So who was Alfred Danicourt ?

Charles Alfred Danicourt, born in Péronne in 1837, was the son of a lawyer and grandson of a notaire. He made a career in business, becoming a tax collector and lawyer to some of the most influential families in the area. This position of intermediary between the wealthy and their money made him extremely rich, and also enabled him to build a network of useful relationships with those in power. Alfred Danicourt joined the Péronne town council for the first time in April 1871. He sat on it for 16 years, and was mayor for 6 of them: appointed by a decree of President Mac-Mahon in 1874, he became chief magistrate in 1881, again by decree.

He carried out these roles with great energy, and fought hard for the reconstruction of Péronne after it was destroyed during the Prussian siege of the town in the winter of 1870-1871. It was during his first period of office as mayor that he launched his idea of creating a museum in Péronne, and helped in financing it and building up its collections. Influenced by Georges Vallois, a historian and sous-préfet of Péronne, Danicourt enjoyed a long-lasting passion for archaeology. A great traveller, he not only made 14 journeys to Italy, but also visited Spain and Algeria, always returning with new cultural treasures. With close links to archaeologists and Paris antique dealers, he was a frequent visitor to auction houses both at home and abroad, and devoted a large part of his fortune to the purchase of rare pieces that he put in the museum after its inauguration in 1877.

His links with wealthy families helped the museum benefit from large donations. As a member of several learned societies, Alfred Danicourt wrote many articles on archaeology and described some of his acquisitions for the museum. He also published Une révolte à Péronne sous le gouvernement du Maréchal d'Ancre [A Revolt in Péronne against the Government of Maréchal d'Ancre (Péronne, 1885)]. He died in 1887 at the age of 50, and remembered his home town in his will. He left all his art collections to the people of Péronne, as well as all the archaeological treasures that he had accumulated. He also bequeathed his vast library to the town, together with a sum (colossal for its time) of 200,000 francs, to be shared between the museum, the municipal library and projects to embellish the town. At the same time he also left a sum of money to the local bureau de bienfaisance or private charity, which lasted for over 50 years. It was quite natural, therefore, that after his death, the town named the museum after him, and in November 1910, gave his name to a street: avenue Danicourt.

But we should not see this man merely as an obscure, self-effacing collector. Alfred Danicourt was described by his contemporaries as a most cultivated person, very lively, witty and energetic, always playing an active part in festivals, banquets and fancy dress balls. Alfred Danicourt remains to this day the principal benefactor of the town of Péronne.