Saturday, February 7, 2009

Menier Chocolate Factory in Noisiel

en français après le trait

Today was the long-awaited visit to the chocolate factory in Noisiel. It was very interesting -- and also very cold out. I think I recently said I the next time I go to Disneyland in winter, it would have to be in Florida, well, if anyone wants me to take them to visit the chocolate factory, give me plenty of warning so I can get a date not in the middle of winter. The reason our visit was now is that this was the first date available when we asked for a reservation last summer! So, give me PLENTY of time to get a good date.
a
2009-02
wikipedia article in English
The visit is really interesting. Unfortunately, it's no longer a manufacturing site, so the machines are gone. Menier, back at the beginning of the 19th century made medicine. To start, they were in the Marais, in Paris. It was a very industrial neighborhood, but apparently, this plant was too loud or smelly and they were encouraged to move. So, Menier found a little village along the Marne, 35 km. from Paris (3 hours in those days) and he decided to build a model factory and model workers' city to go with it. In what is considered, "old" Noisiel, you can still see the workers' houses with their little garden plots. For the time -- early 19th century -- it was really progressive. Public buildings, school -- everything was Menier. In fact, the Menier's were regularly elected as maire or to the national assembly or the senate.
Medicine to chocolate? Chocolate was made for medicinal use. Menier had his plant in the "Marais" of Paris, where he made campher-based medicine. One specialty was a chocolate-campher throat losange for coughs. By the middle of the 19th century, the heir who took over decided to concentrate on the chocolate and expand. They had their own cocoa plantations in Nicaragua and their own fleet to bring it to France. They produced sugar locally from sugar beets.
From the very beginning, they set out to build a model factory and town, so they made it beautiful; they expected visits. They used the top architects and the latest building techniques. When work-days elsewhere were still 14 hours, they had 12-hour days. They did not hire children under 12 and they wanted the kids they hired to have their "certificat d'études" (an exam-based school-leaving diploma, 6th grade) so they had a school for them. They were isolated, far from Paris and any other town, so they wanted families and they made sure that conditions were acceptable for women, so they would remain respectable: women workers started 10 minutes after the men, so they wouldn't mix with the men. Also the sorters (sorting the cocoa beans) and wrappers (each tablet was wrapped in paper) were women, so they didn't mix on site either. Workers who lived to 60 were retired with a company pension. Sunday was not a legal day off until 1906 in France, but the Menier plant worked on Sundays only when necessary. Otherwise, only the cleaning crew worked on Sunday. All this was pretty revolutionary. The benevolent, paternalistic industrial.
The 19th century buildings were iron skeletons with lots of glass and brick walls. Instead of just plain brick, they used different colors. It's the kiln temperature that determines the color of brick, not the kind of clay. This was also the time that Eiffel was building his bridges, towers, and so on, and Baltard created the vast markets (one of the Paris Baltard buildings is set up in Nogent). By the early 20th century, they were experimenting with concrete. The turbines in the mill are the ones from the 1930s. The later Meniers continued to replace old machines with the latest models just as the early ones. The machines that crushed the cocoa beans were on the upper floors of the watermill and they were run by water power when they started, but as soon as they were able to make electricity with the water power, they made enough electricity for the factory machines and the town.

----------
Nous avons bravé le froid aujourd'hui pour visiter l'usine Menier à Noisiel. Nous, c'est Paul, moi, Louis et Gwen et quelques amis du groupe de marche. Si vous aimeriez y aller, il faut réserver bien à l'avance (6 mois) et si possible on évitera l'hiver!
a
2009-02
wikipedia - en français
C'est une bonne visite. Il ne manque que les machines et la fabrication du chocolat. Le premier Menier, au début du 19è siècle, fabriquait de médicaments dans le marais à Paris. Malgré que c'était un quartier industriel, cette industrie dérangeait et ils ont été priés de déménager. Menier a trouvé donc une site sur la Marne à 35 km. de Paris (3 hours in those days), près d'un village. Il décida d'y installer une usine modèle et une cité ouvrière modèle. On peut aussi faire la visite de la cité, mais nous ne l'avons pas fait aujourd'hui. Tout est "Menier" - les maisons, les bâtiments publics. Les Meniers étaient régulièrement élus maire, député ou senateur.
Comment aller des médicaments au chocolat? Le chocolat avait des utilisations médicale. Menier fabriquait des médicaments à base de camphre et il y avait un médicament de chocolat et camphre pour les toux. Au milieu du 19è siècle, son héritier décida de se concentrer sur le chocolat. Ils avaient leurs plantations de cacao au Nicaragua et leur bateaux pour le convoyer en France. Ils produisaient le sucre localement de leurs betteraves.
Depuis le début, ils avaient l'intention de construire une usine et ville modèle, donc ils les ont fait jolisq, car ils savaient qu'on y viendrait visiter. Ils ont utiliser les meilleurs architects et toujours les techniques de pointes. A l'époque où la journée de travail était de 14 heures, chez eux, c'était 12 heures. Et ils n'embauchaient pas d'enfant en dessous de 12 ans. Leur ville avait une école et le certificat d'études était de rigueur pour travailler à l'usine. Noisiel était isolé, loin de Paris, alors on y encourageait l'installation en famille, ce qui voulait dire qu'il fallait employer des femmes et leur assurer des conditions de travail qui leur préserver le respect: les femmes embauchaient en décalage par rapport aux hommes pour éviter de la promiscuité. Aussi, les ateliers d'emballage et de trie étaient féminin, donc les hommes et les femmes ne se rencontraient pas sur le site non plus. Les ouvriers qui vivaient jusqu'à l'âge de 60 ans prenait la retraite avec une pension du patron. Le travail de dimanche ne devint chômé qu'en 1906, mais à Noisiel, ce n'était qu'occasionnel. Tout celà était assez révolutionnaire pour l'époque. Le paternalisme bienveillant.
Les bâtiments du 19è siècle sont des squelèttes en fer habillées de verre et briques colorées. C'est la temperature de cuisson et non la matière que crée les différentes couleurs. C'est l'époque de Eiffel et Baltard et on retrouve les styles. Au début du 20è siècle, on commence à construire en béton. Les turbines qu'on voit dans le mouin datent des années 1930, car les Meniers restaient toujours à la pointe de la technologie et remplaçaient les machines assez souvent. Au début les machines à broyer les fèves de cacao aux étages supérieures du moulin fonctionnaient "à l'eau" mais assez vite, l'eau servait à faire l'éléctricité qui déservait toutes les machines de l'usine et aussi la cité.

2 comments:

Hels said...

It is a terrific story.. one that shows that industrialists could look after their workers and not exploit their health or their family's welfare. Amazingly the architecture is still attractive to look at, now it is a museum!

Thanks for the links
Hels
http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/2010/08/menier-chocolate-co-in-paris-modern.html

Ellen said...

You're welcome Hels. I enjoyed reading your post also.