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Jean-Baptiste André Godin

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Title: Jean-Baptiste André Godin  
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Jean-Baptiste André Godin

Statue of Godin at Guise.

Jean-Baptiste André Godin (26 January 1817 – 29 January 1888) was a French industrialist, writer and political theorist, and social innovator. A manufacturer of cast-iron stoves and influenced by Charles Fourier, he developed and built an industrial and residential community within Guise called the Familistère (Social Palace). He ultimately converted it to cooperative ownership and management by workers.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Marriage and family 2
  • Career 3
  • Developing the Familistère 4
  • Twentieth century to present 5
  • Legacy and honors 6
  • Works 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11

Early life and education

Born on the 26th of January 1817 at iron works at age eleven as an apprentice. At age seventeen, he made a tour of France as journeyman with his older cousin, Jean-Nicholas Moret, also an ironsmith.

Marriage and family

In 1840 he first married, at the age of 23.[1] They had several children, including a son M. Émile Godin.

On July 14, 1886, after his first wife had died, Godin married Marie-Adèle Moret (27 April 1840 - 18 April 1908), born in Brie-Comte-Robert (Seine-et- Marne). She was the second daughter of his cousin Jean-Nicholas Moret and his wife Marie-Jean Philippe. Before their marriage, she had worked at Le Familistère for nearly 25 years, where she established numerous services for families with children: the nursery, infant school, and primary school; taught teachers; and set up an insurance program for workers, as well as founding health facilities.[2]

After Godin's death in 1888, Marie-Adèle helped care for the minor children of his son M. Émile Godin, who died 15 days after his father. She especially devoted herself to organizing Godin's papers, publishing some of his manuscripts, and working to keep Le Familistère going.[2]


Returning to Esquéhéries with his new wife in 1840, Godin started a small factory for the manufacture of castings for heating-stoves. That year he took out a patent for the stove, which he had invented.[1] He believed that this was going to be a useful product for the age. With his business increasing rapidly, to take advantage of the railroad at Guise, Godin moved the factory there in 1846. He manufactured cookers and heating stoves of many kinds, mainly made from cast iron. Sometimes these were enameled. He became quite wealthy and used his money to establish funds and development for workers.

At the same time, Godin and his cousin Moret had been learning about current socialist and communist thinking. Godin became an ardent disciple of the utopian Charles Fourier, whom he started studying in 1842, and thought hard about the future of workers and their communities. He helped fund V. P. Considerant's (q.v.) 1855 utopian community in Texas, known as La Reunion, at the site of present-day Dallas. He learned by its failure, due partly to colonists ill-suited as agricultural pioneers.

At the time of Godin's death in 1888, the annual output of Godin et Cie was valued at over four millions of francs (4,160,000). In 1908 the employees numbered over 2000 and production was over 280,000 units annually.

Developing the Familistère

Le Familistère, central court

From 1856-1859 Godin started the Familistère (Social Palace) in Guise on more carefully developed plans.[3] His intention was to improve housing for workers, but also "production, trade, supply, education, and recreation", all the facets of life of a modern worker.[1] He developed the Familistère as a self-contained community within the town, where he could encourage "social sympathy".[3] The full site with the foundry was about eighteen acres, on either side of the River Oise. In addition to a large factory for cast-iron manufacture, three large buildings, each four stories high, were constructed to house all the workers and their families, with each family having apartments of two or three rooms. The main building consisted of three rectangular blocks joined at the corners. Each of these blocks had a large central court covered with a glass roof under which children could play in all weather. Galleries around the couryard provided access to the apartments on each floor. There were also garden allotments for the workers. By 1872, when a correspondent from the American Harper's Magazine visited the complex, 900 workers (including women) and their families were housed there, for a total population of about 1200.[3]

The project contained no churches, but there were numerous churches elsewhere in Guise. At the back of the main block was a nursery, a pouponnat (or infant school) for toddlers and children up to age four, the bambinat for children 4-6. Opposite the main block was a building containing a theater for concerts and dramatic entertainments, and a primary school for children over six.[3]

A separate block, known as the "economat", contained various shops, refreshment and recreation rooms of various kinds, and grocery and stores for the purchase of every necessity. Produce and goods were purchased at wholesale prices and sold with little mark-up, with workers manning the shops. Goods were stored beneath the buildings, where there were storage areas for the families.

Godin developed the Familistère over 20 years, beginning soon after the 1848 Revolution and disruption in France. Through it all he worked for social reform. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, he helped defend the country. In 1871 Godin was elected deputy for Aisne, but retired in 1876 to devote himself to the management of the Familistère. In 1878 he founded the journal Devoir (Labor).[1]

In 1880 Godin created the association documents for the Familistère, converting it as he had long intended into a co-operative society, eventually to be owned by the workers. It was called l'Association coopérative du Capital et du Travail.

Twentieth century to present

The building with the nourrecerie-pouponnat was destroyed by Germans in 1918 during World War I and never rebuilt. Although the foundry was still owned by the workers in the 1950s, soon after it was taken over in a purchase by the manufacturer Le Creuset. In 1968 the cooperative association for the Social Palace was dissolved, and the apartments were sold at moderate prices by Godin S.A. They have been gradually modified and upgraded through individual owners' decisions. The same year, the cooperative economats were dissolved. In 1991 its building was classified as a Monument Historique, and in 2000 restoration of the building was begun.[4]

In the early 21st century, some of the domestic buildings were restored for private, adaptive use. Restoration of the economats building was completed in 2008, with spaces adapted as a cafe, a bookstore and gift shop, and an exhibition area.[4]

The communal laundry rooms, baths and swimming pool, in a separate building on the opposite bank, where water was heated by the factory, had become derelict but have been restored. The swimming pool is used again by residents. The communal laundry has been converted to a meeting room, and the drying room to an exhibition room.[4]

Legacy and honors

  • In 1882 Godin was created a Knight of the Legion of Honor.
  • Working models of the Godin stoves are still to be found in use all over France, and some are for sale on eBay.
  • Some of the domestic buildings at the Familistère have been updated for residents, and special purpose buildings have been restored for contemporary use. The site is open for visitors and tours, and there are plans to establish a museum of industry.


  • Solutions sociales (1871);
  • Les Socialistes et les Droits du travail (1874);
  • Mutualité sociale et association du capital et du travail (1880); and
  • La Republique du travail et la reforme parlementaire (1889).

See also


  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  1. ^ a b c d Le Familistère illustr, résultals de vingt ans d'association, 1880-1900Émilie Moret Dallet, Auguste Fabre, and Jules Prudhomme, , (Eng. trans., Twenty-eight Years of Co-partnership at Guise, by A. Williams, 1908), pp. 3-4, accessed 2 February 2011
  2. ^ a b In memoriam, Marie A. Moret, veuve de J.-B. André GodinMarie Adèle Moret Godin, Émilie Moret Dallet, , Imprimerie Minon, 1908, pp. 5-9, accessed 2 February 2011
  3. ^ a b c d Edward Howland, "The Social Palace at Guise" (illustrated), Harper's Monthly Magazine, vol. 44, December 1871-May 1872, published by Making of America Project, pp. 701-716, accessed 2 February 2011
  4. ^ a b c "Découvrir le palais pas à pas" (Discovering the Palace step by step), Le Familistère de Guise: une utopie realisée, Official Website (in French and English), accessed 2 February 2011

Further reading

  • F. Bernardot, Le Familistère de Guise, association du capital et du travail, et son fondateur, J.B.A. Godin, Guise: Dequennes et cit, 1889
  • Draperi, Jean-François, Godin, inventeur de l'économie sociale: mutualiser, coopérer, s'associer, Paris: Repas, 2008
  • Fischer, Die Familistère Godins (Berlin, 1890)
  • Etude sur le Familistère de GuiseLouis Lestelle, , Paris: Librairie Nouvelle du Droit et de Jurisprudence, 1904, accessed 2 February 2011

External links

  • "Le Familistère de Guise: une utopie realisée", Official Website (in French and English)
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