the article Note sur l'Erica arborea et sur l'emploi de ses souches dans la fabrication des pipes by Auguste Chevalier in the Revue de Botanique Appliquée & d'Agricolture Coloniale, 1927:
According to Vincent Davin, Honorary Vice-Director of the Marseille Botanical Gardens, pipe manufacturing was established around 1850 in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet in the Eastern Pyrenees.
-ca.1851 from the Rapport de Natalis Rondot sur l'Exposition universelle de 1862, 1863:
from 1851 briar pipes were produced in Saint-Claude.
-1853, from the newspaper, Le Pantheon de l’industrie, 1883, an article entitled La fabrication de la pipe written by Vernier:
It is in around 1853 that the first, simple briar pipes appeared in France.
-1854 from the newspaper Le Peuple, 1929, an article entitled Les industriels de la pipe de Saint-Claude written by Eugéne Morel:
It is in 1854 that briar pipe manufacturing was established in Saint-Claude.
-1854, Theofile Laurent:
In 1854 the first briar blocks arrived in Saint-Claude. However, they were of poor quality because they had not been boiled. It is only in 1857, when boiling was introduced as part of the process, that briar pipes from Saint-Claude were then produced commercially.
-1854, Auguste Bouge:
The production of briar ebauchons for pipes originated in 1854 in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet (Eastern Pyrenees).
-1856, from the book Le musée du fumeur , 1866 by the Parisian meerschaum pipe manufacturer E. Cardon:
[the briar pipe] has been a highly fashionable accessory for ten years…
-1858, Jules Ligier:
In 1858 Mr Raffanel supplied Mr Gay (from Saint-Claude) with 1440 ebauchons, which were carved into the same number of briar pipes.
Assuming that briar pipes were actually produced between the 1840s and 1850s, it is still difficult to imagine them being so different from the primitive efforts produced in small batches. The dates provided by Laurent and Ligier, far more well-founded and credible given the writers’ authority, seem to be aligned with the date proposed by Bouge concerning the introduction of the first briar ebauchons that were perhaps not entirely perfect, yet. A number of years pass by between 1854 and the dates attributed to the early observations on the use of briar in the Pyrenees by Bougnol and Vassas: one could say an era of transition, a logical and necessary incubation period for a number of reasons.
The craft of the lathe turners (in addition to that of sawyers and wood merchants) was a sort of aristocracy, with a fair amount of pride for the profession tempered with competition and the jealous guarding of trade secrets. Despite the distance, somehow news travelled. The highly skilled turners, economically well-off or simply bold, went on business trips in search of the best wood and the most innovative techniques. They often settled in places which offered the best job and training opportunities. As for pipes, everyone knew about them. The wooden models were quite common in some areas of Europe but were not so appreciated in France. In the areas of large-scale production, in Germany, a fair number of types of wood were tested to find the ones that were most workable and least flammable, the ones that would least spoil the pleasant aroma of tobacco with a strange taste. Thus, the issue was clearly perceived. Once the potential of Erica Arborea took shape, and the trunk and above all the burls were taken into consideration, they were still not regarded as being the final and ideal solution to the issue, but rather one of many possibilities. There were at least two problems: the tendency for the wood to split and the unpleasant taste of the tannin.
A few turners and sawyers began to experiment individually in different ways, trying to work out the progress made by their colleagues. Saint-Paul de Fenouillet was certainly the setting (or one of the settings) for these experiments. However, they were busy people, as they concentrated on briar when there was less work to carry out, when the need to produce their tried and tested objects with their tried and tested types of wood took up little of their time, or when there was suddenly the prospect of a new, potential improvement and they wanted to test it immediately. As with any kind of innovative product, devoting time, effort and resources to testing briar did not necessarily result in success, and it was a risk. Moreover, it was uncertain if smokers used to traditional pipes would appreciate these innovations. It was inevitable that the process would be gradual, with setbacks and breakthroughs, beginning with a few models that were not so unlike those smoked by the shepherds. They gradually sought to improve the quality (of the pipe and raw material) each time a technique was modified that seemed to make the product more reliable. They also took a step backwards when the new adjustments had made things worse, and so better techniques were studied. When the solution seemed in sight, research speeded up, with an increase in the number of experimenters in the field. The mid-1850s was fast approaching.
According to Louis Abram, the key protagonist of this process was “Mr Bougnol, known as Andrivet”. But who was this person? An imaginary or real person? If one reads the account the inclination is to choose the former option, yet Bougnol, known as Andrivet really did exist and work in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet.
In order to verify this, we can consult a special source: Origine de la tournerie à Saint-Paul de Fenouillet. Monographie par l’École del Filles de Saint-Paul de Fenouillet. Institutrices MMe Groullier, Mlle Bousquet, Mme Sarda: a school project carried out after the war by students that interviewed the elderly in their town. Nothing scientific, but an interesting slice of collective memory. The quotes from the Monographie feature in an article by Guy Normand published in 2001 in a magazine called Fenouillèdes that is published in Saint-Paul.
“…a certain Bougnol arrived from Auvergne bringing with him sheets of copper and made all sort of custom-made items with this metal at home requested by the people in the region. The man from Auvergne had various children, one of whom was practical and eventually took over his father’s activity. He had the opportunity to acquire a water-powered spinning mill and taking advantage of the hard wood to be found in the region, he established a turning shop. Bougnol cadet crafted balls for games, taps, and spinning tops. As there was a shortage of wood in the region of Saint-Paul, he went one day to find some boxwood in the Low Pyrenees. There he met a shepherd who was smoking…
The account is not insignificant, especially as it also features a figure that Louis Abram omitted in his account, namely Bougnol Jr. The account is at times contradictory and confusing, with some seeds of truth. More reliable sources are needed in order to verify the facts, and in fact there are some records that do so housed in Perpignan in the Archives Departementales des Pyrenées Orientales.
The civil status records reveal that Durand Bougnol, thirty years old, born in Esternes (Les Ternes, department of Cantal in the region of Auvergne-Rhone-Alps) and resident in Saint-Paul married Monique Cavaillé on 30 January 1809.
In 1823 a notary deed of sale was signed before a notary, Jerome Emmanuel Hortet from Saint-Paul, by Durand Bougnol Andrivet, merchant, resident in Saint-Paul, who purchased from his brother-in-law, Claude Cavaillé, two vineyards in the municipality of Saint-Paul.
In the 1841 census in Saint-Paul, Durand Bougnol Andrivet, the merchant, is resident in the North-West Quarter: the other members of the family together with the head of the household are his wife, Monique, his sons, Jean, Pierre, Claude, Jules and a person in service.
Thus, the merchant from Auvergne had arrived in Saint-Paul in the early 1800s, worked and started a family. Not only was he a merchant, but he was also a manufacturer, if indeed it is true what is written in the Monographie regarding his objects in copper.
Another good source is to be found in the yearly editions of the Annuaire du commerce Didot-Bottin, provided that two important aspects of the resulting data are considered: they refer to the year prior to the edition and are not the result of official surveys, but a set of paid advertisements.
In the 1847, 1848 and 1849 editions, “Bougnol Durand” is a merchant. In the 1850 edition (referring to 1849) the name ‘merchant’ disappears and instead we read: “Wool (spinning): Bougnol-Andrivat, and manufacturer of woollen cloth”: thus, was it in 1849 that Bougnol Andrivet purchased and established a water-powered spinning mill? Not necessarily. He may have done this earlier, only in 1849 deciding to advertise his services in the 1850 Annuaire.
The latter theory seems to be confirmed by a deed on 13th July 1846 signed by the notary, Benoit Avignon from Saint-Paul de Fenouillet in which Mr Bougnol Andrivet, father, for four thousand francs bought all the real estate rights from his brother-in-law Claude Cavaillé that they both shared in a mill called “Du pont de la Fou” located in Saint-Paul. In other words, Durand Bougnol on that date became the unique owner of the mill. Previously, he had shared the property with his brother-in-law.
The advertisement in the Annuaire remains the same until the 1853 edition, but in the 1854 one we find two changes: “banq. Andrivet, Bougnol” (banq. could mean banquier or banquiers) and “cloth (mill) Bougnol, and balls, tableware, and other wooden items from the South”. The mill seems to have been converted partially to a turning shop, but when? It may have even been before 1853. The 1855 edition again reads: “Wool (spinning): Bougnol-Andrivat, and mill for cloth and other woollen material”, but also (aside) “tableware, balls, towel rails and other items in wood (mill): Bougnol-Andrivet.” The same text also appears in the 1856 edition.
Up to that time there is no trace of Bougnol Junior. Yet, he had been extremely busy, as stated by the report on the participation of entrepreneurs from the department of the Eastern Pyrenees in the 1855 Paris Exposition, contained in the Bulletin de la Société agricole, scientifique & littéraire des Pyrénées-Orientales edizione 1856:
Mr Bougnol Jr (cadet), from Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, has numerous samples of boxwood jewellery on display, all made in his workshops: he is worth special mention. He has extended his production remarkably and has invented tools to replace the rudimentary axe. Finally, after starting work on the ebauchons that are then sent to Saint-Claude (Jura) to be finished, he has combined the last stages of production in his workshops, and the work benefits greatly our fellow countrymen. His example has resulted in attracting to the department many workers from Saint-Claude, who have settled in Saint-Paul and have also settled independently in the neighbouring municipalities. The finish and the low price of Mr Bougnol’s jewellery are remarkable. This sector is even more important since there is a lack of boxwood in the Jura forests, while boxwood grows in abundance in the forests in our department and in Aude.
Who exactly was this admirable character? The word “cadet” means the second-born, thus Pierre, who was 27 in the 1841 census and already had the title of fabricant, manufacturer. In the 1856 census he was 42 and had the title of banquier, banker. In October of the same year on the death of his father he inherited his father’s business.
In the above-mentioned report it is claimed that it was Pierre who invented tools that “replaced the rudimentary axe”. This is obviously an exaggeration. If Pierre “invented tools”, it was certainly not the lathe turner, which had long been known and used, but rather it is likely that he improved or modified some tools or introduced new innovations in the techniques associated with those tools or with other types of machinery. In any case, his activity started prior to 1841 (as a contribution to the family business or independent activity ) in order for the title fabricant to make sense. At this point, there is the question whether it was in fact Pierre who met the shepherd with the briar pipe, as stated in the Monographie, and whether it was Pierre who bought the spinning mill alone or with his father. The title banquier means that the family business had diversified, also including financial activities.
In the 1857 edition of the Annuaire du commerce, closed of his father’s death, the entry “tableware…” also refers to the cadet, as well as to his father, but the entry “wool...” only mentions “Andrivet”. Reference to the deceased Bougnol remained until the 1861 edition, perhaps as a tribute to his father, or else to retain product recognition.
The praise for Bougnol Jr in the 1856 report only gives a passing mention to the ebauchons: the ebauchons that are then sent to Saint-Claude (Jura) to be finished, he has combined the last stages of production in his workshops. This statement clearly reveals that at that time the production of ebauchons (for various objects, not only for pipes) was considered secondary in relation to the finished items.
Still on the theme of ebauchons, in his 1923 account Louis Abram credits Bougnol Andrivet with the “invention” of the briar ebauchons for pipes. He may have confused Bougnol Sr. and Bougnol Jr. Moreover, according to the Rapport sur le prime d’Honneur des Pyrenees Orientales contained in the Bulletin of the Societé Agricole Scientifique et Litteraire des Pyrenees Orientales, 1860 edition, Bougnol Jr. was awarded a silver medal for his ébauchons, bimbelotere, namely ebauchons and knick-knacks, and again in 1865.
Is all this evidence enough to assume that it was Bougnol father and/or son who first identified the correct way to process the ebauchons for pipes? Probably not. It is more reasonable to suggest that Andrivet and son were certainly part of the group of pioneers who took part in this endeavour in a collective effort.
It was 1845 when the two Vassas brothers left their hometown, Saint-Jean de Bueges, department of Hérault, Occitania. Their father, Antoine, had been a landowner, farmer and vendor, a position that was sufficiently solid. However, he had died in 1825 when Frederic was four and his brother Justin only sixteen months old, leaving a widow to look after five small children, who had to grow up quickly in order to contribute to supporting the family. In 1845, when Justin came of age, Frederic and Justin inherited five hundred francs each from their father. However, their greatest asset was their profession as lathe turners, having been trained by a relative. With this baggage they left home to seek a better future, settling in Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, where their skills were required to work with boxwood, so common in that area.
In Saint-Paul, Frederic settled down quickly, and in 1853 he married Célina, who gave him a handsome dowry and three children. We know little about his professional career, but it is likely that it went well. Frederic was actively involved in the age of the “discovery” of Erica Arborea (he is the Mr F. Vassas mentioned by Paul Émile Poitras) and the various attempts to make briar burl easier to process. Moreover, it is likely he had work relations or was acquainted with the Bougnol family and other entrepreneurs in the area, which was easy considering that the town had a population of only two thousand people. The 1856 census records him as living in Faubourg du Plagnol together with his wife, two children and his brother Justin. The title is tourneur, turner. Subsequently, in about 1860 he decided to leave for the department of Var.
Leafing through the pages of the 1856 census of Saint-Paul de Fenouillet, and stopping at the entry on Faubourg du Plagnol, we find that a few lines below the Vassas family there is another turner, Ambroise Salvat, who lives there with his wife and daughter. He is twenty-six years old. He got married in 1851 when he was twenty-one and his wife was seventeen. A few lines lower down, still in Faubourg, we find Ambroise’s brother, Baptiste Salvat aged twenty-three, turner, who lives with his wife. In the Annuaire du commerce Didot-Bottin, 1857 to 1861 editions, the entry reads “tableware, balls, briar pipes, towel rails and other items in wood (mill)”. However, in the 1859 edition the phrase “briar pipes” was added, and the names of the Salvat brothers appear together with those of Bougnol-Andrivet, Bougnol Jr. and others. In the 1862 edition, only the name “Salvat” remains, without the addition of “Brothers”: in 1857 Ambroise had established a company (business name “Salvat”) with other people, which did not include his brother. In the 1863 edition, the name “Salvat” disappears: like Frederic Vassas, Ambroise had also left Saint-Paul for the department of Var in 1861.
Durand Bougnol Andrivet, Pierre Bougnol junior, Frederic Vassas, Justin Vassas, Ambroise Salvat and Baptiste Salvat were all presumably racing to find the ideal ebauchon for pipes, although they were not necessarily the only ones to do so. If we stay in Saint-Paul, we just need to reread the list in Louis Abram’s account:
[In addition to Bougnol] these bold pioneers were the Vassas, Billès, Lacombe Marius, Salvat and Meunier, and Foulquier.
However, the race did not stop at the border of the Eastern Pyrenees. As the Report explains in 1856, various municipalities in the department of Aude contained numerous watermills that powered saws and lathes, in Belvianes, Peyrolles, Puivert, Alet, and Lagrasse. The owners of the workshops were not isolated, but knew one another and met regularly, they travelled and circulated news, and of course would not have been indifferent to the potential of briar wood. Thus, can it be ruled out that some of them would experiment, more or less openly?
Going back to Mr Bougnol, known as Andrivet, it is true, he really existed. He became a myth the moment the author, Louis Abram, attributed to him all the challenges, progress, and discoveries made by the various pioneers of briar wood, compressing many years’ intense activity into a few days. On the other hand, in order to shed light on Abram’s legend, we only need to expand the time frame to include the numerous participants, the more or less famous protagonists of the great collective effort.
The investigation into the accounts, sources and evidence could finish here, in an albeit unresolved manner. Yet, something still needs to be considered and discovered. Something that could reverse the situation by focussing on just one individual. A small detail, which is insignificant, but of great importance, hidden where one would least expect to find it: embedded in the news on the war in the East, local news, minor news items and demographic analysis, concerts, good deeds, military pensions… Hidden, but evident, indeed public – on page two of a local newspaper. Local, but important, as was L’Echo de la Montagne, the weekly newspaper of Saint-Claude, Jura.
Now then, what happened? We are in Saint-Claude, in early 1886 when briar wood for pipes has already become common, when briar pipes have almost arrived at the end of a laborious, long but fruitful evolution. A prominent local figure, who believes he is the victim of a serious injustice, writes a letter of complaint to the newspaper, which waits a week and then publishes it under the heading “Tribune Publique”. It is 16 January 1886, issue no. 3 of the weekly newspaper:
Last week we received the following letter whose publication had to be postponed until today, due to lack of space:
I have known Saint-Claude since 1855, where I sent ebauchons for tobacco boxes and other types of wood for the local industry.
On 14th March 1856 it is I who was the first to produce ebauchons for pipes that I sold to the Bougnol family and others. I also delivered some to Mr Delacour, father, and to Mr Benoit-Gruet.
In 1863 I came to live here with my family. We account for a significant share in the local industry. I have managed my business honourably. I have been a Republican for a long time. Whenever I was able to serve the interests of my adopted town, I did so without wondering whether I could have acted differently in my own interest.
Being one of the people who pays the highest taxes, I have been a voter for the Chamber of Commerce. However, lately the council board in charge of preparing the register of voters has not entered my name. Why? If someone from our company had replaced me, I would not have complained.
I find it curious that citizens of St-Claude that have not been classified as qualified in a timely manner are nevertheless registered, contrary to the law, and that others, who pay nothing towards the budget of the Chamber of Commerce, are called to establish the board.
In the interest of the Republic, our leaders should be more impartial in the future.
I have the honour to be, Sir, yours faithfully.
The signature is followed by a warm, convinced reply, unsigned, thus expressing the newspaper’s opinion that wholly agrees with the letter writer. However, who was the writer? It must be one of the figures mentioned above. One of those who, around 1860, noticing a change in the context and situation decided to pack up and go to Var.
From Saint-Paul de Fenouillet Ambroise Salvat had moved to Île de Levant, off the Cote d’Azur near Toulon. This was no holiday resort, but a penal colony for young offenders. As the Erica Arborea plant thrived on the island, it was possible to carry out the whole process of pipe making from extracting the burl to finishing the pipe. This was carried out by the prisoners, while Salvat contributed with his experience and organisation, and the Ulysse Courrieu di Cogolin company was responsible for producing the pipes commercially. This news, and other information is taken from the article Autour de l’industrie de la pipe et de la tabatiere. Innovations et échanges dans la tournerie entre l’Est des Pyrenées et le Jura published in 2019 by Gauthier Langlois in the Bulletin de la Societé d’Ètudes Scientifiques de l’Aude, and also from the article La route de la bruyere, by Yves Vincent-Genod, published in Les Amis du Vieux Saint-Claude no. 22 in 1999.
Thus, leaving Saint-Paul (like Frederic Vassas and unlike Pierre Bougnol) Salvat said goodbye to the interesting production of crafted tableware and towel rails, as he had realised that briar wood was the new frontier in pipe making. Indeed, in 1865 he left to others the pipe factory on the Île de Levant. From 1863 (he states this himself in the letter) he was resident in Saint-Claude. He specialised in briar ebauchons for pipes, which his brother Baptiste sent him from Corsica. Moreover, from 1880 he was also the owner of a sawmill for briar ebauchons in Palalda (in the Eastern Pyrenees) where he later retired. In 1896, three years before dying, he also created a company called “Salvat-Basset” with his son Paul, nephew Joseph and son-in-law Léon Basset: the company’s object was obviously the sale of ebauchons, ensuring the continuity of the founder’s work.
The figure of Ambroise Salvat is emblematic: while many pioneers in the 1840s and 1850s considered the ebauchons secondary to their other productions, he, as well as others, were skilled and bold enough to be ahead of their time by placing the briar ebauchon for pipes at the centre of his interests and objectives.
Thus, was Ambroise Salvat the real “inventor” of the ebauchons? The reasoning necessarily starts with the letter to the newspaper: heartfelt, well written and documented, using persuasive argument and highly detailed information. Only a show-off, a fraud would have had the courage to provide the precise date publicly and to provide the names of some well-known people as proof of false claims. It matters little that at least one of the two virtual witnesses was already dead. A letter written by a compulsive liar would never have even been taken into consideration by the newspaper, which instead published and commented on it by supporting the writer completely, as would occur with any distinguished person. The life and various professional stages in Ambroise Salvat’s career were in any case known, and it is unlikely that he could be considered a charlatan. Yet, to say that Salvat was really the “inventor” of the ebauchons for pipes seems to be an exaggeration. We remain convinced that the idea was a collective enterprise.
The development to achieve the exact “formula” was long and numerous people had contributed to this, not just turners or woodcutters. Thanks to luck and his own achievements (if the letter has a meaning, as it seems to have) Salvat was there for the final sprint towards the goal.
Referring to the statements made by Theofile Laurent and Auguste Bouge, in 1854 the first almost convincing briar ebauchons were produced commercially, but when they arrived in Saint-Paul they proved to be a disaster. Had they been already boiled? Perhaps not, as Laurent claims, or perhaps they had been boiled, but the process (length of time for boiling, extraction, drying stages and methods) was not right yet. It would take another two years before the process was perfected, with adjustments made by various people, and Ambroise Salvat’s intuition that gave the final touch. The ebauchons that arrived in 1858 at Saint-Claude (Jules Ligier’s account) may have come from Saint-Paul or from some other location, perhaps Belvianes, the upper Aude valley that was not too far away from Saint-Paul. Products that adopted the same procedure as Salvat’s, or else another similar process that was equally effective, the result of a different line of experimentation.
In any case, things were moving fast and at Saint-Paul de Fenouillet the future of a new industry was beginning to be envisaged, while at Saint-Claude it was already being built.
A special thanks to:
Jacques Capela (site internet https://fenouilledes.fr);
Gauthier Langlois (Société d’Ètudes Scientifiques de l’Aude);
Guy Normand (La Revue Du Fenouilledes, Saint Paul de Fenouillet);
Jean-Michel Poncy (Société d'Horticulture et d'Arboriculture des Bouches-du-Rhône);
Archives Départementales des Pyrénées Orientales;
Archives municipales ville de Saint-Claude;
Association Santpanhols et Syndicat d'Initiative de St Paul de Fenouillet;
Bibliothèque l'Alcazar Marseille;
Bibliothèque Municipale de Toulouse;
Commune de Saint-Paul de Fenouillet