1953-1956 : 2nd statue of Marie Harel



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A few Northern American

imprints ... :


Dr Knirim, Marie Harel & camembert cheese


National Geographic magazine




About the rebuilding


2nd statue of Marie Harel




"Beheaded by 1944 bombing of Vimoutiers, the statue of Marie 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 barracks square.


Nevertheless, Vimonasteriens and Americans, represented by W.Bosworth, 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 ...


*the so amazing story of the first statue of Marie Harel




But seething with excitement, local businessmen clash, each faction determined to have the heroine for themselves. The mayor threathens to resign, meetings are held, petitions are brandished, the priest preaches reconcilition from the pulpit ... the situation is becoming gently burlesque !


Fortunately, 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...

...the 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 Camembert factory"


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 products… And genuine 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 officials.


The Borden company not willing to give up, the Syndicate threatens to bring the case to the international Court of The Hague.



Mr Gavin loses courage but not the battle since a 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 !


Finally, 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"...

1st statue of Marie Harel nowadays

2nd statue de Marie Harel nowadays



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." 

  Stanley Karnow



Hmm, but who was fanatic enough to take Marie Harel's head away with him ? Who knows if this face is not just being admired somewhere ?




Notes :


Through lack of protection, the camembert cheese making escaped Normandy and is now imitated in the whole world.

In 1926, the Court of Appeal of Orleans confirmed that "camembert" is a generic term fallen into the public domain.

So, mind, and be a gastronome ...


The genuine "camembert de Normandie", "camembert of Normandy", raw-mik and ladle-molded,

is granted controlled and protected designations of origin :

AOC in 1983, and AOP in 1996.


The Borden 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, nevertheless ...


 ** 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



Van Wert

Van Wert Ohio History Museum

Borden company



About The GENUINE "camembert de Normandie" :


Le camembert - 01/01/1927 - 13min13s


Source INA : Silent movie Manufacturing camembert in Normandy.  Production : Ministère de l'Agriculture


For a genuine camembert, always, always choose : a "camembert DE Normandie" - it is imperative that it be AOP






Protected Designation of Origin (AOP - AOC)

Camembert of Normandy

Production and economy of "Camembert de Normandy"

Camembert, a national myth

Raw milk



 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 -