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Photographer and collector Felix Hans Man was born Hans Felix Sigismund Baumann on 30 November 1893 in Freiburg im Breisgau. His father had been born in Riga, then in imperial Russia, where he was a music critic for the Rigaer Tageblatt. Felix enjoyed a musical background, but graphic art was to dominate his artistic life.

It was not until 1927/8 that he turned to photography changing his name to avoid confusion with another photographer called Baumann. In 1929 he met Simon Gutmann, owner of the photographic agency Dephot (Deutscher Photo Dienst). Gutmann was one of the first to understand the nature of the ‘picture story’ which was to revolutionise magazines worldwide. Man became Gutmann’s chief photographer providing numerous photo-stories for Ullstein’s Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and other publications during the period between 1929 and 1933. He also formed a long-lasting friendship with Stefan Lorant, a Hungarian Jew like Gutmann, who became editor of the Münchener Illustrierte Presse.

In 1933 the Nazis took over the Jewish-owned Ullstein Press. Lorant left for London and although not Jewish himself, Man too emigrated to England. The change in Man’s career came in 1938 when Lorant persuaded newspaper proprietor Edward Hulton to start the Picture Post. The successful magazine was produced at no.43/4 Shoe Lane. Man became a major contributor. He was interned briefly on the Isle of Man in the early days of the Second World War and became a naturalised British subject in 1948.

Between 1945 and 1948 he took few photographs, concentrating on his fine collection of lithographs. The climax of his collecting career came in 1971 when the Victoria and Albert Museum staged the exhibition ‘Homage to Senefelder’ entirely from his collection. In this masterly lithographic portrait (1969), David Hockney captured the personality of this passionate collector. Felix Man died in January 1985. He was one of the first photo-journalists and to many critics he remains the greatest.

The Print Collector (Portrait of Felix Man) 1969 by David Hockney born 1937

The Print Collector (Portrait of Felix Man) 1969 David Hockney born 1937 Presented by Curwen Studio through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P06289

01

In the London geography of migration Soho played a central part. Its population has always been heterogeneous. Originally an undisturbed area of rural grassland and fields, once urbanised Soho attracted waves of immigrants who tended to congregate together with their compatriots in close-knit ethnic enclaves. Greek Street is just one reminder of the many people (escaping Ottoman persecution) who were forced to make London their new home. Soho’s Frenchness since the arrival of large numbers of Huguenot refugees has been well documented. Until the 1950s, the area took its character mainly from French immigrants. They had their own school in Lisle Street, a hospital and dispensary on Shaftesbury Avenue, a number of churches, and an abundance of restaurants, cafés, boucheries, boulangeries, patisseries, chocolateries, and fromageries. The signs were in French and so was the language between staff and customers.

02

Daniel Nicholas Thévenon was born in 1833 in Burgundy where he started his career as a coach-builder. In 1854 he married Célestine Lacoste and in the mid-1850s they bought a wine shop from a relative.  The business did not succeed. Facing bankruptcy, the couple fled France for London in October 1863.  He assumed the name of Daniel Nicols. Lodging in Soho, he took on odd jobs while his wife worked as a seamstress. By 1865 they took over an oilcloth shop at no. 19 Glasshouse Street, turning it into Café Restaurant Nicols.  Having enlarged the premises in 1867, they renamed it the Café Royal. After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1, many French political refugees settled in or near Soho, and congregated at the Café Royal. Nicols invited his nephew Eugène Lacoste to stock the wine cellar. He laid down London’s finest collection of vintage wines and brandy. The decoration of the café with mirrors, crimson velvet and gilt, evoked the atmosphere of the Paris of the Second Empire. Georges Pigache, a lace maker and political Bonapartist living in London, designed the iconic emblem for the Café Royal with the French imperial crown and the letter N (for Nicols, but also for Napoleon). The sign was displayed on all the glass, china, napkins, and menus. Increasingly, the café attracted a bohemian clientele. Calling themselves the Café-Royalistes, artists such as James McNeill Whistler, Augustus John, and Auguste Rodin met here. During the early 1890s the café was frequented by Oscar Wilde and his circle of friends. By 1892 it was advertising itself as ‘the largest, most brilliant, and best known Anglo-French café in the world’.

03

Victor Aimé Berlemont ran the Restaurant Européen in Dean Street, Soho. At the outbreak of World War I he bought the pub next door from a German owner who feared internment. By then he was the only foreign landlord left in London. The Berlemont family was in fact Belgian, though it suited them to allow people to think that they were French. The pub, renamed Victor Berlemont until Watneys acquired the freehold after the war and, typically, came up with the boring name York Minster, was universally known as the French pub, or simply ‘The French’. In the 1920s its clientele included singer Edith Piaf, boxer Georges Carpentier, and many ladies of the night (known as Fifis). During World War II the pub a gathering place for the Free French forces and proved to be a valuable centre for communication, as Berlemont kept an unofficial register of the French who passed through London. Whisky could be obtained only under the counter, with a request for vin blanc écossais’. The story that Charles de Gaulle wrote his appeal to resist the Nazis after a good lunch in the upstairs dining-room is a myth, but the General certainly visited the pub at least once. The visit was not a success. The English clients in the pub kept quiet and the Free French stood to attention, while De Gaulle drank a glass of wine.

04

Victor Berlemont died in 1951. His son Gaston continued the business. He had luxuriant handlebar moustaches and was extremely gallant to women. Beer was dispensed only in half-pint glasses, to discourage its consumption in favour of the more profitable wine that Gaston imported and bottled himself. Those who drank in the house included Dylan Thomas, who unconcernedly left behind the manuscript of Under Milk Wood one night, knowing it would still be there in the morning; Brendan Behan, who was said to have disgusted Gaston by eating his ‘boeuf bourguignon’ with both hands; Augustus John, Max Beerbohm, Nina Hamnet, and Stephen Spender. Later customers were a roll-call of bohemian Soho: Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Caroline Blackwood, the Bernard brothers, and many others. On 14 July 1989 Soho gathered on the pavement outside ‘The French’, not to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, but to mark Gaston’s retirement, aged seventy-five.

05

The bar in ‘The French’ boasted a superb water urn with twin taps that emitted a trickle of water for pastis or for the absinthe that Gaston was said to keep for his regular Soho Francophiles. From the mid-nineteenth century onwards absinthe had become associated with bohemian Paris. It featured frequently in paintings by such artists as Manet, Van Gogh and Picasso. They drank it in large quantities, joined by such poets as Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine. Spurred on by an odd but vocal alliance of social conservatives, prohibitionists, and winemakers’ associations, the consumption of absinthe became associated with social disorder and degeneration. In 1905, Swiss farmer Jean Lanfray murdered his wife in a drunken rage. His trial became known as the ‘Absinthe Murder’. After a referendum in July 1908, the drink was banned from Switzerland. Belgium (1906), The Netherlands (1909) and the United States (1912) followed the Swiss example. France held out until 1914 (the same year that Pablo Picasso created his cubist sculpture Le verre d’absinthe). Britain never banned absinthe. The reason is clear. The drink was only enjoyed by a tiny number of people (mainly artists) whose spiritual home was Paris rather than London. One of those ‘absintheurs’ was George Orwell. Having arrived in Paris in 1928, he soon learned to dance with the Green Fairy (a lively description of the drinking habit in Paris can be found in chapter seventeen of Down and Out in London and Paris). He brought his liking for absinthe back to London. Bateman Street is a short stroll away from Dean Street and home to a tavern named The Dog and Duck. It was here that the landlord had ‘mysteriously acquired a cache of real absinthe’, and although sugar was rationed, he allowed Orwell and his friends to drink it the traditional way, with water that dripped slowly on to it through a sugar cube.

06

London owes a great deal of gratitude to French immigrants. They taught beer-drinking England the delights of wine, champagne and brandy. They were connoisseurs and educators. Paris-born André Louis Simon deserves a statue. In 1899 he began an apprenticeship with the champagne house of Pommery & Greno (Rheims) and was sent to London in 1902 to become the firm’s agent. In 1905 he published the first of more than 100 books and pamphlets entitled The History of the Champagne Trade in England, followed by his substantial History of the Wine Trade in England (1906/9) in three volumes. He was a co-founder of the Wine Trade Club in 1908. In 1919 he issued the delightful Bibliotheca vinaria, a catalogue of books he had collected for the Club. Simon believed that ‘a man dies too young if he leaves any wine in his cellar’, and in keeping with that philosophy, only two magnums of claret remained in his basement when he died at the age of ninety-three.

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In 1589, drainage engineer Humphrey Bradley, born in Bergen op Zoom, Brabant, of Anglo-Dutch parenthood (his father John was concierge of the English trading house there and had married Anna van der Delft), was engaged on a number of local drainage schemes in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire, anticipating the methods that would later be applied by Vermuyden.

It was Bradley who drew up one of the earliest comprehensive plans for the drainage of the Fens, but his efforts foundered upon the rocks of vested interest and political manoeuvring. His two children were baptised at the Dutch Church in London, but he left England in 1594. He moved to France where he gained a practical monopoly of land drainage throughout the country. He presided over extensive drainage work in the Auvergne, Languedoc, and Saintonge. Bradley died in 1625.
1589-1594

 

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Painters’ brush maker Joseph Derveaux was born in France. Details about his birth and background are not available, but he was in London by around 1789 and established in business at no. 18 Charles Street, St James’s Square.

Fellow French immigrant and outstanding artist Philip Jacques De Loutherbourg owned hundreds of Derveaux’s brushes, which appeared in his studio sale after his death in 1812 described in Peter Coxe’s sale catalogue (18-20 June) as ‘French tools of the finest quality, manufactured by Derveaux’ (Lugt 8209). To have a brush maker identified by name in a sale catalogue is exceptional. The reputation of Delveaux at the time must have been considerable. There are no further details about him

1789-1812

 

 

Travels from France to Italy through the Lepontine Alps, 1800,

Engraver and landscape painter was born at Chambéry in 1755. He entered the engineering school at Mezières and, in 1775, joined the Sardinian army as an engineer. At this time Sardinian territory extended into what is now Provence, and Beaumont was working as a hydraulic engineer at Nice, where he met the Duke of Gloucester who engaged him in 1780 as a teacher of mathematics to his children.

Beaumont then accompanied the Duke on his travels in the Alps. A few years later he travelled through the Maritime Alps from Cuneo in Italy to Nice by the newly constructed road across the pass of Lanslebourg. In the 1790s he went through the Lepontine Alps, from Lyons to Turin. Beaumont’s accounts of these journeys show a lively interest in the classical and geographical history of the area. Published in folio, these accounts are embellished with maps drawn by himself and by drawings in simple and sepia-washed versions, the latter coloured by Bernard Lory the elder.

The books were printed in London by C. Clarke and sold by the bookselling firm of Thomas and John Egerton at their office at no. 32 Charing Cross (opposite the Admiralty). Once settled in London, Beaumont went into partnership with Thomas Gowland and employed Dutch artist and diplomat Cornelius Apostool as engraver. Between 1787 and 1806 he published a series of views Switzerland, Mediterranean France, and Piedmont. He afterwards took to landscape painting. Under the Empire he retired to La Vernaz in the Haute Savoie where he reared sheep. He died in 1812.

1780-1806

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Picture frame maker Abdon Ercolani was born Sant’Angelo in Vado (in the province of Urbino) in 1853/4. He moved to London around 1897 in search of work, and was joined by his family in 1898. He settled at no. 27 Claremont Road, Walthamstow. Given that his death has not been traced in Britain, it is possible that he retired to Italy, leaving his sons to continue the business as cabinet manufacturers until the eve of the Second World War.

His son Lucian Randolph Ercolani, furniture designer, was born in St Angelo, Tuscany, on 8 May 1888. Lucian Ercolani attended a Salvation Army school in East London. By 1906, he was working in the Salvation Army joinery department, producing staircases and handrails. In 1910, Frederick Parker employed him at his furniture workshops in High Wycombe (the ‘furniture capital’ of England). In 1920, he joined a local consortium there known as Furniture Industries. In the late 1940s, Ercolani developed a range of mass-produced which became a household name in post-war Britain (and which continues today). Lucian died in June 1976.

1897-1976

01

Durex is the world’s best-selling condom brand. The history of the term may remain obscure but, over time, condoms have been given interesting euphemistic names such as Johnnies, French letters (purses, ticklers), English raincoats, and a range of slang words that fill page after page of the Urban Dictionary. Such exotic references obscure the fact that the first branded sheaths came from Germany. The initial promotion of condoms was a matter of the military. The German army was the first to encourage its use among soldiers, beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century. German manufacturers would become the main producers of condoms and exported their products to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the rest of Europe. World War I interrupted the trade, but even its continuation elsewhere had a German dimension. Julius Schmidt was born on 17 March 1865 in Schondorf and moved to New York in 1882, changing his name to Schmid. He founded Schmid Laboratories in New Jersey in 1883 and later became the main supplier of condoms to the European Allies. By the early 1920s, however, most of Europe’s condoms were once again made in Germany.

02

Syphilis was the urban scourge of the late nineteenth century and yet a taboo subject. Ibsen’s treatment of the subject in his play Ghosts was judged to be shocking and indecent. It sparked an outcry of moral indignation. In London the play was performed by Jack Grein’s Independent Theatre at the Royalty Theatre, at no. 73 Dean Street, Soho, on 13 March 1891. More than 3,000 people applied for tickets, and the production became a cause célèbre. In the press it was considered to be repulsive, coarse, and vulgar (The Daily Telegraph referred to the play as an ‘open drain: a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty act done publicly’), but amongst the audience were literary figures such as George Moore, Oscar Wilde, John Gray, and artists such as Charles Shannon and Reginald Savage – all of them standing in the vanguard in the battle against oppressive Victorian values and hypocrisy. The pressures of war swept all secrecy and concealment aside.

03

Family planning was one aspect of consideration in the debate about the use of condoms, but to the authorities the physical health of soldiers was a more urgent issue. During the First World War, venereal disease caused over 400,000 hospital admissions among British troops. Roughly five percent of all the men who enlisted in Britain’s armies became infected. In 1918, there were over 60,000 hospital admissions for VD in France and Flanders alone. By contrast, only some 74,000 cases of Trench Foot (caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp, unsanitary, and cold conditions) were treated by Franco-Flemish hospitals during the whole of the war. Venereal patients required on average a month of intensive hospital treatment which caused a huge drain on the army’s resources. It was not until 1905 that the causative organism was first identified which led to more effective forms of treatment. Until the advent of penicillin in 1943, ‘cures’ for syphilis were based on the use of heavy metals such as mercury or, as the saying goes, ‘a night in the arms of Venus leads to a lifetime on Mercury’. Safe sex and sexual wellbeing were burning issues at the time.

04

Jewish Law has traditionally opposed the practice of birth control. The first mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah is to ‘be fertile and increase’. Condoms are unacceptable, because they block the passage of semen. That did not stop Jewish merchants from getting involved in the profitable rubber trade. Chemist Julius [Israel] Fromm, born on 4 March 1883, was an immigrant of Polish-Jewish descent into Germany. He invented the process for making condoms of liquefied rubber. Launched shortly after the First World War in Berlin, so-called ‘Fromms’ (synonym for condom) came to dominate the market. Mass production started in 1922; his invention of the condom vending machine followed later. Crown on the Condom Empire was his commission in 1930 of a flagship factory designed by avant-garde architects Arthur Korn and Siegfried Weitzman in the Berlin suburb of Köpenick – condoms in the style of Neue Sachlichkeit. In 1938, on the grounds that his supplies of rubber were needed for the war effort, Fromm was forced to sell his business at a fraction of its value to Baroness Elisabeth von Epenstein, Hermann Göring’s godmother. Fromm ended his productive life as a religious refugee in Hampstead Gardens Suburb where he died days after the collapse of the Reich.

05

Hairdresser and tobacconist Siegmund Jacoby was born around 1835 in Berlin into a Jewish family. He married Henrietta [Jetta] Meyers and the couple moved to London at some time in the 1860s. His son Daniel followed him in the same profession. A year after the death of his father in September 1885, Daniel and four others were charged with violent robbery at the Euston Road business of the elderly Jewish diamond merchant Julius Tabak. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. He was released and, a reformed character, set out to build a career and start a family. The 1891 census shows him living at no. 95 High Street, St Pancras. His son Lionel Alfred Jacoby was born in 1894, and he too took up the same line of work. In 1915, having his name changed to Lionel Alfred Jackson, he founded the London Rubber Company, selling condoms and barber supplies that were imported from Germany and America. He operated the firm from his father’s hairdresser and tobacconist shop. By 1920, he had opened a shop at no. 3 Mincing Lane and a wholesale surgical rubber business at no. 183 Aldersgate Street. There is some irony in the name of the first location: it is a corruption of Mynchen Lane, so-called from the tenements held there by the Benedictine ‘mynchens’ (nuns) of the nearby St Helen’s Bishopsgate church.

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Why a barber/tobacconist? Condoms could be openly marketed as birth control devices in Britain, but there were social factors that inhibited sales. Condoms were available at local chemists that usually had female shop assistants. Many men were embarrassed by asking a young woman for a packet of condoms and bought them at the barber shop. They were generally requested with the euphemism ‘a little something for the weekend’. Boots, the largest pharmacy chain in Britain, stopped selling condoms altogether in the 1920s, a policy that was not reversed until the 1960s. Business was brisk, in spite of opposition to the product – and there were some prominent critics of condoms. Moralists rejected all methods of contraception. At the 1920 Lambeth Conference the Church of England condemned ‘unnatural means of conception avoidance’. The Bishop of London complained of pollution, because of the huge number of condoms discarded in alleyways and parks, especially after weekends and holidays. Feminists resisted all ‘male-controlled’ contraceptives. Freud disapproved of birth control methods on the grounds that failure rates were high and that their use diminished sexual pleasure. Concerned about falling birth rates after the First World War, the French government outlawed all contraceptives, including condoms. Contraception was also illegal in Spain and Ireland. European militaries nevertheless continued to provide condoms to their members for disease protection, even in countries where they were illegal for the general population.

07

Jackson was greatly helped by the 1930 Church of England ruling that birth control could be used by married couples. London Rubber’s first latex condom for sale in Britain was an export from the American Youngs Rubber Company in 1929. By 1932, London Rubber had become Europe’s first manufacturer of such condoms using the latest liquid latex dipping technology. These were made at their factory in Shore Road, Hackney, and branded Durex. The name was formed from the first two letters of the words DUrability, REliability, and EXcellence. Lionel Jackson died in 1934 and his brother Elkan (born: Maurice Elkan Jacoby) became Managing Director of the company. In 1937 the London Rubber Company moved to Chingford. At this time the company had about fifty percent of the British condom market. With the outbreak of World War II, it became impossible to acquire condoms from Germany. London Rubber Company expanded at enormous pace to meet the high demand for Durex condoms that were issued by the government to British servicemen. In 1968, the company was the largest manufacturer of dipped rubber goods (balloons, rubber gloves, paint brushes, surgical footwear, toothbrushes, soaps, and other products) in the world, employing over 2,000 people. In 2007 its last remaining condom factory was closed and production moved to China, India and Thailand. From the East End to the Far East – Durex has stretched itself from one end of the globe to the other.

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