:: [ A brief History of Andre Citroen and of the 5CV Citroen Model C ]
Part 1/. Brief History of
Bozi Mohacek's 1921 Citroen 5CV " L'Escargot ".
Part 2/. Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.
Part 3/. Andre Citroen and his connection with Mors and Munitions.
Part 4/. Formation of the 'S.A. Andre Citroen' Car Company.
Part 5/. Brief History of the Model C 5CV Citroen.
2/. Andre Citroen and his introduction to double chevron gears.
Andre Citroen was born in Paris on the 5th of February 1878, the fifth
child of a middle class prosperous Jewish family whose origins were from
the outskirts of Amsterdam. There they had traded in 'exotic fruit' from
which they took the name Limoenman. Andre's grandfather however became a
jeweller and in order to secure marriage to his grandmother changed his
name to the more upmarket Citroen, the Dutch for Lemon. The family had
become successful jewellers and diamond dealers, and Andre's father, one
of fourteen children, was sent from Amsterdam to
Warsaw to expand the family operations. There he met his Polish wife
with whom he eventually moved to Paris in about 1872. Andre's early
childhood was comfortable but sadly due to some complex diamond dealings
which went wrong, his father committed suicide in 1884 when Andre was
only six. The rest of Andre's childhood was therefore relatively sombre.
Fortunately Andre was clever and graduated from lycee Louise le Grande in
1894 with some very impressive grades.
This gained him
acceptance to the imposing and prestigious Ecole Polytechnique to study for a Diploma
in Engineering. However, by the time his education was finished the
early academic excellence seemed to have been waning, not helped by his
mother having died when he was only 20 and before he had completed his
studies. He did obtain his Diploma in 1900 at the age of 22 but was well
down the pass list. Because of these results he decided to take the easy
and secure step into the future by joining the French Army as an
engineer officer, and blended into the military way of life for four
In view of his part-Polish origin Citroen had been visiting his
relatives in Poland as a child, but it was during this army period that
Citroen visited Poland again, now a technically mature engineer.
Precisely when, where and how he first came into contact with wooden
helical gears seems to differ in most Citroen biographies. Some say he
was introduced to them in Poland as a child, others that he had spent
some time in Poland before his army career working with relatives
conversant with helical gears, and yet others that he first saw the gears on
one of his visits to Poland when on leave from the army.
It is however
apparent that at some time during his first army period he became
technically aware of wooden double helical gears being used in Poland
for driving water-driven machinery. He also became aware that
double-helical gears ran quietly and were capable of transmitting
considerable loads without damaging the wood they were made from. He was aware that
the same wooden double helicals were successfully
operating Lodz textile mills and could see the technical advantages if
such gears could be made out of steel.
Precise accounts as to how he
eventually got to designing steel gears also differ. Some biographies
say that steel double helicals had already been made by his relatives in
Glowno, some say that his brother in law had the patent which he sold to Citroen,
and yet others that Citroen purchased the rights to manufacture steel
gears from a Russian company which was already making helical gears in
Russia. The official Citroen Car Company version is that he purchased the patent
rights from a man in Poland. In any event, by 1904 Citroen had left the
army and had filed a patent for the double helical chevron gear to be
made in steel.
His first industrial adventure was a small gear cutting business called
'Engrenages Citroen' in Fauburg St Denis when he introduced the 'logo'
for his company as two double helical 'chevrons'. This emblem survived
all his other subsequent activities and is still the internationally
recognisable double chevron logo of Citroen cars. 'Engrenages Citroen'
became quite successful and Citroen was later joined in his venture by
André Boas and Jacques Hinstin. A new company was formed in 1905
renamed 'Hinstin Freres Citroen & Cie' and moved to Essonnes (Orly).
As the French automobile industry was very well advanced, the
requirement for gears was high. Citroen began very quickly to comprehend
the need to mass produce components in order to achieve low prices and
fast deliveries. He therefore invested in latest up-to-date machinery
and introduced flow control management processes. His gears found their
way into most French cars and to such diverse avenues as the steering
system for the 'Titanic' and to being evaluated for use by Rolls-Royce.
By the time he was 27, which was about five years after he started 'Engrenages
Citroen', Andre Citroen was well know as a successful industrialist in
the French automobile industry. The company was having a one million
Franc turnover by 1910 and he had built up important connections with
many of the French automobile manufacturers; - with one, more so than
the others. Although Citroen was known to the Societe Nouvelle des
Automobiles Mors as a gear manufacturer, he was also known to them
through the marriage of his brother to daughter of the President of the
Mors board, a Monsieur Harbleisher. These contacts had earlier resulted
in Citroen being awarded a contract to manufacture 500 engines for
Sizaire Nurdin in a new factory on the Quai Grenelle
with Part 3/.
Copyright © MMI, Bozi Mohacek. Reproduction only
by permission from the Author.
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