Last modified: 2016-04-02 by ivan sache
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House flag of Fraissinet - Images by Ivan Sache, 11March 2014
Upper row, two versions shown by Paul Bois (Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988)) [boi03]
Middle row, left, as shown by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chart (1885); right, as shown by Reed (1891)
Lower row, left, as shown by Larousse Commercial Illustré (1930) [hok30]; middle, as shown by Brown (1951) [wed51]; right, as shown in Merchant Marine Houseflags and Stack Insignia (US Navy Hydrographic Office, 1961)
Compagnie Fraissinet was founded in January 1836 in Marseilles by Marc Fraissinet, the son of a Protestant merchant from Languedoc.
Following a historical tradition dating back to the revocation of the
Edict of Nantes, another member of the Fraissinet family founded in the
same time a company in Rotterdam.
Marc Fraissinet signed a contract with the insurance broker Chancel, from Sète, whose paddle ship, SS Marseillais, inaugurated the line between Marseilles and Agde. The ship sunk off Agde on 30 March 1837. The shipowner Théron absorbed Chancel's company and appointed Fraissinet as the director of his company.
In 1837, two new ships were built, SS Rhône and SS Hérault. In 1841, Fraissinet bought the company and extended the line to Nice. Initially supported by the French government, Fraissinet's projet of a line to New York and the Gulf of Mexico eventually aborted. In 1846, Fraissinet appointed his son Adolphe as deputy-director of the company; the lines were extended to Spain, Gibraltar and Portugal.
The company was renamed Compagnie Marseillaise de Navigation à Vapeur in 1853. SS Isabelle, the first screw-propelled vessel of the company, inaugurated the next year the first scheduled line between Algeria andLe Havre (Marseilles-Algiers-Spain-Portugal-Le Havre). The short-lived line was suppressed after the collision of SS Normandie with a Dutch ship in 1857.
In 1860, the company, operating ten vessels, had to face an increased competition on the Italian market. Fraissinet extended his lines to Naples and Levant, increased the capital of the company and purchased six new ships in 1865. The same year, Fraissinet purchased Bazin, the first steamship company founded in Marseilles. One year later, the Fraissinet company had a capital of 9 million francs and operated 15 steamers.
Scheduled lines with Corsica and Leghorn were established in 1868. SS Asie, heading to India, was the first merchant vessel to sail on the Suez Canal (8 January 1870). In 1870, Fraissinet owned 20 vessels, operating scheduled lines to Bombay, Malta, Port-Said, Constantinople, Italy, Corsica and Languedoc. Due to the Franco-Prussian war, the service to India was suppressed, the service to Corsica was postponed and several ships were sold.
Fraissinet resurfaced in 1874 as Nouvelle Société Maritime de Navigation à Vapeur (Compagnie Fraissinet). The company was granted the postal service to Corsica by the French government. In 1878, a line was established between Sète and Genoa, while the existing Levant lines was extended to Palestine and Odessa. On 18 December 1878, the Byzantin sunk off Gallipoli, causing the death of c. 150 of the 250 passengers of the ship. In 1889, Fraissinet was granted the postal service to West Africa and Congo. The Corsican company Morelli (five ships) was taken over by Fraissinet in 1892.
At the end of the 19th century, Fraissinet operated lines to Languedoc, Corsica (postal service), Sardinia, Italy, the French and Italian Riviera, Constantinople, the Black Sea and the mouth of Danube, Oran, Dakar and Libreville (postal service).
On 7 June 1903, SS Liban collided with SS L'Insulaire a few miles off the port of Marseilles, causing the death of c. 100. The accident deeply afflicted the town of Marseilles and a violent press campaign broke up against Fraissinet, which lost the postal service to Corsica in 1904. However, Compagnie Française de Navigation et de Construction Navale could not fulfill the contract, which was retroceded to Fraissinet in 1905.
The Fraissinet fleet was decreased to ten ships after the First World War. SS Balkan (August 1918), SS Suzette-Fraissinet (May 1918), SS Marc-Fraissinet (October 1917), SS Esterel (April 1917), SS Golo (August 1917) and SS Italia (May 1917) were sunk by German or Austrian U-boats.
Alfred Fraissinet reorganized the company, favouring the Corsican and Algerian lines. In 1927, the postal contract to Corsica was extended for 20 years; a new series of modern ships were built (SS Cap-Corse, SS Ville-d'Ajaccio, SS Cyrnos, SS Île-de-Beauté, SS Pascal-Paoli). In 1930, Fraissinet set up an alliance with Fabre and Chargeurs Réunis for a joint service to western Africa. The lines to the Black Sea, suffering from the Italian competition, was suppressed in 1931 after 50 years of uninterrupted service (including during wartime).
In 1935, the company was renamed Compagnie de Navigation Fraissinet. The Fraissinet-Fabre-Chargeurs alliance was disbanded: Fraissinet took the control of Fabre, abandoning Chargeurs Réunis. In 1938, Fraissinet, owning 14 ships, set up joint services with Paquet. The company then owned 14 ships.
The Second World War caused a great damage to the company. One of the few ships left by the Germans to the French merchant navy, MS Général-Bonaparte, was sunk off Corsica by a British submarine on 19 May 1943.
In 1948, the service to Corsica was granted to Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, which took over Fraissinet's Corsican fleet. Fraissinet redirected its activity to the western coat of Africa, purchasing banana ships and liners.
In 1955, Fraissinet and Fabre merged into Compagnie de Navigation Fraissinet et Cyprien Fabre, but the two companies kept sailing in their respective domain, western Africa for Fraissinet and America for Fabre. In 1959, they founded Compagnie Ivoirienne de Consignation Maritime and placed two ships under the flag of Côte-d'Ivoire. Successive incorporations and mergings with SGTM, Fabre and Chargeurs Réunis could not save the company. Fraissinet lowered its flag in 1968, the tanker Alfred-Fraissinet being the last ship of the company. Fraissinet eventually withdrew from shipping activity in 1974.
Source: Paul Bois. Armements marseillais - Compagnies de navigation et navires à vapeur (1831-1988) (Chamber of Commerce and Industry Marseille-Provence [boi03])
Marc Constantin Fraissinet (1787-1866) was the descendant of a Protestant family from Montpellier, established in Marseilles in the middle of the 18th century. He succeeded his father as a commerce broker in 1817 and registered in 1834 as a maritime insurance broker. One of the most important shipowners in Marseilles, Marc Fraissinet was elected Municipal Councillor and, subsequently, Deputy-Mayor (1832-1843) of the town.
Adolphe Fraissinet (1821-1893) was the fourth of Marc Fraissinet's twelve children. In 1847, he married Eugénie Bazin, the daughter of the shipowner Charles Bazin. Adolphe Fraissinet was Municipal Councillor from 1865 to 1870 and Representative from 1871 to 1875. Appointed in 1879 Paymaster for the department of Hérault, he withdrew from the company and was succeeded by his brother Louis and his nephew Alfred.
Jean Fraissinet (1894-1981) succeeded his father Alfred in 1927, and married Mathilde Cyprien-Fabre, the daughter of the shipowner Cyprien Fabre. He founded in 1931 the newspapers Marseille-Matin and Marseille-Soir to defend nationalist, rightist ideas against the Petit Marseillais. In 1947, Fraissinet purchased the Méridional and merged it in 1952 with La France de Marseille and Sud-Est. He was elected Representative in 1958, but could not be reelected in 1962. During his tenure, Fraissinet opposed to De Gaulle's Algerian policy, being one of the firmest supporters of French Algeria.
Source: Pierre Guiral & Felix Reynaud (eds.) Les Marseillais dans l'histoire (Privat, Toulouse)
Ivan Sache, 1 February 2004
Sources vary with their portrayals of the company's flags and the name under which they are shown. All reported flags ar horizontally divided red-white-blue, a tribute to the Netherlands, where the family had exiled after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
Paul Bois [boi03] shows two house flags for Fraissinet:
- a forked flag with the black letters "F & Cie" in the white stripe;
- a rectangular flag with the black letters "CF" in the white stripe.
Fraissinet & Cie. is the usual for the first flag shown by Bois up until around the Second World War when the change to Compagnie de Navigation Fraissinet takes over, although Compagnie Fraissinet and Compagnie Marseillaise de Navigation à Vapeur also feature. Usually the small "ie" is shown in upper case.
The second flag shown by Bois also has its variations. Brown (1951) [wed51] shows it as a swallowtail with the letters having dots after them whereas Merchant Marine Houseflags and Stack Insignia (US Navy Hydrographic Office, 1961) deletes the dots. Brown (1958) [wed58] shows the rectangular flag but adds dots whilst the early versions of Stewart show blue letters but I would imagine that this probably indicates that the blue was dark leading to a mistake in differentiating.
Brown (1958) indicates in its index that the new merged company used the latter flag but I suspect that the ships retained their original liveries as according to Talbot-Booth in his 1963 Merchant Ships where he gives the funnels only, the Fraissinet ships became the "African Lines" and the Fabre ships the "American Lines".
Two early sources give different flags. The Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chart of 1885 shows a tapered swallowtail with the bands meeting at point and the letters crammed up on the white whilst Reed (1891) has a swallowtail squared on the white and with dots under the small letters. Yet another version is shown by Larousse Commercial Illustré of 1930 [hok30] with a conventional swallowtail but the lettering being "Cie.F." with the small letters being enhanced.
Ivan Sache, Klaus-Michael Schneider & Neale Rosanoski, 11 March 2014