Roullet & Decamps

The history

Roullet & Decamps was a French toy manufacturing company operating in the 19th and 20th centuries, which specialized in production of automata.

The company's history started in 1866 when Jean Roullet opened a small workshop in Paris, where he made mechanical toys. One inventor offered him the drawings of an automaton of a doll- gardener carrying a cart. Due to his own well-organized production of cogwheels and other mechanical details Roullet managed to start the circulation of doll-automata quite fast. It was the first cheap mechanical toy of such complexity. The gardener's mechanism was later used in the creation of other automata.

 The workshop received the first bronze medal at the World Fair in 1867.  In 1879, Roullet’s daughter Henriette married the workshop’s mechanical engineer Ernest Dekamp. Common efforts of Roullet and Dekamp made it possible to expand the variety and volume of production to a high extend. After the great success at the Paris exhibition in 1889, the family firm was reorganized and renamed to Roullet & Decamps.

By 1893, the firm hired mechanics, watchmakers, artists, tailors. The number of workers reached fifty. The doll-gardener became a talisman of the company. In 1909, Ernest Decamp passed, his widow and son started to manage the family business. They succeeded in maintaining the company's independence.

 In the dolls of Roullet & Decamps the puppet heads produced by various French companies, such as Gaultier, Jumeau, and German Simon & Halbig were used. The highlight of the Roullet & Decamps dolls was the invention of a mechanism allowing the doll to place one foot in front of the other and walk the gait of a person. There was also a sneaking tiger and a giraffe bending and unbending the neck and circus animals playing musical instruments.
The automaton- figure of the professor, which wrote wishes for every visitor - and all the time these wishes were different, was exhibited in the pavilion of toys at the International Exhibition in London in 1937.

 In the beginning of the 20th century, R & D made the first large automata for shop-window dressing. Large animated showcases, designed by the company, were demonstrated in the best department stores in Paris and London. Automatic scenes for showcases were the direct descendants of mechanical automata and an important part of the decoration of Paris and other cities for several decades.

The firm ceased operations in 1995. Collections of their dolls are exhibited in two French museums in Falaise (Calvados) and Souillac (Lot).

Exhibits in the Museum Collection