The kid Paulet stood out by his creativity but also by his love spirit to work and discipline, so it was not difficult for him to adapt himself to the Prussian customs. Francisco Mostajo, his first cousin and schoolmate for short time, says that, although father Duhamel, who was pointed out by several authors as Paulet’s mentor during his school age, was a bad-tempered teacher, celebrated his nice and odd prank: “The fact is that I wasn’t satisfied with the school oppressive discipline. And, while others like Paulet, disrupted it with the vivacity of their usual way of being, me, the boy who never agitated with a prank, bit it with my criticism”.
However, to place ourselves correctly, let’s point out first that between 1870 and 1871, few years before Paulet’s birth (1874), the Franco-Prussian War took place. In this war, Prussia defeated the powerful and prestigious French army and in that way became a technology leader country. After the defeat, France spent its time preparing the revenge army. It is in this scene that, two decades later, Paulet will arrive to study in Paris.
According to a version not yet confirmed, getting to Europe, Paulet met the Junker, a dynasty of German landowner aristocrats that dominated Germany throughout the 19th and beginnings of the 20th century. The bond was established thanks to father Duhamel. For what it seems, this would be crucial in the rest of the Peruvian wise man life.
When returning to Peru in 1904, to get in charge of the School of Arts and Crafts, Paulet found out that, in his absence, a French Military Mission was established, whilst in Chile, the rival country after the so-called War of the Pacific, a German Military Mission was quartering. Both countries aimed to professionalize their armies.
It hadn’t have been pleasant for the French Military Mission when in 1908, Paulet, in a document to his superior, the Minister of Public Works, asked to replace the French technical education in Peru by the German one, that he considered superior and appropriate for a country like ours, that lacked of industries.
That same year, Carlos Tenaud arrived to Peru, a young man of Peruvian parents born in Nantes (France), the same city of Jules Verne. Tenaud arrived with the airplane project that he had invented and proposed Peru for its building. The President Jose Pardo didn’t have a better idea than sending him to the School of Arts and Crafts, where Paulet was the principal. Months later, Augusto B. Leguia would take the lead and began his first period as President.
In 1909, Chilean hostilities towards the inhabitants of the provinces in captivity, Tacna and Arica, started, and this made think seriously about the military use of aeronautics and submarines. In March, Tenaud tried to fly, but after few jumps, his plane fell sideways. For some people, the fact of taking off was already an achievement, considering the innovation of aviation. For others, it was a failure and originated the deal breakup with Paulet.
Tenaud’s writings of mid-1909 revealed that their life together wasn’t friendly. In them, the phrase “people of science” was ironic (he was a sportsman, category applied to whom were devoted to the aeronautics by pleasure). He implied a supposed boycott in the School of Arts and Crafts and said that nobody could build any engine there and to buy it abroad was better. This statement should be taken carefully since there is a similar background that would reveal a spirit opposite to the Peruvian industrial development.
The historian Katya Rodríguez Valencia talks about the first car built in Peru, in 1908. It exceeded in power any European or American car since it had been designed for the country difficult roads: “…Jorge Grieve Madge told that his father, Juan Alberto Grieve, decided to talk to the President Leguía to build, with the government sponsoring, three cars for the Post Office and three more for the Prefecture. The President’s answer was “we need products from developed countries and not experiences with Peruvian products”.
It would be a mere coincidence. However, many signs make us think that the rivalry with Tenaud would turn into a boycott to Paulet. He discussed Tenaud’s concepts in the article “War and Aerial Navigation”, published in the magazine he edited, Ilustración Peruana. There, in a documented way, he stated the aeronautics reality in developed countries. His intention was to explain the kind of aircraft that responded better to the needs of the country that was going through a difficult economy. He proved the Zeppelin superiority over the still new airplanes. And, as they were very expensive, he suggested using aerostatic balloons to watch the enemies’ ships and submarines. But above all, he asked to create an Aviation League, where Peruvian inventors showed their work in a democratic way.
However, in May 1910, the colonel Félix D’André, from the French Military Mission, returned to Peru. He was a member of the French nobility (held the Baron title) and was married to a Tenaud’s relative. He was a military man with a lot of influence. Principal at the Chorrillos Military School, he was the best expert at shooting and cavalry and now he came back after graduating from the recently created Aeronautical School of Paris. He brought with him his own invention, the Air Machine Gun or Ametralladora Aviatriz (also title of the book that described it), which he proposed to be applied to airplanes. He suggested buying them in France.
The debate, in which many experts like Federico Villarreal and others participated, was centered in deciding whether buying German zeppelins or French airplanes. This debate was supported by the sports achievements obtained in Europe by Peruvian Géo Chavez, who reached high records, and by also Peruvian Juan Bielovucic, who broke distance and speed records. But then the balance tipped in D’André’s favor and on Tenaud’s favor too.
Since D’André’s return, the name of Paulet stopped appearing as editor at the cover of Ilustración Peruana. We have already said how, in a letter of 1910, Ricardo Palma referred to the friendship resentment between his son Clemente and Paulet due to the magazine owner’s decision, the Portuguese Manuel del Mora, of appointing Clemente Palma as the magazine writer. We have also talked about the harass that suffered the School of Arts and Crafts from the corrupted Minister of Public Works, Julio Ego Aguirre.
In September 1910, an interview of D’André in a local newspaper was preceded by a presentation in which he was described as the only expert in air navigation in the country. ¿Why remarking he was the only one? The truth is that the following day to the interview, and although Tenaud’s plane didn’t fly, a decree of Ego Aguirre appointed him as aeronautics teacher in the School of Arts and Crafts and sent him to train to Paris. Then, the well-known history of Chavez exploit, crossing the Alpes, would come and at the end of the year Paulet’s resignation.
Not a bit of it affected Paulet’s inclination for Germany. In a conference about cheap homes for workers, he stated that the most suitable design for Peruvian workers was the German one and supported his intervention with pictures that he had taken by himself. It is important to point out that Paulet also studied Architecture and his search for a decent accommodation for the workers made him conceived the thermoelectric walls, which should be also applied to his spacecraft, the Airplane Torpedo. He had the honor to be the first in building houses for workers, as testifies the reward given by the Municipality of Lima, when Guillermo Billinghurst was the Mayor.
Do not think that Paulet lived confronting France. He represented the Seine Metallurgic Society, French company with which he pretended to build a modern market for Arequipa, which included a meteorological observatory. After his resignation, he went to Paris, where he got married, started a family and spent his time in many private businesses. The World War I obliged him to move to England.
A decade later, according to Mostajo, he met Leguía at the coasts of the river Thames, in London. Leguía was in his second presidential period and convinced him to return to Peru’s service. He sent him, as Paulet’s wish without any doubt, to Dresden (Germany) as a Consul. Later, he held many diplomatic posts in neighboring countries.
Finally, in 1927, he let the world know about his spacecraft in El Comercio newspaper. We don’t believe it was a coincidence that the firsts interested in that spacecraft were in effect the Germans.