Thursday, 5 October 2017

France 1934 - Jacquard

Computers, tablets, smartphones, and all that other technology we rely on and take for granted these days, may not have even existed without the pioneering efforts of people such as Joseph Marie Charles, nicknamed Jacquard. And yet before a couple of days ago I will freely admit I'd never heard of the man. So who is he?

Jacquard, born 7 July 1752, was a French weaver and merchant, and perhaps most importantly, somewhat of a mechanical genius. Jacquard's father was a master weaver and property owner, so the family had a decent amount of money, yet Jacquard had no formal schooling. In fact, he was illiterate until the age of 13 when his brother-in-law, Jean-Marie Barrett, who ran a printing and book selling business, started teaching him. Barrett also introduced him to the world of scholars and high society. It is thought that initially Jacquard worked for his father, assisting him in the operation of his loom. Jacquard didn't particularly like the physical nature of the work, so he tried his hand at bookbinding and then with a maker of printers' type, an occupation known as a type-founder.

In 1772 his father died, leaving him a substantial inheritance including his house, looms, and workshop, as well as a vineyard and quarry in Couzon-au-Mont d’Or. It seems, however, that Jacquard was not much of a businessman, since there is evidence to suggest he ran up a substantial debt and lost all of his father's estate. Fortunately, his wife's dowry was substantial and included her own house, in which they were able to live.

By 1800 Jacquard was working as an inventor. It was in this capacity that he did his best work. In that very year, he invented a treadle loom. Then in 1803, a loom to weave fishing nets. But it was in 1804 that he came up with his best creation yet, a machine that became known as the “Jacquard” loom. This loom was designed to weave patterned silk automatically. The loom worked by using "pasteboard cards with punched holes, each card corresponding to one row of the design. Multiple rows of holes are punched in the cards and the many cards that compose the design of the textile are strung together in order" (Wikipedia). This early form of programmable machine played an important role in the development of other programmable machines, such as an early version of digital compiler used by IBM to develop the modern day computer. After some teething problems, the Jacquard loom took off. By 1812 there were 11,000 Jacquard looms in use in France. Jacquard died on 7 August 1834 in Oullins, a suburb in the city of Lyon, France.


On 19 March 1934, France issued a stamp for the 100th anniversary of the death of Joseph Marie Charles, honouring his contribution to industry. The stamp was designed and engraved by Achille Ouvre based on an artwork by Claude Bonnefond. Incidentally, this was the first small format stamp printed in intaglio issued by France. The source from which I got this information doesn't specify if it was the "world's first" or "France's first" small format intaglio issue. Anyway, to the stamp. It is a beauty. It also happens to be Achille Ouvre's first engraved stamp.

I have only just started studying the work of Ouvre, and I have to say I love what I have seen so far. I look forward to showcasing more of his stamps in the future...

Until next time...

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