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Viot & Levesque (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2013-08-31 by ivan sache
Keywords: viot (alexandre) | levesque (louis) | letters: av (black) | letters: av (red) |
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House flag of Viot & Levesque, two reported versions - Images by Ivan Sache, 15 September 2012

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Presentation of Viot & Levesque

Alexandre Viot and Louis Levesque were two prominent shipowners in Nantes in the late 19th century - early 20th century.

Alexandre Viot (1803-1888) is known as a shipowner established in Nantes in 1823. The Nantes Directory 1847 presents him as the owner of the three-masters Andromaque, Colbert, Marie-Mathilde, and Souvenir. His son, Alexandre Viot (1842-1921) was in the same line of business.
In 1889, Viot acquired the English three-master Dora Ann, built in Sunderland in 1876 by James Laing. Renamed Ker Anna, the ship transported sugar between Mayotte, Calcutta, Pondichéry and the Reunion Island. On 9 December 1894, the Ker Anna wrecked to a reef off Saint-Denis (Reunion Island).
Viot owned the three-master Colbert, built in Nantes in 1894 (but see above!); sold in 1904 to the Norwegian company AB Danae, the ship was renamed Danae and sold again in 1908 to G.C. Brøvig, which renamed her Ketty. Eventually sold in August 1915 to A/S Excelsior and renamed Silius, the ship was torpedoed on 9 March 1916 by the German submarine UB-18 in the port of Le Havre, together with the French liner Louisiane.
On 3 June 1902, Viot proposed during a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Nantes the building of a port in Martinique, "in a place preserved from disasters such as the one that caused the destruction of Saint-Pierre" (referring here to the eruption of Mount Pelée on 8 May 1902).

Louis-Auguste Levesque (1809-1889; biography, Levesque family Association website) originates from a family established in La Roche-Bernard, a town located at the end of the estuary of river Vilaine, 60 km north-west of Nantes. The family traded rice, spices, sugars, timber wood and slaves; they had counters in Burma, Santo Domingo and several ports in Africa.
In 1793, Louis-Hyacinthe Levesque (1774-1840; biography), Louis-Auguste's father, moved to Nantes. He took the Republican party and became one of the speakers of the local traders, chartering ships to lift the English blockade. A few decades later, Levesque was the leader of the Nantes traders; during the Bourbon Restauration, he owned some hundred ships, including whalers chartered by Thomas Dobrée. Levesque also developed a scheduled line between Valparaiso (Chile) and Lima (Peru).
Appointed Mayor of Nantes on 14 July 1819 by King Louis XVIII, Levesque reorganized the historical downtown of Nantes, creating new roads and widening the old ones; new quays were built along the Loire and the Erdre, and the Orléans bridge was erected, inauguratde by the Duchess of Berry in 1828. Levesque also ordered the building of a statue of Louis XVI - among the few still standing in France in public places - and repatriated to Nantes the golden reliquary preserving the heart of Duchess Ann of Brittany, stolen in 1792 and found in the Royal Library in Paris. In 1830, street riots in Nantes claimed lives, which prompted Levesque to resign from mayorship.
Louis-Auguste Levesque purchased in 1875 from the Count of Paris the Forest of Paimpont (better known as the Forest of Brocéliande, the cradle of the Arthurian myth reinvented by the Romantic writers in the 19th century)), which he used as a hunting reserve. He also acquired and revamped the old forges of Paimpont, founded in 1653; the smelting furnaces were operated from 1872 to 1884. Levesque, also involved in the emerging canning industry, was elected in 1875 first President of the Canning Industrial Association in Nantes. His son Donatien-Rogatien Levesque (1842-1908) built in 1889-1890 a manor, one of the few in Brittany located on an industrial site. Another of his sons, Rogatien Levesque (1844-1922), bred the Levesque hound (description). His senior son, Louis-Arthur Levesque (1832-1895), was also registered as a shipowner.

Ivan Sache & Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 11 November 2012

House flag of Viot & Levesque

According to Louis Lacroix (Les Derniers grands voiliers. Histoire des long-courriers nantais de 1893 à 1931), the house flag of Alexandre Viot, owner of the Colbert, is blue with, in the middle, a white rectangle charged with the black letters "AV".
D. Kervella and M. Bodlore-Penlaez (Guide des drapeaux bretons et celtes) show a similar flag for Alexandre Viot and Louis Levesque, but with red letters.

Ivan Sache, 16 September 2012