Autochromes Lumière

From Family Business to Industry

The Monplaisir Site
On August 4, 1882, Antoine Lumière rented some buildings on a 40 acre piece of land in the Monplaisir district of Lyon, on rue Saint-Victor, wishing to create a factory given the extraordinary success of their Étiquette bleue plates. But it was not until July 9, 1890, that the Lumière Company would acquire the land at Monplaisir for their own, for the sum of 50,000 francs, from the original owner Mr. Galoffre. The site included a one-storey house, a small bungalow, a larger structure (comprising an office, a stable, a shed and storage), five smaller buildings made of wood and brick, some offices and a structure for housing the steam engine.

An Interesting Choice of Sites
Located just beyond the municipal taxation boundaries, Antoine Lumière escaped taxes on coal, glass, and chemical products, although he was reliant on the Bellecour tramway. In 1885, Auguste was able to connect to the photography studio thanks to a direct telephone line, which was quite a novelty at the time. By December 1885, Antoine Lumière had sold his old photographic studio to the photographer Jullien for a sum of 30,000 francs, and at the beginning of 1886 the family definitively left their residence at rue de la Barre to set themselves up in a little house located on chemin Saint-Victor in Monplaisir. At the same time they maintained an active policy of acquiring the neighbouring land, and little by little the Lumière factory covered the whole block between the chemin Saint-Victor, rue Saint-Maurice, the cours Gambetta and the square of Monplaisir.

A Family Enterprise
As we can confirm from the correspondences of the Lumière brothers, family mementos, and articles published in the press, Antoine kept himself busy with the commercial side of the business and with client relations from 1886 on while Auguste and Louis designed the machines, devised the necessary material and worked towards creating a fully "integrated" site. Make no mistake however, there were no embellishments, the employees seem to have been very austere and the working conditions must have been harsh, even if the machines for cooling, heating and regulating humidity maintained a consistent atmosphere. In this respect, the manufacturing procedures - apart from the carefully guarded secret of the Étiquette bleue emulsion - hardly differed from those of their competitors.

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