First we take Manhattan, then we take Paree!

I bought my first Eloise book from a secondhand bookstall at school when I was 9 or 10. It was Kay Thompson’s Eloise in Moscow, and I was captivated by Hilary Knight’s illustrations, including a fold-out view of a wintry Kremlin. A year or so later, probably in the same place, I bought Eloise at Christmastime, and discovered her natural habitat – the Plaza Hotel in New York.

By then I felt I was getting too old for picture books, particularly ones featuring rambunctious six-year-olds – I did not know then that the books were also intended for grown-ups. So I didn’t read the first in the series, Eloise, let alone Eloise in Paris, when I was young. But recently, at another secondhand bookstall (a more upscale one, at the Antiquarian Booksellers Fair at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario), I found Eloise: The Ultimate Edition, with all four original books and background about the writer and illustrator. I snapped it up.

Eloise_coverNow I have been to Paris with the irrepressible Eloise (not to mention her companions, the long-suffering Nanny, Weenie the pug dog, and Skipperdee her pet turtle), and what a whirlwind it was.

From the moment they get on to the airplane (“Sabena is the only airline that will allow you to travel with a turtle”), I was transported back to 1957, when air travel was still a luxury. Eloise and her Nanny sleep in berths (like the ones I have used on overnight trains in Europe). The other passengers are fashionably dressed. They land in Brussels and take a helicopter to Paris.

If this sounds like an unusual way to get to Paris, it is. But it was the outcome of a promotional deal with Sabena – Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight received free transatlantic tickets in return for a plug for the airline, well before the expresssion “product placement” had been coined.*

In Paris, Eloise’s party is met at the airport by the charming Koki, a chauffeur employed by Eloise’s permanently absent – but clearly wealthy – mother. Koki drives a Renault Dauphine (possibly another bit of product placement).

RelaisBissonEloise stays at the Relais Bisson at No. 37, Quai des Grands Augustins. The hotel is no longer there, but in the 1950s it was considered quite a chic place to stay. Again, Kay Thompson had wangled a free stay in return for depicting the 25-room, elevator-less hotel in the book. Hilary Knight drew it from life, with its central balcony opening towards the Seine (he did take some liberties with the location of the main door). He also shows the “Librairie Académique Perrin – Éditeur” next door at No. 35: a venerable publishing house, also vanished, but a going concern at the time. He and Kay also depicted the real owners – Monsieur and Madame Dupuis – much as they were.

This is what the building looks like today in Google Street View.

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Interestingly, as soon as the characters land on European soil, the main background colour in the illustrations changes from Plaza pink to Bisson blue.

Eloise, Nanny, and the menagerie occupy the central room with its distinctive balcony, where they are shown having breakfast in the morning. At night, Eloise leans out to say bon soir to Notre Dame; the hotel was known for its stunning views across the river to the islands and the cathedral.

Eloise is in fine form as she takes in the sites. She causes havoc in the Place de l’Etoile traffic circle, leaps into the fountains in the Place de la Concorde, and nearly loses Weenie and Skipperdee at the coat check at the Louvre. They shop in flea markets (Eloise collects champagne corks) and on the rue St-Honoré. Eloise is fitted for a frock at Christian Dior by the great man himself, with his assistant and eventual successor, a sombre-looking Yves St-Laurent, in attendance.

Like all tourists, they walk endlessly. “Here’s what you have to do in Paris keep moving a lot,” she notes. “There are absolutely nothing but streets in Paris.” “Il y a beaucoup de cobblestones in Paris and some of our feet are getting round.” And being Eloise, she doesn’t just walk, she skibbles, she sklathes, she zaps. At night they take footbaths. She also notes, “There are very few places where you cannot take a chien.” Fortunately for Weenie.

Eloise in ParisThey return to the Plaza (and the colour changes back from blue to pink) with 114 pieces of luggage (having left New York with a mere 37). Eloise immediately summons Room Service to order watermelons, champagne, and seltzer water. As one does.

Some of the inspiration for Eloise in Paris had come from the author’s own trip to Paris in 1956, to film parts of the movie Funny Face with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Kay Thompson played the part of Maggie Prescott, the magazine editor famous for her “Think Pink” campaign. Funny Face includes many of the places featured in Eloise in Paris – from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower. However, during the film, the cast stayed at the larger and more luxurious Hotel Raphael, which did have an elevator. Koki, who appears in the book as Eloise’s chauffeur, is apparently a real person. He was the driver assigned to the cast of Funny Face.

FunnyFace2Kay Thompson was a larger-than-life character, just like her fictional creation Eloise (a sort of imaginary friend/alter ego, with a name that may be based on Kay’s own middle name, Louise). Kay was a handful as a little girl; because she was plain compared to her two pretty sisters, she would misbehave to get attention. She became a singer and vocal coach who worked with Judy Garland, and she once had a nightclub act with four brothers (of which one, Andy Williams, was rumoured to be her lover).

But if Eloise’s voice and antics belong to Kay, her appearance belongs to Hilary Knight, the artist. His relationship with Kay Thompson was often fraught (she could be very difficult to work with, and he was woefully underpaid for his work), but you would never know from the vigour and bounce of his illustrations. The pictures range from clever vignettes to landscapes full of detail – the man demonstrating wind-up toys in front of Fouquet’s, a wall poster advertising a Foujita exhibit at the Galerie Paul Petrides, the children walking with a nun in the Bois de Boulogne (perhaps a nod to Eloise’s rival Madeline). The picture of Eloise returning through customs with her new acquisitions (“We had absolutely nothing to declare”) is a masterpiece.

Knight drew some inspiration from the misbehaving schoolgirls in Ronald Searle’s St Trinians series, as well as Norman Thelwell’s pony-mad little terrors, among other influences, but Eloise is an original. He was able to translate Kay Thompson’s imaginary creation and make her memorable and wholly herself.

Eloise with baguetteKay Thompson died in 1998, but Hilary Knight is still drawing and Eloise is only one of his creations in a long and successful career as a professional illustrator.** His portrait of Eloise (actually the second of two, since the first was stolen) still hangs in the Plaza. Say bonjour when you are next in town.

EloisePlazaText by Philippa Campsie

* Sam Irvin, Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise, Simon and Schuster, 2010.

** I particularly loved the illustrations he did for the books of Peg Bracken (notably the I Hate to Cook Book).

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A Doomed Attempt at Out-Eiffelling Eiffel

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Even before its inauguration on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was world famous. Loved by some, reviled by others, it would be the world’s tallest building until New York’s Chrysler Building took the lead in 1930.

Of course, as Paris’s biggest rival for leading European city, London wanted its own tower, even bigger than the one in Paris. So a group of Londoners planned one.

Book Title Page Great Tower of London

The Tower Company Limited was created to carry out the project and offered first and second prizes of 500 and 250 Guineas. The driving force was Sir Edward W. Watkin, Member of Parliament, railroad entrepreneur, and the man behind a failed attempt to build a tunnel under the English Channel for railway traffic. Sir Edward personified the “Railway Mania” of the time.

As Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway, Sir Edward wanted to increase business by creating new attractions—be they amusement parks or suburban dwellings—that people could reach by train. So he purchased a 280-acre tract of land near the hamlet of Wembley in rural Middlesex. In anticipation of massive crowds, he had a new high-capacity railway station built at Wembley and planned to equip the park there with artificial lakes for boating, a waterfall, ornamental gardens, and cricket and football pitches. But the big draw was to be a tower taller and grander than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

On November 1, 1889, the company issued specifications and asked for designs and cost estimates for “a Tower of not less than 1,200 feet in height” by the end of February 1890. Sixty-eight proposals came from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Italy, Austria, Turkey, and Canada.

The specifications stated that “the structure must be so designed as to resist wind pressure, sudden storms, and be guarded as regards lightning.” (The Eiffel Tower was an open lattice structure which readily allowed wind to pass through, thereby reducing the load on the structure and its foundations.) Some designers paid attention to these concerns. Some did not. At the same time, the tower was expected to be a money-maker.

Here we have the winner, which was to rise to 1,200 feet from an octagonal base 300 feet in diameter. It included a hotel with 90 bedrooms. The designers, Messrs. A.D. Stewart, J.M. MacLaren, and W. Dunn, claimed that “the plan being octagonal, the greatest stability with economy is obtained. An octagon affords a nearly equal resistance to bending in all directions.”

 

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Charles Baillairgé, City Engineer of Quebec City, had the most novel approach to dealing with wind pressure. His 1,600-foot circular design was fully enclosed and was expected to withstand most winds. But, as he put it, “The factor of safety would be increased if the glazing were to be blown out in a hurricane.” Never mind any personal injury from glass shards being blown about. Another advantage he claimed was the “capability of being taken down in sections—each section being useful for other purposes. All bolted together instead of being riveted.”

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The American Architect and Building News selected his design for special note. “For thorough-going ugliness the tower with the motto ‘Circumferentially, Radially and Diagonally Bound’ bears away the palm. It resembles a series of reels of cotton of gradually decreasing size placed one above the other, and surmounted with a wax taper from a Christmas tree.” Baillairgé was a brilliant engineer and designer, but this was not his finest moment.

S. Fisher of London offered the most versatile design. As with modern sweatshirts, it came in four sizes: S, M, L, XL and could rise as high as 2,000 feet at a weight of 312,550 tons.

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In addition to 12 hydraulic elevators, Fisher suggested the Tower Company Limited “run a locomotive engine and train half-way up the spiral gradient. The gradient would begin at 1 in 20 and gradually increase to 1 in 10.”

Other designers also suggested locomotives, one even trained mules, but none so quintessentially Victorian as Max Am Ende’s gothic tower, which featured “a Spiral Railway, worked by steam.” In order to maintain the decorum so highly prized by Victorians, the railway would offer first-, second-, and third-class carriages.

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O.C.D. Ross also submitted a gothic-looking edifice “designed to differ as much as possible from the Eiffel Tower.” Indeed, no one would claim any resemblance.

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And surely no one could confuse the design below with the Eiffel Tower. At 2, 296 feet, this design by Albert Brunel of Rouen was the tallest submitted. Brunel (no relation – as far as we know – to Isambard Kingdom Brunel) suggested it be built of granite. It probably could not have been completed, because the granite at the lower levels would not have been able to support the weight of the rest of the structure. Albert Brunel gave no details as to what it was to contain or the source of his inspiration, although Imperial Rome may have been in his thoughts.

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Design No. 17 from J. Horton of Copley, near Halifax, Yorkshire, tapered from a 180-foot diameter to 42 feet as it rose to a height of 1,200 feet. It looks like a giant screw that has had its tip blunted.

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Another rose to 1,900 feet, but designer J. W. Couchman provides no information on its facilities.

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The design by J.H.M. Harrison-Vasey would, at 1,820 feet, be hard to miss and not much of it appears to have escaped decoration. He eschewed elevators and proposed “a spiral road of about 2½ miles under which a descending Railway is constructed, the incline of both being 1 in 20.” Perhaps the most intriguing feature was the “captive parachute to hold 4 persons, led in guides…fitted in one of the corner towers, and regulated by a brake.” He mentions no restaurants or refreshment stands, but surely visitors who had walked to the observatory floor at the 1,780-foot level would have needed something to quaff while enjoying the view and preparing for the descent.

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The design by Henry Rose and E.J. Edwards seems cluttered and lacking the transparency of the Eiffel Tower. At 1,274 feet it was nowhere near the tallest proposed structure, but provided more detail than many others. There were “Otis” lifts, two 12-foot wide staircases and “a two-track spiral Electric Railway, gradient 1 in 6…which would travel at 5 miles per hour, and 1,600 passengers per hour could be conveyed by it.”

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Visitors would find no shortage of amenities: “This tower is provided with the usual Restaurants, Offices, Shops. There are 6 Bungalows on the 3rd stage and a Photographic room. On the 4th stage are 4 Clubhouses, proposed to be let [rented] to London Clubs, with stage below. On the 5th stage, 2 large Dining or Reception Rooms to be let for private entertainments. On the 6th or top stage there are 4 look-out Bays, 1 Meteorological Room, Photographic Room, small Café, and a room for a Siren Foghorn to be used in conjunction with a Phonograph for advertising purposes. A powerful Electric Searchlight would be fixed in the Lantern, and a projector provided.”

The winning design had included a hotel with 90 guest rooms. But Design No. 42, which bore the name “Utility,” at a height of 1,400 feet, offered Bachelor’s Chambers. With “400 Rooms at a rental of £25 per annum, [it] would produce £10,000 a year.”

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However, it is likely that the greatest revenue would have come from a rather clunky looking building expected to rise to 2,007 ft.

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Proposed by the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Co., it was clearly inspired by the Eiffel Tower, but also by “the Monoliths of Ancient Egypt.” It was to be “constructed out of small parts symmetrically arranged, which is a less costly and more convenient method than adopting gigantic parts. The design was intended “to provide for an aerial colony.” That is, it provided for more than the needs of daily visitors. After listing the many features of the lower levels, which included gardens, restaurants, a museum, a library, and international stores, the proponents announced, “After this comes the Residential part of the Tower, viz: The Hotel, and a Club, also Mansions, Flats and Chambers, the smokeless, fogless atmosphere of which should command a rent proportionate to their Alpine altitude.” The rooms would be heated by electricity.

One of the more visually intriguing designs came from “Neloah” at 224, Stockwell Road, London, S.W. Unfortunately the only information that came with the designs was that it would be 1,200 feet high and was “to be built in concrete.” Concrete was at the time still a largely experimental material for large structures, so “Neloah” was either ahead of his time or out of his depth.

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Although construction actually started on the winning design, a review article in The American Architect and Building News (Vol. XXVIII, No. 755, June 14, 1890, pp. 161–163) held out little hope for the project. First, it had to be an attractive structure, for “there will be no hiding it. [An ugly structure] will expose its forlorn height to every passer-by, and advertise its own failure in the most effectual fashion possible.” Alas, “in reviewing the various designs, we must frankly admit that none excels the Eiffel Tower in beauty and grace.”

But the biggest problem was the question of how it would attract visitors. The Eiffel Tower had been part of an international Exposition that made Paris “the focus of all the pleasure-takers of the world, and was filled with crowds having time on their hands, and money in their pockets which they were anxious to spend.” The London Tower Company was not associated with such a drawing card and risked becoming the kind of attraction for which “immense numbers will postpone the journey for the convenient season which so seldom comes.”

There also seemed to be foundation problems with the marshy ground underneath the site, as well as financial problems as investors lost enthusiasm. Construction halted when the tower had risen to only 47 metres. The company went bankrupt in 1901. For a few years, the incomplete structure was known as Watkins Folly or The London Stump. It was blown up in 1904 and sold for scrap.

But that is not the end of the story. Wembley was chosen as the site for the 1923 British Empire Exhibition, for which the Wembley Stadium was built. In 2000, during the rebuilding of the stadium, the concrete foundations of The London Stump were rediscovered.

By that time London was far ahead of Paris in the tall buildings category, but nobody ever out-Eiffelled Eiffel.

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Text by Norman Ball. First image: author’s collection. Final image: courtesy Roger Dorton. All other illustrations from the Public Domain Review.

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Eking out a living on the streets of Paris

Paris has a reputation as a city of glitz and glamour. But in the early 20th century, beneath the glamour, many barely survived from day to day. In London, journalist and reformer Henry Mayhew had written a multi-volume study, London Labour and the London Poor in 1851, a fascinating but depressing study of people living on the margins in that city. Mayhew, who had earlier lived in Paris, said of the self-employed poor: they “don’t find a living, it’s only another way of starving.” He could have been speaking about those in Paris who eked out a meagre existence through “Les petits métiers.”

The term referred to those who made their way in the world without the stable structure of apprenticeships, journeyman status, and achievement of mastery. Some were talented at what they did; others did jobs that required only perseverance. They may have worked hard, put in long hours, and acquired specialized skills, but their efforts were not officially recognized as “métiers.” Let’s meet a few of them in the photographs of the collection Paris en Images.

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Ice cream has long been an important part of Paris life. This beautifully decorated pushcart is a cut above average. However, it is still typical with two large spoked wheels, and handles projecting from one end. On the same end one finds two spigots (taps) to let out water and for cleaning and a fold-down leg to support or balance the cart. Some vendors also sold hot chocolate.

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This street vendor has a heavier load and a greater variety of goods. She is dressed like the typical market or street vendor. The cart has only two wheels, but instead of one support to balance the wagon when it is stationary, there is a heavy metal folding support or leg on each side of the cart. The advertising posters on the wall behind her were the work of another specialized trade: the bill poster.

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The bill poster is shown with his pot of glue into which he dips a brush and covers the wall surface. He smoothes the poster out and the job is done. On my first trip to Paris, I was in awe of the advertising posters in the Metro. An even greater treat was watching them being put up. I was astounded at how quickly and neatly the workers did the job.

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Not all bills or posters went on walls. At the beginning of the 20th century, one could hire sandwich men who, unlike traditional sandwich men, walked with a poster held aloft in a frame attached to his shoulders. If adjusted properly, it was probably more comfortable and more visible than the traditional sandwich board, which hung from the shoulders.

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Most days, a meal might be little more than a crust of bread and with luck a bit of cheese. On better days there might be soup, such as that from this soup seller at Les Halles. You ate the soup on the spot and gave the bowl back to the seller to use for the next customer. This is a lovely scene, almost like something from Central Casting. The advertising posters on the wall add an interesting touch, as does the variety of clothing on the people in the photograph.

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The quest for art works and antiques draw many tourists to Paris. But some of the most interesting finds—particularly if one is not too flush with cash—are secondhand goods. Here we find another street vendor with his trusty pushcart. The vendor is dressed roughly and one can imagine the weight of the cart and the effort required to push it. With iron-spoked wheels it seems built for heavy loads.

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Today when we think of vendors of goods on the banks of the Seine, it is the bouquinistes that come to mind. Identified as the secondhand bookseller Chonmoru on the Quai des Grands Augustins, this stand also sells music. The contrast between the garb of the vendor and the cleric speaks of different positions on the social scale.

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This small businessman with the walrus moustache looks stern. These are not hats he is selling on the Pont d’Arcole; they are lampshades.

5638a53542037db4aaa80c17babf7884The narrow specialization of some vendors is astounding. This man in front of the Caserne Labeau sold shoelaces. Yes, shoelaces. It seems an unlikely way to make a living. But it was probably not much of a living.

e21815e22aea9426237628eb112bbbf6I am not sure how they work – probably with some form of adhesive paper – but this vendor on rue Saint Antoine is selling flytraps. He does not need a pushcart for such lightweight products; the ingenious folding one-legged stand seems to work well.

cb3ae74529b602840048404c72bb55afThis merchant of small flags in front of the Church of Saint-Paul Saint-Louis intrigues me. The stand holds small tricolor flags. Perhaps it is a special holiday such as Bastille Day. What else does he sell? Is he a regular at the site? What did he do on non-festive days?

b343d2825b30da79d178526e6066e8d5Here we clearly have a festive occasion and a good showman who can attract a crowd. I love his hat. He seems to be holding a large knife in his left hand. According to photographer Louis Vert, he is selling a paste or compound for sharpening razors. At a time when shaving generally meant using a straight razor, sharpening it was important. I remember watching my grandfather sharpening a straight razor on a leather strop. It was quite an art. One assumes that the paste was put on the strop.

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However, for pure street drama, it was hard to beat the act of an itinerant tooth puller. And at a time of limited attention to oral hygiene, there were toothaches aplenty. This photo, taken about 1900 by Louis Vert at Place de la Bastille, captured a tooth puller who offers the extra inducement of a raffle. Sometimes a few musicians would be part of the show. The first job was simply attracting a good crowd. Tooth pullers often started with an associate planted in the crowd. Feigning a terrible toothache, the associate would approach the tooth puller and the two would put on an act in which the puller stressed the difficulty of his task and the stoical patient proclaimed that it had hardly hurt at all. And a much-used tooth was brandished for all to see.

Things were different when a genuine sufferer of toothache took the bait to have a painful tooth removed. The puller usually used what was known as a dental key. This appalling device did not pull the tooth out vertically, but tended to turn it or bend it sideways and break off the top of the tooth. The roots and lower parts of the tooth remained to cause continuing pain and infection. And the promise of painless extraction? The answer is found in a French saying “mentir comme un arracheur de dents.” To lie like a tooth puller.

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Unloading boats was strenuous work and if there no boats that day or too many others vying for too few jobs, there might be little or no money for food that evening or the next day. But they were not necessarily on the lowest rung of workers.

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The woman shown here is described as a mender of plaster sacks. The limestone underneath Paris was quarried for building material or turned into plaster that was shipped in large sacks. There was a tiny amount of money to be made turning tattered sacks into something that could be used for a few more loads. It is hard to imagine a less rewarding and remunerative job than this.

Like those who survived by gathering up used tobacco, many Parisians in the early 20th century made a meagre living providing food, repairs, cheap goods, and conveniences to other city dwellers and to tourists. They were part of the scenery and often overlooked. Have they disappeared?

Not entirely. Some modern-day petit métiers remain, such as Métro musicians, souvenir sellers, some of the more marginal flea-market vendors, and those who sell old telephone cards or coins on the fringes of stamp and postcard markets. If someone will pay, there is always someone willing to sell, if only to keep body and soul together.

Text by Norman Ball; photos courtesy Paris en Images

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A lost member of the not-so-lost generation

The hero in Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris, is thrilled to go back in time to the 1920s, where he meets his literary idols Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and members of their circle. Today, many visitors to Paris fantasize about time-travelling to that golden age of jazz and gin and flappers and meeting these larger-than-life characters. But what were they really like? Are Woody Allen and Ernest Hemingway reliable guides to the so-called “lost generation”?

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Commemorations of the First World War remind us that French, British, and Commonwealth soldiers who survived the war were often scarred by the experience, even if they were not maimed or blinded. Men who had fought in the trenches, if they came back at all, came back with horrific memories and possibly survivor guilt. And when they returned, many civilians resented them: why did you survive and not my son / brother / lover / friend / husband?

Meanwhile, young (often working-class) women who had taken on full-time employment during the war were being told that men needed their jobs and they should return to domestic life. But what was there left for them? Marriage was no longer a certainty; according to some estimates, they had about a one-in-ten chance of finding a husband, because of the death toll of young men in the war.1

The hectic pace of life in the 1920s, the jazz, the gin, and the flappers, reflected unease as much as release. And although the Americans had participated only in the last 18 months of the war and had not suffered the same catastrophic loss of life, they too felt the anxiety underneath the gaiety.

Ostensibly, this is why Gertrude Stein called those who were still young in the 1920s the “Lost Generation.” But were they really? It’s an odd epithet. In fact, Stein did not invent the expression. According to one account:

During one of their regular talks, Stein told Hemingway of having taken her Model T Ford to a garage to have the ignition repaired. The young mechanic who did the work bungled it in some way, and his patron scolded him for his incompetence. The young man had served in the war and the patron said to him in exasperation, “You are all a génération perdue.”

“That’s what you are,” Gertrude Stein assured Hemingway. “That’s what you all are. All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”

Ernest began to object. “Don’t argue with me, Hemingway,” Stein said. “It does no good at all. You’re all a lost generation, exactly as the garage keeper said.”2

I’m not surprised Hemingway objected. He had come to Paris to find his voice as a writer – and he succeeded. So did many other writers and artists. Stein may have liked the sound of the expression, but it didn’t fit Hemingway, nor did it fit others he knew. Still, he used it as an epigraph for The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926. Perhaps it was to please Stein. It was his first novel, after all, and he needed the goodwill of his influential friend.

I admit I am not a huge fan of Hemingway’s work. Reading The Sun Also Rises, based on real events in 1925 in Paris and Spain, I cannot help thinking that with friends like Hemingway, nobody needed enemies. He depicts his contemporaries in a generally unfavourable light, while making the first-person narrator seem the only decent chap in the bunch.

But were they “lost”? The group that went to Pamplona, Spain, in 1925 is captured in a contemporary photograph. Who were these people? I went looking for them.

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First on the left is Hemingway himself, looking smug and far from lost.

Next, in the background, with glasses and bow tie, sits an unsmiling Harold Loeb. He later wrote his own account of that trip to Spain. He seems to have risen above Hemingway’s unkind depiction of him in the character of Robert Cohn, who falls for the femme fatale, but is later ejected from the group. Loeb eventually became a successful writer and his only loss was that of the woman he had fallen for. But in the end, he was probably better off without her.

The femme fatale in question sits beside Hemingway. Lady Duff Twysden looks like a cat who has just polished off a tasty canary. She appears in the book as Lady Brett Ashley, sleek as a Bugatti, breaking hearts wherever she went, accustomed to having men pick up the tab for her. When she left Pamplona in 1925, her friends paid her hotel bill. As usual. Duff was not her real name. She was born Mary Smurthwaite. Early on she realized it wouldn’t do for a femme fatale, so she changed it.

In 1925, she was in the process of divorcing her second husband, Sir Roger Twysden. They had a seven-year-old son back in England, but she doesn’t seem to have considered him in her plans. Supposedly she was engaged to the man on the far right. But a few years after the photograph was taken, she met an American artist and moved to the United States with him instead.

Hemingway depicts her as a beautiful but aimless airhead, dependent on the narrator’s strong-shouldered support, but there was much more to her in real life. She had her flaws, but she wasn’t an airhead, and I wouldn’t call her lost.

Hadley Hemingway, Ernest’s (then) wife, beams in the middle of the photograph. The book was dedicated to her, but she was written out of the narrative – that way, the narrator could openly express his attraction for Duff Twsden / Brett Ashley and still appear to be a swell guy. Hadley was certainly lost to literature in this book. She eventually parted from Ernest (in hindsight, a wise move) and married a well-respected journalist. She may have felt lost at the time, watching her husband dancing attendance on Duff, but she found herself in the end.

Only just visible beside Hadley is Donald Ogden Stewart, who went on to have a successful career as a screenwriter, and is probably best remembered for The Philadelphia Story. He appears in the book as the narrator’s buddy Bill, an affable fellow with no heartaches and no apparent inner life. He wasn’t lost.

And finally, on the far right is Patrick Stirling Guthrie, the one and only utterly lost person in the group. Hemingway immortalized him as “Mike Campbell” in The Sun Also Rises, and depicts some of Patrick’s real-life characteristics. (1) Mike is an undischarged bankrupt. So was Pat. (2) Mike receives an allowance from his family. Pat was indeed a remittance man. His bankruptcy papers list him as having “No occupation.” (3) Mike drinks heavily. That squares with the record. (4) Hemingway calls him “Scotch.” Well, his family was Scottish, although he was born in London and seems to have spent most of his life in England. (5) He was engaged to marry Duff. Hm, unclear. Others believe he was gay3 and he may just have been a convenient escort. He was a distant relative (fourth cousin) of Duff’s and it seems that they were emotionally close, but the real nature of their relationship is lost to history.

In 1927, two years after the trip to Spain and a year after the publication of his first novel, Hemingway noted in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald that Duff and Pat had parted company. Pat was rescued to some extent by an older American freelance journalist, Lorna Lindsley, who seems to have paid his debts and kept him out of trouble, at least for a while. But he died in 1932, aged 37, either by suicide or from a drug overdose; nobody is sure. And nobody seems to have cared, except his mother, who came to Paris to settle his affairs and pay off his debts.4

All the other characters have made some kind of mark on literary history, and been written up in various ways, from academic treatises to Wikipedia. Not Pat. He disappeared into oblivion, other than a short memoir about him by a barman who served him at the famous Dingo Bar on the rue Delambre.5 And most of that document is about Duff.

I found a few traces of Patrick in official records. His father was a merchant banker and MP who died in 1911 and his mother was the daughter of an Irish baronet; they were part of high-society London and owned an enormous house in London and a castle on the Isle of Mull. Pat was educated at Eton, Cambridge, and Sandhurst, served in the First World War in the First Life Guards, a cavalry regiment, and became a lieutenant in 1915, when he was 20. The regiment served at Mons, Ypres, and Passchendaele and presumably Pat was there, too. If so, he must have had some appalling experiences. But in those days one didn’t talk about such things. He just drank a lot.

In a generation of hardy survivors, good-time girls, and emerging writers, most of whom found themselves in Paris, Pat was truly lost, poor fellow.

As for that hapless garage attendant, I hope he got his act together, bought out the patron, married, had a family, and lived a long and prosperous life. If only to prove Gertrude Stein wrong.

Text by Philippa Campsie; cinema still from http://theweek.com/article/index/251479/the-9-best-ways-to-time-travel-ranked; 1920s photograph from Wikipedia.

 

  1. Judith Mackrell, Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013, p. 73.
  2. Lyle Larsen, Stein and Hemingway: The Story of a Turbulent Friendship, McFarland and Company, p. 52.
  3. Michael Reynolds, Hemingway: The Paris Years, Basil Blackwell, 1989, p. 301.
  4. Apparently his mother was something of a character. When Patrick’s father died in 1911, she remarried, but later divorced, and ended her days living in Torosay Castle in Scotland with a Pekinese and a foul-mouthed parrot.
  5. James Charters, “Pat and Duff: Some Memories,” in Hemingway and the Sun Set, NCR/Microcard Editions, 1972, pp. 241–246.

 

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Paris in the year 2000, viewed from 1900

It seems that humans cannot resist dabbling in predicting the future. We have an innate need to ignore Yogi Berra’s clear warning, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” So what did the year 2000 look like from a vantage point 100 years earlier? Let’s look at a few examples from a series of cigarette cards designed to be given away at the International Exposition of 1900 in Paris.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Electric_scrubbingOur parlour maid has a wonderful-looking machine to clean her wooden parquet floor. The machine looks a bit awkward, but has a traditional scrub brush and bar of soap. Indeed, it seems to be electrically powered, but the cord leads only to the wand the maid is holding.

As for the rest of the room, it seems very much of the late 1800s: a large potted plant; the ever-respectable but economical upright piano; heavy curtains and a blind at the window; a statue on a plinth; and two paintings on the walls. Did year 2000 ever look more like the year 1900? At least the maid does not seem to have a strenuous job. Let’s look at some other workers.

France_in_XXI_Century._FarmerClearly our farmer of the year 2000 is living better electrically. He sits on a stool working the controls while the electrically powered machines do what was once done by human labour. An electric harvester cuts the grain and perhaps even ties it in stooks. Another machine piles hay or grain into large mounds.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Air_postmanRapid everyday delivery by postmen who had conquered the air meant one no longer had to depend on those unreliable telegraph delivery boys. All has been arranged. Just lean out from your balcony and grab the letters as he flies by.

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After a hard day’s work, or just to get ready for a night out on the town, a gentleman would need to visit his barber. But in the year 2000, the barber was a machine controller.  Mechanical arms shave the man sitting in the chair on the right. He looks a bit uncomfortable. The customer standing seems finished and the final errant hairs on his coat are being brushed off mechanically. The jolly man in the chair on the left is enjoying a chance to relax. Perhaps he is thinking of a trip to his tailor for a made-in-no-time suit for the opera.

France_in_XXI_Century._Latest_fashionThe man’s measurements are taken mechanically and sent to the forbidding-looking tailoring machine. It begins by gobbling up material from the bolt of fabric to the left of the machine. After  internal machinations, it spits out a completed suit jacket. But the men’s costumes show that fashion has not changed a bit since 1900.

Meanwhile, at home, other preparations are taking place.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Toilette_madameAgain we see the electric wires, control handles, and, above the bathtub, a brush with a strong resemblance to that used by the parlour maid to scrub the parquet floors. Madame is seated comfortably, even seductively, while her hair is done to perfection by electrical apparatus and all manner of other preparations completed. The mirror obscures what is happening to her foot, but the contraption looks fierce.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Air_cabOur happy couple of the future live only a short walk away from the Aero-Cab Station, where one never has to wait long for an aero-cab. The trip is over so quickly that there is hardly time to glance at the newspaper purchased at the newsstand before taking the elevator to the boarding level.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Robot_orchestraThe couple look down from their box at the Opera. Members of the audience are dressed in their finest, the story unfolding on stage is an old one. The music emanating from the orchestra pit comes from familiar instruments, all of which are controlled mechanically. The conductor has been reduced to sitting at a control panel. And without musicians to watch, something seems to be missing from the drama of a night at the opera.

But the next day brings an outing in a highly unusual vehicle.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Rolling_houseWho would have thought that one could put a house on wheels, fit it up with a steam engine, chefs, waiters, and a skilful driver? All of this so one could dine in comfort while heading for an afternoon at the seashore. Such a delightful prospect, part of what makes the future worth waiting for.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._DiversFor the adventurous sort, there was always (sea)horseback riding. But with the boots, breeches, swords, and breathing apparatus, it all seems too energetic. The new underwater breathing apparatus was best reserved for more decorous pursuits.

France_in_XXI_Century._Water_croquetA jolly good game of croquet made for a perfect day. And as the woman’s dress suggests, it was an entertainment for those who knew how to dress. But some who enjoyed an afternoon watching a race beneath the waves seemed to have taken some liberties with their attire.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Race_in_PacificClearly the woman with the scandalously short skirt must have come directly from her work dancing on stage in a club frequented by the…well, by those whose names and stations in society we shall not repeat here.

But much as the world beneath the sea beckoned, there were other opportunities to have fun, high above the mountains.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Little_robbersThese naughty lads have been lucky to escape with their lives when the mother eagle attacks them to protect her baby eaglets. Have little boys not learned anything in the last 100 years? Whatever are they teaching them in the schools?

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The new learning machines were perhaps not as effective as they were expensive. The teacher could feed the books into the machine; the least well-behaved boy in the class could turn the crank, but what did the electric wires feed into the young pupils heads? Today we know the expression “garbage in, garbage out.” Perhaps the books were outdated and stale. And how did anyone know if the boys (no girls to be seen in this school) were even paying attention to the lessons coursing through the wires?

Were the lads dreaming of the day when they would have their own airplane? Or a career as a dashing aviation policeman?

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._Flying_policeOr were they imagining a career in surveillance?

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Perhaps some dreamed of the day when young boys (note the sailor suits in the image below) went off to war. Some by air…

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._War_plane…and some by land.

800px-France_in_XXI_Century._War_carsAnd perhaps some dreamed that they could rescue those in peril.

France_in_XXI_Century._Air_firefightersAnd as each dreamed of the future, how many would realize what a jumbled mixture of past and present their dreams were made of? While hovering in the air to rescue child and infant, a steam engine on the ground pushed water up through the hose and onto the flames.

The images presented here show colourful visions of the year 2000 when it was 100 years into the future. There are 87 or more known cards in the series started by the French artist Jean-Marc Côté. The artist had been commissioned by a toy-and-novelty company called Armand Gervais et Cie of Lyon to produce images for cigarette cards to be distributed at the International Exposition of 1900 in Paris.

Unfortunately, Gervais died unexpectedly and his company ceased operations. The cards were never distributed. The plant closed down and was left untouched for almost a quarter of a century. Then a toy collector, Monsieur Renaud, visited the premises with the idea of using it to manufacture toys. He discovered instead the untouched inventory of the Gervais company, including the cards. Monsieur Renaud decided not to produce toys, but to buy the entire stock of the company as the basis of a left-bank store called Editions Renaud.

In 1978 the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov and his wife were living in Paris. They visited Editions Renaud, hit it off with Monsieur Renaud (who was then quite elderly) and bought a set of cards. According to Asimov, the set was the only one not to have been damaged by water in the abandoned factory. Intrigued with the collection, he wrote a book about it, published in 1986.

Futuredays: A Nineteenth-Century Vision of the Year 2000 is an astounding piece of work. I recommend it highly. I bought it some years ago, read it with enjoyment, and then somehow forgot about it until I was sorting some books that I had left in storage and rediscovered an old friend. Soon I, too, wanted to learn more.

My discovery of the online images of the Public Domain Review led to this blog. The site is well worth any time one spends there. So I dedicate this blog to Jean-Marc Côté, other unnamed artists who contributed to the series, Armand Gervais, Monsieur Renaud, Isaac Asimov and his wife Mariea (who, like my wife, speaks far better French than her husband).

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Let us leave this blog with another improbable image. It reminds me of the many futuristic images and stories that entertained us in our younger years when we were enraptured by Popular Mechanics magazine and the works of Jules Verne. However entranced we may be by the new and different, we seem to seek comfort in novelty and unintentionally lug the past into our visions of the future.

Text by Norman Ball; images courtesy Public Domain Review

 

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Fifty Ways to Close Your Shutters

On our last visit to Paris in June, we did most of our travelling by bus, which meant time spent waiting at bus stops and journeys on which we gazed out the window at the streets, instead of hurtling through a darkened tunnel on the Metro. And that meant studying Paris facades, ever familiar and ever new, noting details and differences.

This time it was shutters. I started to notice all the different forms and styles and began to photograph them. For example, here is a photograph showing the two most common styles of all – exterior wooden louvred shutters above and folding metal shutters below. Utterly ordinary, and yet remarkable.

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When I tried to figure out the correct terms in French, I found myself in a thicket of words – volets, persiennes, contrevents, jalousies, stores, couvre-fenêtres, grilles de défense – plus a host of variations. Volets roulants valenciennes, persiennes à l’abbattant relevé, store cassette

For no particular reason (other than what else are you going to do while waiting at a bus stop?), I decided to create a typology of shutters.

First off, those wooden shutters are called volets (or to be more precise, volets battants, to distinguish them from volets roulants, or roll-down shutters).* Here is a typical Paris façade, photographed as a demonstration passed in front, with residents looking out to see what is going on. But when I looked again, I noticed that these windows are slightly unusual, because they are combined with individual awnings.

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These shutters need regular painting to keep them looking this tidy. Many Paris facades, however, do not get that kind of attention.

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Most, but not all, shutters have louvres in them to let through light or air. The term jalousie (literally, “jealousy”) was coined for shutters that allow the person inside to look out without being seen.

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The ones on the right with large and obvious hinges seem to be a very traditional design for what appear to be fairly modern security shutters.

Inside the shutters, there are other details, all with specific terms. This comes from a helpful website called “lexique des volets,” by a shutter manufacturer.

Lexique

Such old-fashioned and rather rustic shutters can be found in Paris, if you look.

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Notice the hardware on the open shutters. The interior closing mechanism is called an espagnolette. There are several types, shown on the website of a woodworking company.

Espagnolette

Just when you thought shutters were simple things.

But I wanted to find the word to describe something we have seen from time to time – the little fixtures on the exterior wall used to hold the shutter and prevent it from swinging back and forth in the wind. Some are plain, but some have faces or other decorations on them. Norman photographed one in the Marais a few years ago.

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If you look closely at the next photo, you will see them holding back the shutters. (This is quite a complicated window, with its security grill and frosted glass privacy screen.)

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I found that they are called “arrêts de volet” (shutter stops) or “arrêts de vent” (wind stops), and they come in many forms and colours. You can still buy ones with faces on them: arrêts bergère, suggesting that the face with the hat and the long hair is that of a shepherdess. Isn’t French hardware wonderful?

Arrets de vent

But these are modern ones. The oldest are simply bits of metal in a T-shape that project out from the wall and swivel to hold the shutter against the wall. You can see them at the Maison de Balzac, where they are still in use, painted green to match the shutters.

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Commercial premises sometimes have wooden shutters that fold right into the wall and don’t need an arrêt de volet. In the next picture, I like the way everything, including the hinges, are flush with the wall. (I am also fascinated by the various metal openings near the ground, but any investigation of them will have to wait for another blog.)

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Then there are persiennes. The term is used for a variety of louvred shutters, but it seems to be the common term for those folding metal exterior shutters that we have wrestled with in various rented apartments. They always seem to be slightly bent, so it is hard to get the closing to engage. Years ago, when I was a student and au pair in Paris, I used to help an elderly lady downstairs with her persiennes in the evenings. She was in her eighties and very bent and frail. She seemed able to open them on her own, but struggled with closing them.

Here is a photo that Norman took of the rusty persiennes in a flat we rented several times in the Marais.

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Persiennes of this type have the advantage of tucking neatly into the window embrasure, so when they are open, they do not clutter the façade or obstruct the view. But closed, they are not particularly attractive.

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Modern shutters tend to be the roll-down kind (volets roulants), also very dull-looking, but practical. Some are electric and roll down at the push of a button, others have a hand-crank. Many are used as security shutters on commercial premises, and they tend to attract graffiti.

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On this Art Deco building, note the frames that allow the shutters to function as awnings, open at the bottom.

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Fabric awnings and blinds are known as stores, and the window awnings that stand at an angle to the window seem to be called stores à l’italienne. (Stores also can mean interior blinds, as in stores venétiens or Venetian blinds.) I noticed awnings on quite a few institutional buildings. Here is the Port Royal maternity hospital.

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(Note also the interesting half-shutters just under the eaves.)

Exterior window blinds made of fabric seem quite common. Here are some rather dingy ones on a university building in the Latin Quarter. Of course, they would be impossible to keep clean.

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Bamboo is similarly used for exterior window coverings.

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The more I looked at windows, the more variations I noticed. This row of small shutters intrigued me. With all those huge expanses of glass above and below, what is the purpose of the shuttered windows? And note the persiennes to the left that leave the curved top of the window uncovered. The question of what to do with windows of unusual shapes must bedevil some Parisian homeowners.

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Of all the words I discovered in my typology of windows, the most exotic is moucharabieh. This is a word from North Africa for the filigreed window coverings, usually carved wood, on Moroccan buildings. The most outstanding Parisian version is found at the Institut du Monde Arabe, where the openings are designed to respond to changes in the light by opening and closing.

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My typology is hardly exhaustive, and the possibilities are endless. One could compile a further list just of modern window coverings, quite a few of them one-off architectural features.

Next time you are standing at a Paris bus stop, you can pass the time by counting the number of types of shutters and window closings you can see. Chances are, even a single façade will have more than one type. How many do you see in the photo below?

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Text by Philippa Campsie, photographs by Philippa Campsie and Norman Ball

*Volet is a word with many, many meanings. This translation website shows the many ways in which this word is used, and “shutter” is mentioned only a couple of times.

 

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The scavengers

Major nineteenth-century cities such as Paris or London depended on complex ecosystems in which the showiest sometimes obscured underlying layers. Consider a city in which by 1900 it was said that as many as 300,000 cigars (perhaps the number included cigarettes) were consumed daily.

Paris cigars001

In 1890, Saint-Juirs, author of La Seine à Travers Paris (from which the illustration above is taken) warned readers that in La Place Maubert and its surroundings, “all the vices were represented” in the dives (bouges) frequented by “the worst specimens of the human species.” And yet, in these shady quarters, there were also honest people making a living. These were practitioners of les petits métiers or small trades. One group made a living from discarded cigars and cigarette butts.

In this shady milieu the honest people are represented by the scavengers of cigar butts, who have an industry that is respectable, even if not lucrative. Badly dressed in grimy, ragged clothes, the scavengers go into the rich areas, on the boulevards when café terraces are filled with guests; they watch intently around the theatres. Their eyes on the ground, they chase after bits of tobacco. The most well-off have a hook to grab the cigars thrown away by the smoker; the poorer ones pick up the remains with their hands. All of them have large pockets or bags to gobble up their harvest. The prodigality of the rich feeds their small earnings. In fact the streets give to those who exploit them more tobacco than that produced from ten fine plantations. Cigarette butts, cigar ends, either common or high-priced, the orphans abandoned on the sidewalks and carefully collected each day give a harvest of appreciable value. There are often pieces of good fortune, for the most expensive cigars, the havanas worth three francs, were rare finds.

In today’s currency three francs would be around €7. “All this debris is washed, then cut and formed into a special tobacco, superior in quality to caporal tobacco. The gatherers dry it by putting it in the sun on the banks of the river; then they retrace their steps to  Place Maubert,  where they run their market.”

4309fc1b3e66ab505919ad69e5372084-2 In the photo above, taken about 1900, photographer Louis Vert has captured some men processing their tobacco finds on one of the embankments. The results would eventually end up as pipe tobacco or in roll-your-own cigarettes.

According to Gustave Macé, a former chef de la police de Sûreté, cigarette-butt and cigar-end scavengers were organized into groups with their own territories. Each had a leader whose many tasks included keeping track of potentially good picking sites such as well-to-do weddings, important funerals, and church festivals.

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In this 1900 photo by Jacques Boyer, a lone worker is unpacking and sorting his finds. As with any product sold on the open market, prices varied according to supply and demand as well as quality. A cigar barely smoked fetched a better price than a short butt. The former could simply have the ash cut off and be sold as a small cigar, whereas those smoked down to a short stub had to be cut up and the tobacco mixed with other scavenged bits.

The top of the food—or tobacco—chain was occupied by those described as “moneybags” (richards) who specialized in cigars bought from waiters in cafés who kept an eye out for those precious barely smoked ones that could be resold immediately.

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If you look closely at this caricature of a night of excess, you will spot the treasure trove of cigar and cigarette butts that scavengers sought.

One wonders what the tobacco tasted like and who bought it. Saint-Juirs claimed it to be superior to caporal, which was a strong dark tobacco. The reclaimed street tobacco was probably not renowned for either sweet aroma or gentle taste. However, it served its intended market of the  poverty-stricken elderly (vieillards indigents) or poor workmen. For those of us of a certain age, the smell of street tobacco might bring back memories of the would-be-poets and budding philosophers of our university days who proclaimed their pretensions with the strong aroma of Gauloise cigarettes.

In his 1867 book Les petites industries, Edmond Texier explained the origins of some of the little ways of making a living that were “not listed in the dictionary.” Nobody grew up with the dream of living off cigar and cigarette butts. Rather, such an occupation was “the conquest of the imagination by stomach cramps.” The need to eat threw one into such careers.

As Jean-Michel Le Corfec reminds us in Les petits métiers de Paris, those who were excluded from the mainstream of society either had to depend on public charity or find some kind of work to be able to eat. Living off discarded cigars and cigarette butts was one way.

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As for the smokers, the photographic archives yielded this photo, taken during the Commune of 1871. The woman looks as if she is enjoying a well-earned smoke and there will be little left for the scavengers.

The rich photographic and artistic history of Paris has captured some of the little trades that made up the functioning city. In a later blog I will describe some other petits métiers of Paris. They were essential parts of a complex city and a now-vanished way of life.

Text and translations by Norman Ball

Photographic images courtesy of Paris en Images, except for the first image, which is from Saint-Juirs,  La Seine à Travers Paris, Illustrée de 230 Dessins et de 17 Compositions en Couleurs par G. Fraipont. Paris: Librairie Artistique, 1890.

Additional information from Jean-Michel Le Corfec, Les Petits Métiers de Paris. Bordeaux: Éditions Sud Ouest, 2008.

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