Annonay is an unmissable destination due to the richness of its history and its inventions.

She saw the birth of revolutionary ideas : the hot air balloon, the wire suspension bridge, the tubular boiler and the coach… The relationship between all these inventions? The desire to unite of course! Discover with us the historical personalities behind these creations.

The Montgolfier brothers, genius inventors…

Who has never dreamed ofa hot air balloon flight ? Hover hilly landscapes in a basket and try to guess houses or steeples from the sky. Annonay is precisely the town where it all began…

In 1770 years  Joseph and Stephen of Montgolfier take over the family paper factory in Annonay – today the Canson factory. The company prospers and, during a business trip, one of the two brothers has the slightly crazy idea of ​​designing a flying balloon. Thus, after several trials, it is the 4th June 1783 that the first aerostat made of canvas and paper rose in the air from the Place des Cordeliers in Annonay.  

inventors montgolfier brothers statueRenaud Vezin
canson annonay stationery museumRenaud Vezin

… and papermakers 

Since the Montgolfier family moved to Annonay in 1692, generations of papermakers have succeeded one another on the banks of the Deûme, the river that crosses the town. This is no coincidence because the Deûme is very low in limestone: pure water, perfect for paper!

The Montgolfier brothers are at the origin of many innovations in their stationery and in France: vellum paper for smoother paper, the technique of the Dutch stack for an immaculate white paper. The heirs subsequently renamed the factory in their name: Canson. They are notably at the origin of tracing paper in 1809. 

THEstationery history, from the 500th century to the present day, can be discovered in the dedicated museum, housed in the birthplace of the Montgolfier brothers. Ten rooms follow one another and address the themes of the forest, water and inventions in an educational way. At the heart of a XNUMXm² workshop, thanks to animated machines et a demonstration, the visitor discovers papermaking.

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Marc Seguin, all-round prodigy 

In the Montgolfier family, I would like… Joseph's great-nephew! And yes, he too will bring his share of notoriety to the town of Annonay. 

Marc Seguin is in charge of purchasing and materials in the family felt factory for stationery. It was with the aim of extending commercial exchanges that he became interested in bridges. In the 1800s, they were considered too expensive and not necessarily suitable for unstable rivers like the Rhône. 

After in-depth reading and rigorous calculations, Marc Seguin made a first attempt at iron cable suspension bridge above the Cance river. It is a success !

In 1825, he officially created the first wire suspension bridge in fer in Tournon-sur-Rhone. Marc Seguin quickly became a reference for the construction of bridges, its civil engineering works having the advantage of being inexpensive and resistant.

He will not stop here, because he invented in 1826 the tubular boiler, which made it possible to significantly increase the speed of the steam train and boats.

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statue marc seguin inventors annonayAngel Salazar
inventors joseph besset annonay ardèchealexander diaz

Joseph Besset, pioneer of the modern French coach

In 1890, the village of Vanosc saw the birth Joseph Besset, future father of the modern coach. He, too, gave letters of nobility to the town of Annonay because, thanks to him, it is today bus capital.

Against family advice, he became a wheelwright and then developed its bus factory near Annonay. From innovation to innovation, he developed his activity, so much so that he became the main French manufacturer in the 1930s. In 1937, he went to the United States and brought back to France a revolutionary breakthrough: the Gar Wood license. It makes it possible to build coaches self-supporting structure with the engine at the rear. This innovation ensured the plant's prosperity until 1949. Today, the buses are still built on the same principle of a self-supporting structure. Joseph Besset's company is now called Iveco bus and is still one of the major bus manufacturers in Europe.

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André Dumas, modern tanner and parchment maker

In 1926, Marcel Dumas, then a parchment maker, founded his own Tannery Parchmentry in the center of Annonay. Orthopedics and luminaries are then the two main uses for the manufacture of parchment. In 1954, Marcel Dumas handed over to his son André. 

The sector in crisis leads André to find new uses for his skins. He then invented, in 1955, what would later be called the “decoration skin”, resulting from the tanning of skins whose hair is well preserved. The company prospers while retaining its primary activity, parchment making

Today, the family business is listed in the inventory of Rare Trades and is one of the three last parchments of France. The space of the Parchment Museum takes up the history of this Living Heritage Company and the profession of parchment maker. The visitor can also admire the manufacture of parchment from a gallery overlooking the parchment.

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annonay parchment inventorsLucile Ortega

A tour of history

Take advantage of a bit of sunshine to visit Annonay, its monuments and its must-see places. For 2 hours, stroll through the alleys to learn the history of the city and that of the great inventors who made it famous.

The heritage trail

history annonay city of inventors

It's up to you to play with Baludik!

The historic heart of Annonay during a one-hour stroll, through the enigmas. This digital survey allows you to discover the city of inventors in a different light!

Theodore, illustrious inventor, has lost the plan of his future invention: the blower of secrets. The pieces are scattered all over the city. He wants to find it so he can build his machine... Are you ready to take up the challenge?

Angel Salazar
Angel Salazar
Angel Salazar