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V27 2024 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 4, January 28, 2024, Article 13

PORTRAIT LATHE MAKER CLAUDE CONTAMIN

Julia Casey researched a detail mentioned in last week's article on pantographs, the machine used to reduce artist designs for making coins. -Editor

  contamin pantograph reduction machine
Contamin Pantograph

The Identity of Contamin, maker of the U.S. Mint's Portrait Lathe

In last week's E-Sylum, Contamin is mentioned as a maker of a pantograph engraving machine obtained from France and used by the US Mint in the 1830s. Contamin's first name and other details about him are indicated to be unknown. I decided to see if I could determine more information about Contamin. I did some digging and then independently came up with the same possibility, which David Powell wrote about in the March 22, 2020, E-Sylum - perhaps Contamin is Vincent Contamin, and this Contamin was the individual who later invented and sold piano chairs.

I dug deeper to find direct evidence of this hypothesis and now feel confident that Contamin of the pantograph fame is not Vincent Contamin, but Claude Contamin (1806-1876) and that he is indeed the same person who sold piano chairs.

In the 1844 Paris Exposition M. Contamin was awarded a bronze medal for his piano stool design. The jury report states that (via Google translate): In the construction of a simple piano stool M Contamin was able to show his ability as a mechanic, a capacity already well demonstrated in 1839 by the construction of a very good, perfected portrait lathe and which earned him a bronze medal.

After much searching, I was finally able to locate Contamin's first name in an 1842 French patent listing for a piano chair.

  1842 Contamin French piano patent listing

I also found a death notice for Claude Contamin on Ancestry.com that indicated he died in Paris at the age of 70, on March 29, 1876. He was described as a mécanicien, and this is the same title Contamin gave himself in his advertisements and on the token discovered by David Powell.

  Contamin m├ęcanicien pianos token
Contamin token

One other piece of info I had to link the Portrait Lathe Contamin to the Piano Chair Contamin is in the 1842 France business almanac Contamin is listed with the address of 14 rue Salle au Comte, as a mécanicien and also a maker of a "Tour à portrait." This is the same address listed in his ad for piano chairs.

The A in the circle symbol indicates he won a silver medal.

  1842 France business almanac Contamin entry
  Contamin piano harp chairs advertisement

At my request Steve Bishop searched world patent databases for records of Contamin's British patents, but so far he and Julia have come up empty. -Editor

Julia adds:

"Some of the British patents are accessible online but it is very scattershot. While I'd love to have the patents, I feel confident that Claude Contamin is our man."

Great discovery! Many thanks to Julia, Steve, David, Robert Whitehead, and Dick Johnson for their efforts now and over the years. We'd be grateful if any readers can locate additional new evidence to confirm or refute this finding. -Editor

To read the original 1844 Paris Exposition report, see:
Rapport du Jury central ... 1844

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: MARCH 22, 2020 : Vincent Contamin, Contamin Pantograph Inventor? (https://www.coinbooks.org/v23/esylum_v23n12a16.html)
REDUCTION MACHINES AT THE U.S. MINT (https://www.coinbooks.org/v23/esylum_v23n11a13.html)
VOCABULARY TERM: PANTOGRAPH, PART TWO (https://www.coinbooks.org/v27/esylum_v27n03a10.html)

Atlas E-Sylum ad02



Wayne Homren, Editor

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