Anyone who ventures into the world of vintage French copper cookware will quickly come across the name Dehillerin, an iconic and photogenic kitchenware store operating in Paris since 1890.
A brief history of Dehillerin
The most entertaining (and presumably authoritative) history of Dehillerin comes from its own website (in French), and I encourage to you read it. (The September 2017 issue of the French magazine mint also has a wonderfully evocative story about the store.)
In 1880, Eugene Dehillerin (b. 1856) purchased a copper workshop at 7 Rue de Bouloi, followed in 1885 by a hardware store at 1 Rue Montmartre. In 1890 he added the famous storefront property at 18 and 20 Rue Coquillière and consolidated manufacturing to a workshop at 3-5 Rue Léon Delagrange in the 15th arrondissement. The firm focused on a single mission: aider modestement à promouvoir la cuisine française (“modest assistance in the promotion of French cuisine”). Dehillerin sold its house-made goods alongside quality products from other French manufacturers to outfit the many restaurants and hotels in Paris. In 1907, the company purchased the former Lasnier chaudronnerie at 7-8 rue St-Simon in the 7th arrondissement, but during this same period also advertised that its copper cookware was made at a usine (factory) in Villedieu so it’s unclear what copper was manufactured where. Around 1922 the company expanded the workshop in the 15th to make its batterie de cuisine en cuivre. According to Dehillerin’s own lively writeup of its history,
This is where cookware, the famous copper and tin baking pans, and refrigerators for appetizers and pantry coolers for restaurants is made… A hundred employees are divided between the store and the workshops in a multitude of trades now missing. Tinsmiths, scourers, scrapers and passeurs à la terre made the walls of the factory ring with sound until the 1960s.
Dehillerin’s beautiful copper pots and pans are mentioned in the same breath as such august names as Gaillard, Jacquotot, and Pommier.
Dehillerin had been central to the Parisian (and French) cooking industry for more than a hundred years when Americans began to discover French cooking en masse after World War II. Julia Child bought many of her copper pots from Dehillerin and you can see them hanging in the Smithsonian. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, “The pots were purchased in France between 1948 and 1952, during the time that the family lived in Provence. Several bear the address 18 rue Coquillière.” When Chuck Williams came to Paris in 1953 he visited the Dehillerin store, and it served as part of his inspiration to open the first Williams-Sonoma store in California.
What is most relevant to my purposes for this post is that Dehillerin manufactured copper pots and pans from the 1880s through World War II, after which it stopped making copper. From an amateur copper appreciator’s perspective, this is the key thing to remember: Dehillerin is both a copper maker and a seller of other makers’ copper. A pot stamped Dehillerin was sold by Dehillerin but not necessarily made by Dehillerin. True Dehillerin-made pieces will all predate World War II (mid-1940s), but even prior to that, Dehillerin sold other manufacturer’s goods under the Dehillerin stamp as well.
Is this a distinction without a difference? Perhaps. After all, as the redoubtable TJFRANCE would say, “Copper pots brands stamped or not? Thickness in first!” (Trust me, it’s worth a read.) Ultimately, the heft and hardware of a pot speaks far more to its quality and performance than the stamp of one house or another.
But still, I like to study these old vintage coppersmiths simply for the sake of appreciating them. What is early Dehillerin like? How did Dehillerin evolve over the decades? As with Gaillard, Dehillerin stamps changed style over the years. I have multiple examples in my collection and I’m going to use this post to look closely at them.
I’m big on summary tables, so here they are.
ANCT MSON PERSONNE
1 RUE MONTMARTRE
Has street address;
• E. DEHILLERIN •
Has street address;
Has street address;
No street address;
No street address;
No street address;
The very earliest stamps I’ve ever seen for Dehillerin represent the brief period when Dehillerin first began producing its own copper cookware from around 1885 to the early 1890s, before the firm settled into the famous Rue Coquillière address.
There are two of them that I have seen.
|ANCT Mson PERSONNE|
Lagaldie frères operated a chaudronnerie et quincaillerie at 1 Rue Montmartre (and 5 and 34 Rue Pagevin) from 1860 until October 1882, when it was dissolved. I believe the business was acquired by Maison Personne, a hotel and restaurant supplier operated by the partnership Bastid & Fonrouge.
Bastid & Fonrouge continued to run Lagaldie at 1 Rue Montmartre for three more years until 1885, when they sold the property to Eugène Dehillerin and moved their business to 39 Rue de l’Arbre Sec. I suspect the chaudronnerie at 1 Rue Montmartre enabled Eugène to produce his first Dehillerin-branded copper cookware, and he included the names of both Lagaldie and Personne to help establish his name in the business.
This is conjecture on my part, but I suspect these stamps represent Dehillerin’s very earliest production before the enterprise consolidated behind the storefront at Rue Coquillière. The time window for this would be no earlier than 1885. I think the oval stamp came first, immediately after Dehillerin assumed the business; the second stamp omits the notation of Lagaldie and Personne, implying that Dehillerin no longer felt the need to evoke these antecedents.
Dehillerin bought the property at 18 Rue Coquillière in 1890 but I think it’s possible he continued to use these 1 Rue Montmartre stamps for a period of time.
I believe these are the first series of stamps with the new 18 Rue Coquillière address, no earlier than 1890 and likely a year or two later than that. They are all two- or three-line word marks with very minor differences between them. I would love to know how it came to be that there are
four five stamps like this. Val Maguire of Southwest Hand Tinning has a theory that Dehillerin was sourcing pans from other makers and that each maker may have had a slightly different version of the stamp. If this is the case, and it seems reasonable, I’d like to figure out which stamp came from whom.
18 RUE COQUILLIÈRE
This stamp has no “Paris” in the address and the typeface is a sans-serif font.
This stamp omits the “E” for Eugène Dehillerin, founder of the store, and the typeface for “Dehillerin” is a serif style. Note that the word “Rue” includes small-cap letters.
This is similar to the stamp above but adds the word Paris. Note that this is not a mis-stamp — it’s definitely a different stamp. Look at the word “Rue” — it is in all capital letters.
This stamp has the full “E. DEHILLERIN” in a serif style. Note that the top and bottom lines are the same width. (The lack of Paris may be a mis-stamp.)
18 RUE COQUILLIÈRE
This uses serif font, includes the full street address, and the word Paris. It is about 32mm wide.
18 RUE COQUILLIÈRE
This one is almost identical to the one above except that it is smaller, about 24mm wide.
The example photo to the right was pointed out by reader Steve, a collector of artifacts from the White Star Line (WSL), the British shipping company that operated cargo and luxury passenger services across the Atlantic from 1845 to 1934. This is the stamp on one of the copper pots recovered from the wreck of the RMS Titanic that sank in 1912. According to Steve, “Although the WSL utilized Elkington for their standard galley cookware, the À la Carte Restaurant was not managed by the WSL. As it was operated independently by Mr. Luigi Gatti and his French wait staff, my guess is that this pot may have been supplied by Mr. Gatti himself.” As above, I think this stamp is from the early 1890s, making this pan already an experienced hand in the kitchen by the time of its sailing on the Titanic in 1912.
Thank you, Steve, for this stamp example and the story!
Oval with complete address
This stamp has “E. DEHILLERIN 18. RUE COQUILLIERE PARIS” within an oval outline. I have seen it oriented vertically and horizontally. The earliest it could be used is 1890, but I believe it’s more likely 1895 or later into the 1900s, after the linear series above.
I have two pots with this stamp in vertical orientation: a big 38cm stockpot and a 20cm Windsor.
Get a load of the rivets on that Windsor. They’re totally out of proportion to the pan. That style of outsized rivet is a hallmark of early copper crafting, in my experience. The stockpot, however, has a smaller rivets and a more refined aesthetic. My guess is that the Windsor may may be a few years older than the stockpot.
Here’s another pan with the stamp stamp in horizontal orientation. I don’t know if the orientation matters, but the change in position could mean that they were used across different production runs at different times.
I only have one pan with this mark in this orientation — a 34cm rondeau.
Compare this pan to the Windsor and stockpot above. They have the same stamp (in a different orientation) and I presume they’re of the same era. But even though this rondeau and the stockpot have brass hardware, the rivets are very different. This rondeau with its large rivets has more in common with the Windsor than the stockpot. I’m starting to think the Windsor and the rondeau are quite early and the stockpot may be a little later.
Horizontal oval with street address and dots
This version has “E. DEHILLERIN 18. RUE COQUILLIÈRE” without the word Paris inside an oval with two dots at either end. Those dots and the missing Paris distinguish this mark from the ones above.
Here’s an example pan I have with this mark, a 28cm saucepan.
This pan has fat flattened exterior rivets and flush-finished interior rivets, very similar to the ones above, which gives it a late 19th to early 20th century feel.
However, I would note that the copper bowl in Julia Child’s collection at the Smithsonian — photo here — has that very same stamp. Either this stamp was in use on pans being sold from 1948 to 1952 (when Julia was buying them) or Julia dug a rather old bowl out of a pile at the store (which we know is still a regular phenomenon) that bore an older stamp. If you held a piece of tiramisu before me and told me you demanded my opinion or NO TIRAMISU, I’d say that this mark is from the first half of the 20th century, up to World War II, Julia’s purchase notwithstanding.
Horizontal oval with street address, no line
To be completely honest with you, I’m not entirely sure this mark is different from the one with dots just above. The one above is not deeply stamped and it’s possible that if the same stamp (and stamper) were at work here, that the dots and oval line would not have shown up. I only have one pot like this, so it’s hard to tell if this is just a one-off stamping aberration.
But let’s assume for the moment that this is a distinct stamp of an oval shape with “E. DEHILLERIN 18. RUE COQUILLIÈRE” without the word Paris and with no oval outline and no dots.
The pan I have with this mark is a 26cm sauté.
Regardless of the stamp issues, I see a significant difference between this pan and the ones above. Either this represents a significant leap forward into modernity for Dehillerin’s production or this pan was made by another maker.
The rivets are very different: on the exterior, they’re smaller and rounded; on the interior, they’re pounded slightly flat, but no longer flush-set against the interior surface. The iron handle is different as well — compare this handle to the handle on the pan just above. The base plate on this pan’s handle is more bulbous.
My gut feeling is that this is a more modern mark. The exterior rivets have a rounded shape that looks machined, the same appearance as rivets we see on pots today. The iron handle is also a modern style. The stamp has the Dehillerin address on it, but Dehillerin had been stamping other people’s pots for a while already, so that’s not necessarily an indication of provenance.
I think this is a 1920s-1940s pan, and if it’s Dehillerin made, part of the last production. (No withholding of tiramisu required for this opinion.)
Arched with no street address
Now we get to the first stamp that has no street address on it. Hereafter we will see “E. Dehillerin Paris” but no more 18 rue Coquillière. I suspect that stamps without the Dehillerin street address were used by outsourced providers (Mauviel, Gaillard, et cetera) after Dehillerin closed its own chaudronnerie after World War II.
I have three pans with this mark: small (16cm) and medium (20cm) Pommes Anna pans and a 20cm Windsor.
The rivets on the Pommes Anna handles are charmingly out of alignment, in my opinion, and I conclude they’re hand-punched, but in every other way these pans feel to me to be of the modern era, perhaps during the 1950s to 1980s. The internal rivets of the Pommes Anna are smoothly rounded, not flattened (and certainly not flush) as the ones we’ve seen above. And the rivets on the Windsor are a dead giveaway: do you see the numbers on them? I believe that’s a 17. These are size markings used to distinguish mass-produced rivets and are definitely 20th-century make.
Anecdotally, I have seen copper pots with this stamp that seem both older and more modern than the ones I have. For example, I’ve seen a stewpot with big hand-pounded rivets like those we see in my pieces above, as well as this same stamp on a pot alongside “Made in France,” which conclusively dates the pot to the 1970s or later. I am looking into whether this stamp indicates the work of Gaillard.
Oval with no street address and “Made in France”
This is another modern-era stamp without the street address, but with the oval outline, it’s a bit of a throwback to the older marks we’ve seen above.
I have four pans with this mark: a large (24cm) Pommes Anna; a 22cm saucepan; a 26cm stainless-steel lined sauté pan; and a 28cm stewpot.
Do you see the “MADE IN FRANCE” stamp next to the iron handle of the saucepan? The presence of this stamp instantly dates this pot to 1957 or later. French copper makers began marking their pans “Made in France” in the early 1960s and the practice continues to this day.
However, the pommes Anna doesn’t have it. I happen to know that this pommes Anna was purchased at Dehillerin in 1980 by my mother (who gave it to me). While it seems now that every French copper pan is marked “Made in France,” it’s possible that in the early years of this practice there was a distinction between pans intended for export (and marked) versus those sold off the shelf at Dehillerin (and presumably neither intended nor marked for export).
Therefore, I submit that this is the version of stamp used during and after the 1960s, and that is the era of these pans.
Horizontal oval, Dehillerin Paris only
This is a new stamp I’ve seen on a few pieces and I suspect it’s quite recent — say, the 2010s and later. It says simply “Dehillerin Paris,” no longer E. Dehillerin. My suspicion at the moment is that this is a modern-era stamp in an archaic style meant to evoke the Dehillerin history; the loss of the “E.” may be perhaps a nod to modern branding and labeling requirements. I am keeping my eye out for more examples of this; it’s possible it is recent enough that not many examples have made their way onto the online stores (from which I gather many of these examples).
What I’m missing
I have some caveats about this “field guide.”
- I am probably missing some marks. If you have a pot with a Dehillerin stamp shown here, I’d welcome a good closeup photo so I can add it — especially if you have information about when it was made!
- I’m making a lot of assumptions. I’ve done some research but obviously not exhaustively, and I welcome corrections from those who know more than I.
- There seems to be a lot of overlap. For example, I see “Made in France” stamps on at least three styles of stamp. Were these stamps all in use by separate producers at the same time? Was someone running around the bowels of Dehillerin, digging out old pans, and pounding Made in France onto them before shipping them off to ambitious American housewives? I don’t know. Do you?
If you want to develop your own eye, go to eBay and Etsy and do a search for Dehillerin. Look at the stamps and then look at the rivets and handles on the pans. What do the rivets look like? How modern does the pan “feel” to you? Is there a Made in France stamp?