Arthur et Paul Jeanrenaud, 1872–1894

Arthur Jeanrenaud

Originally from Môtier, in a neighbouring valley of the canton of Neuchȃtel, the Jeanrenaud family contributed towards the development of the music box industry and the gramophone for over half a century. Arthur, the father, invented the plérodienique, a music box system with two cylinders capable of extended play. Paul, his son, made music boxes and then moved to talking machines. He applied patents and tried to sell his products through the intermediary of various commercial companies. (Piguet 2004, p. 237)

Arthur Jeanrenaud set up in Sainte-Croix at the beginning of 1870, joined the Société industrielle et commerciale, he participated in various committees to conduct studies related to the music box industry. Together with his brother Louis, also member of the SIC, he employed a few workers and manufactured mainly cartels, such as the eight-tune, twelche-inch box, expressive mandolin with zither, worth about 120 francs, which they donated to the hospital lottery in 1877. (Piguet 2004, p. 237)

Hermann Thorens, in St. Croix since 1974, was an excellent musician, so in the company of Arthur Jeanrenaud, he had more than enough to do. Jeanrenaud introduced [...] Hermann Thorens [...] to musical composition, manufacturing techniques and office work.

Arthur researched a system to play longer tunes and complete overtures. He imagined playing two cylinders, opposite their respective combs, whose movement was coordinated so that they could play sequentially, one after the other, the first one reverting to its original position, while the second one finished its movement. This was the plérodienique, for which a patent application was submitted in the United States on 31st October 1882 and allocated to Paillard, who manufactured numerous boxes using the system. (Piguet 2004, p. 237)

The first presentation of this type of box took place at the London Exhibition in 1862, where it was described as the largest and most ambitious music box ever seen. (Piguet 2004, p. 237)

Sebsequently, boxes using the plérodienique system were made by Paillard-Vaucher and by G. Mermod-Bornand, who succeeded Arthur Jeanrenaud. They played overtures such as The Barber of Seville, Sémiramis or William Tell. (Piguet 2004, p. 237)

Arthur Jeanrenaud´s music box factory, where Hermann Thorens used to work, disappeared at the end of 1894, following the death of the owner.
(Piguet 2004, p. 237)

Paul Jeanrenaud

Paul Jeanrenaud, son of Arthur, opened his own factory some time later. He probably considered that the most sophisticated developments, among which his father´s plérodienique, had already been introduced in the music box field, and that consequently they could no longer rival the talking machines whose development was a foregone conclusion. (Piguet 2004, p. 238)

He manufactured all types of music boxes, in particular those destined for postcard dispensers, but he did not hesitate to replace pinned cylinders and combs by engraved cylinders and a large horn, to make automatic phonographs. He made automatic pianos, “new gramophones with automatic disc and cylinder change” (advertisement dating back to 1904), and the famous cabinets which dispensed postcards also equipped with “an advertisement-cylinder moving six times per cylinder revolution, offering a 280 x 45 mm advertisement each time, with an automatic cylinder change mechanism”. (Piguet 2004, p. 238)

After 1905, Paul Jeanrenaud cooperated with various companies to produce talking machines of his own design. To this end he teamed up with experienced people living in the area but originally from elsewhere. Under the name P. Jeanrenaud & Cie., he first of all went into partnership with Franz Gloor. The partnership lasted from 20th November 1905 to 29th August 1908. (Piguet 2004, p. 238)

Meanwhile, on 15th April, he persuaded Albert Reuge to set up a company called L´Industrielle SA in order to manufacture and sell talking machines using the patents he had applied for. He was a majority partner in this business, which came to an end on 15th April 1914. Undaunted, Paul Jeanrenaud contacted another experienced manufacturer, Alphonse Normann, to create the Swiss Soeciety for the Manufacture of Talking Machines SA on 11th February 1915. This company survived for just one summer and was dissolved on 11th July 1916. (Piguet 2004, p. 238)

“Successors to Arthur Jeanrenaud”: Mermod et Bornand

TMB 18, 5, 1998, p. 136, Nr. 27; Bellamy, Music Makers of Switzerland, (2015), p. 6