If you have found your way here, you are clearly interested in Belgian smallswords and I can but urge you to buy my book 'Belgian Smallswords, Status Symbols of Times Past', which has been written since I created this site and contains a lot more information than you will find on this page.
For more information on the first ever book on Belgian smallswords, see here.
The Fonson Family : Sword Makers in Brussels
If you have taken a serious look at Belgian swords, you probably already came across swords from the Fonson sword makers. Even when just looking at the few swords on display on this site, you will find 5 such swords. Two from 'Jules Fonson' (here and here), one from 'Jules Fonson Successeur' here, one from 'Auguste Fonson' (here) and another from 'Fonson and Co' (here).
Yet again, I was unable to find anything but raw information on these prolific sword makers.
Looking at all the company directories I could find, I have been able to situate these makers in sequence and, to some extent, in time.
Using information dating back to the 1860's, I found the trace of what I believe to be the first Fonson sword maker's company, that of 'Fonson Frères'. A commercial from Auguste Fonson boast that the company was founded in 1827. I have not found any other evidence of this, but can say that it already existed in 1862 and was still active in 1865. The associates were two brothers (J.B. & J.F). The first of these was living on the interest of his wealth by 1870 and died a little before 1882.
The second brother, however, was, I believe, active for a long time under the names of J.F. Fonson, J. Fonson & F. Fonson. Either through financial problems or typically Belgian tax evasion schemes, the company, starting as 'Fonson Frères', turned into 'J.F. Fonson et fils', 'F. Fonson' (selling buttons only), 'J Fonson et fils', 'J.F. Fonson et Cie' and, finally, 'J. Fonson et Cie'. It disappeared from view in 1902.
Once an associate in 'J. Fonson et fils' (in 1873) Auguste Fonson went on to manage a company under his own name, the first mention of which appears in 1878. Auguste seemed to have had much success as he obtained a royal warrant for his wares and created several showrooms, including one in Holland. The company subsisted for twenty-four years before turning into 'Fonson et Cie' in 1902.
By 1912, two other Fonson were associates in 'Fonson & Cie' : Paul and Jules. The first did not make a mark in the directories I found, but Jules took over the company in 1921 (appearing as 'Fonson & Cie, Jules Fonson Successeur' in the directories) and proceeded to change the company name to his own. It is under this name that the last of the Fonson swordmaking companies disappeared in 1959.
Here is a summary of what I have found, the 'x's are actual references in contemporary directories, the colored lines are interpolations based on these observations, and the '0's are instances where documentation was available but made no reference to the company.
All these companies were located in Brussels, Fonson Frères at 25, rue des Fabriques, the J.F. companies at 31, then 34, rue du Nouveau Marché aux Grains and 31, then 51, rue de la Bougie, while Auguste's company was at 49-51 rue des Fabriques and 7, rue de la Senne.
In 1862, the Fonson brothers were known as furbishers and military ornament makers. In 1865, the description includes button makers and weapons. As of 1870, the companies can be found under makers of military equipment and, according to Auguste's advertisement, that meant quite a few things were available from his store :
'Almanach/Annuaire des commerces de Bruxelles' : issues between 1862 and 1959.