Cookies for your Country

I haven’t written a postcard post in a while, but that ISN’T because I’ve quit the hobby. Rather the opposite, in fact; I “met” a family through a postcard and dived completely down a rabbit hole, which has just gotten bigger and bigger as I’ve learned more and more about things that never fell into my wheelhouse before.

Here’s the card that started it all, which I purchased in Paris in 2017:

My dear cousins, If it will not disturb you, we will visit you on Thursday the 13th sometime between 3 and 4 o’clock. Best wishes, Francois Bodevin

I have tried and tried to find anything at all about Francois. The name is uncommon, but common enough that I can’t pin it down, and of course I don’t have his address. He mailed the card from a post office near the Arc de Triomphe and his cousins, if they were indeed such, lived 3.5km to the southwest. I can find no link between a family of Bodevins and a family of Augiers.

The latter, fortunately, were not hard to find at all, despite the fact that “Emile Augier” is a name shared with one of France’s great writers. Fortuntaely the Emile Augier of the
Académie française died a full 17 years before this card was sent, so I was able to sort them out pretty easily.

Emile Augier (photo from the Musee de Suresnes)

My guy was born Eugene Jean Baptiste Emile in Lyon in 1864. His father Noel was a merchant of some sort and his mother Henriette was eighteen years old. By 1886 Emile lived in Bordeaux where he began working at Biscuits Olibet, a cookie company pioneering the mass production of baked goods in cutting-edge factories. (There is a fascinating write-up of the factory at The Center For Research and Study of Bakery. Also: there is a Center for Research and Study of Bakery. Day, made!) By 1901 Emile was the general manager of Olibet and a counselor on the Foreign Trade committee, and in 1915 he was a representative on the French delegation to the San Francisco World’s Fair.

I know this much about Emile because it was all carefully cataloged and preserved in the files of the Legion d’Honneur. I’m not entirely clear on the specific services he performed, but during WWI he utilized his experience as a manager and with mass-production techniques to help bolster and preserve the French economy, and in 1920 he was awarded the title of Chevalier.

The postcard addresses two cousins, of course, and Mrs. Augier is where my rabbit hole started. She herself hasn’t left that much of a footprint, although she apparently started out well as a young lady of note to American society, if not French. Her father was born in the US but lived much of his life in Europe, and her mother was born in France but had a celebrity history in the US, and they will be a post unto themselves. Isabelle married Emile in 1908 and they had four sons and a daughter, the latter of whom died at 11 years old. The Augier household was frequently mentioned in Parisian who’s-who publications in the early 1910s.

Emile died in 1937, and Isabelle lived another 29 years to pass away in 1966.

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