The rare stamp on this sauté is the missing link for me that connects two Gaillard “product lines” at the end of the 19th century.
|Type||Tin-lined Windsor in hammered finish with iron handle attached with three copper rivets||Tin-lined sauté in hammered finish with iron handle attached with three copper rivets|
|French description||Sauteuse évasée étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre||Sauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre|
|Dimensions||27cm diameter by 9cm tall
(10.6 by 3.5 inches)
|24cm diameter by 7.5cm tall
(9.4 by 3 inches)
|Thickness||3.8mm at rim||1.8mm at rim|
|Stampings||Jules Gaillard 81 Faubg St. Denis Paris;
|Gaillard 81 Faubg St. Denis;
24; 21 in script
|Maker and age estimate||Jules Gaillard;
|Source||Private sale||Private sale|
I believe the Gaillard stamps on these two pans date them to a period of time when there were two parallel “brands” of Gaillard copper: main Gaillard, that is, the family chaudronnerie that had operated continually since 1795, and a secondary product line by a young Jules Gaillard before he took over the family firm around 1903. (Please excuse me for using the modern conceits of “brand” and “product line” in this context — it’s the best means I have to express what I think was going on.) “Gaillard fils” became “Gaillard” in 1892 and then “J. & E. Gaillard” sometime around 1903; my current theory is that for the ten years in between, 1892 to 1903 or so, young Jules Gaillard was a semi-independent apprentice, promising but not yet ready to leave the family’s long-established chaudronnerie at 81 Faubourg Saint-Denis.
I have no direct evidence of this. For example, I can find no business listings for Jules on his own. The evidence I have — such as it is — are the two sets of paired “Gaillard” and “Jules Gaillard” stamps, virtually identical down to the street address, that I believe represent this period of time based on the design of the stamp and the construction of the pans. How could there be two sets of twin Gaillard stamps that look so similar? The most logical explanation I can come up with is that Jules Gaillard was working in parallel with Gaillard from the same workshop, a sort of secondary brand that complemented but did not compete with the main Gaillard brand.
The first set of twins is this oval design as shown below. (These are not from the pots under examination in this post — I provide them for your background.)
And now with this post I am able to present to you for the first time the second pair of twin stamps — the text-only linear design. The Jules Gaillard version is a rare stamp, but I have been able to acquire a few pieces with it, including this 27cm Windsor. The true find for me is the Gaillard-only version of the stamp on this 24cm saute — the only example of this stamp I have ever seen.
It’s not an exact exact match — the Gaillard stamp has no “Paris.” But the two-line layout, the identical sans-serif typeface, and the specific abbreviation of “FAUBG ST DENIS” are enough for me. (This linear stamp style seems to have been in vogue towards the end of the 19th century — see Dehillerin, Duval, Trizac, and Legry, for example — before the fashion shifted to the more ornate oval cartouches.) The stamp on this 24cm sauté is the missing link that completes the second set of twin Gaillard stamps and substantiates my hypothesis of parallel production.
That’s why I am so happy to present these two pans to you side by side: they represent contemporaneous Gaillard and Jules Gaillard production in the 1890s under the same linear stamp style. (It could be a hair earlier in the late 1880s; my guess is that the oval cartouche version followed in the later 1890s up until around 1903.)
And they are beautiful pans. The sauté is a true jumper, a refined 1.8mm thick (likely slightly thicker in the base) weighing just under 6 pounds. By comparison the Windsor is a beast — at 27cm diameter at the rim it is not that much bigger than the sauté, but it weighs fully twice as much because it is much more thick. It is 3.8mm at the rim but the base is much heavier, probably about 5mm thick. This weight difference suits these pans to very different cooking tasks. A chef could lift this sauté in one hand and flick it to jump food — sauter, as the pan is named — but in my opinion this Windsor is too hefty and unbalanced to leave the stovetop. It’s a saucepan for simmering and reducing liquids, and its extra-thick base makes it perfect for thick sauces and stews that could scorch in a thinner-walled pan.
What interests me most, however, is to look at their construction, an examination that is complicated somewhat by the differing condition of the two pans. The sauté is in better shape overall than the Windsor. Compare for example the relatively smooth surface of the iron of the sauté handle to the pitted surface of the iron of the Windsor.
This could be due to multiple factors. One possibility is how they were stored: perhaps the Windsor was kept for a long period in a moist basement that encouraged the iron to rust. (I suggest Renaissance wax to protect your iron handles.) It’s also possible that the handles on these pots had different chemical compositions and the Windsor’s iron corroded more rapidly.
But the differences in the handles are more than skin deep, so to speak. The baseplates are of a slightly different shape: the Jules Gaillard Windsor’s baseplate is slightly more slender than that of the Gaillard sauté. (This shape difference, as well as the different chemical composition of the iron, leads me to suspect that Jules sourced his handles from a different supplier than main Gaillard.) The rivets on both pans have large flat interior faces, indicating to me that they were hand-made and hand-finished; the Windsor’s rivets more roughly finished than those of the sauté, but I suspect they may have been tightened at some point, which would have deformed them.
Both pans have been hammered but the martelage is more pronounced on the surface of the Windsor. My guess is that both these pots were hand-raised and the thick copper of the Windsor took quite a bit more time and muscle to shape than the thinner sauté.
As above, I think the sauté has been more lightly used and more correctly stored than the Windsor, visible in the condition of the exterior copper. Both pans exhibit some pitting but it is far more extensive on the Windsor. Copper is fairly resistant to corrosion; tarnish is a form of protective coating, but moisture and food acids will react to the compounds in tarnish and over time can cause the pitting visible here.
Both pans are beveled around the base, a level of finish on antique pans that seems to have been abandoned in the 20th century. I believe bevels served a functional purpose to work-harden the copper at this vulnerable point of contact; they’re also a sign of extra time spent on the piece during its making. The sauté has three beveled planes across the curve of the edge while the Windsor appears to have one.
The interior of the pans also show differences in condition. Once again the sauté has a more smooth surface with only tiny pits here and there. This doesn’t concern me at all — with cooking use I expect the tin to settle into and smooth out these irregularities. But the Windsor is another story: the pan surface is extensively pitted, more than a thick layer of tin could correct. I would not want to see this much pitting in a skillet or a sauté pan; tin is a low-stick cooking surface but these pits increase the total surface area of the tin and create more contact points during dry-heat cooking. But this particular pan is a Windsor, a type of saucepan intended for liquids, and food adhesion is not much of a concern for me. (Note that neither pan has the dot that I could find, though the Windsor’s surface is so thoroughly pockmarked that it could have faded away.)
But I’m biased: I think the inside surface of the Windsor is beautiful. Erik Undiks at Rocky Mountain Retinning did this work for me and he did not even propose grinding down the surface to a uniform finish. I would never have agreed even if he had: this would have evened out the surface at the cost of up to a millimeter of copper. I love it — I think it looks like the face of the moon.
I acquired these two pieces in separate private sales. The Windsor comes to me from a copper lover and collector in the Netherlands who has a wonderful eye for French and Belgian pieces. I’m grateful to him for being willing to part with this piece as it’s a very special one and I am honored to have it in my collection.
The sauté comes to me from England. Hannah, the seller, tells me that it was a wedding gift to her grandfather in 1902 and stayed in the family. Her mother was a bit shy about using it on the electric stovetop, however, and it was put away for many years. (I have her to thank for keeping it in such lovely condition.) I think this is a common phenomenon with old copper pots and pans: people sense that they’re different from other types of cookware, which in turn produces a little reluctance to put the pans to use for fear of doing something wrong. Says Hannah,
One might think these warhorse pans might be like trumpets — if you can play them they are mercury in your hand, if you can’t they sound awful and there is no magic. But with the pans I think there’s a lot more scope for success.
I love Hannah’s trumpet analogy but I don’t see copper pots as complex instruments that need to be played by an artist. Speaking from my own experience as a novice cook, I’m firmly on the “more scope for success” side of things. (For what it’s worth, Hannah, copper works very well on electric burners!) My experience with tin-lined copper has been a revelation that has increased my cooking confidence enormously, and I find that the common-sense care that tinned copper asks of me is paid back many times over in enjoyment and delicious results.
And my guess is that this pan did the same for Hannah’s grandfather, because it looks as though he put an owner’s mark on it. This pan was restored by Val Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning and her gentle cleaning uncovered the number “21” scratched lightly into the copper in spidery script next to the handle. I have seen many owner’s marks on copper but they’re usually firm proud stamps applied by restaurants or hotels to track their extensive inventory of copper cycling through the retinning process. It is rare in my experience to find a mark like this one, made by hand with nothing more than a sharp piece of metal. I don’t know what the “21” stood for but I can visualize the person who made it — perhaps Hannah’s grandfather, flush with pleasure at this lovely wedding gift, taking a few moments to hold it steady while he made his careful mark to claim it as his own.
This is why I collect antique copper: not just for the pleasure it brings me in the present day, but also for the sense of connection it gives me to the past. Every acquisition is a gift. Thank you, Hannah.
What I wish I could do is identify the specific characteristics that distinguish Jules Gaillard’s work against that of main Gaillard. I’ll start thinking about a more in-depth writeup of this, but my sample size is limited to my own few pieces and therefore pretty small. What I’ve seen so far from my own small collection is that the Jules Gaillard pieces are substantially heavier than the main Gaillard, but again, I only know what I have seen. If you have some Jules Gaillard and Gaillard pieces of this era and are interested in helping this study, I’d be grateful for your photos and measurements that I could include. Please leave a comment on this post or email me at VFC at vintagefrenchcopper dot com.
Below are the stamps that I believe represent Gaillard work during this timeframe. Thank you in advance!