Category Archives: Paris history

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 … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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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 … Continue reading

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Monsieur Rochefort and his surprising typewriters

When Martin, my typewriter collector friend, invited me to see “a little something from Paris,” I had never heard of the Dactyle typewriter. Nor did I realize I was about to learn the story of a French engineer/inventor who helped … Continue reading

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The Paris Bridge That Never Was

It should have been the pride of Paris; a stunning suspension bridge leaping clear across the Seine. It should have been one of the crown jewels of both Paris and the career of Claude Navier, one of 19th-century France’s most … Continue reading

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Paris Bridges: Mirrors of History

More than beautiful ornaments and a way to cross the Seine, Paris bridges are mirrors of history. They reflect impermanence, bad weather, political turbulence, and much more. The Pont au Change that exists today was built in 1858-1860. As the … Continue reading

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Walls within walls

According to an old proverb, “Good fences make good neighbours.” It may or may not be true. But do good walls make good cities? Or, more simply, do walls help make cities? It seems that a wall built during the … Continue reading

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