Fontana was founded in 1840 by Thomas Fontana (1813-1861) who had moved to Paris from Switzerland. He opened a workshop inside the Galerie Beaujolais near the Palais Royale. Business flourished and eventually he took over the entire building. Thomas passed away in 1861 and his son Charles was not old enough to assume leadership of the firm so control passed to his nephew Joseph Fontana and nephew by marriage Alexandre Templier. They exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle. That same year Charles joined the business. Four years later in 1871 he took control and re-named it Ch. Fontana & Cie. He continued to work with his cousins for ten years. In 1881 the company split and Joseph left to form Fontana Frères with his brother Giacomo establishing new premises at 7 rue de la Paix. Charles ran the original business which in 1896 relocated to the new premises at 13 rue Royale. In 1900 the firm exhibited at the Exposition Universelle.