Autochromes Lumière
The Monplaisir' factory > The Personnel > Social Aspects

Social Aspects

In Lyon à l'exposition universelle de 1889, Édouard Aynard described the work of these women as it was in 1906, and it probably remained as such until around 1920. The text also allows us to glimpse the contribution of Louis and Auguste Lumière to the factory and especially to its automation, which was not yet common.

"Upon their arrival at the factory, the sheets of glass are cut into panes of a width common to numerous plate dimensions, fifteen, twenty-seven and thirty centimetres [...] These panes are then mechanically cleaned by machines that have been designed and constructed on site. The application of the emulsion is carried out with the aid of a special device set up in a manner to pour the liquid over the glass with a constant temperature and pressure. These panes of glass are placed end to end on a conveyor belt, passing them across a perfectly horizontal table of 20 metres in length. By the time the panes of glass come to the end of the conveyor, the emulsion will have gelled and the panes are deposited in specially adapted dryers. Drying the layer, which requires about ten hours, is obtained through blowing filtered air, the temperature and humidity of which are kept constant regardless of the atmosphere outside. This conditioning, of capital importance for regularity of manufacture, is carried out by refrigerating, reheating and some temperature regulators, conceived and constructed to fulfil this purpose. After drying, the plates proceed to a scrupulous verification of samples taken from different positions along the dryers; and the plates, carefully chosen, are cut cross-wise and then put in boxes. These last operations [...] require material specially constructed to this effect."

We also note that the laboratories were lit by a superimposed yellow and green light as to not expose the plates. Red light was initially chosen, but this provoked visual problems for some of the workers.

Looking into the population census of the 3e arrondissement of Lyon between 1888 and 1896 revealed that many of the female employees of the factory were originally from the French departments of Lorraine, Franche-Comté and Alsace. Is this perhaps proof of the Lumière family's attachment for the regions of their origin? It is also worth noting that a number of these women were heads of their families, single mothers or widows, and the Lumières provided an undeniable boost to their social welfare. The employees received free childcare, pregnant women were paid during the birth of their children and factory personnel were encouraged to participate in a pension fund. Life at the factory was very hard, but there was a certain attachment between the Lumière family and the employees of the factory.