H. POMMIER - VAN NEUSS COPPER PANS AND POTS

 

The history of the manufacturers of culinary copper pots is as deep a search as possible in the past. To be as accurate as possible and to discover beautiful stories. And even if sometimes these stories leave a bit of mystery, they are really beautiful stories.

H. POMMIER is for me one of the 5 best manufacturers of copper pots of all time.
I am lucky to have had many H. POMMIER copper pots in my hands. And it's always an intense moment because every time I think about his history.
When I tin and polish one of his pots, it is always a reward for my eyes when the work is finished.

 

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"Interesting image that allows us to see an example of the population in Brussels in the years1820-1830."

"Rue de la montagne 2019. Googlemap image"

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"In the lower left you can see Maubeuge.
Which shows you that France is not very far!"

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" - 1 / Rue de la montagne.

- 2 / Rue de l'impératrice.

- 3 / Rue de Loxum."

February 17, 2015,

We must begin the story of H. POMMIER by talking a little bit about the widow Vernimmen.
In 1820, this brave woman was a boilermaker in the "rue de la montagne" in Brussels. She is registered as a widow and of course boiler making is not a woman's job at that time.
As you read my articles, you will be amazed by the number of women who have made the history of culinary copper pots !

So, when we find this "widow" notation, it is almost 100% because her husband was a boilermaker. So she continued this profession after the loss of her husband. The reasons are obviously financial, but to do this she needed help. Either by workers, sons or other family members. In any case, we know that the Vernimmen house is certainly older than 1820.
It was also sometimes possible that the widow had sons too young to take over their father's business. So the mother took the role of boss for a few years and then put the company in the hands of her children.
In 1828, the widow Vernimmen who was actually Maria Antonia Vernimmen (born on 26-09-1787 in Brussels) became the wife of Michel Van Neuss (born on 10-05-1803 in Hasselt). Maria is 41 years old and Michel is 25 years old. This is a significant age gap for this period.
Michel Van Neuss's family was of German origin and came from Neuss near Düsseldorf but then his family immigrated to Belgium in Hasselt (not far from the German border).

I would like to point out immediately that Michel and Maria have apparently never had children.

And it is quite naturally that we discover for the first time in 1832 the house of Van Neuss and Vernimmen. Indeed, in 1832 we can discover that their address is "rue de l'impératrice" numbers 1, 7 and 8.
At the same time we discover the creation of another Vernimmen boiler house at "20 rue de Loxum".
So this is the beginning of a family adventure that will last for decades!

It is important to know that the Vernimmen house on Loxum Street will have been active in boiler making for several decades.
We can strongly believe that the Van Neus House - Vernimmen of "rue de l'impératrice" and the Vernimmen House of "rue de Loxum" have always worked together.
The "rue de l'impératrice" and the "rue de Loxum" are 2 streets that are very close to each other (just like the widow's first address "rue de la montagne").

It's hard to imagine that these houses didn't work together! The creation of these 2 houses in the same year is certainly not a coincidence.
And I think that this collaboration has lasted a very long time.

Michel Van Neuss' ingenuity, hard work and ambition will soon reward him!
1833 is the year of creation of the patented suppliers of the Royal Court of Belgium. H. Pommier is often attributed the first patent granted to a supplier before all the others!  This is a historical error that should lead to Michel Van Neuss.
Even before granting patents to other suppliers (such as food, cigars, alcohol, furniture and many others), it seems that Michel Van Neuss was the first to receive this title!
It was a great honour that should fill him with pride!
And believe me, it couldn't have been easy to get it! The demand for impeccable work was very high.
This made me think at first that if Michel started his activity in 1832, he either had a very rigorous background in boiler making with a perfect mastery of the trade both at the practical and commercial level or it was the Vernimmen family who had this mastery.
When I discovered that he had filed a patent in 1834, which was then perfected in 1838, I told myself that he really had great ambitions!
This is a career that begins with the superb publicity that his patent as a supplier to the Royal Court of Belgium will give him.

This was the best time for those who wanted to evolve in the commercial world. The expansion of large cities, restaurants, administrations, factories, schools, canteens, the army and many others have a great need for pots for cooking!Now we will leave Belgium in the 1830s and head for France.
As I have already explained in the history of the Paul Legry house, France at that time was essentially rural. The resources are agriculture and animal husbandry in the villages while the large cities, and in particular Paris, are beginning to expand.

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"Document issued by the royal court during the reign of Leopold I, first king of the Belgians, for the boilermaker Michel Van Neuss"

Families are very often composed of many children and age differences can be significant.  The youngest, who are still small children, see their older brothers working the land hard. They don't necessarily want to do the same thing all their lives.
So it is not uncommon for them to leave on their own or for parents to send them more or less far away to other parents or to craftsmen who will teach them a trade other than that of farmer. With a little luck, these young people will sometimes be able to study.
So here we are in a small village called Puiseaux. This village is located about 90 km south of Paris and corresponds perfectly to the description of peasant and family life of the time.

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"Life on the farm"

During the whole period of the 1800s there were never more than 2000 inhabitants (which is still good for a village of that period!).As often, we find the same family names and among these names we find the name of Pommier.

I end here the first part of this adventure H. POMMIER - VAN NEUSS.
The story is not over! I'll come back soon to tell you the second part !
To all Copper Lovers!
Regards, T.J.

 

© Copyright T.J. 2015

The Pommier family has been established in this sector since at least the 16th century. In other words, they are at home.
Jean Charles Pommier (1794-1857) married Marie Michelle PARFOND (1794-1860) in 1813.

He will have at least 10 children. The eldest being Charles and the youngest being Paul.
There is an age difference of 21 years. What is important between two brothers.

We understand better that while Charles has already been working hard on the farm for a few years, his little brother Paul is still in the cradle!

We return to Belgium in Brussels.

Michel Van Neuss continued his activities and in 1837 the Van Neuss - Vernimmen house moved from the number 1-7-8 of the "rue de l'imperatrice" to the number 22. It is easy to imagine that his business is flourishing and that he needs larger premises.

In 1840 he was still the official supplier to the Royal Court of Belgium.

He is Master craftsman, it is a great title of recognition.
In 1842 it is still located at "22 rue de l'imperatrice".

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We then have a void in my research that leads us directly to 1851 to discover that the new address is "21 rue Cantersteen". Always with the name Van Neuss - Vernimmen.

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In 1862 Michel Van Neuss participated in the great London exhibition. It features a roasting oven and a system to eliminate bad odours. This system could be used for toilets or any other place where there is standing water that could give off bad odours. Unfortunately, this system is not retained by the grand jury, which considers that it is not sufficient to be considered as a novelty.

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The name of the house Van Neuss - Vernimmen seems to last until 1865-1866.
But there is still a Vernimmen boiler house on the "rue de Loxum" that will still remain (even after the 1900s). And it is very likely that their collaboration lasted a very long time even after Van Neuss removed the name Vernimmen from its trade name.
In 1865 Michel Van Neuss was 62 years old.
Among Michel's brothers and sisters is Henri.
Henri is 4 years older than Michel. He had at least three sons. It seems that Henri has kept ties in Germany. It is there that he gets married and all his children will be born. In fact, it is not very far from the Belgian border.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Michel Van Neuss does not seem to have had children.
Among Henri's children is Gérard.
Gérard was born on October 11, 1827.
And as it was very common at that time, it seems that Gérard left alongside his uncle Michel to learn a trade. And of course it will be the boilermaker's!

In 1865, Gérard was 38 years old. He is married. I don't know in which year he married Marie Catherine Jerusalem (widow of Jacques Gysbrechts). At his wedding his wife already had 2 children, Catherine Marie Gysbrechts and Marie Philomène Gysbrechts. And I can't find any children born of the union between Gérard Van Neuss and Marie Catherine Jerusalem.

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Now we are going back to France. Paul Pommier has grown up well. I don't know how his life has gone since he was born. But I guess being the youngest of the children, he has privileges that the older ones didn't have. He was found in Paris in the 1860s. He's a cook! What a great coincidence!

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He is young and certainly ambitious. For a young man from the countryside, going to Paris was a real adventure. Some left for seasonal work, others to work with craftsmen, others with their families.

It is difficult to determine how Paul Pommier became a cook. We can let our imagination run wild!

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And to think he was placed by his father at an early age? That he left when he was old enough to free himself from his family? So many things are possible and that's good! This allows us to dream a little bit by escaping into this time that I appreciate very much.

We now arrive in the early 1860s with this boy who is in the most beautiful city in the world, who has a beautiful job and who certainly seeks love like all young people of his age.
And this love, this encounter, is about to happen.

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I don't know how, where or when this happened.
But fortunately for all copper pot lovers around the world, Paul met Marie Philomène Gysbrechts!
She is one of Gérard Van Neuss' wife's daughters.
So again we can imagine a lot of things.
The meeting took place in Paris? In Brussels? Elsewhere? Mysterious question!

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One could imagine Paul going to Brussels as part of his work. Or maybe Marie Philomène going to Paris to visit the French capital?
In any case, it's certainly a great meeting!
And that's how everyone found themselves in a church in Brussels on June 13, 1865 to unite lovers!

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There is Paul's father and mother and most certainly other members of his family. Leaving their French village, Puiseaux, to go to Brussels was to be a great event for them. With pride to see their son evolve in the Van Neuss world which was certainly a richer environment than the peasant world.
I can imagine the eyes of these people discovering the great Brussels. And then at the Van Neuss' where luxury had to be present everywhere. When you are a supplier to the royal court, you must show that you are worthy of this position. It is not difficult to imagine the furniture, the dishes, the clothes, the house and everything that can go with this great reputation as a trader "above all others".

There is also Marie Philomène's mother and her husband Gérard Van Neuss. And of course their family members.
We also notice in the witnesses (usually chosen from among his friends), a butcher and two cooks who live in Brussels. The butcher is 31 years old and one of the cooks is 27 years old. This would correspond to the 2 controls for Hippolyte. While Marie Philomène's two witnesses are Gérard Van Neuss who was 38 years old in 1865 and the last cook who was 54 years old.

This relationship between Paul and Marie Philomène soon filled their happiness even more.
And so it was that on June 23rd 1866, Hippolyte Gérard Pommier was born.
Our famous H. POMMIER!

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Obviously we can see that he also bears the first name of Gérard Van Neuss and we can easily deduce that he was his godfather.
Hippolyte was born in Brussels and I think Paul did not go back to work in France.
But he did not necessarily stay in Brussels.

1868 shows that Michel Van Neuss (Gerard's uncle) no longer has his name associated with that of Vernimmen for about 3 years.

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This appellation Van Neuss - Vernimmen lasted about 33 years.
But as I said above, I think they continued to work together with the Vernimmen house that was on "rue de Loxum", not very far from "rue Cantersteen".

So in 1868, Michel was 65 years old and he is still the boss of Van Neuss's house. And even if his nephew Gerard is already 41 years old, he has to wait a few more years before really taking over from his uncle as the only boss.

In 1870, Paul Pommier and Marie Philomène had a daughter, Catherine Marie Philomène. Unfortunately, this child did not survive and it was certainly an illness that killed her in 1871. The grief must be immense for the couple who waited 5 years to have this second child.
In 1872 a second little girl arrived. They also give her Catherine's first name. Strangely, it seems she hasn't received any other names. It's unusual for this time.

1873 shows that Michel Van Neuss, who is 70 years old, is no longer a boilermaker but is declared as "owner".  The Van Neuss house is certainly in Gerard's hands on this date but of course under the watchful eye of his uncle!  This is why the name is still Van Neuss Michel.
1877 was the birth of Celine Marie Pauline, Paul Pommier's daughter.
But unfortunately, Paul did not know this little girl because he died in 1876.
It was a sad period for Hippolyte Pommier who lost his father but also, in a way, his great grandfather Michel Van Neuss. Not to mention one of his uncles (Charles, brother of his father, who also died in 1876).

I don't know in which year Michel Van Neuss died, but it seems to be between 1873 and 1879.
Because from 1880, it was his nephew Gérard who took over the company in his name.
And we discover for the first time G.M. VAN NEUSS 21 rue Cantersteen.
Gérard Michel Vna Neuss is 53 years old.

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And it is quite naturally that Gérard Van Neuss takes charge of the young Hippolyte Pommier, who is 14 years old.
Hippolyte is lucky to start in a company whose reputation is well established.
It is in the best position for all aspects of boiler making of copper cookware.
He will be able to learn all the tricks of the trade very quickly.
Both practically and theoretically, Hippolyte seems to be an intelligent young man.

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He will have a whole decade to prove himself and show Gérard Van Neuss (whom he certainly considers as his grandfather) that he is capable of running a company despite his young age.
I imagine him very early on getting in touch with the wealthy clientele of the Brussels bourgeoisie.
But also to have access to the boilermaking workshops thinking of the magnificent future copper pots he would create. Not to mention the relationships with shops, restaurants. Not to mention the Royal Court of Belgium!
Despite all this, it seems that studies are important to him. And I guess Gerard Van Neuss pushed him in that direction.
There is no more information in this decade from 1880 to 1890. The ever-changing industrial evolution brings more and more people to cities and the needs are always growing.
This is a great time for small and large boilermaking companies.
Competition from department stores is already starting to weigh on small craftsmen (and this has been a reality for a few decades now but it is still increasing!).
Van Neuss has a reputation and know-how that will give it many years to come.
We are now arriving in 1892. Gérard Van Neuss is 65 years old. It's a good age to think about retirement.
That same year, a happy event and I would even say 2 happy events will happen!
Hippolyte, who is now 26 years old, has also met love.

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On October 22, 1892 he married Pauline Marie. And to further enrich this happiness, Gérard Van Neuss handed the company over to him! I don't think Hippolyte could have dreamed better than all this!

For this gesture, this gift, Hippolyte will always show enormous respect to Gérard Van Neuss.
Van Neuss' name will not be forgotten!
Thus, and even several decades later, the name Van Neuss was still associated with that of H. Pommier.
This applies to store fronts, invoices, advertisements and pots.
And it is not uncommon to see Van Neuss's name written larger than Pommier's.
One would think that it was for advertising purposes only to take advantage of Van Neuss' reputation.
But when you think about it, after 20 years it wouldn't have been much use. And yet, Hippolyte continued to pay tribute to the man who was his godfather, grandfather and mentor, Gérard Van Neuss.
Which proves that the ties between these two men were very strong.
When you think about it, it's a pretty great destiny.
Gérard Van Neuss, born in Germany, who works for his uncle Michel in Belgium.
Paul Pommier, from his small French village, who married one of Gerard's wife's daughters.
The birth of Hippolyte who was taken care of by Gérard after Paul's death.

You must realize that all this mixture of cultures, of reconstituted families, from the peasant world to the city world to the world of the bourgeoisie, this mixture of languages and traditions has produced a beautiful result.

The proof is that I have here in front of me this copper pot stamped H. POMMIER VAN NEUSS.
This pot so old and so rich in history.

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It is not beautiful, its tin plating is to be redone and a small external polishing would be welcome. But I look at it and I know in advance how it will be when I finish my work.
I tell myself that the actions I will perform are the same as those of the boilermaker more than 100 years before in the workshops of H. POMMIER VAN NEUSS.
And when I prepare a good meal inside this pot, I won't be able to stop thinking about the 1000 things that led it to me!
That is why we in turn must respect the work of our elders. Simply because today we can still use the wonderful result of their work in our kitchens.

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