Ferdinand Cheval known as Postman Cheval (from 1836 to 1924)
Ferdinand Cheval was born at Charmes, a small village near Hauterives in 1836. From a poor peasant family he early began his working life with his father. He has spent therefore a very short time in school. As soon as he become an apprentice baker he retreated himself for few years, far from his family to get a job before coming back in his village where he become rural postman.
The 19th century – the period he lived in – is characterized by misery, starvation and diseases are devastating. It is also the time of great revolutions in many fields : monarchy’s decline, beginning of the Republic, science and medicine’s progress, Freud’s discovery on the unconscious and dreams, Industrial Revolution, the Railway area, Africa and Asia colonized by France, birth of public and laic school, introduction of the very first world exhibitions
An abundant age related and illustrated in periodicals very read at that time, as the “Magasin Pittoresque” or “La revue illustrée” (periodicals delivered by any rural postman) to which is added the birth of photography and the appearance of the first postcards. Those information supports will show to the countryside, life in cities, other regions and even the planet. They will extraordinarily stimulate Postman Cheval’s imagination.
1836Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is born on Avril 19th at 5:00 AM at Charmes sur l’Herbasse. He started school at the age of 6 and left it at 12.
1847While he is 11 his mother, Rose Françoise Silbert dies. His father, Jean François Cheval dies few years later in 1854. Still minor, Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is entrusted to his maternal uncle, Joseph Burel.
1856Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is 20. He is an apprentice baker in Valence. On the eligible age of doing his military service he escapes from it maybe due to his diminutive size.
1858He marries the young Rosalie Revol who is just 17. In this period he leaves Hauterives to get a job. For 6 years, there is no administrative record of him and his wife confirms that she has no idea where he could be. He is declared farmer in Hauterives, apprentice baker somewhere in the Rhône region…He comes back to Hauterives in 1863.
1864Rosalie gives birth to their first child: Victorin Joseph Fernand. One year later he dies. Their second son, Ferdinand Cyril comes to the world 2 years later.
1867At the age of 31 Joseph Ferdinand Cheval takes an oath to practice a postman position. He is transferred to Romans City’s office and Bourg de Péage.
1873His wife Rosalie dies. Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is 37 and he entrusts his son Cyril to his Godfather and his Godmother. Three years after that he is transferred to Saint Rambert d’Albon.
1878He receives his final transfer as a rural postman at the Hauterives ’office for Tersanne’s round. Each day he walks around 18 miles. Few months later he meets Claire-Philomène-Richaud to whom he gets married for the second time. She is a bit older than him.
1879On April 19th, Joseph Ferdinand Cheval, aged of 43, stumbles over his “stumbling block” in Tersanne while he is on his round. This rock is going to trigger unceasingly the Ideal Palace construction for 33 years. On October 11th on the same year his wife gives birth to his daughter : Alice-Marie-Philomène.
1894Alice dies at the age of 15. It is a tragedy for Joseph Ferdinand Cheval who will write on the family gravestone : “Alice bitterly missed”.
1896Joseph Ferdinand Cheval is retired at the age of 60. Helped by a mason, he builds the “Alicius Villa” where he settles in with his wife.
1905First national press article in the magazine “La Vie Illustrée”.
1907Ferdinand Cheval hires a maid called Julia Micoud in charge of the Ideal Palace’s visits
1912Completion of the Ideal Palace. Two years later, Joseph Ferdinand Cheval resumes his walks with his trusty wheelbarrow to build his mausoleum in the cemetery of the village of Hauterives,"The Tomb of silence and endless rest", completed in 1922. His son Cyril died that year. His wife dies 2 years later in 1914.
1924Ferdinand Cheval dies on August 19th. Two days before he makes certify the final version of his biography (Version 4th in 1911) : “Sincere and authentic”.
1969The Ideal Palace is classified Historical Monument by André Malraux, Minister for Cultural Affairs from 1959 to 1969, who considered the building to be the only example in terms of Naïve architecture.
1993Ideal Palace and gardens ‘restoration'.
1984Alice, one of his granddaughters, has no children so she decides to give up her Palace’s share to Hauterives’ municipality.
2017The Palace welcomed 175,000 visitors from all over the world.