How the hundred-year-old Peugeot dynasty engaged in a reckless adventure
VALENTIGNEY, 2 MARCH 1849
NEUILLY-SUR-SEINE, 4 FEBRUARY 1915
The Peugeots had been industrious manufacturers for almost a hundred years when, at the end of the 19th century, the automobile came up for discussion in the family. They manufactured virtually everything that could be made of metal including garden equipment, springs for watches, coffee mills, farm wagons, the metal parts of umbrellas and also bicycles. They were always ready to take advantage of the latest trends. Then came Armand Peugeot. He was more than a courageous, progressive, flexible entrepreneur. He was also a daredevil. He could not live without being engaged in some business adventure, he took risks that no one else dared to take, and his projects were often failures as well.
He was not a hard-nosed business man but a ‘man with imagination,’ according to his defenders. He was sociable and generous. The twelve years that he was mayor of the city of his birth brought nothing but prosperity to Valentigney. When people visited him at home he entertained them by singing passages from various operas with his wife, Léo, accompanying him on the piano. He had a beautiful voice, with that everyone agreed. That the Peugeots should manufacture automobiles, in that he was completely alone.
The family had come from an entirely different part of France than the Renaults and the Citroëns: the valley of the Doubs, where the Doubs River flows into France from the Swiss mountains, to the west of Basel, to the south of the Elzas, Franche-Comté.