23 - Denis-Ambroise GONTIER-GRIGY (1811 - 1886) (4) [1]

Denis-Ambroise GONTIER was born in 1811 in Chailly (Seine et Marne, France).  

Around 1834 GONTIER married Eloïse Honorine GRIGY (born around 1813) and in 1835 their first daughter Héloïse Augustine was born in Limay (Seine et Oise).

GONTIER was an only child and with the inheritance from his father and that of one of his uncles he moved to Luxembourg in 1838 and had a house built in the city centre (30 rue Beaumont). 

In 1838, at the age of 27, when GONTIER moved to Luxembourg he worked in a legal cabinet, presumably that of Me Charles SIMONIS and he acted as sténographe in the Etats-Généraux (Luxembourg Parliament).

On 30 September 1843 GONTIER filed his first patent application [2] in Luxembourg. In the cover letter accompanying the application GONTIER referred to himself as “inventeur des roues sous-marines à vapeur” and stated:

… a l’honneur d’exposer à Votre Majesté qu'il vient d'inventer un appareil de chauffage, auquel il a donné le nom de “Poêle fumivo-lampyre” attendu qu'il absorbe la fumée et que le feu, qui brûle à flamme renversée, traverse un globe de verre reflétant la lumière …

The application was given the title of:

Appareil de chauffage poêle fumivo-lampyre

The application was sent to La Haye where Conseiller LIPKENS conducted an examination and reported back :

…comme il résulte des recherches faites que jusqu'à ce jour la description de ces machines n'a point été rendue publique par la voie de l’impression, je suis d'avis qu'il y a lieu à ce que les brevets demandés soient délivrés [3]

The patent was thus granted on 8 February 1844.

On 11 December 1844, however, Jean NOUVEAU, fabricant poêlier in Luxembourg-city, wrote to the Government requesting the revocation of GONTIER’s patent on the grounds that it was not novel but an exact copy of an oven described in an earlier publication entitled “L’art d’empêcher la cheminée de fumer”. NOUVEAU supplied a transcription of the relevant pages of the publication which were forwarded to examiner LIPKENS, with the request that he provide his opinion on NOUVEAU’s claim.

LIPKENS stated that, at the time of his examination, he was aware of the earlier oven pointed out by NOUVEAU but that, in his opinion:

Le poêle fumivore-lampyre du sieur Gontier diffère de ceux décrits, par la modification essentielle, qu'il ajoute à celui-ci un réservoir rempli d'eau, dont le fond est percé de trous qui donnent lieu à une pluie fine, laquelle en tombant (ainsi que le dessin de l'appareil présenté par Monsieur Gontier le fait voir) dans le tuyau par lequel l'air qui a servi à la combustion s'échappe en absorbe le gaz acide carbonique et condense les vapeurs aqueuses qui s'y trouvent et qui sans cela se rendraient dans l'appartement, où l'on prétend qu'un poêle fumivore peut être établi sans incommoder par la fumée!

LIPKENS probably realised that he should have objected to the grant of the patent and, rather than revising his decision, he belittled the importance of Gontier’s invention:

Je suis loin de partager cette opinion, et pense qu'on n’emploiera jamais avec quelque avantage le poêle fumivore-lampyre du sieur Gontier, mais cela n'empêche pas que la modification qu'il a faite à ceux de ses appareils connus, lui donnent véritablement droit à l'obtention du brevet qu'il a demandé et qui lui a été accordé, sans ôter au sieur Nouveau, ou à tout autre le droit de construire des poêles tels que ceux qui sont décrits dans des ouvrages imprimés, sauf à s'abstenir de comprendre dans la construction, la modification qui constitue l'invention du sieur Gontier et pour laquelle il a été breveté.

D'après les considérations qui précèdent, je suis d'avis qu'il n'y a pas lieu à donner suite à la demande du sieur Nouveau.

NOUVEAU was informed on 7 March 1845 that the GONTIER’s patent would not be revoked.

In the meantime, on 23 December 1844, GONTIER had filed an application for a brevet de perfectionnement relating to the earlier patent subject of the revocation request from NOUVEAU. 

The Government decided to postpone the examination of the second application until the revocation request had been dealt with.  

The second application was thus forwarded to La Haye on 7 March 1845 only.

GONTIER described his improvements as follows: 

1° Application nouvelle du principe découvert par Dalesme [4] à des corps de poêle ordinaire. 

2° Foyer mobile, application nouvelle d’un objet inconnu comme corps de poêle.

3° Condensateur chimique absorbant le gaze carbonique et le peu de matières échappées à la combustion

4° Elargissement disproportionné entre le foyer et les tuyaux

5° Verre laissant voir la flamme renversée

6° Couvercle fumifuge contre le refoulement des cheminées 

7° Réservoir permettant de charger le foyer pour la journée

Conseiller LIPKENS had no objections to the patent being granted, which happened on 19 May 1845. 

Jean BARTH (see No 20 and No 22) was a good friend of Antoine-Ambroise GONTIER-GRIGY. (He was one of the witnesses who signed the birth declaration for the first of GONTIER’S children, born in Luxembourg, in 1844.)

GONTIER and BARTH cooperated to develop and commercialise the novel heating oven. BARTH had a shop in Luxembourg-city (rue du Fossé) and offered there for sale GONTIER’S patented “poêle fumivo-lampyre”. 


GONTIER-GRIGY, the citizen

Denis-Ambroise GONTIER was born in 1811 in Chailly (Seine et Marne, France). He was an only child, and with the inheritance of his father and that of one of his uncles he moved to Luxembourg in 1838 and had a house built on 30 rue Beaumont, in the city centre. He was working, in a legal cabinet, presumably that of  Me Charles SIMONIS.

He also acted as sténographe in the Etats-Généraux (Luxembourg Parliament).

In 1844 GONTIER still lived in rue Beaumont when daughter Emma Catherine was born; his occupation was recorded as Rentner, i.e. without any specific professional activity.

When daughter Aline Anne was born in 1847, GONTIER gave his address as 222 rue de la place d’Armes, his profession being directeur d’assurances, and in 1853, when daughter Henriette Estelle was born, he declared 324 rue de l’Eau as address, and again directeur d’assurances as his profession. The two above addresses were, presumably, the addresses of his business. According to his own statement of 1868  [5] GONTIER stilled lived in the house he had built in 1838, when he arrived in Luxembourg, namely the house of 30 rue Beaumont.

However, GONTIER and his family later moved to 7 rue des Loges, in the very old part of the city centre of Luxembourg.

Eldest daughter Héloise Augustine married Gerard SIEGEN on 25 November 1858 in Luxembourg [7], while Emma Catherine married Richard Alexander BIELITZ on 11 May 1865 in Luxembourg and Henriette Estelle married Friedrich Johann BEFFORT on 7 May 1874, also in Luxembourg.

Aline Anne only lived to the age of 6.

The couples SIEGEN-GONTIER and BEFFORT-GONTIER were very well known in the Luxembourg milieu, judging from the numerous mentions of their names in the local press. SIEGEN-GONTIER held a shop on the place d’Armes for gloves, cigars, books, perfumes, etc. and BEFFORT-GONTIER were involved in the Champagne trade; they owned in Epernay the domain of “Royal Champagne, Château de Pékin”.

In 1860 Denis-Ambroise GONTIER brought son-in-law Gerard SIEGEN into the insurance business (directeur adjoint of the Caisse Paternelle) but the latter died at an early age. 

After Gerard’s death, his widow Héloïse Augustine continued the couple’s business under the name “Veuve Siegen-Gontier”, mainly cutting wood to size for household use, including a delivery service. They lived in the avenue Monterey and operated an industrial wood cutting business on the Glacis, presumably with a setup similar to the “Camionotricycle” (see No 143), but stationary. 

In 1886 Denis-Ambroise GONTIER-GRIGY died in 7 rue des Loges, at the age of 75. [8] His widow Eloïse Honorine GRIGY sold off the Luxembourg estate and left Luxembourg for Paris. 


GONTIER-GRIGY, the author 

In 1832 GONTIER published a book entitled “L’Echographie des sons et articulations de la langue française, ou l’Art d’apprendre soi-même à écrire aussi vite que l’on parle” [6] and later published a book with the title of “L’Histoire de basoches”.

In 1843 GONTIER published his most important work, for which he was highly respected in legal circles: 

Les vingt-cinq codes de la législation luxembourgeoise”, a codification of the laws applicable in Luxembourg.

This reference book was followed in 1848 by 2 additional law books:

Constitution du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, in full text with annotations [7] and Loi sur les compositions des conseils communaux.

The 1843 law codification book was updated at regular intervals: 

‍        1859 (2nd edition), 1875 (3rd edition) and 1886 (4th edition).

(to be checked:  Gontier’s publications (1908 Bibliographie Luxembourgeoise: ou, Catalogue raisonné de tous les ouvrages ou travaux littéraires publiés par des Luxembourgeois ou dans le grand-duché actuel de Luxembourg. page 365 BnL)


GONTIER-GRIGY, the insurance agent

GONTIER was mainly known in Luxembourg as the Managing Director of the Luxembourg branch of the French insurance company La Paternelle

Some sources report that GONTIER started his career in the insurance business as agent-général of the company l’Union.

In 1845 GONTIER introduced the French insurance company Le Sauveur in Luxembourg, a company specialised in insuring fire risks, and entered into direct competition with the Belgian companies l’Aigle and Compagnie Générale.

Three years later, in 1848 the French companies La Paternelle and Le Sauveur merged to become La Paternelle, under the management of GONTIER. 

Between the years 1845-1850 GONTIER managed gradually, through his network of agents, to become the leading company in Luxembourg for insuring fire risks and was the subject of criticism by his competitors which made him intervene regularly in the local press to refute allegations that he did not honour his company’s contracts (did not pay, paid not enough, paid too late …); he finished by publishing regularly in the press details of payments made to victims insured with his company.

La Paternelle expanded its business in 1850 by introducing in Luxembourg a life insurance company by the name of Caisse Paternelle.

As time went on, GONTIER added additional insurance services to his portfolio such a “hailstone insurance” through a German insurance company. 

GONTIER acted until the end of his life in 1886 as Sous-Directeur of La Paternelle.


GONTIER-GRIGY, the inventor

In 1844 GONTIER obtained his first Luxembourg patent for an « Appareil de chauffage poêle fumivo-lampyre », as described above.

In 1851 GONTIER filed a patent application in France for a “machine hydraulique” [8] to which he later referred as “syphon élévateur déversant l’eau à la courbure”. The “syphon élévateur”, was shown at the 1852 Exposition de l’industrie et des arts held in the Athénée in Luxembourg (“système pour prendre l’eau au sommet d’un syphon”).

Sous l’orchestre de la salle vous trouverez le syphon de l’invention de M. Gontier-Grigy: il est à désirer que l’on puisse voir à l’oeuvre cette ingénieuse machine. [9]

GONTIER’s invention earned a médaille d’argent

In 1861 GONTIER took part in the “Exposition de Metz” where he presented his “appareil de propulsion des aérostats” and shortly afterwards, in 1862, he obtained a patent in France for a “mécanisme dit automoteur continu” [10]. At the same time GONTIER published a booklet entitled: “Aérostat propulsif en soie ou en aluminium avec moteur-révolvo comprimant”. The first edition was published by A. P.  JULLIEN in Luxembourg and a third edition was published in France in 1864.

In 1869 GONTIER turned to the emerging field of individual travel means such as bicycles  and tricycles. With the assistance of a Metz-based patent agency he obtained a patent in France for “voiture à trois roues dite locotricycle” [11].

‍ GONTIER exhibited his invention in the Villa Louvigny in the central park of Luxembourg ,which at the time was a popular restaurant/dancing-hall. The local press reported on the event with a slight criticism [12] which provoked GONTIER’s immediate reaction. [13] 

In 1873 GONTIER obtained in Luxembourg a patent for “Camionotricycle, nouvel appareil destiné au sciage et au fendage du bois de chauffage” (see No 143).

In 1881 Gontier obtained a French patent for a “moteur à girouettes devant remplacer les moulins à vent” [14]


Final note

Those who make it into the satirical press are truly popular (GONTIER made it 3 times into the “D’Wäschfra”) …

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[1] FamilySearch database (G3W9-4LQ), Obermosel Zeitung, 23 June 1937, p 14

[2] a second application was filed by Gontier-Grigy in 1873 (see No 143)

[3] Lipkens referred to 2 concurrent patent applications  (Gontier-Grigy and Clesse) which he had examined at the same time

[4] poêle fumivore de Dalesme

[5] L’Union, 16 September 1868, page 1

[6] Kléfer à Versailles

[7] Constitution du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, Librairie de V. Bück, 1848

[8] FR patent No 11,006, see No 5 (FR Law 1844) 

[9] 2e lettre sur l’exposition (Courrier du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg du 1 septembre 1852, page 2)

[10] FR patent No 54,732

[11] FR patent No 85,943

[12] L’Union, 18 August 1869, page 1

[13] L’Union, 19 August 1869, page 2

[14] FR patent No 144,028

(22/02/2021)