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P.A. Lapicque (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2010-12-04 by ivan sache
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[House flag of Lapicque]

House flag of Lapicque - Image by Ivan Sache, 27 September 2010

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Presentation of Lapicque

P.A. Lapicque, a former master mariner, set up with the engineer F. Walthert the P.A. Lapicque & Cie company, established in Haiphong (French Indochina) and Hong Kong. He built up from scratch the port of Benthuy, located near the town of Vinh (North Annam) close to the end station of the Tonking and Yunan railway and on the imperial road to Hué. The port could be accessed by medium-sized steamers coming from Annam, Tonking and Hainan. Located only 200 km of river Mekong, Benthuy was also the sea gate of enclaved Laos. In his early years, Lapicque operated steamers to export wood products and cattle from the Annam mountain range to China, via the port of Hong Kong, through the Compagnie Maritime Indochinoise.
In the 1910-1915, Lapicque decided to export cattle to continental France and built in Benthuy an industrial complex made of a slaughterhouse, a refrigerated storage capacity and a canned and salt meat factory. For the supply of his factories, Lapicque purchased or created from scratch big cattle farms in Tonking, Annam and Laos; he reorganized the transfer of the highly prized cattle of Upper Laos to Benthuy via the Annam range. To shorten the five-week railway and boat trip between Tonking and Upper Laos, Lapicque convinced the French administration to build a 300-km road to Napé (Laos), crossing the Annam range via a pass he had recently discovered. Inaugurated in March 1920, the new road reduced the trip duration to three days (in the dry season). The road was equipped with a series of posts funded by Lapicque, each including enclosures for cattle and huts for people (of course, separated and, probably, not with the same commodities, for the European colonists and their local employees).
A detailed presentation of the Lapicque factories in Benthuy, including the positive reports issued by a Commission sent by the Ministry of War and Colonies, was published in the Revue Générale du Froid et des Industries Frigorifiques, January 1921.

P.A. Lapicque was the brother of the neuroscientist Louis Lapicque (1866-1952), a pioneer in computational neurosciences (his "integrate and fire" model is still valid). In 1900, Lapicque built a house on the point of Arcouest, in northern Brittany, where he invited his friend and colleague at the Sorbonne university Charles Seignobos; this was the beginning of the summer scientists' colony known as "Sorbonne-Plage" (Sorbonne-Beach), where several scientists (Curie, Langevin, Perrin...) spent their vacations. This model of progressist organization and altruist knowledge sharing in a family atmosphere could not survive the Second World War and seems now a mere utopy.

Ivan Sache, 27 September 2010

House flag of Lapicque

The house flag of P.A. Lapicque & Cie is shown by the Yearbook of the Central Committee of France Shipowners (1922) as divided red-white-blue by a broad descending diagonal charged with three blue stars.

Dominique Cureau, 27 September 2010