Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris. . .A Review

Do you know how much influence France, and especially Paris, has had on the US? You may be surprised.

Cover, The Greater Journey, by David McCullough, 2011

The Greater Journey
American stories of Paris by those who made the journey. It continues.

Drawn like moths to light, Americans came to Paris to experience the culture and to learn in the city considered the most advanced of its time. The best in France would teach the brightest from the young USA. Most of those who went to absorb Paris had independent means or generous parents. The eager, hardworking medical students learned new techniques, and incorporated the ideas into medical procedures in the United States. In between classes, their ideas about society changed, some with profound results. American artists and art students were welcomed into the ateliers of established French artists. Writers found a new audience and a city that provided an endless source of inspiration. If you had talent, Paris was the place to be.

Most Americans who came to Paris stayed for a few months to a few years. Early in the migration of American visitors, prior to steam, the voyage from New York to Le Havre took approximately 26 days. By the 1870s, steamships reduced the trip to about two weeks. McCullough takes us through the past from the 1830s through the golden years and the lean times and leaves us at the cusp of the 20th century (1901). We learn about 'Lady Liberty', better known as the Statue of Liberty, the gift from France to the United States, with a 'supporting' contribution by the master builder and engineer, Gustav Eiffel. This structural design was prior to the building of his iconic tower for the 1889 Exhibition Universelle de Paris.

In this book, you will learn about Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Samuel F. B. Morse, John Singer Sargent, Charles Sumner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Elizabeth Blackwell; That's just the beginning. Americans were there in Paris during the cholera, the American Civil War, the Haussman reconstruction, the Prussian siege, and the Communard coup. They saw firsthand the difference in how the French people reacted to life, their love of art and their innate resilience. Letters and journals are used to show the detail of life in Paris from the American visitor's point of view. He includes a wealth of illustrations. Through inventions, improvements to medical processes and hygiene, the American life was improved through the association with France.

Paris Exhibition Promo, Paris 1889, wiki, PD*

Are you a history buff or do you like the stories (behind the history) about Paris? Factual stories? Do you have any favorites of the many American or French historical names listed?

I highly recommend reading this book, if you like history, especially the kind that explains the machinations behind many high profile events which took place in Paris between 1830 and 1901. I'm keeping it as a reference book.



Exposition Universelle 1889 - wiki

Major Gen. Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette

David McCullough's, The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris

How Paris Created America ( A review) by Stacy Schiff, NY Times

*Image Credit: 1889 Paris Exposition Promotion

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