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Cité de l'Automobile

Cité de l'Automobile - Collection Schlumpf

National Museum

in Mulhouse

The Schlumpf Brothers 1904-1956

Hans and Fritz Schlumpf were born in Italy to a Swiss father and a mother from Mulhouse, Jeanne Becker (Hans 1904 and Fritz 1906). In 1906 the family moved to Mulhouse, where the father Carl now worked as an accountant in the Becker horticultural company. But his health deteriorated visibly and he died in August 1918. Hans is then sent to a Swiss public school and trains to become a business graduate. He then works for two different banks before joining his brother's company in 1929. Fritz attends the state grammar school in Mulhouse until he passes the Abitur. After working in various textile companies, he set up his own business as a wool broker in 1928. In 1935, the brothers founded SAIL (Société Anonyme pour l'Industrie Lainière), bought their first shares in the Malmerspach worsted spinning mill and took a majority stake in several companies in 1940; Erstein in 1956, then Roubaix.

HKD, a textile factory 1957-1965

In 1957, the Schlumpf brothers took over the textile factory HKD (Heilmann, Koechlin & Desaulles), a traditional wool spinning mill in Mulhouse. Between 1961 and 1963, Fritz Schlumpf secretly buys a large number of classic cars. In order to make these purchases unnoticed, he uses numerous "straw men" in France, Switzerland, England, Italy, Germany and the United States. Some of these contacts proved to be particularly fruitful: 13 of them provided him with half of his collection, i.e. more than 200 cars. Among them was M. Rafaelli, Renault dealer and owner of several Bugattis, whom Fritz Schlumpf made his purchasing advisor. This collaboration lasts for several years. The rich industrialist buys European cars of the golden age without stopping; he rejects American models, however. In May 1965, the magazine "L'Alsace" published the first article revealing the extent of the hitherto secret collection. Fritz Schlumpf allows only a select few access to the factory's warehouses, where the vintage cars are stored.

"Museé Schlumpf" 1966-1976

In 1966, work began on the presentation of the collection. Fritz Schlumpf's goal was to make the unique collection he had assembled in just a few years accessible to the public. He had part of the textile factory's warehouses converted into the "Musée Schlumpf". This extensive work took several years. All the partition walls that separated the different production areas in the large shed-roof hall were torn down. This new exhibition hall of 17 000 m² in the form of a single room will be divided into 23 "quarters", each presenting 10 to 20 cars. The quarters will be bordered by wide tiled avenues and will bear names such as "Avenue Carl Schlumpf", "Avenue Jeanne Schlumpf", "Rue Royale" ... Various workshop areas will be set up on the outside. At the same time, the restoration work on the vintage cars is progressing rapidly. The support of 7 mechanics' assistants, 2 saddlers, 2 plumbers, 1 tinsmith's assistant and 5 painters is required. In this way, Fritz Schlumpf has spent about 12 million francs within 10 years on the purchase and presentation of his collection. On 28 June 1976, the textile industry is in crisis and the workers go on strike. The unions denounce the "lack of understanding" and the "evasion of the law" by the two industrialists. The Schlumpf brothers try to sell their factories for a symbolic franc. But when no offers are received, they resign from their company posts and flee to Basel. They never return to France. At the end of 1976, the 20 workers remaining in the HKC factory are dismissed and the factory doors are sealed. A long legal battle then begins between the Schlumpf brothers and their creditors.

The Museum of the Workers 1977-1979

On 7 March 1977, the camps are occupied by the trade unions. The "Musée Schlumpf" is renamed the "Museum of the Workers". Under the supervision of the CFDT union, entry to the museum is free. Donations are collected at the exit of the museum to pay for the costs of the continued opening of the museum and the continuation of the action. " "I earned 1400 francs a month. See where the rest went!" reads one of the numerous information boards placed on the radiator grille of a racing car. This is the beginning of the so-called Schlumpf affair ... In 1978, at the suggestion of Jean Panhard, the collection is classified as a "Monument Historique" by the French Council of State, which means that none of the collector's items may leave French soil. In 1979, the Colmar Court of Appeal confirms the extension of the liquidation to the personal assets of the Schlumpf brothers, including the car collection restored at factory expense. A few hours after this ruling, the CFDT trade union reissues the factory keys.

Cité de l'Automobile - Collection Schlumpf 1980-Today

In October 1980, the Court of Cassation authorised the sale of the collection; the following year, the Association Propriétaire de Musée National de l'Automobile (Owners' Association of the National Automobile Museum) bought it back. At that time, this association was made up of the city of Mulhouse, the Haut-Rhin department, the Alsace region, the Mulhouse Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Automobile Club de France, the Société Panhard and the Comité du Salon de l'Automobile. Chaired by the President of the General Council of the Haut-Rhin département, the association succeeds in raising the 44 million francs needed to purchase the collection. This lump sum is contested by the Schlumpf brothers and 20 years later they are proved right - and an additional 25 million francs. On 10 July 1982, the Musée national de l'Automobile is opened. In 1989, the Musée National de l'Automobile (National Automobile Museum) was forced by rulings of the Paris Court of Appeal to add the words "Collection Schlumpf" (Schlumpf Collection) to its name and to all documents referring to parts of the collection.

In 1999, the company Culturespaces was entrusted with the operation of the museum. After extensive work, Culturespaces opened the partially renovated and modernised world's largest automobile museum on 25 March 2000. The renovation of the museum had three main objectives: to preserve the museum's identity, to bring the collection to the fore and to develop a modern and lively project. While preserving the original spirit, the museum is given new élan by means of innovative multimedia technology.

In July 2006, Culturespaces inaugurated the new areas designed by Studio Milou Architecture. These areas are the museum entrance (forecourt, pedestrian overpass, atrium and picture wall) and the three exhibition areas at the end of the circuit. The main goal of this project is to change from a collection in a shrine to a museum that opens up to the outside world, so that car enthusiasts as well as curious laypeople can explore the 4-hectare site of the former wool spinning mill. In this way, the planners want to showcase the extraordinary architectural heritage of the old factory. The new tour, which leads through buildings from different style periods (1880 - 1930) and across the factory courtyard, gives the museum a unique shape. The Musée national de l'Automobile becomes the Cité de l'Automobile - Musée national - Collection Schlumpf

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