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28cm overstamped mystery sauté

VFC

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Okay, stamp detectives, get out your magnifying glass — you’ll need it for this one.

Type Tin-lined sauté pan in hammered finish with cast iron handle fastened with three copper rivets and fitted English lid
French description Sauteuse étamée et martelée avec queue de fer munie de trois rivets en cuivre et couvercle Anglais a degré 
Dimensions 27.5cm diameter by 8cm tall (10.8 by 3.1 inches)
Thickness 2.4mm at rim
Weight 3860g (8.5 lbs) pan alone; 5054g (11.1 lbs) with lid
Stampings Jacquotot & Dehillerin 130 Rue de Grenelle Paris; BA; Lejeune (hand-scratched); on lid, Temple & Crook Ltd Ironmongers Motcombe St SW
Maker and age estimate Unknown, but prior to 1920; lid is English, likely same era
Source FrenchAntiquity (Etsy)

Before I get into all the stamp oddities going on with this piece, I want to make something clear: no matter who made it or whose name is on it, this sauté is a really beautiful example of French coppersmithing. I love studying the history of pieces and I’ve devoted quite a bit of this site to the practice, but in truth, it’s the copper that matters most and this is a great piece of copper.

I love the look of martelage — an intentional all-over hammered surface finish — and I have come to appreciate variations of technique. I believe this pan has been hand-hammered using a planishing hammer with a slender rectangular head that has left narrow vertical planes on the surface. (Perhaps the hammer was something like the “bullet head hammer” shown at right that John Fuller Sr describes in The Art of Coppersmithing.)

This is a different look than what you will see on recent-era Mauviel and Havard, upon which a machine-powered piston hammer with a small round head produces a glittering effect that looks almost like sequins. Those pieces are eye-catching — and thousands of them have been sold — but there are other styles of martelage that also appeal to me. The hammering on this piece is more subtle, certainly with fewer strikes overall but with an alignment that produces a pleasing visual order. I believe it’s hand-applied and I love it.

This is an unusually heavy sauté for a consumer-grade piece of its time. (Heck, it’s heavy for the present time, too.) It measures 2.4mm at the rim and based on its weight I believe it’s a consistent thickness throughout. In my experience, up into the 1860s or so this would have been considered unusually thick for a pan. I don’t think copper cookware at 3mm thick or more was economically feasible to produce until the advent of powered presses with enough force to bend thicker gauge sheet metal. That machinery became possible with steam power in the early 1800s, but seems to have taken several decades to make its way into the cookware industry, well after the shipbuilders, construction companies, and steam engine manufacturers had adopted the technology.

If this was intended as a restaurant piece, I don’t believe it was actually used as such because its surface features remain well-delineated. The hammering on the base is still visible and the three planes of bevels around the edge of the base are crisply defined. I am sure this piece has been polished and retinned over its long lifetime but what it does not seem to have experienced is the hard scouring to which workhorse restaurant pieces were usually subjected. My observation is that by the present day, the sharp edges of bevels are usually softened or completely smoothed away in hard-duty restaurant pieces (feel the edge along the handle area for the best chance of detecting them). I continue to believe that the purpose of beveling was not the cosmetic appearance but rather the molecular change in the crystal structure of the copper itself, which should persist even after the surface definition is obliterated.

 

The handle is cast iron that has been worked over with a file to smooth away the rough surfaces. You can see tiny file marks running along the handle shaft. This is not only a sign of quality but also a hallmark of the first few decades of the use of cast iron handles. Early cast iron handles — say, 1880 to the 1930s — were hand-finished to remove rough artifacts of the casting; after WWII, I see only cursory quality control — a few rasp marks here and there to remove the most egregious ridges, if the handle received any post-casting finishing at all.

 

You can see the same file marks around the shoulders of the handle baseplate. The exterior rivet heads are small buttons, suggesting to me that they were inserted and finished with a machine (as opposed to hammered into place). The interior rivet heads are flat and set flush to the surface. These rivets are a transitional type I see between the 19th century handmade style and the 20th century mushroom-head style we see on pieces of post-WWII manufacture. I do not see size numbers on the interior rivet heads.

 

You will have noticed by now that I did not opt to send this piece for restoration and retinning after I purchased it. I have a decision process I go through when I buy a piece to decide whether to send it immediately to retinning; in the case of this pan, I chose not to restore it because I wanted to preserve the surface artifacts as they were. (I trust Erik Undiks at Rocky Mountain Retinning and Val Maguire at Southwest Hand Tinning to be gentle with pieces, but I didn’t want to put them in the position of disappointing me with these delicate marks.)

So what’s so special about these stamps? Take a look.

There are two stamps here: a very rare joint Jacquotot & Dehillerin mark laid on top of a earlier almost obliterated mark.

The Jacquotot-Dehillerin stamp is one of which I had seen pictures but until now had never seen in person. It reads “JACQUOTOT & DEHILLERIN 130 RUE DE GRENELLE PARIS” and refers to the period of time when Jean-Baptiste Jacquotot had a business venture with Augustine de Hillerin, widow of Ernèst who founded Dehillerin in 1885. (Incidentally, Dehillerin bases its “founded in 1820” claim on the prior chaudronneries at the firm’s first address at 1 Rue Montmartre.) Business records show this collaboration extant from 1914 to 1920. In 1922, Jacquotot expanded from 130 Rue de Grenelle to 128 & 130, and stamps after that show both street numbers in the address line.

The underlying stamp is the mystery.

My first assumption was that it is a Gaillard mark, the one at right, which I believe was used in the late 19th century from about 1890 to 1903; after 1903, Jules and Émile Gaillard operated the company as J. & E. Gaillard into the early 1920s. But as much as I wish I had the answer, I can’t quite make it fit. I mean that literally: this Gaillard mark simply won’t line up with the lettering on the underlying stamp.

You can see exactly what I mean at right: I have overlaid the Gaillard mark on top of the faint stamp. As you can see, the Gaillard stamp’s outline and initial G do not align with those of the faded underlying stamp. Moreover, the central “PARIS” and other letters in the lower address line also do not align. It’s just not a match.

So what else could it be? My research suggests that the Jacquotot-Dehillerin stamp was valid from 1914 to 1920, and so the underlying stamp would therefore be 1920 at the latest. The craftsmanship I see in this piece comports with the late 19th century and very early 20th, most notably the flat-head rivets and the hand-finishing of the bevels and handle. In truth, the period from 1880 to the 1920s was a period of transition, and therefore individual pieces with the same stamp from the same maker can have different qualities (wrought iron or cast iron handle, flat or mushroom-head rivets, et cetera) depending on where each maker was in its evolution from 19th to 20th century manufacturing techniques.

But is this faded stamp a maker’s mark or a store mark? Prior to WWI, there were a great many small chaudronneries as well as hardware and kitchenware stores in Paris, and while I can see their names in the Paris business listings I do not have examples of their stamps. I think the first letter of the stamp is either a C H (or a G), I see the word PARIS in the center, and I believe I see a capital R, likely for rue (street) in the bottom address line. But so far that has not been enough detail for me to identify a business name. If you have an idea of what this could be I would be very grateful for the help!

These two maker’s marks are not the only stamps on the piece. The initials BA are stamped near the handle (as well as on the lid) and the words “31 F Lejeune” are also lightly scratched in script. The scratches are very difficult to capture in a photograph, and so I traced them below so you can see them more clearly. (You can perhaps understand why I didn’t want to send this piece for another round of polishing which, no matter how gentle, would risk effacing these feather-light marks.)

 

I am virtually certain that the scratched name refers to the cookware store F. Lejeune that operated at 76 Rue Vaneau in Paris from 1930 to 1973. (After that, the store became Michel Lejeune in Asnières.) I have seen something like this before: there was for a time a retinner in the New York area who would scratch letters and numbers in tiny script on an out-of-the-way spot onto the pieces he worked on so that he could make sure the piece went back to the right customer.

In this case, I think Lejeune was the customer. The scenario I have in mind is that the owner of the pan took it to Lejeune for retinning, and Lejeune turned around and sent the piece out to an independent tinning workshop. The tinner marked the copper to note that the piece came from Lejeune, leaving it to the store to match it up with the right customer when the pan was returned. (I suppose Lejeune could have acquired the pan, restored it, and resold it, but then why etch their name into it when they had a perfectly fine store stamp of their own?) I think this scenario is feasible because I have heard of the same thing happening at US cookware stores: customers buy tinned copper and return it to the store for retinning, and the store has an arrangement with a local retinner to do the work. (There’s a markup built into this tripartite relationship, which is why I encourage you to work directly with your retinner of choice.)

Finally, I’d like to take a look at the lid. I believe it’s a contemporary to the pan, as it is also stamped “BA” in the same typeface.

Sharp-eyed readers will immediately spot the arrow-shaped baseplate and think to themselves, “This is an English-style lid.” The stamp confirms it: Temple & Crook Ltd, Ironmongers, Motcombe St S.W.

I have not had the opportunity to research Temple & Crook in depth, but here are some useful data points.

  • 1810: Founding of the Crook company, a porcelain and glassware firm.
  • 1841: Temple & Reynolds existed at 10 Princes Street at Cavendish Square.
  • 1863: Temple & Reynolds was located at Motcomb Street.
  • 1882: First business listing I can find for “Temple & Crook” at Motcomb Street.
  • 1885: An advertisement for “R. Temple and J. Crook” notes “formerly Temple & Reynolds,” confirming the lineage.
  • 1950s: Closure of Temple & Crook.

Based on this information — limited as it is — I would propose that Temple & Reynolds merged with the Crook company sometime between 1863 and 1882, at which point the name “Temple & Crook” came into existence. Several antiques sites identify copper with the T&C stamp as 1870s but I can’t confirm or dispute this without access to primary sources. Porcelain stamped for Crook’s London (prior to the merger) shows the Motcomb Street address, so presumably that half of the partnership brought that property to the arrangement.

By many accounts the company was a retailer, not a manufacturer. My guess is that this company followed a similar path as Dehillerin, Gaillard, and Jacquotot: that is, a family workshop with advantageous real estate (in the case of Temple & Crook, a property in the heart of Belgravia, just a few blocks from the royal palace) evolved into a retail storefront sourcing a wide variety of goods from a range of suppliers. Business listings in the early 1900s show the company providing kitchenware and housewares including electric doorbells and lighting. As an “ironmonger,” did the company also make copper products? I don’t have primary evidence either way, though the existence of copper items with the T&C stamp as well as the orb-and-cross of Benham & Froud suggest at least one sourcing relationship.

And now to the stamp, and yet another mystery. I have found four copper stamps for Temple & Crook, and I’ll classify them as follows:

  • Version 1: A simple two-line “Temple & Crook” as seen on a miniature copper mold;
  • Version 2a: An oval-shaped text mark reading “Temple & Crook Motcomb St SW”;
  • Version 2b: An oval mark very similar to 2a but with slightly different spacing of letters; and
  • Version 3: The stamp on this pan, an oval mark with an outline reading “Temple & Crook Ltd. Ironmongers Motcombe St. SW”.

Here they are.

 

Version 3 — the stamp on this pan — is different from the others in two important ways: it describes the company as “Temple & Crook Ltd.” and it misspells the street name as “Motcombe” with an E at the end. No London map or business record has ever called the street Motcombe (and the references to “Motcombe Street” I found online appear to be amateur misspellings). This stamp is also quite rare — though some online listings describe a stamp with “Motcombe”, I have yet to see another photo of this exact stamp and those references could be yet another misspelling.

But the “Ltd” may be more significant: I think it’s a clue to the piece’s age. According to this listing, the original Temple & Crook partnership was dissolved in 1912. (I haven’t been able to corroborate this with my own research.) My theory is that this might have been the date of inception of “Temple & Crook Ltd.” Then, in 1917, the SW postal code (created in 1857) was divided into numbered sub-codes. I know that the company updated its porcelain stamp — there are many examples of the Temple & Crook porcelain stamps with “SW1” and they presumably date to after this change. My proposal is that the stamp on this pan, featuring the “Ltd” but not “SW1,” may have been produced between 1912 and 1917.

So there you have it. The clues I was able to detect suggest to me the time period from 1910 to 1920 or so. First, the craftsmanship of the pan mixes elements of the 19th century (flat-face interior rivets, hand-hammered surface) and the 20th (cast iron handle, button-head exterior rivets), positioning this piece at the transition between the two eras. Second, the Jacquotot & Dehillerin stamp — though not apparently the original maker’s mark — represents a brief partnership from 1914 to 1920. And third, if my suppositions about the “Ltd” and the “SW” are correct, the Temple & Crook lid with its matching BA stamp may have been made between 1912 and 1917.

Readers, what do you think?

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12 Comments

  1. I agree the ‘light’ stamp looks like a chaudronneries stamp, it looks as though it may have been polished out (not very well) before the Jacquotot stamp was put on. Usually, as you know chaudronneries didn’t generally stamp their own copper but left it to the retailers to put their marque on. If they were retailing their own copper, however like Maurice Lefèvre in Villedieu or Enderlin Mulhouse they seem to be some of the exceptions, so we might be looking for a chaudronnerie that retailed in Paris or surrounding areas? Great article again VFC – it is a conundrum how this English lid got together with a French Pan!

  2. An excellent write up as always VFC. Good luck with that under stamp research to learn the earlier maker source. The lid came with the pan, and both being stamped B.A look to have had seen a long previous life together.

  3. VFC, another one of your sophisticated analyses to which it is hard to add anything. The tiny fragments that can be more guessed than seen of the almost completely obliterated original stamp will probably remain a mystery. If the first two letters were indeed decipherable as CH, they could be used to form the word Chaudronnerie. But the first two letters seem to be so far apart that it might be difficult to fit this word into the oval of the stamp. You mention the numerous small crafts that existed in Paris at that time. Did you match the supposed first letter C or G with your list of names?

    I am less able to understand your interpretation of the carving “31 F. Lejeune”. Why should Lejeune have entrusted the tinning of the pan to another workshop, when the Lejeune business has a long tradition of tinning from the beginning, starting with Victor Lejeune over Francis, Michel, Christiane and Frank Lejeune to the present owners? The homepage of today’s company shows that only a few years ago up to 200 pans per day were newly tinned (besides the sale and export of kitchen utensils). Could the scribble be from Francis Lejeune when he had just opened his small workshop in Paris in 1930? I recall that Francis initially worked only as a tinner, like his father Victor before him, who had traveled around Normandy as an itinerant craftsman tinning farmers’ pans. It was only later that Francis built up his business selling kitchen utensils. The 1930s were a difficult time (Great Depression), which probably required some improvisation.

    1. Martin, my theory that Lejeune outsourced the piece is just that — a theory. I know one tinner who scratched information onto each piece to help him track it, and I assumed that was what had happened here. But I’m open to other ideas. What do you think — why would Lejeune write his own name on a pan?

  4. I certainly look for owners monograms, in my opinion (Crowns being the most helpful!) dates the most ‘un-reassuring’ and individual initials that can be very helpful. When looking at the age of pans and their provenance, however, owners can mark pans throughout their long lives and aren’t necessarily marked at the earliest time in the utensils lifetime. It would seem reasonable that these two items were retailed in separate countries and came together beautifully! Well done VFC for a thorough critique of these lovely copper items.

  5. May I raise a perhaps somewhat heretical question for discussion: in earlier times it was apparently common for the owners of a copper pan to mark it with their monogram, on the one hand to make clear their personal ownership in a large kitchen, but certainly also as an expression of pride in the high-quality cookware. And for us today, it is sometimes helpful to be able to trace the history of a pot via a monogram. Could you imagine putting your monogram on your own pans nowadays? Or would it be a sin and arrogance to stamp an old Gaillard pan yourself? But maybe in 100 years a collector of antique copper pans would be thrilled to find a “VFC”-stamped pan…?

    1. Hey Dietmar! I don’t think it’s heretical to put a modern-day owner’s mark on a piece. David Liebowitz wrote that when he visited Mauviel, they stamped a piece with his initials on the spot. (https://www.davidlebovitz.com/visit-mauviel-french-copper-cookware-factory/) The one stamping I have begrudged, however, is by a certain European-based “French Lifestyle” seller who shall remain unnamed. They would buy old copper at brocantes, perform a mediocre back-yard restoration, and then resell it — with their name freshly stamped on the copper alongside whatever marks the piece already bore! I object to this on the basis that their claim to the piece was fleeting: they did not make repairs to ramshackle pieces (to the regret of one buyer, who contacted me about the shop to complain), the tinning was amateurish at best, and their objective was clearly to flip mediocre pieces for profit. My biased opinion is that a stamp should represent a meaningful connection but I have yet to define what exactly that means to me: Long term ownership? Extensive use? Emotional connection? All of these?
      I open it up to readers: would you stamp your name on your copper?

  6. It seems likely that owner marks were usually applied to new pans with subsequent marks early in the pan’s “life” while it was still in a commercial kitchen. I see no problem modifying a modern mass produced pan in any way the owner fancies. When it comes to antiques I feel that I am the custodian & not the owner. Plenty of people don’t feel this way.

  7. Roger, I like your attitude and approach. I would never think of putting my initials on antique consumer goods (pans, vases, porcelain, dishes, furniture, etc.). But I am happy when I come across an interesting piece that has had an additional “M” or even my entire initials on it from the beginning (or at least for a long time). That would then be another argument for buying.

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