Vitale Barberis Canonico

The New Factory Is Over a Century Old … – Part Two

On Tuesday, 29 September 1908, Il Biellese reported:

Sunday witnessed the banquet offered to industrialist Giuseppe Barberis Canonico to celebrate the opening of the brand-new structure. The diners numbered more than 200, many of them workers, whom the large hall could barely contain. Seated around the man of the hour at the table of honour were the Esteemed Attorney Pipia, Provincial Councilman, the Esteemed Aimone, Mayor of Masserano, Mr. Castelli, the industrialist Anselmo Giletti, Dr. Zanone, Mr. Jacolet Maron, Mayor of Trivero […] and a broad selection of industrialists from the Sessera Valley and Ponzone areas.

Everyone from Pratrivero was there, of course, from the town doctor and parish priest to the pharmacist and the director of the nearest bank … “Coordinator” of this convivial encounter on the previous Sunday, 27 September, was Secondino Barberis Vignola, town council member in Trivero. Unfortunately it hadn’t been possible to host the event locally, due to the lack of a … venue. There may have been a wool mill now, but there still wasn’t a halfway-decent restaurant. And such an event could not be held in any old winemakers’ cooperative or tavern. The choice inevitably fell on Valle Mosso.

The luncheon, prepared by skilled chef Filiberto Piantino from Valle Mosso’s Albergo Centrale, was served in impeccable style. At dessert, Mr. Secondino Barberis Vignola of the celebration’s Organising Committee read off the participants, which included the Honourable Rizzetti, Professor Emanuele Sella, and many important industrial figures from the Biella region and the Sesia Valley. Then the same Mr. Barberis [Vignola] gave a fine speech in which, alongside the name of the guest of honour, he recalled the high merits of industrialist Anselmo Giletti and those who honour Pratrivero. He concluded by expressing his hope that the day would soon come when they would all once again dine together to celebrate the inauguration of the famous diagonale, the road that will bring Pratrivero its redemption.
Photo of the Valle Mosso station and Albergo Centrale, at the time of the banquet for the opening of the new Barberis Canonico plant.

The station of Valle Mosso and the Albergo Centrale, at the time of the banquet for the new Barberis Canonico factory.

So much said in so few words! The prestigious names, the honours cleverly meted out to reinforce existing hierarchies, the allusion to the hoped-for opening of the new road. No official banquet could do without the highlighting of the needs of businessmen that the State had yet to meet. In this case, a stretch of road would redeem, no less, would liberate from the sin of infrastructural isolation a territory that was proving itself to be so dynamic and hard-working. Next to take the floor was Valle Mosso industrialist Alfonso Picco, “who with elegant words unfurled a winged hymn to the harmony of the celebration, the alacrity of Pratrivero’s citizens, Biella’s industry, and to the greatness of the Nation”. Next up was Father Ercole Debernardi, the parish priest. He underlined the brotherhood that united all of those present and exalted Pratrivero

The humble town which, after having given the Sessera, Sesia and Ponzone Valleys so many champions of industry, has finally thought of itself and erected a manufacturing plant within its own confines. He listed off the benefits that the town would receive as a result, and gave his cordial greetings and best wishes to the workers of Pratrivero, noting the working class’s key role in the progress of industry. He then brought his twenty-minute speech to a close by toasting to the future of Pratrivero.
The historical fabric of the archive.
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Photo of fabric no. 6.5539/1
The fabric of the Vitale Barberis Canonico collection.

Father Debernardi’s lengthy homily had certainly raised a few eyebrows. Conscious of this, the pharmacist Guelpa kept his remarks brief.

Getting up to speak next was the Esteemed Attorney Pipia, Provincial Councilman, who said words befitting the occasion. I see today, he said, that the construction of the new road is for Pratrivero a work of justice and I give you my word as an administrator and a gentleman to do everything in my power to satisfy your desire.

Umberto Pipia, professor at the University of Genoa and well-known politician even outside the Biella region, knew he was touching on a delicate subject. But it’s around such delicate subjects that consensus is built … Finally it was Giuseppe Barberis Canonico’s turn to speak. His reputation as a man of few words was well known, and the fact that he preferred to let his actions speak for him was not contradicted on this occasion. He pronounced “few but well-chosen words”. Most likely, he simply offered his sincere thanks, his mind already focused on the following day, a Monday, when work would require his full concentration. All the more so with a new factory to get off the ground. Just under two hundred employees, 120 of them women, who spun, wove and – almost always – dyed cotton. Wool was not the house specialty at the time.

Trivero’s band then played a concert. The celebration continued until late in the day in the most cordial harmony, of the sort created by minds galvanised by the same ideas. A word of praise must go to the wonderful Committee, who succeeded in organising the festivities in such a way as to guarantee these excellent results. They have done well by our town, giving these inhabitants a salutary wake-up call, urging them to industriousness and to take a keen interest in their own needs, which are many and pressing.

This otherwise undefined “Committee” must have been a cross between a promotional association and a civic committee that worked on behalf of Pratrivero. It may even have harboured aims of “seceding” from Trivero, perhaps in league with Ponzone … In any case, the inauguration of Giuseppe Barberis Canonico’s factory was an important occasion for proving that they were up to the task.

Giuseppe Barberis Canonico, who was forty-eight years old at the time and still had thirty more to live, was now on his own. His brother Valerio was gone. What happened to him remains to be seen. In the chronicles of that 27 September 1908, his name is never mentioned.

The months and years to come were a time of intense activity. The new plant’s machines and systems were improved and expanded almost immediately. But this, too, is another story.

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