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32cm 4mm Jules Gaillard saucepan

VFC

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Was Jules ahead of his time?

Type Tin-lined saucepan in hammered finish with cast iron handle fastened with three copper rivets
French description Casserole étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre
Dimensions 32cm diameter by 18cm tall (12.6 by 7.1 inches)
Thickness 4mm
Weight 10030g (22.1 lbs)
Stampings Jules Gaillard 81 Faubg St Denis Paris; 32; R
Maker and age estimate Jules Gaillard, circa 1890-1903
Source FrenchAntiquity (Etsy)

As many collectors do, I’ve got my favorites, and at the top of my list of makers of antique French copper cookware is Jules Gaillard. The Gaillard family in Paris was large and prolific in the 19th and 20th centuries and I’ve done my best to trace the careers of individuals by studying stamps and business records. At this time I believe that young Jules Gaillard was a sort of apprentice working from the family workshop at 81 Faubourg Saint-Denis, producing copper under his own stamp from about 1890 to 1903. After that, my research suggests that he took a leadership role in the family “main-line” chaudronnerie in 1904 with Émile Gaillard as J. & E. Gaillard and then from the early 1920s to late 1930s as J. Gaillard. What I call the first golden age of French copper — from the 1880s until the 1920s — is also, for me, the golden age of Jules Gaillard.

So that is why I have a special fondness for pieces stamped for Jules himself: they are his work from the first decade of what would be a long and productive career. There are two Jules stamps of which I am aware: a simple two-line linear text mark and an oval cartouche. I think the oval stamp — the one on this saucepan — is the later of the two, but that is an educated guess based on its similarity to other oval Gaillard marks that followed. If my research is correct, this saucepan with its oval stamp is an example of work done towards 1900.

And what a beautiful piece of work it is.

Saucepans are not the most exciting piece of cookware out there, and so for me, appreciating this one is not so much about shock and awe but more about understanding what it represents.

First, a little history as I understand it. The years 1870 to about 1910 span an eventful period of time because this is when I begin to see thick copper come into production. My perspective is that this was the product of economics and technology. The economic element was the advent of the Belle Époque, a period of (relative) peace and prosperity in Europe from about 1880 to World War I. Paris truly was the center of European culture and power; its hotels and restaurants produced chefs who mastered haute cuisine and drew the cosmopolitan patrons from around the world who demanded it. And there was also technology: the maturing industrial revolution steadily modernized metalworking over the course of the 19th century so that by its final decades machinery could smooth, cut, and bend thick sheet metal far more quickly and economically than manpower alone. I believe that by the 1890s the confluence of these two forces that produced both the supply and demand for “restaurant grade” copper cookware, 3mm to 4mm to even 5mm: thick enough to capture and manage the intense heat of restaurant’s gas-fired professional stove, scaled for a busy dining room, and sturdy enough to withstand the clash and clatter of harried line cooks hustling to keep up the relentless pace.

If I am correct in my conclusions from my research, Jules Gaillard was making copper right at the peak of the pace of this change, and in my opinion, this particular saucepan is an absolute triumph of power over mass.

Consider the size of this pot: 32cm diameter by 18cm tall (12.6 by 7.1 inches).

It is truly 4mm thick. I measured it at several points around the rim and it does not vary. It weighs 10030g — a hair over 22 pounds unladen — and at that weight it is likely consistently 4mm throughout.

And it is absolutely seamless.

How the devil did Jules Gaillard do this?

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I don’t ask this question in the technical sense: I believe this piece was deep-drawn, meaning that a flat disk of copper was punched with a powerful metal press to form a cylinder. Deep-drawing a pot this tall from a sheet of copper this thick would have been quite a feat. The metal has to bend and stretch into the shape — it is said to “flow” like a liquid. This process exerts considerable force on the metal; observe how the regular surface pattern of the flat sheet in the photo at right is distorted in its final form.

In addition, the straight-sided saucepan shape forces the metal to flow into a cavity that is smaller than the diameter of the sheet metal. The diagram at right is a top-down view as if you were watching a metal press from above. As the central circle — the die — presses onto the sheet, the metal flows towards it, compressing as it approaches the die and then stretching down the sides of the cylinder. Copper is better than most other metals at withstanding these changing stresses without cracking, but even so, a great deal of force is required.

But what gets me is how early I think this piece is. My 1890s to early 1900s pieces that approach 4mm are shallow sauté pans or windsors; deep pieces of this period, such as stockpots or soup pots, tend to be dovetailed. Other comparable pieces in my collection — that is, seamless saucepans approaching 4mm thick — carry stamps that I have tentatively dated into the 1910s or later. (The closest other piece I have is a 36cm J & E Gaillard saucepan — by my reckoning the next stamp in the Gaillard sequence — that is 3.6mm thick.)

What is unusual about this particular saucepan is that it is both extra deep as well as extra thick. When I compare my Jules Gaillard pieces to others that I believe are from the same period — main-line Gaillard, early Dehillerin, Duval, Charmois/Lasnier, and a few others — my Jules pieces are thicker and heavier across the board. Is this selection bias on my part, or was Jules Gaillard at the forefront of the transition to “restaurant-grade” copper? Readers, what do you think?


Per Roger’s request, here are some more detail shots of the handle. The rivets are small rounded buttons; the interior rivet heads are flat, almost flush. I can’t detect any trace of numbers on the rivet heads.

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24 Comments

  1. Really a great find!

    The question of manufacturing such large, thick-walled pans between 1880 and 1920 has certainly moved some of us for a long time and is difficult to answer. There are numerous videos on YouTube that show the deep-drawing of saucepans and stockpots with modern machines. Unfortunately, however, I have not found any evidence that screw presses or hydraulic presses existed before 1900 that were capable of deforming thick metal plates in this way. Water power and steam engines were available as energy sources. In this context, we must not forget that electrification was only built from around 1880, with street lighting initially having priority. It was only from this time that effective electric motors came onto the market. Private households in Europe did not use electricity on a large scale until the 1920s..
    However, I do not want to rule out the existence of large presses just because my search has not been fruitful. For me, a production using metal spinning would also be conceivable, whereby the drive would have been possible via water power or steam engines. But honestly, I’m groping in the dark.

    1. Hey Martin! I too am groping in the dark — I have looked at patents and trade exhibition reports and other documents of the time to try to assess the state of the art with metal pressing around 1890 to 1900, but I don’t have any authoritative insight. Metalworking was a huge industry for ships and railroads and bridges and buildings but I do not know how much of this technology had made its way to the relatively modest cookware industry in France. I would welcome information from readers with better knowledge here!

  2. I *love* really large saucepans! So seeing this incredible late-19th or very early 20th century Gaillard, and reading your article, is a treat for me! Thanks, VFC! 🙂

  3. Hey VFC, we won’t give up until we find the answer!

    Some time ago I saw an exciting TV report about the construction of the Eiffel Tower (1887-89). One detail may be helpful for our question:

    “Although the metalwork had been prepared with the utmost attention to detail, provision had been made to carry out small adjustments to precisely align the legs; hydraulic jacks were fitted to the shoes at the base of each leg, capable of exerting a force of 800 tonnes, ….”

    “In two pillars there were manually operated hydraulically adjustable lifting spindles with hand pumps, with which the rafters were brought into position.”
    (Wikipedia, D, US)

    If pumps driven by human power alone could move hundreds of tons, then it should also have been possible to shape pans with the help of hydraulics. But I still ask, could relatively small companies afford such machines?

  4. Clever stuff.
    If we do some basic math where circumference = diameter X Pi (value 3 ,sorry)
    Then 32 X 3 = 96cm
    The blank was
    32+18+18 X 3 =204cm
    If we assume that the copper did not stretch upwards like a potter raising a clay pot then the edge reduced in length by more than 50%. One would expect the thickness to double so I assert the theory that the original disc was not of uniform thickness except for the 32cm diameter centre, but tapering towards the edge. I think that this is how base heavy pans were achieved.
    Many pans made circa 1900 have a slight flair often being a cm larger at the rim than the base. It is hard to see from the photos whether this is the case here. I think it is probable that forming was done in stages and the copper annealed before further shaping. A flair ensures the pan can be freed from the press.
    Does anyone know how much pressure is required to deep draw copper? Hand operated hydraulic jacks capable of lifting 10 or 15 tons are widely used for servicing heavy vehicles and even simple screw types can apply surprising pressures.

  5. Everyone has seen different hydraulic lifts in their car workshop that seem to lift any vehicle with ease. Roger reminded me that years ago I used a mobile jack myself and admired how easy it was to operate it with a long lever. This encouraged me to find out the maximum possible lifting forces of mobile hydraulic presses. Even relatively small ram jacks can lift 10 and even 50 tons. As I said, just through manual operation (pumping). So if you could build locomotives and large steam engines before 1900, why not hydraulic jacks as well? But my doubts outweigh that hydraulic techniques for making pans was used before 1910. I also have my doubts that screw or toggle lever presses generate the necessary force to be able to press pans into shape. That’s just my feeling and no knowledge.

    But I would like to remind you once again of the technique of spinning, which is still widely used today in the manufacture of copper pans. Even before electricity arrived, lathes could be operated with water power.

    https://www.aupperle-gmbh.de/downloads/Metalldruecken.pdf
    Page 5, figure 2.3: Ironing or cold forming by spinning

    Sheet thickness is specifically reduced in the cylindrical area of the part.
    The thinning can be freely selected and does not have to be the same over the entire length (gradation possible). Exactly how the best Gaillard pans are designed!

    Maximum sheet thicknesses that can be processed:
    Steel: 4 mm
    Stainless steel: 3 mm
    Aluminum: 4 mm
    Smallest diameter of parts: 20 mm
    Largest diameter of blanks: 1200 mm

    Who can find the light switch so that we no longer have to wander around in the dark?

  6. VFC, how sure are you about the date? Not only is the copper body unusual for the suggested date but to my eye the handle looks a few years into the 20th century. Handles tended to leave the pan at a steeper angle perhaps because stove tops were getting more crowded. I would expect a lower angle or even horizontal handle in the 1890’s. These are only general observations as I’m no expert on Jules Gaillard. Do you think that the rivets are original?

    1. Hey Roger! This question has thrown me into a bit of a tizzy — I went back to re-check my research on the emergence of “Jules Gaillard” and to my deep disquiet I can’t locate the original source for my assertion of the 1890 timeframe. I can see the listing in my mind’s eye but I can’t find it online. So I am as sure as I can be without being able to produce the source, which means… I’m not sure. Let me do some more looking and if I am wrong I will correct myself.

  7. VFC, in your field guide to Gaillard you mention the business separation between Emile and Jules sometime between 1914 and 1920 and suspect that Jules stayed as a Chaudronnier in 81 Faubourg Saint-Denis, as some company stamps show. There could have been several reasons for the separation. Personal, business but also social. Recall that at that time there was a terrible war and even the French government had to temporarily relocate its seat from Paris to Bordeaux. So I am not surprised that there were hardly any annual reports, advertising, etc. or that only a few of these documents survived this time.
    One can therefore assume that Jules Gaillard was increasingly active in business again after the end of the WWI. It would not be surprising if there was still a certain shortage of materials and equipment in the first few years after the war. On the other hand, France managed to rebuild quickly and the third phase of the industrial revolution continued. It is quite conceivable that Jules Gaillard was able to gradually supplement his production facility with modern machines from 1920 onwards. Perhaps the beautiful saucepan shown above was made during this time.

  8. It is just that if I saw this saucepan without the stamp I would assume inter-war period manufacture. I cannot help suspecting the use of an old stamp for some reason. We need to find another similar example.
    What are the rivets like on the inside, unusually you have not included a picture ?

    1. Roger, I’ve added two more photos to the post of the baseplate with exterior rivets as well as the interior. They’re definitely not mushroom-head rivets, for what that is worth.

  9. Those are hand applied rivets and consistent with a circa 1900 date give or take 20 years so not much help in pinning down the age.

  10. VFC, researching the history of Gaillard and the other big brands is really difficult and so is the allocation of the manufacturing periods of individual pans. You have certainly read my last comment in the post about the Spanish manufacturer Preckler. The saucepan from Gaillard mentioned here by me and shown via the link raises further questions. Based on the stamp, I would have dated the manufacture of this pan to the years after 1900. But the peculiar production with the bowl-shaped bottom, which was attached to the side wall by means of horizontal “dovetailing”, irritates me. Two assumptions are possible: the stamp had been introduced before 1900 or this production method was used for a broader period and thus also well after 1900.

    Up until the 1920s, all Gaillard stamps bear the street name of the shop. It is therefore natural or tempting to assume that the pans were made at this address. But actually only the business or sales rooms were housed at this address. The production was probably outsourced and delegated to various larger or smaller “nameless” craft businesses in Paris or in Villedieu. That would explain the “mess” of the stamps and the different manufacturing techniques. Up until now, I had assumed that strict quality control ensured uniform standards for branded products. But my guesses were based on the standards of the 21st century, which obviously cannot be applied to production in the early 20th century. I don’t mean to assume that the actual quality of the pans varied, it was just “more colorful”.

    Gaillard and Dehillerin began as small craft businesses and ended up as suppliers with a huge range of goods. When I look at the variety in the Gaillard catalog from 1956, it becomes obvious that a large number of manufacturers are represented here who have been grouped under the Gaillard brand name.

    1. Martin, I have the same feeling as you, though I continue to seek evidence to understand it more precisely. I suspect the family-owned and family-run houses of the 19th century transformed in the early 1900s to 1920s into brands delivering consistent quality at a given price — or were acquired by those who did. I see evidence for this consolidation in the long list of “successeur” names in the advertisements for Gaillard and Dehillerin of the early 1900s. During this time of change I don’t know that it’s possible to trace who made what for whom at what time — an uncertainty that TJFRANCE has alluded to in his disregard for the value of stamps to date copper. For my part I have come to feel far more confident about linking stamps to makers in the pre-1900 period than in the decades that followed.

      One thing to bear in mind about the “mess”: even as late as the 1956 catalog, Gaillard priced pieces by weight. This was, I suspect, predicated on their business model of providing pieces from a range of suppliers. If Gaillard bought pieces wholesale by weight, regardless of manufacture, they could mark them up by weight to find their profit. Compare this to the business model of Allez Freres and Grands Magasins du Louvre: fixed prices that the consumer preferred at a consistent 2mm consumer grade.

  11. Today I looked for the first time where the 81 Faubg St. Denis is in Paris: In the heart of the city between the Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre and the Musée du Louvre. So the very best business location, but not a location for a larger company that generates noise and has to work with an open fire. In Villedieu-les-Poêles, about 300 km away, there were still numerous “batteries” (workshops) with several hundred workers at that time. Since the railway network was expanded rapidly at the beginning of the 20th century, goods could be transported without any problems.

  12. Copper crafts before and after 1900

    VFC, I see it the same way. You can find enough literature and documents for the time purely hand-made copper goods. The books by FULLER and MEYER are great examples of this. There are also detailed reports on the development of coppersmithing in Villedieu-les-Poêles (V.l.P.) since the Middle Ages – unfortunately only in French. I could only read excerpts from it or secondary sources published in English or German. By the way: the order of the Knights Templar, which had its seat in this small town, is said to have brought knowledge of the art of coppersmithing in the Orient from the crusades to V.l.P. and Europe. In the meantime I also have evidence that not only in Germany, but also in France and especially in V.l.P. this craft was strictly regulated by guilds. The guilds were also a community of solidarity that protected families in case of need through the contributions that the members had to make. However, they were much more than “just” a kind of union or insurance company.

    But, as you write, after 1900 it will be difficult to find documents on the work of coppersmiths and their forms of organization and distribution channels. it is at least partly due to the speed of industrial development, the political uncertainties and, last but not least, the effects of the WWI and the political and social changes that followed. Most of all, this field of knowledge is only a niche that only a small group of enthusiasts is interested in. So far I have not found a single museum in Europe that adequately represents and documents the manufacture of copper pans after 1900. All museums, including the small museum in V.I.P. show only the production in the artisan workshops of the 19th century or earlier. At Mauviel, Harvard or Atelier du Cuivre (all in V.I.T.) the knowledge should still be available, but it should be documented and clearly presented in a book or museum possibly with the support of the French state. The French are a proud nation. They could rightly be proud of having built the best copper pans in the world.

    As you know, I was skeptical of the suspicions TJ had made about the unreliability of the association between the stamp and the time at which a pan was made. I just couldn’t imagine this “negligence” in the stamping. German “precision” and French “savoir-vivre” probably clashed. But – “pardon!” – meanwhile I can share TJ`s assumptions. A little more “nonchalance” is good for me anyway.

    In fact, the weight of a pan in relation to its size has become the most important objective quality criterion for me. On the other hand, I consider rivets to be a less meaningful feature to be able to differentiate manufacturers, since they probably came from suppliers from around 1910 and the craftsmen did not necessarily proceed in a uniform manner when fastening. Apart from the pans, which were sold by Grands Magasins du Louvre and probably made by Mauviel-Gauthier, I don’t see any clearly “manufacturer-specific” (Gaillard, Dehillerin, Jacquotot) rivets. Again, one should keep in mind TJ’s suggestion that the pans were made in different workshops, So I appreciate some pans in my collection that meet the weight criterion in a special way, even if they are unmarked. The “right” stamp, weight and appearance are the “hat trick” (“le triplé”) for me. If there are other interesting stamps from famous restaurants, grand hotels, celebrities, etc., it is the “jackpot”.

    It might be even more difficult to get the jackpot while doing research.

  13. Nice. Great example of “deep draw”. Answered my question.

    I imagined the metal to be pushed toward the edge, a shearing force; but no, instead it flows towards the base. Nice example. Cheers to you.

    Now, have you gone out and purchased calipers large enough to measure the thickness of the base? This is your thing. I enjoy reading your articles.

    Me, I cook in this stuff. Copper is as good as it is useful for cooking to me. I have steel stuff, too, for what steel is better at than copper, like two things, mixing bowls and dry toasting of flour.

    High heat cooking is just bull. But needed if one is to use steel. Such cooking can be done better at lower temps with higher thermal conductivity copper and preserve more flavors.

    Copper, thick copper at medium heat sears like nothing else.

    1. Hey Bob! Always nice to hear from you. I haven’t yet found calipers that can fit around the tall sides of pots, but I did buy an ultrasonic thickness meter similar to the one that Martin linked. (Mine is not as nice as the one he found, though.) I’ve tried it but I’m having some issues with it, namely that it doesn’t give me the same reading as my dial caliper! My thought is that the ultrasonic method works for a single metal only, and that the additional thin layer of tin is throwing off the measurement. I need to do some more experiments with it — my hope is that the tin is causing a consistent discrepancy that I can simply factor in. And of course the other possibility is that I’m just using the thing incorrectly!

      And to echo your other comments, I’ve found that copper and just a few pieces made of carbon steel equip me to do everything I need in the kitchen. When I began transitioning to copper, it took me a while to un-learn the habit of trying to speed up cooking by turning up the heat knob. I’m a more patient cook now, and, I dare say, a slightly better one!

  14. I finally found a pioneer of metal forming using machines: Louis Schuler (1814 – 1890), Göppingen, Germany.
    Translation of the original text of the web presentation of http://www.schulergroup.com.

    These are the technical milestones in 180 years of history:

    1839
    Louis Schuler (1814 – 1890) starts operating a locksmith’s workshop in Göppingen with an apprentice in October.

    1852
    Encouraged by the World Exhibition in London in 1851, Schuler began building sheet metal working machines such as screw presses and circular shears. In addition to fruit mills and cider presses, Schuler also manufactured fire engines in the 1860s. Despite his initial success, Louis Schuler fears that he will get bogged down in too many projects at the same time. He smashes all existing models with an ax in order to have to concentrate fully on the sheet metal working and other machine tools.

    1895
    Schuler delivers the first coin minting presses to China.

    1900
    At the world exhibition in Paris, Schuler presented the WORLD`S FIRST MECHANICAL TRANSFER PRESS with an electric direct drive. For the first time, it combines all the work steps for manufacturing a part in one machine – a revolution: the sheet is automatically transported from step to step and is gradually given its final shape.

    1924
    The first Schuler body press is delivered to Adam Opel AG. The mass production of body panels in the automotive industry opened up new sales markets for Schuler in the 1920s.

    (The later years are less relevant to us)

    I can well imagine that the transfer press from 1900 represents the transition link between manual production and modern deep-drawing technology. However, it is still unclear when these or similar machines were used to manufacture copper pans.

    1. Thank you for this research, Martin! I share your frustration — there are exhibitions and patents and other documents that provide specific dates when such and such a technology was available, but that doesn’t tell us when a specific copper maker was using it!

    1. Martin, that video is fascinating — I can’t decide which I enjoyed more, the early industrial history or the “sand painting” used to illustrate it! Thank you for finding it!

  15. VFC, I also found painting with sand fascinating, especially the speed at which the pictures were created and changed again and again. At first I was surprised that the Schuler company chose this type of self-portrayal, then I watched the video several times.

    My idea, a perfectly shaped pan like the Gaillard presented here could have been hand-pressed using metal spinning as early as the beginning of the 20th century, I have to discard.

    Leifeld revolutionizes spinning machines 1921–1967:

    The world’s first hand spinning machine was developed by Leifeld in 1930. The world’s first hydraulic spinning machine follows in 1945. 15 years later, the first hydraulic spinning machine with copy control and automatic program is brought onto the market. In 1967 Leifeld finally developed the world’s first NC spinning machine.

    https://leifeldms.com/unternehmen/geschichte/

    At least I learned something new.

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