Gauthier (France) 1890-1891

According to literature and quoted by the Musee d'Art et d'Industrie in St. Etienne, where I saw this bicycle, the Gauthier is the first French safety bicycle. The story goes that the Gauthier brothers were amazed by an English cyclist who covered the distance between Montpellier and paris in six days. They copied his Rudge in 1886 and that was the beginning of an industry. 
Although the museum list this bike as built in 1886, they must make a mistake - look at the ball head. 1891 would be a much better estimate. But it sure is a nice safety, look at the beautiful chain! (which looks like a 'Morgan's patent chain')
The black paint must have been added later, leaving the head tube badge free. Which is a good thing; otherwise we wouldn't have a clue about the maker, since this bike has a lot in common with other cross frame safeties of the early 1890's.

Look at the rear wheel and the mud guard. Has the wheel ever been changed for a smaller wheel? Normal at the time was 30 inch front and rear, but there were numerous variations on the theme.

According to the 'Encyclopaedia of Bicycle manufacturers' (by Ray Miller) Pierre and Claudius Gauthier started their firm in 1886 in Blois (France), having copied a Rudge. Maybe they soon moved their works, because in later years Gauthier is mentioned as Saint Etienne-based, which is shown by this French article, that lists Gauthier as one of the five St. Etienne-firms attending the Exposition of 1891. Among them were also Manufrance/Hirondelle and Dombret. The story goes that Gauthier developed and built the first Manufrance models as well.