Part four -Les Joujoux

This is part four of a series of five, a free translation of a part of the book LES JOUJOUX written by Mr. Pierre Calmettes in 1924.

If you haven’t read part one, two or three yet, click this link(s):

The fabrics are cut with a small mold cutter and the

These activate the mechanism and make the man walk and move, they are solely responsible for his future life.

They may reject it as unbalanced or declare it suitable for packaging.

The room where the figures are placed in their boxes is not one of the least active in the factory.

In the middle of the selling season, during times of heavy traffic, they filled three to four thousand boxes a day.

Only a thousand are currently being prepared.

Not the cop with the white bat, taken as the subject of study on our first visit and lately followed by us from workbench to workbench, like an old acquaintance, but figures now in fashion, about two hundred models made by the factory are manufactured since its inception.

And by an irony well suited to the satirical spirit of automata, the most in-demand of all mechanical figurines is the one which, through its success, replaced the Les agents (the French agent), is the Le Pochard (the drunkard).

The Les agents was also responsible for modifying and playing with the Le gai violonist (the violinist).

This drunkard shares his current love with the Le gai violoniste, the Auto transport (the dump truck) Le jeune ecuyer (boy on the chair), de L’ours, (bear) de L’autopatte (boy on the cart with fruit) and the Le Petit Livreur (the little delivery boy).

the Auto transport (the dump truck)

All “new” models require three months of research to prepare the special tools required for their implementation.

The raw materials that go into their production are evaluated.

Needed in 1914:  2,000 kilos of tin and sheet metal per month, that is 24,000 kilos per year.

Before 1914:  500 yards of fabric were used per day, and by the end of the year, approximately 200,000 yards of fabric, canvas, or flannel had gone to the factory.

Right now in 1923:  20 meters per day, 7,000 meters per year is sufficient.

And this formidable difference between the two examples is partly due to the new manufacture of models entirely canned, which for their decoration only need water a few times with the airbrush or rare brushstrokes, but no longer know the costumes in different fabrics.

In addition, the sale of mechanical toys subject to customary law, which has become scarce since the war.

Mr. Martin once told me his earlier production numbers.

That was at the time of intensive labor in 1910, when he produced about 8,000 automata per day, of which for the whole year there were a total of 7 to 800,000 of these automata bonhommes figurines, supplied by the factory to the world market.

We now have to reduce these prestigious numbers to 1,000 toys completed every day, to 240,000 for the whole year.

The era of large orders coincided with cost prices so low that they could sell at very low cost, but still pay off.

We paid the fabric cutters per cut from 0 fr. 40 to I fr. 50 per thousand. (fr. is French franc)

The female workers were paid by the day, just like the male workers, the female workers received one French franc per hour for ten hours of work, the male workers received 3 francs for the same time/ presence in the workshop.

In 1923 the workers are all paid by the hour, the mechanics have 3 to 3 francs. 50, the editors, dressers, painters, etc., have 1 fr. 75, so that is an average amount of 24 to 28 francs and 14 francs per day respectively.

A worker today in 1923 earns 8 francs more for eight hours of work than they earned in 1914 for a ten-hour day.

The old salaries, which were then the usual wages, have been more distant from us then by events than by time, which today seem exceedingly modest to us, made it possible to obtain reductions in cost prices, so that retail prices were affordable.

We could then roughly supply the toys for 11 or 12 francs for the twelve pieces per dozen and deliver them each to the street vendors for 1 fr. 45. and these they resold for 1 fr. 95.

Like all goods, the toy industry suffer under the general rise in the cost of living and is not what it once was and its products have lost their old reputation as popular mechanical toys because of their subjects, their technique and their selling prices of 11 or 12 francs a dozen in 1913 are the Martin “bonhommes” now arrived in 1923 at 42 and 45 francs per dozen or a retail price of 3 francs. 50 to 3 francs. 75 each, ex works price.

At the wholesale price of 37 Fr.80 and 40 Fr.50 per dozen, or 3 Fr.15 and 3 Fr.38 each sold to street vendors.

Street vendor in Paris selling his Martins

Presented in the major department stores, the same “bonhommes” are labeled at 5 fr.50.

In the New Year’s Eve catalogs of 1922, the prices for the “Le Petit Livreur” stood at 5 fr. 95; La Petit Marchande D’oranges at 6 fr. 45 and the Le Déverseur at 9 fr. 90.

These prices, which are unlimited, make parents think, who don’t always, as they have in the past, like to take care of their toddlers at any given opportunity, depending on the age, a firefighter, an orange seller, a dancing bear, a drunkard , a violinist or any other subject.

But let’s face it, the prices have not been increased for nothing.

Raw materials and wages have doubled, tripled and quadrupled in the past decade; we have just seen the new wages to the workers; we give them here again, in addition to the comparative prices of the materials, the examination of such a table is sufficient to understand the emergence of articles made with these materials and by these workers.

SALARIS FROM 1914 TO 1923:

Salaries in 1914: Day worker 10 fr. Per day Day worker 3 fr. Per day

Salaries in 1923: Hourly workers 3 francs per hour, per eight-hour day 24-28 francs.

Hourly workers, per eight-hour day 14 francs.


Can 30 francs per 100 kilos to 260 francs per 100 kilos.

Small gears: 8 fr. 50 per thousand to 41 francs per thousand.

Fabrics: 0.35 fr. per meter to 3 fr. 75 per meter.

When you read these figures, it should come as no surprise that the factory charges 3 fr. 50 and the most expensive 8 francs for its cheapest machine.

It is not surprising that this factory, which ten years ago supplied nearly a million automatic figures a year to customers in the five parts of the world, which received thousands of orders from America and England, is still regarded today as one of our most important factories of toys and as the first for “automata” , while now in 1923, with his 80 workers, he makes no more than just 1,000 small figures a day, with a total of 240,000 figures for the twelve months of this year.

There is clearly a breakdown for these kind off toys as with all other toys.

Read next time further in the last part 5

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