Men and trades
The Compagnons du Tour de France are first and foremost tradesmen. The trade in question is almost always understood as a “manual activity” related to transforming materials. This therefore excludes such professions as architecture, accounting, selling, engineering and medicine for example. The activity must also entail a complete process of transformation and not simply a specialised segment of an activity. Currently, Guild trades may be divided into the following categories: wood, stone, metallurgy, leather and textiles, foodstuffs.
The number of trades and professions incorporated into guilds has varied over the centuries. Until the end of the 18th century, nearly thirty trades were organized into guilds. In the construction sector these involved stonemasons, construction carpenters, roofers, joiners, locksmiths, plasterers and painters/glaziers. In metalworking they included edge-tool cutters/smiths, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, ironmongers, cutlers, casters, tinsmiths, nail-makers and pin-makers. The leather trade numbered tanners/curriers, saddlers, harness-makers (two distinct associations), chamois-dressers/bleachers (or tawers) and purse-makers/trouser-makers. The textile sector was composed of tailors, dyers, rope-makers, cloth-makers (weavers), cloth-shearers and milliners. Coopers/stavers were also represented, as were basket makers. Type-setters, who were organised as a guild until the 17th century, can also be added to the list.
During the 19th century, three new trades were organised into guilds: shoemakers (1808, after an eclipse of over a century), clog-makers (1809), bakers (1811) and silk-weavers (1831). Numerous trades were gradually added to the list up until the 1950s, namely those involving stove-makers, cutlers, casters, tinsmiths, nail-makers, pin-makers, tanners/curriers, chamois-makers/bleachers, purse- and trouser-makers, tailors, dyers, rope-makers, cloth-makers, cloth-shearers, milliners and clog-makers.
The 20th century saw the incorporation of cooks, pastry cooks, plumbers, masons, landscapers, coach-builders (owing to the evolution of wheelwrighting), boilermakers, electricians, cabinetmakers, leatherworkers and carpet-makers.
The Union Compagnonnique recognises almost one hundred different trades and professions. Unlike those which exist within the Association Ouvrière and the Fédération Compagnonnique, however, these are not organised within its fold by autonomous corporative societies.