…and yet more on old signage in France….

Further to my previous posts on ‘ghost signs’ on various walls in the Touraine, the BBC has just posted an interesting article on the subject:



My previous posts can be found at:

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Angie Palmer….Barrou…..next Friday


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Flooding in the Loire

CaptureFurther to the problems of flooding in Central France over the past few weeks. My previous blogs on flooding in the Loire Basin have had an unusual number of daily hits!

If you’ve been effected then you might want to visit:



Other websites of possible interest:


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Breaking news….opening up the Vichy regime archives

1621690_10153912292428267_695443947151839148_nToday, France is finally opening up police and ministerial archives from the Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazi occupation forces in World War Two. More than 200,000 declassified documents are being made public. They date from the 1940-1944 regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.

Amongst other issues, the documents should shed light on the deportation of some 76,000 Jews to Germany by officials of the regime (see image above) – and will be of interest to those in the Touraine region which straddled the Demarcation line.

Also visit: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35188755



Posted in Demarcation Line, Jewish history, Jewish persicution | 2 Comments

….a little more on Marcel Marceau

1621690_10153912292428267_695443947151839148_nThis portrait of Marcel Marceau, using oils on concrete, is by Francine Mayran. She painted it in order to “transmit his courage against the devil, and his humanity which stayed stronger than Nazi barbarism”. It is part of a series, “witnessing these lives – témoigner de ces vies ” where she attempts to transmit the humanity of victims by recalling that behind the numbers of victims of barbarism there were women, men and children all with their own identity and individuality.

Francine’s paintings will be exhibited for the Remembrance of the Holocaust and of other Genocides of the XXth century. The next stop for this exhibition will be in Duisbourg (Germany) and then in the Château des Rohan, Saverne (France) . You can see further examples of her work @ www.fmayran.com

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Marcel Marceau ~ une vie extraordinaire

Bip the Clown ~ 1974

Bip the Clown ~ 1974

Marcel Marceau’s extraordinary talent for pantomime entertained audiences around the world for over sixty years but did you know that it also saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Born to a Jewish family in Strasbourg, France in 1923, young Marcel Mangel discovered Charlie Chaplin at age five and became an avid fan. He entertained his friends with Chaplin imitations, and dreamed of starring in silent movies.

When Marcel was 16, the Nazis marched into France, and the Jews of Strasbourg – near the German border – had to flee for their lives. Marcel changed his last name to Marceau to avoid being identified as Jewish, and joined the French resistance movement.

Masquerading as a boy scout, Marcel evacuated a Jewish orphanage in eastern France. He told the children he was taking them on a vacation in the Alps, and led them to safety in Switzerland. Marcel made the perilous journey three times, saving hundreds of Jewish orphans.

He was able to avoid detection by entertaining the children with silent pantomime.

Documentary filmmaker Phillipe Mora, whose father fought alongside Marcel in the French resistance, said, ”Marceau started miming to keep children quiet as they were escaping. It had nothing to do with show business. He was miming for his life.’’

Marcel’s father perished at Auschwitz. Marcel later said, “The people who came back from the camps were never able to talk about it. My name is Mangel. I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence.”

While fighting with the French resistance, Marcel ran into a unit of German soldiers. Thinking fast, he mimicked the advance of a large French force, and the German soldiers retreated.

Word spread throughout the Allied forces of Marcel’s remarkable talent as a mime. In his first major performance, Marcel entertained 3,000 US troops after the liberation of Paris in August 1944. Later in life, he expressed great pride that his first review was in the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

In 1947, Marcel created his beloved character Bip, a childlike everyman with a stovepipe hat and a red carnation. For the next six decades, Marcel was the world’s foremost master of the art of silence. He was made “Grand Officier de la Légion d’Honneur” (1998) and was awarded the National Order of Merit (1998) in France. He won an Emmy Award for his work on television, was elected member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin, was declared a “National treasure” in Japan, and Michael Jackson credited Marcel with inspiring his famous moonwalk.

In 2001, Marcel was awarded the Wallenberg Medal for his acts of courage during the Holocaust. When the award was announced, people speculated on whether Marcel would give an acceptance speech. He replied, “Never get a mime talking, because he won’t stop.”

Until his death at age 84, Marcel performed 300 times a year and taught 4 hours a day at his pantomime school in Paris. He died on Yom Kippur, 2007.

For risking his life to save orphans, and entertaining generations of fans without uttering a word, we honor Marcel Marceau.

(With thanks to Essia Cartoon-Fredman)
Posted in Arts, Jewish history, Jewish persicution, Off the wall historical stuff | Leave a comment

Liberation celebrations, Descartes, 1944

Here’s a fascinating photo of the liberation celebrations of Descartes in on a sunny autumn day in September 1944.

The population of Descartes at the time was about 1,500 and it seems that up to a half of them were in the town square to celebrate.

The resistance against Nazi occupation was well organised in the district as the Conte-Freslon and, among other actions, on 31st August 1944 the Forces Françaises  de l’Intérieur  (F.F.I.) blew up the town’s bridge, Pont Henri IV,  on the Vienne/Buxeuill side of the Creuse. Naturally, the local resistance fighters were represented in the Liberation celebrations and you can see that they are still operational and carrying their weapons.

Descartes_1944_LOC_fsa_8e02720 Americans and local resistance members children guns and child

See also my following posts:

Posted in Descartes/La Haye, Resistance in the Touraine Region, World War II | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Touraine: host to the world’s first solar powered home…..in1864!

no 4The next time you are in the city of Tono 4 plaqueurs take a trip along the rue Bernard Palissy and stop outside of number 4. There you will see an old stone plaque on the facade of a house: “A. Mouchot construisit dans cette maison de 1864 à 1866 le premier appareil pour l’utilisation de la chaleur solaire “ or “A. Mouchot built in this house from 1864 to 1866 the first device to use solar heat.”
Augustin Mouchot

So, who was Augustin Mouchot? Augustin became a Bachelor of Science in 1850 and gained his degree in mathematics-science two years later. On September 15, 1853, he was appointed assistant professor of pure and applied mathematics at the Imperial School of Alençon in Normandy and it was during his time at Alencon that he became interested in solar energy. Building upon the work of Claude Pouillet (1790-1868) Mouchot made a “solar furnace” that allowed him “to use the sun to make an excellent stew, consisting of a kilogram of beef and mixed vegetables.” On March 4, 1861, he filed a patent on the use of solar energy by the process called “héliopompe” (1) for heating the water from the sun. The principle is based on the concentration of solar radiation through a tapered funnel.

As he wished to live close to his elderly father he transfered from Rennes to Tours and, in October 1864, he was appointed professor of mathematics at Imperial High School (renamed ‘Lycée Descartes’ in 1888). It was during his time at Tours he lived at 4 rue Saint-Étienne (now called 4, rue Bernard Palissy) and is here that he invented the first solar motor with a parabolic reflector and a cylindrical glass boiler feeding a steam engine. He managed to run a pump and two steam engines in 1866: “From the year 1866, I already had two small steam engines running […]. In June 1866, the success has exceeded my expectations, since the same solar receiver was enough to maintain the movement of a second much larger machine than the first.

Solar Generator, 1878

Solar Generator, 1878

Mouchot received financial support from the French Association for the Advancement of Science.  At the end 1869 Mouchot published his major work, Solar heat and industrial applications. The foreword says: “This book covers a new branch of applications that can have the greatest influence on the future of certain countries. Finding a convenient way to collect and use sunlight directly for agriculture and industry in the warmer regions of the globe….There will necessarily come a day when, for lack of fuel, industry will be forced to return to the good work of other natural agents. Deposits of coal and oil will provide for a long time enormous calorific power, we do not doubt. But these deposits will be depleted without a doubt…. One can only conclude that it is prudent and wise not to fall asleep in this regard in false security. ”

Mouchot was hoping to permanently leave his teaching obligations and secure financial support from the French imperial government. But the war of 1870 disrupted his plans and when the city of Tours, bombed December 21, 1870, was occupied by the Prussians in January 1871 the educational premises where he was based was use to house military ambulances. After the fall of the Empire, Mouchot did not abandon its work on solar energy, he conducted himself in the yard of the high school and, searching for alternative funding, turned to the General Council of Indre-et-Loire.  After much discussion, a grant of 1,500 francs was granted and Mouchot built a solar oven and a generator of 2.60 meters in diameter which was installed in Tours and used for experiments in the garden of the Prefecture.

On October 4, 1875 Mouchot exhibited his work to the Academy of Sciences in Paris. The following year, during the ceremony of the Descartes prize in Tours, Pellet, professor of special mathematics, honored Mouchot: “You will not be surprised that a science teacher talking about this invention that this year has shown our school. It is the work of a man of studies, but it has a firm eminently useful purpose “.

By 1876, Mouchot’s was at the hight of his fame. He registered patents, publisheed a book on mathematics, and presented the findings of his work for the encouragement of French industry. Newspapers and journals recounted his essays relateing to the use of solar heat. Thus, in 1876, the Revue des Deux Mondes published a laudatory article “Industrial use of solar heat.” In 1877, the National and Central Agricultural Society of France published a report entitled “Solar and Mouchot“.

In  1876, Mouchot was granted leave from his teaching post to devote himself entirely to his research. With the support of Baron de Watteville, the Director of Science and Letters at the Ministry of Education, Mouchot was provided with a grant of 10,000 francs from the government for a mission in Algeria where he launched into public demonstrations, testing numerous versions of its devices. The Algiers General Council granted him an additional 5,000 francs to build new machines and on March 12, 1878, Mouchot gave a lecture to the military circle of Algiers on the use of solar energy for military purposes.

As a result of his Algerian research Mouchot designed, with the help of Pifre Abel (1852-1928), a young engineer from the Ecole Centrale who became his partner, a “large unit of 20 square meters”. This is the largest ever made solar receiver. The steam produced operated under a constant pressure of about 3 atmospheres, a pump capable of lifting 1,500-2,000 liters of water per hour to a height of two meters. In September 1878, the unit was demonstrated during the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1878. The press reports enthusiastically about this machine while audiences were “impressed and amazed“.

Demonstration of Abel Pifre's solar-powered printing press in Paris, 1882

Demonstration of Abel Pifre’s solar-powered printing press in Paris, 1882

The jury of the Universal Exhibition awarded Mouchot a gold medal. The Ministry of Agriculture and Trade appointed Mouchot, “inventor of the use of solar heat system as a driving force.” He received the Knight of the Legion of Honor on October 20, 1878.

Although Mouchot devices continued to fascinate scientists and general public Mouchot, himself, received diminished government support of just 5,000 francs. Mouchot’s approach was to provide an alternative energy source or a complement to then insufficient coal production for the needs of French industry. But the discovery of new coal deposits in eastern France and the improvement of the rail network that enabled the supply of coal across the country led the government to believe that solar energy is not profitable and stopped financing  Mouchot’s research. Similarly, after the Universal Exhibition of 1878, combustion engines and the massive applications of oil radically changed the industrial landscape.

quote 2Without grants to support his work Mouchot returned to the field of education. For the tercentenary celebrations of René Descartes in Tours in December 1896 Mouchot was appointed member of the Honorary Committee. On 23 December, the President of the Archaeological Society of Touraine paid him tribute “as modest and as passionate about science cultivated for itself, Mr. Mouchot works in solitude reminiscent of the hermitage of Descartes. His mathematical work is the continuation of the work of that which we celebrate. So I am pleased to join in this day, in the same thought, the master of the seventeenth and the nineteenth-century disciple.quote 1

Augustin Mouchot life ended in poverty, he was physically tired and from 1907 received a pension from the Academy of Sciences. Separated from his wife and almost blind, he died poor and anonymous in Paris on October 4, 1912. His funeral was held on October 7 in Saint-Lambert de Vaugirard church and he was buried in the cemetery of Bagneux in southern Paris.

rueOn 23 June 1913, less than a year after his death, the city of Tours gave his name to a street of the district Beaujardin (rue Mouchot – see map right).

Oil and the combustion engine have destroyed the works of Mouchot that have almost fallen into the dustbin of history. However, Augustin Mouchot had a subtle and daring foresight about the future of energy that faces humanity today.

(1) For an example of a modern Fench “héliopompe” click here.

Primary source: Georges-François Pottier, Departmental Archives of Indre-et-Loire,

Posted in 19th Century Touraine, Augustin Mouchot, Electricity generation, Solar Power, Tours | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yet more on old french signs

Hi all, Quite some time back I posted a blog about old signage in the Touraine region. You may be interested in visiting Poitou-Charentes In Photos where the author gives some insights into the history of these ‘ghost signs’; see example below,  Happy surfing, Jim

Dubonnet sign, Mansle

Dubonnet sign, Mansle


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Gaston Monmousseau (1883-1960): trade unionist and political agitator of the Touraine.

Gaston René Léon Monmousseau was born in Luynes on 17th January 1883. He was the son of John and Mary Silvine Monmousseau.

Gaston Monmousseau, 1922

Gaston Monmousseau, 1922

Gaston spent his childhood in Azay-sur-Cher. After leaving school he was apprenticed to a carpenter from Luynes.
After military service, he worked for the state railway in Paris where, as an anarcho-syndicalist, he campaigned amongst the railway workers. In January 1913, he organised an anti-militarist rally in Azay-sur-Cher against “the law of three years” (1). In 1917 Gaston was greatly inspired by the Russian October Revolution. By April 1920, he was Secretary of Propaganda for the Fédération des Cheminots (Federation of Railway Workers), he was arrested for plotting against the state. He was released in February 1921. One wonders if he was present at the 18th Congress of the French United Socialist Party held in Tours on 25 December 1920. See my previous blog entry.

As a member of the anarcho-syndicalist minority of the CGT, Gaston Monmousseau became secretary general of the CGTU, a position he held until 1933.
In December 1922, he represented the CGTU at the International Trade Union Congress in Moscow. In January 1923, having participated in the International Congress, “Imperialism and War”, he organised against the occupation of the Ruhr by French troops, he was imprisoned once again. Monmousseau also participated in the Congress of the Red Trade Union International in Moscow where he met Lenin.
Picture2Turning away from anarcho-syndicalism, he joined the Communist Party in 1925 and became a member of the Central Committee and the Politburo. He was again imprisoned in 1927 following his involvement in the series of strikes directed against the Spanish-French colonialist war in northern Morocco (1920-26). Upon his release from jail, he married Alice Louise Marcelle Legendre at Courçay in the Touraine. Alice was the daughter of a peasant militant anarchist in the region.
In September 1929, as Deputy-member of the Executive Committee of the Comintern (Communist International), he was charged with conspiracy against state security and released in May 1930. In April 1931, he was again imprisoned for 4 months. The April 26, 1936, Monmousseau was elected, on the first ballot (with 17,527 votes out of 31,255) to the Chamber of Deputies to the National Assembly for St. Denis, Paris (1936 was the year of the General Strike in France – a strike that was betrayed by the French Communist Party under direction from Stalin and Co in Moscow. Maurice Thorez, national secretary of the French Communist Party, stated that “one must know how to finish a strike, at the moment that the main points have been obtained.” Thus, the opportunity for strengthening opposition and resistance to European fascism, internal fascists, royalists, Petinists and the like was lost.). At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and after the dissolution of the French Communist Party, Monmousseau went underground. Convicted in absentia, it is stripped of his parliamentary mandate. His only son died in deportation in Dachau.

I have found no information as to Monmousseau’s role in the French Resistance during World War II. But I imagine he played an active part. By summer 1941 (and the invasion of the Soviet Union) the French Communist Party’s ambiguous position towards resistance changed, and along with propaganda work among the occupation troops, armed struggle became the order of the day. See my previous blog entry.

From 1956 to 1960 he was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He died July 11, 1960 in the 19th arrondissement, Paris.

(1) If there was a controversy that ignited France during the first half of 1913, it was the law of ‘three years military service’. This law extended conscripted military service by a further year. Announced in March 1913, the law was passed in August, despite strong resistance. It actually caused strong discontent in the working class, but also the peasantry, whose sons will miss working in the fields one more year. The Socialist Party, the CGT and the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) were at the forefront of the struggle, and organized several protest rallies in Pre-Saint-Gervais, near Paris, each time attracting nearly 100,000 people. The French state aimed to have 160,000 more men constantly under arms. This was an important step in the militarisation of France at that time, and a precursor to World War I.

Principle source: http://archives.cg37.fr/Actualite.php?theme=3&idactualite=202
Posted in 20th Century, Azay-sur-Cher, French Communist Party, Gaston Monmousseau, Luynes, Transport ~ roal. rail, water, World War I, World War II | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment