The electric life of Michel Siméon: a collection of scientific curiosities at auction in Neuilly-sur-Seine

by Clementine Pomeau Peyre

On May 10th, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, more than two hundred items related to electricity, optical experiments or telecommunications will be auctioned. This atypical collection was assembled by Michel Siméon, a science and technology enthusiast who dedicated his retirement to antiquing, identifying and restoring these unusual devices.

There are items in this sale that I have no idea how useful they are, some are even useless, but all are great! The auctioneer Claude Aguttes does not hide his enthusiasm for the dissemination of the Siméon collection, which he is organizing on May 10th in his office in Neuilly-sur-Seine. On the program were 218 electrical devices manufactured between about 1850 and 1950, grouped into different categories: optics, Geissler tubes, static and dynamic electricity, electrotherapy, measurements and experiments, music, telecommunications and radios and finally telephony. The study carefully included two pages of glossary in its catalog to give the definitions of the hydraulic turnstile, the Barlow wheel or the universal exciter.

“The most amazing collection of my career”

It all started with a simple email to the study. A Lyon resident wanted to sell thousands of electronics without knowing their value. I was there the next day and met Michel Siméon’s heirs.” remembers the auctioneer. On the spot, in a villa in the middle of a park, he discovered one of the most amazing collections of his long career: everywhere, on the stairs, in the bathtub, in all the rooms, electrical objects that i didn’t even recognize! “. Pascal Siméon then tells him about the passion of his father Michel, a former insurer who devoted his entire retirement to collecting antiques, identifying and restoring these devices… His heirs want to make something of a tribute out of it. ” In fact, they were looking for someone just as crazy, in a good sense of the word, as their father to take care of his collection! exclaims Claude Aguttes. The auctioneer relied on Pascal Siméon’s knowledge and lengthy research to identify each object and its use before deciding to organize an initial sale of just over 200 lots from the 3,500 listed objects (more sales to come later) .

Geissler tube with large central spiral.

218 electrical appliances manufactured between 1850 and 1950

Particularly decorative are the devices that show the progress of lighting in all its forms: Geissler tubes, ancestors of neon tubes, in particular the one that depicts Paris in purple, or those that illuminate small floral compositions in an enlarged tube, or even the various ones Bulbs and tubes (lots 100 to 111) whose light is unique. Note that if these devices work, there is no guarantee that the Neuilly study will offer them.

As a funny and unusual experiment, Claude Aguttes is particularly concerned with a glass water hammer, which is intended to observe the fall of solids. ” This hammer is useless but it works very well and you can hear the hammer sound when you tip the liquid, it’s amazing “. This is also the case with a Wimshurst machine that is supposed to generate electrostatic electricity: A crank activates two counter-rotating wheels, in the middle of which strips of fabric rub against each other… The trick is done and an arc is created between two metal balls.

Glass and metal Wimshurst machine, blackened wood base.

Cheeky, Lot 141, on which some research has been done … Ultimately, it is not a whip for liquids, but one of the first vibrators in history! ” Ultimately, all these objects speak of a time when science and technology were still understandable for mere mortals, analyzes Claude Aguttes. Michel Siméon has collected and restored the ancestors of all our current devices “. For example, a Gaumont Lumière speaker composed of two fans, at the origin of the invention of the brand’s speaker, or the lots dedicated to the beginnings of telephony (from 213 to 219), including a hand-cranked handset .

No estimated value is given voluntarily for these atypical lots: ” I start at 50 euros for the first batch and then advise. This sale is an adventure and I’m sure I have bids from decorators, collectors and possibly even pre-buyers. “. With Pascal Siméon, the collector’s son, he even made a bet on auctions exceeding a total of 200,000 euros…

bid | Follow the Siméon collection live on May 10th on interencheres.com

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