|Aux Forges de Vulcain brass trowel|
Aux Forges de Vulcain, a shop in the center of Paris, was a tool retailer and distributor from 1807 to 1974. At times they manufactured their own tools and also marked their name on products made by others.
According to a history in Vulcain’s 1951 catalog, the business began in 1807 when a Mr. Bavoil owned a restaurant and grocery frequented by tradesmen, especially stone masons. Mr. Bavoil saw an opportunity to increase his sales, and added tools and small hardware to his stock. When the tools proved more profitable, he quit the grocery trade and adopted the name, Aux Forges de Vulcain.
Initially, the business did not manufacture tools. In 1829 they began marking their name on planes made by others that they sold. Paulin-Desormeaux recommended the establishment of M. Bavoil as the best for matching the right tools for the price. Bavoil would not be confused with its close neighbor Fleet of England, which carried beautiful luxury tools. At this time, Vulcain sold "French and foreign hardware, steel, limes, brass, son of iron, steel and brass, grinding wheels, stones, ...tools for arts and manufacturing, lathe turnings...."
Bavoil’s son Perrot ran the business from 1843 to 1846. Manufacturing likely started in 1847 with the arrival of Denis Youf, who may have been from an old family of woodworkers in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. Trade Almanac mentions from that date that the Forges of Vulcan were a "workshop for the manufacture of woodworking tools and machines.”
Aux Forges de Vulcain received an honorable mention in the exhibition of 1849 for "two lathe turnings manufactured in its workshops" and a medal at a trade show in 1855. The first catalog of mounted tools manufactured by the house is 1864. There is a brief mention of all the items sold by the house, metals and other materials, hardware, machines and tools for "gardeners, sculptors, carvers, engravers, smelters, modelers, tanners, gunsmiths, tinsmiths and coppersmiths, precision tools for building workshops." There is also an extensive range of 450 models of planes manufactured for "carpenters, cabinetmakers, piano builders, coach builders, coopers, carpenters and wheelwrights."
The business prospered, but in 1857, the premises occupied by The Forges of Vulcan was expropriated for urban redevelopment to beautify Paris. In 1860 a new store opened on the Place du Châtelet at no. 3 rue Saint-Denis. “The banner depicting Venus leaning on the shoulder of Vulcan was executed on porcelain by one of our most illustrious porcelain painters, MA Jean, and placed on the facade of our business where it is known to all Parisians."
In 1896 the house was mentioned as a distributor and not as a manufacturer. It had probably stopped making planes while continuing to sell a thousand other articles. Vulcain sold planes for nearly a century and a half, but did not manufacture them during the second half of the nineteenth century. Tools marked "Aux Forges de Vulcain" generally date to the second half of the nineteenth century, but it is possible that the business later marked the tools it resold.
The business’s success inspired other hardware sellers to adopt similar names, prompting the long-standing Parisian business to state, "The house has no branches," prior to its opening branches in Bordeaux (1917), Lyon (1918) and Lille (1920).
In the twentieth century, Vulcain regularly published thick tool catalogs, sold plant equipment and machinery, and up to the Second World War carried most of the models of planes manufactured in France. The house also had a machine shop in suburban Saint-Denis. Distribution of most planes stopped after World War II, and the business closed in 1974.
The names of successive owners was compiled after reading trade almanacs. This list presents some differences with the oldest dates provided by the catalogs of the second half of the twentieth century, also contradicted by other sources and probably less reliable.
1810-1842: Bavoil (catalogs say 1807-1825)
1843-1846: Perrot, son of the previous (catalogs say 1825-1845)
1847-1859: Denis Youf
1860-1871: Jules and Victor Chouanard, brothers
1872-1890: Jules Chouanard
1890-1931: Emile Chouanard, his son
1931-1935: Henry Chouanard-Bres, son of previous, manager since 1911
1936-1941: Roger Francis
1943-1974: Marcel Drye, nephew of Henry Bres-Chouanard and Lucien Lebeurre.
1810-1860: 1, rue de la Barillerie, a location that is sometimes referred to 18, rue Martroi
1860-1974: 3, rue Saint-Denis
|Aux Forges de Vulcain stamp|
|Aux Forges de Vulcain catalog|