Neyret Freres is a French company that is still in business but they offer no information about their old silks.
I am indebted to Charles Neyret for providing the following.
I have some information about the history of the Neyret Freres Company. In 1825, M. Antoine Bizaillon created a company to make woven ribbons in St Etienne. As he only had young children, when he retired he sold his company to his nephew, Jean-Baptiste Neyret (1825-1889), who was working with him. At that time it was only a small company and there were many in St Etienne.
In a few years Jean-Baptiste Neyret changed the company to a higher level. He understood that in the textile industry, the danger was the uncontrollable fluctuations of the ladies fashion. So he changed the activity of the company to more permanent products such as special ribbons for official decoration, trade mark images for manufacturers on their clothes etc... I don't know when they moved into artistic image products and complementary items.
Jean-Baptiste Neyret was so successful that he became very rich. In 1860 he decided to invest in other industrial activities. As he was enthusiastic for the potential of the new hydraulic energy, he created, along with the engineer Casimir Brenier a big factory in Rioupeyroux near Grenoble to make paper. The hydraulic turbine had a power of 800 HP, which was a record at that time. Nowadays that factory is an aluminium factory belonging to Pechiney, but the company has conserved as a historical museum the original hydraulic turbine and the 24m high steel tubes bringing the water from the mountain. In these factories Jean-Baptiste Neyret created a special social fund to help workers in case of illness, retirement or other big family problems.
After Jean Baptiste's retirement the Neyret Frères company was ruled by Joseph Neyret (1858-1944) my grandfather and the Rioupeyroux factory by Jean Neyret, my grand uncle. Note that Jean sold this Company to a steel milling company called "Acièries de Firminy". He became chairman of that company. He was there at the origin of the decision to build a new steel milling factory near the sea-side, in the Dunkerque area. 100 years before everyone else, he had understood the importance to have an easy and cheap procurement of the iron ore from Africa or others countries.
To illustrate the influence of the Neyret family at that time, during several years the "business court" in St Etienne was ruled by Jean-Baptiste as chairman, also by his father in law André Merliie, and his son and son in law were judges! Joseph was also a successful manager. He was reputed to be very generous, and helped a lot of people (nephews or others) to establish themselves.
Neyret Frères has donated a loom in working condition to the 'Museum of Art and Industry' as well as a stock of "Jacquard Cartons".
Musee d'arts et Indusrties
2 plca Louis Compte
St Etienne ( Loire )
tel: 33 4 77 49 73 00
fax:33 4 77 49 73 05
The conservator (conservatrice) is Mrs Besse.
From time to time some retired workers come to operate the loom as a working demonstration. Also they operate other looms making ribbons or braids. The same Museum has got a huge collection (1,500,000) of ribbons made by different companies in St Etienne from the 19è century.
By the way that museum has got also an impressive collection of weapons and bicycles, the two other traditional activities in St Etienne. From my point of view, it is one of the most interesting museums, with a lot of items and well prepared for children to learn about silk woven pictures.
I remember my Uncle Antoine (1899-1990), who was a fine technician, has explained, at the end of the year 1950 that it was then very difficult to procure good quality silk. In the old days the silk came from China and it was necessary to get the highest level of quality to make these pictures. Maybe the problem came with the Chinese political situation or perhaps the old China producers disappeared? He said it was a pity to produce new pictures with bad quality silk coming from Japan or other countries compared to old silk.
He explained also to get a good rendering for the grey color, for instance, they were using more than twelve different grey silks in a picture. After the year 1950 the manufacturing cost was very high, and the number of customers ready to pay this cost was very low, so Neyret Frères turned to more active products!
I have got more precise information from my elder brother, who was in the board of Neyret Frères after the death of our father Xavier (1901-1974). The manufacturing of the artistic woven pictures was stopped at the end of the year 1970. The number of workers on these products at that time was 5 and the yearly value of sales was only 50,000 Euros. That is to say the value of sales was covering less than 1/3 of the cost!!
Nowadays the manufacturing of woven pictures for trade marks on clothes is always made on "Jacquard" looms but the control of the mechanism on these looms is fully computerised. It was easy to do because the Jacquard mechanism used cards with rows of punched holes and spaces to develop the design. This is similar to the binary logic used by the computer language (0 or 1). The cards (lisage) are read by numeric camera or scanner and it is easy to make samples for the customer without spending a lot of hours as it was necessary in the former times to prepare the loom.
Other stories about the family. Jean Baptiste's second son, Jean (1885-1942) was elected as mayor of St Etienne from 1908 to 1920. At that time the town was 180,000 inhabitants and he got the nickname of "Jean la lampe" because he thought that the electric light was such a wonderfull inovation that everybody, even the poor people should get it. He made the decision that the town should put one lamp, free of charge, in every house or flat in the city which the town supplied at a very low cost.
When I was a child, our school teachers sent us from time to time to visit poor old men or women, giving to them some sweets or oranges, or things like that. One day, an old woman discovering my name, showed me the lamp hanging from the ceiling of her old single room flat: " Look at that boy; it is still a lamp of Jean la lampe!
The 6th son of Jean Baptiste,was named Paul (1860-1943) and was working in Neyret Frères as finance and sales manager. He was very skillfull in that job. ln 1889 he made a journey into Germany and fell in love with the daugther of a very high general of the german army. However, in France, everybody was still frustrated after our defeat in the 1870 war, with the huge amount of money we had to pay to Germany, plus the Alsace - Lorraine area, and the the family strictly refused this wedding to take place! Paul was so upset that he decided immediatly to stop all activities and to leave the family and went as a Benecictine monk in Ligugé. He was seeking to pray to the Lord day and night..... but the Benedictines very soon recognized his skill in finances and put him in charge of handling all the finances of the Benedictin congregation! After the french law of 1905 which forbade any religious congregation, he had to move to Belgium. During the 1st world war, that area was under the control of the german army. Paul built an underground organisation to help french prisoners to escape and go through the german lines and come back to France. (This story is written in the book "hommes des bois, pantalons rouges". I read it a long time ago but I am unable to find a copy of this book again. He was discovered and condemned to death by the germans but the Cathalic officials responsible in Rome, succeeded to convince the germans not to do it. After the war the 1905 law was cancelled and he came back to Ligugé where he died in 1943, despite seeing the german army there again. He said that he had been a victim 3 times in his life due to the conflicts beetween Germany and France!
Many of the Neyret Freres silk postcards found today were published by E. Deffrene in France between 1916 and 1919. The subject matters were mainly in the following categories.