Julien Damoy, Provision Merchant and Publisher of Stereoscopic Postcards

Julien Damoy, Provision Merchant and Publisher of Stereoscopic Postcards

By Denis Pellerin

The name Julien Damoy may ring a bell with some collectors of stereoscopic images but most people are not aware of any connection between this French provision merchant and stereoscopy. This article is meant to give some answers – there are unfortunately lots of facts that remain unknown – but also to show a fairly good number of monoscopic and stereoscopic illustrations.

Jean-Baptiste Julien Damoy was born at Irréville, Eure, Normandy, on January 31st 1844, the fourth child and second son of farmer Michel Pierre Damoy (1811-1865) and of his wife Elisabeth Désirée Bonvoisin (1809-1881). [1] Julien was first apprenticed to a grocer at Evreux then at Elbœuf before moving to Paris shortly after his father’s death on March 25th 1865. He first worked as a grocer’s clerk for a Mr. Momon, at Grenelle, before opening his own grocery shop in the faubourg Saint-Martin in 1868, not long before the franco-prussian war, the siege of Paris and the short-lived revolution known as the Commune.

01-Blotting paper advertising coffee

Illustration 01 – Blotting paper advertising Julien Damoy’s coffee, said to be “the best of coffees”. Author’s collection.

It is not known how Julien’s business survived those hard times but it did and, in 1878, six years after his marriage on January 15th 1872 to Ernestine Octavie Maréchal, a hatter’s daughter, he bought a larger place at Batignolles which quickly developed with the addition over the following years of poultry and fish departments. Soon after that he opened his first factory at Levallois-Perret where he started torrefying his own coffee, making his own jams and tins of vegetables and where he had a large warehouse to store wines and spirits.

1889 was the year Julien Damoy started making a name for  himself with the opening of a large grocery shop in the first arrondissement of Paris, at 31, Boulevard de Sébastopol, in a building which had been erected in 1870 and is still standing. [2] Over the following years the superficy of this grocery emporium was doubled (1893) then quadrupled (1906). Meanwhile new factories appeared at La Villette and Ivry-sur-Seine, and branches opened at Vincennes, Saint-Denis, Rueil, Clichy, and Saint-Mandé. By 1910 the firm was employing between 1,500 and 1,800 people and was distributing their products to some 2,500 shops in the provinces and even abroad.

02-Top of invoice

Illustration 02 – Top of an invoice from one of Julien Damoy’s branches showing the factory and warehouse at Ivry-sur-Seine. Author’s collection.

I have not been able to get any postcard featuring the main shop at 31, Boulevard de Sébastopol, but I managed to purchase some showing a few of the branches around Paris and one featuring one of the shops in the provinces. You will notice that most of the shops stood at the corner of two streets and were consequently very visible.

03-CPA Denis-Magasin Julien Damoy-Clichy

Illustration 03 – Postcard showing the Julien Damoy shop at Clichy and announing the opening of a butchery department. This postcard was sent in 1907. Author’s collection.

04-Magasin Damoy-Rueil-Rue de Chatou

Illustration 04 – Photographic postcard showing the Julien Damoy shop at Rueil, rue de Chatou. Author’s collection.

05-CPA Denis-Magasin Julien Damoy à Saint-Denis

Illustration 05 – Photographic postcard dated 1904 and showing the Julien Damoy shop on rue Blanqui at Saint-Denis, with the male staff posing in front of it. Author’s collection.

06-CPA Denis-Magasin Damoy-St Mandé

Illustration 06 ­– Postcard showing the Julien Damoy branch at Saint-Mandé (on the left of the image). Author’s collection.

07-CPA Denis-Epicerie Julien Damoy-Autun

Illustration 07 – Photographic postcard showing a provincial branch at Autun, Burgundy, owned by the Poupelot-Pigeon family. Author’s collection.

It is not clear when Julien Damoy started using stereoscopic postcards to boost the sale of his products but since all the postcards I have seen bearing his name have a divided back, he cannot have started selling them before December 1903. Postcards began getting popular in France at the turn of the twentieth century and the postcard craze spread all over the country, lasting up to the beginning of the first world war. Every single village, however small, had to have its postcards and these images are still eagerly sought out by collectors or past and present inhabitants of the said villages. Until December 1903, however, you could not write anything on the back of the card which was meant exclusively for the address of the person you wished to send it to. Any message you wanted to add had to be written on the front, below or around the illustration or photograph. In December 1903 [3] divided backs were introduced which allowed senders to write a short message on the left half of the back, the right half still being reserved for the address.

The Damoy stereoscopic postcards were printed as heliotypes – a variant of the collotype process which involved exposing a gelatin film under a negative and hardening it with chrome alun before printing directly from it – by postcard publisher Ernest Louis Désiré Le Deley (1859-1917). On some of them the mention “Héliotypie E. Le Deley” can actually be seen. Le Deley had a huge postcard emporium called “Grand Comptoir de la Carte Postale Illustrée” at 127, Boulevard de Sébastopol. His brand name was either E. Le Deley or E.L.D. There is something rather interesting about those initials since they can stand for E. Le Deley but also for Ernest Louis Désiré. It is unfortunately not known if Damoy had the postcards specially commissioned or if he used images that were already owned by Ernest Le Deley.

08-Facture en-tête LE DELEY

Illustration 08 – Top of a 1912 invoice with header from Ernest Louis Désiré Le Deley’s postcard emporium. Author’s collection

There is very little information about the way Julien Damoy’s stereoscopic postcards were distributed but a couple of advertisements from 1904 and 1905 reveal that they were to be found in boxes of chocolate named “La Tasse” or “Le Select” which both contained just over a pound of chocolates, a stereo card and a coupon [4]. Once you had collected 100 coupons from the “La Tasse” chocolates or 25 from the “Le Select” ones you could exchange them for a stereoscope. Julien Damoy did not make his own stereoscopes. He bought wooden stereoscopes from Ernest Le Deley or used the more elaborate Omnium nickel stereoscopes as seen in the illustrations below.

09-Stereoscope Bois Julien Damoy

Illustration 09 – Wooden Le Deley Stereoscope with Julien Damoy’s name carved on it. Author’s collection.

10-Stereoscope Damoy-Omnium

Illustration 10 – Nickel Omnium Stereoscope with the name Julien Damoy printed on the case. Author’s collection.

There are 26 known series of Julien Damoy postcards containing 24 pictures each, which makes a total of 624 cards. Series 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 16, 22 and 23 are actually divided into two sub sets of twelve postcards, each which are not always related. Set 16 for instance is made up of twelve cards showing the castle of Pierrefonds, near Compiègne, north of Paris, and another dozen cards taken in and around Teillay, a village in Brittany. [5] To the 624 postcards mentioned must be added two cards showing the interior of the confectionery department at one of the Julien Damoy factories. The first one shows the chocolates being made, the second the packing room, where the chocolates are put into boxes prior to being sent to the retail shops.

11-Julien Damoy-Atelier de confiserie

Illustration 11 – Usine Julien Damoy. Atelier de confiserie. Author’s collection.

12-Julien Damoy-Salle de Paquetage

Illustration 12 – Usine Julien Damoy. Salle de paquetage. Author’s collection.

There are also two other sets both devoted to two separate outings of the children of the 19th arrondissement of Paris. These outings were organised by the Lajarrige foundation, set up by Louis Lajarrige (1875-1956), a councillor for the 19th arrondissement of Paris who would later become a member of Parliament. The 19th arrondissement of the French capital was not by far the poshest arrondissement, and was mostly populated by working class families who could not afford to send their children on holiday. The Lajarrige foundation organised entertainments and short to longish holidays for children aged eight to thirteen. The first of the so called “Sortie des Bambins du 19e arrondissement” took place on July 31st 1904 and their port of call was Montmorency. The second one occurred on August 14th 1905 and saw over a thousand children making their way to the parc of Saint-Cloud in charabancs (open horse-drawn omnibuses). This is the one that was first photographed to be included in Julien Damoy’s products. Although nothing on the cards specify this is the second outing, one of the images features a Punch and Judy show in the background which, as we know from the press of the time, was one of the entertainments offered to the children on that occasion. This series only has four unnumbered and untitled stereoscopic pictures which, for some reason, are all totally flat ! You can see for yourself in the two examples below. Julien Damoy was the one who provided all the picnic baskets (actually boxes or cartons) for the participants. He also treated them to chocolates as can be verified in one of the cards.

13-CPA Denis-Damoy-Sortie des Bambins

Illustration 13 – Sortie des Bambins du 19e arrondissement, on August 14th 1905. The children and their picnic boxes. There is no depth whatsoever. Author’s collection.

14-Julien Damoy-Sortie des Bambins-Ronde

Illustration 14 – Sortie des Bambins du 19e arrondissement, on August 14th 1905. Some children are playing, others are watching a Punch and Judy show. Another flat stereo. Author’s collection.

It would be really interesting to know why these flat “stereos” were produced and who the photographer was. Was there an issue with the stereoscopic camera used on that day ? It is unfortunately impossible to tell.

The second outing which was made into a series of stereoscopic postcards totalled twenty-four images although image 24 does not seem to exist and has been replaced by image 25. On August 5th 1906 more than 2,000 children, all wearing white berets and accompanied by over 500 parents and/or teachers, paraded through the streets of the 19th arrondissement, preceded by a brass band. They all made their way to the Hautpoul street railway station which was usually reserved for goods trains but, being the closest, had for the occasion been upgraded to a passenger train station. At six o’clock a.m. the first of the four packed trains left the station, on its way to Le Tréport and the seaside. The remaining three trains left at intervals of a few minutes, all heading in the same direction. At nine o’clock the trains arrived at Le Tréport station where the visitors were welcomed by the mayor and his councillors. For most of the travellers it was the first time they had been to the sea so the whole day must have been pretty exciting. After parading on the jetty and visiting the casino then the beach everyone stopped on the cliff, 360 feet above the sea, for a very substantial picnic. Once again the food had been provided by Julien Damoy and one of the cards – one of the flat ones, unfortunately – shows his employees getting all the picnic boxes out of one the carriages. We know from an article published in Le Petit Parisien on August 6th 1906 that the grown ups had veal and pork pâté, a slide of cold veal, a 420 gram loaf of bread, a bottle of vintage claret, two hard-boiled eggs, a slice of gruyère cheese, some fruit, petit-fours and a small bottle of liquor. The children each devoured two slices of saucisson, a slice of cold veal, two buns, one hard-boiled egg, a brioche, a box of sweets, a chocolate bar and some petit-fours which they washed down with a bottle of Saint-Galmier, containing a mixture of water and wine ! After lunch there was an impromptu ball then everybody went back to the beach to paddle, look for crabs and shrimps, build sand castles, or have an after-lunch nap. Before boarding the trains on their way back to Paris the travellers were given sandwiches and beer. By 9.30 pm they were back in the capital.

The stereoscopic cards published by Damoy to celebrate his involvment in this, the third outing of the “Bambins du 19e arrondissement”, make a rather unusal set. Out of the 24 images in the series 2 are pseudoscopic (cross-view), 20 are totally flat and only 2 are actually stereoscopic. One of them, number 15, À table sur la falaise (Picnicking on the cliff) is shown below, along with pseudoscopic card number 2, depicting the arrival of the trains at the Le Tréport Station and some of the adults jumping off the carriages. The second pseudoscopic card is number 4, Rassemblement des Enfants (Gathering the children on the platform). The only other stereoscopic card, number 6, is captioned, Le Départ de la Gare (Leaving the Station). Again, we can only conjecture what happened since the fact there are two stereoscopic and two pseudoscopic cards proves there was someone with a stereoscopic camera covering the event. Something must have gone terribly wrong but, instead of stopping the publication, it may have been decided that flat images were better than no stereos at all and that most people would not spot the issue anyway.


Illustration 15 – 3e sortie des Bambins du 19e arrrondissement. Excursion au Tréport. Card number 2. Tout le monde descend. One of the two pseudoscopic cards in the series. Author’s collection.

16-3e sortie des bambins du XIXe-15

Illustration 16 – 3e sortie des Bambins du 19e arrrondissement. Excursion au Tréport. Card number 15. À table sur la falaise. One of the two stereoscopic cards of the set. Author’s collection.

There were other outings after Le Tréport but they were not photographed for the stereoscope. In 1907 the children of the 19th arrondissement went to Dinant, Belgium, and the following year to Brittany in June then to Compiègne in August. They visited Brittany again in 1909 and were guests at the International Exhibition in Brussels in 1910. Julien Damoy apparently carried on catering for them as can be seen from the monoscopic postcard below, featuring the outing at Compiègne on August 9th 1908.

17-6e Sortie des Bambins du 19e-Distribution paniers Damoy-editing

Illustration 17 – 6e Sortie des Bambins (fondation Louis Lajarrige), Compiègne, 9 août 1908. La distribution des paniers de provision Julien Damoy. Author’s collection.

One cannot judge the stereoscopic postcards published by Julien Damoy on the two “extraordinary” sets devoted to the excursions of the children from the 19th arrondissement. The 26 “official” series are really stereoscopic and cover a fairly large range of subjects and cities: Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Nice, Monte-Carlo, London, Brussels, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Geneva, Rome, Algiers, Biskra (also in Algeria). There are also photos taken in the Pyrenees, on the French Riviera and in some of the most famous French touristic places like the Louvre Museum (series 20 and 21) Versailles, and the Mont Saint-Michel.

18-Damoy-Paris S01C01

Illustration 18 – Series 1, Card 1. The river Seine at Paris. Note the mention “Héliotypie E. Le Deley” in the bottom left corner of the card. Author’s collection.


Illustration 19 – Series 1, Card 7. Place Vendôme. Author’s collection.


Illustration 20 – Series 1, Card 11. Notre-Dame. Author’s collection.


Illustration 21– Series 4, Card 15. Rue Soufflot and le Panthéon. Author’s collection.


Illustration 22 – Series 4, Card 18. Parc Monceau. Author’s collection.


Illustration 23 – Series 7, Card 5. Beaulieu Station. Arrival of the train. Author’s collection.


Illustration 24 – Series 10, Card 1. The Suitcase Relay Race. Author’s collection.

A special mention must be made about Series 6 which is devoted to the Jardin d’Acclimatation de Paris. Originally called Jardin Zoologique d’Acclimation, this zoo, now an amusement park, was located in the Bois de Boulogne, west of Paris, and was officially opened on October 6th 1860. From 1877 to 1912, and again in 1931, the Jardin d’Acclimatation, like several of its counterparts in most major cities, organised ethnological exhibitions which, I am sorry to say, proved immensely popular. It all started in Hamburg in 1874 when a German merchant in wild animals exhibited Samoan people and Laplanders. The success of the venture encouraged him to exhibit Nubians and Inuit in 1876. The director of the Jardin d’Acclimation decided to follow suit and after Nubians and Inuit, there were about thirty other similar exhibitions in Paris. In 1887 a group of twenty Ashanti people, who lived in an area which is now part of Ghana, arrived at the Jardin d’Acclimatation, where they stayed for about a month. Sixteen years later, in 1903, a group of eighty Ashanti men, women and children were exhibited in a makeshift “typical” village from May to September. The photographs used for the stereoscopic postcards of Julien Damoy’s sixth series were taken then and probably published a year or so later. The twenty-four images show the highlights of the zoo, the greenhouses, the bear cage, the ostrich or goat-drawn carts, the elephant and camel rides, etc. Six of the cards, however, feature Ashanti men and women who, even though they were not in cages, were behind a fence and had to “perform” – they would sing and dance – nearly every afternoon around half past one for an eager crowd who would also watch them cook and eat. The saddest and most terrible of those images shows a young Ashanti woman holding a couple of postcards similar to the one she is the subject of and looking utterly miserable. Spectators are visible in the background behind the fence and although she is standing right in front of the camera, her eyes are not focused on the lenses or the photographer. Nothing, not even genuine scientific or ethnological interest, can excuse the existence and popularity of those “human zoos”.

25-Petit Journal 1903-Achantis

Illustration 25 – Le Petit Journal, May 31st 1903. “Les Achantis au Jardin d’Acclimatation”. Author’s collection.

26-Damoy-S06C02-Jeune fille Achanti

Illustration 26 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 6. Paris. Jardin d’Acclimatation. 2. Jeune fille Achanti. Author’s collection.

27-Damoy-S06-Achantis-Le repas

Illustration 27 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 6. Paris. 19. Jardin d’Acclimatation. Le Achantis. Le repas. Author’s collection.


Illustration 28 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 6. Paris. Jardin d’Acclimatation. 10. La voiture à Autruche. Author’s collection.


Illustration 29 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 6. Paris. Jardin d’Acclimatation. 15. La cage aux ours. Author’s collection.


Illustration 30 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 6. Paris. Jardin d’Acclimatation. 17. Promenade sur l’Éléphant. Author’s collection.

Stereoscopic postcards were not the only images that were given as gifts with Julien Damoy’s products and were only produced over a limited number of years. At some point buyers of Julien Damoy’s chocolates would find short photographic stories in four pictures, like the two below:

31-La Cueillette des pommes and Bob et Suzette

Illustration 31 – Chocolat Damoy. La Cueillette des pommes and Bob et Suzette. Author’s collection.

At some other period in time trading cards featuring landscapes from all over the world would be given away which could be kept together in an album entitled “Les beaux Paysages” (Beautiful landscapes).

32-Album Les Beaux Paysages

Illustration 32 – Cover of the album Les Beaux Paysages. Author’s collection.

Getting back to the subject of our study, the stereoscopic postcards issued by Julien Damoy, there are a couple of persons who are trying to draft a complete catalogue of all of those images, along with illustrations: https://www.cparama.com/forum/vues-stereoscopiques-julien-damoy-t6336.html. If a lot of the postcards are quite easy to find, some series seem to be difficult to trace and there are still fairly big gaps in the list so, if you have some of the missing images, make sure to contact the guys as it will help everyone interested in these postcards.

Julien Damoy was 97 years old when he passed away in his château of La Tour de By, at Bégadan, near Bordeaux, on March 8th 1941. His wife, Ernestine Octavie Maéchal, had died nearly twenty years earlier, on August 1st 1921. When Damoy retired the family business was carried on by his elder son Jules Michel (1873-1922) then by his younger son Ernest Louis (1879-1960), both of whom were rewarded with the legion of honour for their valour during the first world war. Ernest Louis died shortly after he was made a knight but his brother lived long enough to become successively a knight, an officer then a commander of the order. The Damoy “empire” lasted well until the late 1970s but, to my knowledge, the firm never used stereos again.


Illustration 33 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 9. Biskra. 21. Les porteurs de drapeaux (the flag bearers). Author’s collection.


Illustration 34 – Vues Stéréoscopiques Julien Damoy. Série 3. Bruxelles. 12. Un attelage de Chien (A dog cart). Author’s collection.


[1] Their first born, Euphrosine Désirée, died four hours after her birth on August 25th 1833. Their second child, François Désiré was born on July 10th 1837 and their third child, Euphrosine Ismérie, on August 17th 1841. A fifth child, François Henri, was born on April 22nd 1846.

[2] In the press of the time Julien Damoy’s business is said to have started either in 1868, when he opened his first shop in the faubourg Saint-Martin, or in 1889, when he moved to the first arrondissement. Advertisements published at the turn of the twentieth century however mention that the firm has been in existence since 1868.

[3] In Britain postcards with divided backs were introduced in 1902.

[4] The advertisements I have seen mentioning the stereoscopic postcards in Le Petit Haut-Marnais, L’Abeille de Fontainebleau, La Dépêche d’Eure-et-Loir, La Tribune de l’Aube, L’Écho nogentais and La République des Charentes are all from 1904 or 1905. [5] Set 7 is made up of cards of Beaulieu and Monaco on the one hand and of Nice on the other. Set 8 includes twelve views of Amsterdam and a dozen images of Rome. Set 10 is also devoted to Rome but also to beach games: tug-of-war, suitcase relay race, etc. Set 11 features the Cirque de Gavarnie in the Pyrenees and soldiers parading. Set 12 is about Cauterets, also in the Pyrenées, and the Pays Basque. There are pictures of Amsterdam and of Spain in set 22 and images of Marseille, in the south of France, and of villages in the departement of Eure-et-Loire  in set 23.

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