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Daniel Pelavin
Victor Vaissier, Le Roi du Congo
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Victor Vaissier was a much beloved figure In France at the end of the 19th century. In 1887 he named the company he had inherited from his father Savonnerie du Congo. With nationwide advertising campaigns and participation in a number universal exhibitions, he attained stunning success with his products ranging from soaps to toothpaste, hair creams and talc.
 
His charitable generosity, not to mention his distinguished and ample moustache, gave him near legendary status during the Belle Époque coinciding with America’s Gilded Age. In 1892 he built a fabulous home nicknamed “Castle of the Congo” as a kind of permanent spectacle which further elevated his profile and advanced his business.
 
As the nineteenth century celebrated like no other the discovery of the most distant countries, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, M. Vaissier chose much of his inspiration from the exotic plants and flowers of these regions. He even fancied himself in the image of King Makoko of the Congo, then under the French flag, and was known to occasionally dress in royal tribal garments. After his death in 1922, the company continued to run under a number of different owners and did not cease operations until the 1960s.
 
La Piscine - Musée d'Art et d'Industrie in Roubaix, having acquired an extensive collection has mounted an exhibition, sharing with the public the considerable output of this much celebrated man.
 
The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1.
In conjunction with the exhibition I was involved in recreating and/or restoring some of the original products to be available for purchase by visitors to the museum. 
 
The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1.In conjunction with the exhibition I was involved in recreating and/or restoring some of the original products to be available for purchase by visitors to the museum. The exhibition runs though June 7. If you’d like to catch it before it closes, Roubaix is about 230 km north of Paris. Take the E1 till it merges with the A1. Once you get past some road maintenance near Charles De Gaulle airport, it’s pretty much a straight shot on the A1
The Castle of the Congo and Vaissier's simple and straightforward (for the time) billhead.
A plethora of the original products, containers and packaging on display in the museum.
Rescued from dusty old archives, a selection of the restored soap packaging.
Left, the original, right completely redrawn box for a collection of scented soaps.
Left, illustrations from the catalog, right, the updated wrappers, Yep, we did have a lot of fun with these.
Left, illustrations of from the catalog of soaps with debossed imagery, right, the carefully drawn art that was to become the die.
Left, the catalog images, right, the finished bars of soap.
Gift-worthy selections meticulously packaged, include a newsletter detailing the history of the company and a mini facsimile of an original catalog.
Products based on original designs elegantly packaged for sale in the museum gift shop.


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