Cyril de Vère, 1881-1964

British-French Automatic Phonograph Pioneer

Cyril Duchène de Vère was born on the 4th January 1881 in Vilvoorde, Belgium, as the son of British parents Herbert Shakespeare Gardiner Williams de Vère (1843-1931) and Julia Ferrett de Vère (1852-1916). Siblings: Claude Williams de Vère (1874), Caroline Florence de Vère (1875-1901), Constance Élise de Vère (1879-1966), Camille de Vère (1883-1909), Clairette de Vère (1886), and Clémentine Listine de Vère (1888-1973). The father Charles (H. S. G. Williams) de Vère was a performing illusionist and a major manufacturer of conjurorˈs supplies and technical equipment for illusionists and magicians with his own magic shop in London from 1873, and he moved via Vilvoorde with a shop in Brussels in 1878 to Paris in France, and established showroom and workshop at 17 Rue Saulnier in 1892. The mother Julia Ferrett de Vère was in London also known by the stage name Okita, performing an Oriental magic act. Cyril de Vèreˈs sister Élise became well known as a soubrette, a stage actress, in music halls during the Belle Epoque, and his sister Clémentine became well known in major European cities by the stage name Ionia, a talented magician and illusionist, although she only performed on stage a few years. The interesting life of Clémentine de Vère is well documented by magician and author Charles Greene III.


After his brother Camille died aged 26 from diabetes mellitus in 1909, and his parents retired to Rosny-sous-Bois, Cyril de Vère managed the family magic shop in Paris, and in 1914 Cyril de Vère became investor and partner in the Société Anonyme des Appareils Automatiques Bussoz (1908-1920) established by the brothers Maurice-Alphonse and Pierre-Joseph Bussoz and investor F. Bonnardot, and the company was renamed Société des Phonographes Automatiques Bussoz Frères et de Vère (1920-1923), with additional investors E. Timmermans and A. Badarous. Cyril de Vère finally left the Bussoz partnership late in 1939, since he was a British citizen, to live in Bursinel in Switzerland with his sister Élise during the war years. With two new partners, the sons Maurice Bussoz and René Bussoz, the company was renamed Société Bussoz Frères (1923-1938), and finally renamed Établissements Bussoz SA from the 7th March 1938 until the 22nd July 1999. In fact the family named company was active in Paris for hundred years, since it was originally founded by Pierre-Joseph Bussoz around 1898 at 27 Rue Condorcet, and soon also at 40 Rue Rochechouart, and dissolved in 1999.


The skilled industrial engineer Cyril de Vère had at least 13 patents registered to his name including the patent for the mechanism of the all-mechanical automatic 20-selection "Bussophone" filed on the 15th July 1919 in London, four days before the patent was filed in Paris. His first patent was filed in France in September 1912, and his last patent was filed in Switzerland in July 1943.


Cyril de Vère was a well known race driver for decades, and participated for the Société Côte* of Pantin in the French Grand Prix in 1911 on a triangular circuit near Le Mans (Retired), and also in the French Grand Prix the following year 1912 (13th place) on the very dangerous circuit at Dieppe for the Société Côte. There were three French Grand Prix races held at the 79 km (49 mile) circuit at Dieppe, and eight people in total were killed (four drivers, two riding mechanics, and two spectators). Cyril de Vère participated in the endurance race Critérium de tourisme automobile Paris-Nice in 1928 and again in 1932, and he also participated in the competition La Turbie (Course de côte Nice) in 1928, and in the Rallye de Pau in 1930. Cyril de Vère also participated with co-drivers Louis Chiron and Marcel Mongin in the famous 24 hour races at Le Mans in June 1928 (DQ: Bump start) and June 1929 (7th place), and the same two years he was a competitive driver for the Grand Garage Saint-Didier of Paris (Chrysler) in the 24 hour races in July 1928 (2nd place) and July 1929 (7th place) at the Circuit de Spa in Belgium.


In November 1926 Cyril Duchène de Vère was appointed Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, the French order of merit, as a British citizen (published in "Le Figaro" on the 17th November), and he passed away in Paris aged 83 on the 30th September 1964. The grave of Cyril de Vère can be found at the family monument, grave marker 273292, at the Cimetière des Batignolles, 8 Rue Saint-Just in Paris 17e. On arrival in New York on the 23rd January 1924 Cyril de Vère stated that he was married, but copy of a marriage certificate has not been found yet.

Gert J. Almind


* The automobile manufacturing company Côte was first active for a year in 1900 in Saint-Dizier, and then active again in Pantin, a suburb to Paris, in the years from 1908 until 1913. Historic information about the Société Côte would be appreciated by the editor, especially information about the founders in Pantin in 1908, the location, and any connections between the company and investors like fx the race drivers Cyril de Vère and Fernand Gabriel.