Benjamin was a French newspaper for young people founded by Jean Nohain. First published in January 1929, it ended in 1958. Source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France
A journalist from the magazine “Benjamin” visits M. Bonnet “President of French toy manufacturers…”
-Monsieur Bonnet, see you soon, madam, would you sit down?
The charming secretary who received me is a sociable person, she talks to you with respect.
-It’s because Monsieur Bonnet is very busy…
I know that.
mr. Bonnet honors himself with the admirable title of: President of the Syndicate Chamber of French Toy Manufacturers, but that’s not all, it’s an official title, but that generally means nothing.
-It’s no small feat, you can imagine, continues the dear secretary, to be governor-general of all French toys!
The time has come, now it gets interesting, I no longer wait for the chairman of a union chamber, but for the governor of toys, the king of toys, the Napoleon of toys, a gentleman who only talks and thinks of dolls, soldiers, trains…
—Would you like to go in, ma’am?
Mr. Bonnet stands before me and leads me into his opulent office.
I have to admit right away, Mr. Bonnet didn’t tell me this.
Disappointed and unless you’re unreasonable enough not to let in any toy king other than a six-year-old boy, everyone will agree that Mr. Bonnet is also exactly “the right man”, the type of the real good grandfather and a grandfather who spends his life surrounded by toys, judge a little!
Oh sir, you must know things that no one has the slightest idea!
Surely you can tell me how many toys we make each year?
Now impressive figures on toys come from France and elsewhere
—In France, on average, 70,000,000 are made, that is, for about 300,000,000 francs.
Who would have thought that? Every year, 70,000,000 toys are needed for little French people!
And what kind of toys do we mainly make, dolls and trains?
We can say that dolls alone make up a fifth of this production, the railway industry and the mechanical toy industry are about equally important, the rest of this figure achieved is represented by all kinds of toys.
And find all these dolls, all these trains, all these different toys, buyers?
—Certainly, and we could produce even more, since 20,000,000 pieces of foreign toys flow parallel to ours.
Imported toys then? Ah yes, I know one of the “Made in Germany” toys myself.
So there are so many toys made in Germany that those little Germans can’t destroy everything and that our little French children have to help them?
—We make a lot of them, but in the United States they make a lot more.
Is it the United States that produces the most?
Yes, they can be the main toy producing country classified according to the importance of their production: United States, Germany, France and Japan, where regiments of celluloid babies are born.
But it is Germany that exports the most, isn’t it?
—Yes, at least to France, the United States mainly exports to South America, Japan and to China.
Germany prefers to trade with us, firstly because it is our neighbor and secondly because French industrialists have a reputation for being very good payers.
—In 1930, of the 13,348 quintals (quintal is an old unit for weight of one hundred kilograms) of toys imported into France, 11,217 quintals came from Germany.
—But in Germany everyone has to make toys? You think I’m not telling the truth?
—In addition to the large factories, which are wonderfully equipped for the manufacture of mechanical toys, one can find whole families in small villages, such as in the Black Forest, for example, who are busy assembling small toys at home.
—Their work is paid at the rate of 0 Fr.50 to 2 Fr. per hour, which is too little and not good, as you can expect they work as much as possible.
You haven’t told me about the toy soldiers, sir.
—The toy soldier industry is starting to recover a bit, but each country is enough for its own consumption, other toys are also sold locally because it would be too inconvenient to ship it, for example, these are heavy toys such as wheelbarrows, carts, small furniture, wooden horses…
Here is a statement signed by Mr Bonnet
(translation) The president of the French toys manufacturer is hereby thanking the small junior Benjamin’s for listening to all our discussions.
He is asking them to please children of workmen and French toy makers by prioritizing toys made by their parents .
Sir, I didn’t believe the toy industry was so successful at first
—It is strong, important and also very complete, because it makes almost all crafts work, the little girls and boys want everything they see in the hands of adults in miniature, they have toy cars, sewing machines, bicycles, microscopes, clocks needed and who knows what else?
—On the other hand, some toys require a very diverse workforce.
—Open a box of board games and try to imagine the number of workers from many professions who had to work together to produce all these objects together.
But I think, sir, if the youngest didn’t break their toys, it would be a national disaster! half more unemployed?
—Certainly, ma’am, but thank goodness we’re not there yet and there will be a lot of water flowing under the bridges before the race of the little wrecker dies out, thankfully.
Who tell you, sir? I have a horrible three year old nephew who can bust the hardest toy in five minutes but darling is a good little civilian!