This article was published in the April 2020 issue of the ATW Antique Toy World magazine. https://antiquetoyworld.com/about-atw/
Martin and Flersheim made toys that were mostly “up-to-date” at the time of manufacture, and by “up to date” I mean that literally.
At specific happenings, events, news, but also new fashion, inventions, etc. Martin and Flersheim were immediately able to make a toy for it so that the audience recognized and bought it.
Now I found an entirely unknown new Martin to me, it is a very nice soldier.
After I have examined it thoroughly, by comparing with other Martin toys, by measuring all parts precisely and checking with UV light for the age and deviations of the paint.
I have to come to the conclusion that I am almost sure that this is a original Martin from the Flersheim period.
But for 100% sure we need a catalog, advertising or box where it is shown.
First a short history of French soldier uniforms:
The 1758 Code Military includes descriptions of each French regimental uniform, including the Royal Artillery.
In addition to blue coats and red distinctions, the artillery had many subtle details on the coat and vests.
In 1914 they quickly discovered that during the WW1 war using the old model uniforms in the colors red and bleu the soldiers are sitting ducks.
These colors stood out too much against the clear sky above the Frensch fields.
They designed very fast a new blue / gray uniform, because that didn’t stand out against the clear bleu sky.
In the end of 1914 and the early 1915 they designed a completely new uniform in the color light gray / blue.
These soldiers were named: Le Poilus
George Flersheim was also Lieutenant artillery in this WW1 and was therefore at the center of the uniform change.
He must have implemented that quickly for a new model for a French soldier.
In his short period, (1912 till 1915) Flersheim has released at least 20 complete new pieces.
(More about George Flersheim in one of my next blogs.)
In the book: Fernand Martin Toymaker in Paris 1878 – 1912 on page 200, there are 3 soldiers.
The writers Lourens Bas and Arthur Verdoorn tells us on this page : Nevertheless we have to conclude that we don’t know the number of any of these toy soldiers, so that we are not sure about the order in which they are presented.
The left one is a French soldier with the number 243.
But the red and dark soldier on the photo is not a French soldier from 1915 but a French soldier with a uniform from used before 1915.
The colors blue / red are used from 1758 until in the first war months WW1 in 1914.
I tink this red and blue soldier must be one of the numbers: 234 – 235 or 236, because this uniform was still in use in 1913.
The new find French soldier must be then probably number 243 in the book: Fernand Martin Toymaker in Paris. 1878 – 1912
It is quite possible that George Flersheim designed it, but he was unable to bring it into production because he died tragically on August 14, 1915 at the age of 30.
After his death, the factory continued to produce toys for at least a few years and maby produced this toy.
Because we were unable to find a box, we do not know a name and possibly number (if it was already numbered)
Perhaps there is a third option.
We do not know this and it remains to be seen whether this toy with box or a catalog with image will ever be found.
So if there are readers who know more, please send me a message.
George Flersheim also released many old Martin pieces, and what he did was alter old Martin pieces and produce them again.
He also made extensive use of the available old stock of “Martins” materials and clockworks.
One example is the Fireman with ladder, but what does this fireman have to do with the new soldier?
I want to explain this.
There are a total of 4 different firefighters in the following order:
1) First released by Fernand Martin in 1904 with the number 197.
2) Then George Flersheim reproduced the same model from Martin in 1912 with the number 197-bis.
3) But later George Flersheim modernized, between 1912 and 1915, the head with a different helmet model
4) Victor Bonnet reproduced the Flersheim fireman again in 1921
The differences are sometimes small.
-1- FERNAND MARTIN : three-part ladder and a low back of the helmet and a clockwork with Martin key.
-2- GEORGE FLERSHEIM : three-part ladder and a low back of the helmet and a clockwork with the Flersheim key, so only changed to the Flersheim key.
-3- GEORGE FLERSHEIM : the same three-part ladder as -1- and -2-, but now with a different model head / helmet and a clockwork with Flersheim key.
-4- VICTOR BONNET : a different three-part ladder with a stand-alone stand, a clockwork with the Victor Bonnet model key. (see detail) and a new box with number 197bis.
So, you see, there are actually 4 different firefighters and Flersheim used a piece of the number -3- fireman for his new soldier.
So we are back to the soldier.
In his design for the new soldier, Flersheim took the head from his fireman from picture number -3-
Slightly changed the upper edge of that helmet.
Painted the helmet blue.
The helmet of the original fireman has in front a nice graphic, the helmet of this soldier has the same graphics hidden under the blue paint.
Took a simple dribbling “walking” body of a Martin toy like the violinist or drunkard without the arm actions.
Gave him a rifle.
Blue clothes and there was a new soldier and exactly in the mind of Fernand Martin himself.
This toy has only a “walking” action.
And until we don’t have an official name yet, I’ll call it “Le Poilus”