of Vimoutiers, the
statue ofMarie Harel*
stays so for a few weeks in front of
the collapsed Halle. Her head, found intact, is laid at her feet ...
Then one day, it disappears ... The statue is then
transported for a time near the wooden Halle of the
Nevertheless, Vimonasteriens and
Americans, represented by
feel sadness facing beheaded Marie ....
On April, 29th, 1948,
the Mayor receives a letter from William Foster, chairman of Borden cheese
company of which employees in Van Wert volunteer to pay for the statue's
replacement. The mayor accepts ...
and 2000dlrs are offered. Mr Lebeau's maquette is chosen by competition. The statue will be
2,20meters high. A photography of Nicole Boullard will serve as a
model for the Norman garb.
The unveiling is planned for Easter
sunday, 1953 ...
But seething with
excitement, local businessmen clash, each faction determined to have
the heroine for themselves.
mayor threathens to resign, meetings are held, petitions are
brandished, the priest preaches reconcilition from the pulpit ...
the situation is becoming gently burlesque !
chauvinism has its Honor Codes and Normans muster
under reason of Marie Harel and Duke of
Burgundy's engagement, ie the union of Normandy cheeses and the great wines of
Burgundy. So it is this marriage which is celebrated on the Saint
Easter Day: “One feasts, one gently carouses and coton bonnets dance
and twirl to the music of the blind drum”.
But then, a few cheese makers in
Congress in Deauville, declare that Marie Harel was not born in
Normandy but in Brie. The antagonists of yesterday reconcile more
than ever and produce proofs to the contrary.
At last, one may
believe the victory is won,
Not at all, another discord occurs...
Syndicat des Fabricants du
Véritable Camembert de Normandie, Genuine
Camembert of Normandy Makers Syndicate, cannot accept that
the township allows their American' competitors to pay for Marie Harel's new statue ... It reaches paroxysm when they are aware of
the epigraph suggested by the Bordem company :
"To Mary Harel, this statue was the gift of the Borden Ohio
Gosh! as if Camembert cheeses
worthy of this name could be manufactured somewhere else than in Normandy
Should it be necessary to justify the
Norman cheese makers's “Oh shocking”, let's remind that a 1951
American regulation has prohibited the importation of unpasteurized
camembert cheese is made from raw-milk.
Camembert cheese exporters already paid for their genuineness by
seeing their “without-papers” tossed overboard by the customs
The Borden company not willing to give up, the Syndicate
threatens to bring the case to the international Court of The
Mr Gavin loses courage but not the battle since
consensus is finally found : the epigraph will be :►
A smart negotiation made possible by the fact that a statue
erected on the public domain should not be advertising.
Yet due to the funding, feelings
are not completely soothed, victory remains fragile and the statue
is put in storage inside the Halle until
October 4th ... 1956 !
this very day, local elected officials of Vimoutiers and of the
village of Camembert, the Prefect of the department of Orne, the
United States Ambassador, Mr Bosworth, Mr Foster, and many
cheese makers and citizens of the township ... attend the unveiling
of the new statue while at the same moment in Van Wert, the
cityzens are unveiling the model maquette of the statue
**, made by Lebeau and placed at the entrance of the Borden factory.
Two statues in Vimoutiers, unveil ►
The chairman of the SFVCN
chooses to boycott the ceremony whereas the press headlines : "Americans have discovered
a French Saint : Mrs Camembert"...
In November 1999, for an American
magazine, Stanley Karnow, 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner, narrates the
event that comes back to him when again in the Pays d'Auge, questing for the perfect camembert :
"In October 1956, on one of my more lighthearted journalistic assignments, I accepted an invitation from
an executive of the Borden corporation to accompany him on an
excursion to Vimoutiers. As a promotional gesture, the Ohio branch
of his firm had financed the construction of another statue
celebrating Harel, with her head restored. It was a memorable
ceremony. Flags were hoisted as a band played national anthems.
Resplendent in their top hats, swallow-tailed coats, striped
trousers, ribbons of medals and tricolor sashes, the mayor and a
series of dignitaries delivered orations extolling the eternal
friendship between France and the United States. A sumptuous banquet
followed, and the canonized Harel still graces the main square
across from the gingerbread city hall."
company was founded in 1856
by Gail Borden. In 1945,
the factory in Van Wert produced so many cheeses of
so different sorts, that it was the most important one in
the world. In June 1973,
fire damaged part of the Van Wert plant.
In 1981, Borden announced
it was no longer going to manufacture "natural cheese" and it closed
the Wan Wert plant that
the Fisher Cheese company bought six months
later. Finally, the Wan Vert
plant was definitely closed circa 1985,
However ... M.Lebeau's maquette of Marie Harel nowadays remains exhibited in Van Wert ...
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO TO OHIO "FOR REAL" ?
Click and zoom ... at the right of the kiosque, there it is, the maquette of Marie Harel ►
Main sources : - "camembert, a national myth" de P. Boisard - Bulletin n°29
(MCBoullard) Société Historique - Livret Octobre 1976 (G.Roger) Société Historique, from
archives Mr Gavin & Boullard, SFVCN - camembert-aoc.org - The History of Cheese Making in
Monroe by James A. Nelson - "Wanted the perfect camembert" by Stanley Karnow