Fittingly, in the back of Café L’Imprévu (French for, the Unforeseen) at the corner of Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle and Rue d’Hauteville is a vintage Grammont public telephone. The plaque reads “Ste des Porcelaines & Appareillages Electriques/GRAMMONT/ Ancinement EURIEULT/ 10, Rue d’Uzes, Paris.” Further research unveils a hidden connection between America and France during the roaring 20s.
Grammont was a telecommunication company that specialized in copper cables and telephone equipment. It started an affiliate in 1926 called Société des Telephones Grammont to develop General Electric and Western Electric patents in France, and thereby received important contracts in the automation of the Paris telecom grid. According to the study American Firms in Europe 1880-1990 by Hubert Bonin and Ferry de Goey, the creation of the Grammont affiliate was part of a wider movement practiced by American companies to conquer part of the European market. American patents were hidden within French consumer products with French company names, and “such a ‘non-American but French’ firm succeeded so well to become a French-like company that it was posed as a barrier to German influence and as leverage to conquer Europe markets through its own subsidiaries where US-influence was nil.” Grammont denied any financial connection between GE or Western Electric and his company.
The phone box itself is likely of walnut with dove tail construction. The phone has a Bakelite handle, one of the first plastics made of synthetic components and is electrically non-conductive and heat-resistant. The rest of the receiver is of nickel-plated brass and the object hanging from the bottom of the box is called a watch receiver, for use in noisy environments or for another person.
How to Get There:
30 Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle, 75010 Paris
Metro: 8 or 9 to Bonne Nouvelle
All photos by Michelle Young.
Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.