Henri Gray was a pseudonym of Henri Boulanger, born in 1858 in France. (He died in 1924). He used the pseudonym of H. Gray to sign his poster designs. For more racy subject matter, he signed his work with the pseudonym of Orivois (meaning spicy). He began his career designing magazine illustrations and covers. He turned to designing posters during the ‘poster craze’ in Paris during the 1890s. He is particularly known for his bicycle posters. Other poster designers also noted for designing bicycle posters include Jean de Palealogue (who was known as ‘Pal’), Georges Massias, Franciso Tamango and Georges Favre. Boulanger was one of the most prolific of the poster designers; he also created satirical caricatures. Hurtu was one of his regular employers.
1910s Hurtu Racer
Sloping Top Tube with 2 inch drop
Triangular front fork
Saver rat-trap pedals
In the early years, Hurtu was one of France’s top manufacturers, marketing cars as early as 1896. They were known for superb quality and excellent design, whether in their sewing machines, cycles or automobiles.
This interesting racer has a sloping top tube, a unique triangular fork design, ‘Saver’ rat-trap pedals and an aluminium bottle and cage. It’s a rare survivor. I’ve only been able to find a 1913 catalogue, whose models do not feature the same front fork.
The Hurtu is in good original unrestored condition and ready to ride.
HURTU, HAUTIN et DILIGEON
Albert, Somme, France
In 1867, Jean-Charles-Emile Diligeon, Victor Joseph Hautin and Jacques-Auguste Hurtu pooled their resources to form a company Hurtu, Hautin et Diligeon to manufacture sewing machines. Their machines are of the most ornate design, subsequently becoming the most sought-after by collectors.
The company exhibited at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in 1889, held to commemorate the storming of the Bastille a century before. The main symbol of the Fair was the Eiffel Tower, which served as the entrance arch to the Fair. The 1889 fair was built on the Champ de Mars in Paris, which had been the site of the 1867 Exposition, and would be the site of the 1900 Exposition too. The fair marked the first time that visitors were allowed to go onto the yet unfinished Eiffel Tower. Though not yet completed, exhibition attendees were allowed to walk up to the second floor platform.
Hurtu cycle posters of the 1890s display a reference to their attendance at this event. The assumption is therefore that they had started making bicycles by 1889, making their debut at the 1889 World’s Fair as cycle constructeurs as well as sewing machine manufacturers.
The posters above and below are pre-1895 because the company name is shown as Hurtu, Hautin & Diligeon.
Diligeon bought out his partners in 1895 and renamed the company Diligeon et Cie. The Hurtu name was still used for the company’s bicycles, though their advertising posters after 1895 showed the name Diligeon et Cie underneath the Hurtu name (below).
The new company built the Leon Bollee tricar under license in 1896, making more of these then Leon Bollée themselves.
Four wheel vehicles followed in 1897 with a close copy of the German Benz, a version of which was also made in England by Belsize Motors of Manchester.
The company became Compagnie des Auto et Cycles Hurtu in 1899 (below).
Hurtu continued their poster campaign into the twentieth century. These days, although most people have never seen a Hurtu bicycle from the 1800s, they are familiar with the company name because of these fabulous posters.
Although Hurtu stopped making cars in 1930, the company continued to manufacture bicycles and, postwar, small motorcycles and cyclemotors.
1913 HURTU CATALOGUE EXTRACTS