In 1885, when Lemoine et fils, music publishers since 1772, published F.-A. Gevaert’s Nouveau Traité d’Instrumentation (in which I found this inkstamp), they had been in business for over a century. How remarkable to find that, as Editions Henry Lemoine, the business remains alive and well and in the hands of the Lemoine family in the seventh generation.
I wonder how many family firms have enjoyed this kind of longevity? Perhaps a few dozen worldwide? Editions Henry Lemoine belongs to an exclusive association of long-lived family companies, members of which must fulfil four criteria: all are at least 200 years old, all are directed by descendants of the founder, the majority of their capital is in family hands, and their finances must be sound. The 47 members of this association call themselves Les Henokiens, a name inspired by the Old Testament patriarch Enoch (or Hénok), who was not merely long-lived but never died. Some are decidedly modern firms, in banking and finance, real estate development, and industry. Others are in more of a craft tradition, oriented to the carriage trade — jewelers, gunsmiths, confectioners, vintners (one makes swords for induction ceremonies to the Académie Francaise).
I spent a fascinating evening looking at each of les Henokiens. This kind of longevity, so unusual for a family business in the modern corporate environment, ought to be the object of some study. What kind of family traditions, business culture and practices are common to these superannuated firms? My interest here is not so much in business per se as in the transmission of values and traditions and practices perhaps not wholly in sync with the modern world.