For military strategists, the taking of Paris meant the taking of France. Thus, in 1870, the Prussians encircled the city after humiliating Napoleon III at Sedan. In 1914, the German armies rushed down out of the North, as their Prussian predecessors had done, but their thrust to capture Paris was deflected by the combined French and British armies at the Battle of the Marne. The battlefront was then pushed back and stabilized, as both sides dug in along a line running south from the coast of Southern Belgium, through Flanders Fields and the Somme, then east along the River Aisne, across the plains of Champagne, the Ardennes and the Vosges mountains. This "war to end all wars" then settled in to bloody trench warfare, increasingly mechanized---machine guns, gas, shrapnel, mines, tanks and the airplane--- with terrible losses. This is where the Field Service came into being. It was here that enthusiastic young American volunteers learned the value of international fellowship "in the field" amidst efforts to save lives where so many were lost.
The roots of the Museum of Blérancourt and of the American Field Service are to be found in the French capital, particularly in its American Colony. Historical traces of AFS occur in interweaving layers,: 19th century roots; beginnings in the western suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine; residence in Passy; the French Fellowships; renewed ambulance operations in 1939-40---and since the end of WWII, the overseeing of student exchanges from offices today located in the eastern suburb of Fontenay-sous-Bois.
Right Bank (east to west)
In the meanwhile the bands were exchanging tunes, and when the orders came to proceed and the French shouldered arms, their rifles looked for all the world like a stage flower-garden suddenly popped up in the middle of things, for the rifle ends were stuck with flowers, mostly in red, white, and blue bunches. The Americans had the same; in fact all the soldiers had flowers and the officers, too, who wore them in their belts and on the pommels of their saddles. They then went. from the Hotel de Ville to the cemetery which holds the dust of Lafayette.
The Place Royale, as it was once called, evokes olden days and the courtly life of the Ancien Régime under King Henri IV, whose quip "Paris is certainly worth a mass" speaks of the troubled years of religious war. Henri IV was assassinated in 1610, but his wife, Marie de Medicis, carried on during their son's minority.
In the early 17th century, the Gesvres family could be counted among the court favorites of Henri IV and Marie de Medicis, whose residences lined the Place Royale. Number 28 (according to today's numbering) was the town residence of Charlotte de Vieux-Pont, the Marquise of Blérancourt, wife of Bernard Potier de Gesvres. The Marquise was a powerful, cultivated woman, a "précieuse" as they said in those days. Apparently, the château of Blérancourt was her idea: both a country home and symbol of her power. Work began in 1611 according to a design by no less than Salomon de Brosse, future architect of the Palais de Luxembourg. The best interior designers were called upon. The château was not to be a fortress, but a showpiece, reflecting current interest in Italian architecture.
The Marquise of Blérancourt soon took great interest in her fief. She was responsible for the building of a convent there and, later, an orphanage. These were the days of noblesse oblige.
The Louvre was a magnet for American art students during the French Second Empire, while its neighbor, the Tuileries, was headquarters of the Imperial Court and from which Empress Eugénie took flight, marking the end of the Empire. The Tuileries was burned to the ground and exists today in name only.
4. Place Vendôme
The renaming of the Place Royale as Place des Vosges marks the beginning of modern times Vendôme speaks of modern times where Place Vendôme the power of finance. In the center of this latter, the statue of Louis XIV on horseback has long since been replaced by a Roman column crowned by a standing Napoleon portrayed as a Roman emperor. The Palais de Justice is neighbors to the Ritz Hotel and, across the way, a few exclusive jewelry shops await clients for whom money is not the issue. There, at number 12, is where the Morgan Bank is to be found.
At the end of 1914, Junius Morgan, son of the famous J.P., suggested that his bank might become the exclusive intermediary for French purchasers of military supplies in the United States. During 1915, the Morgan bank also negotiated several sizeable loans to the Allies for the same purpose.
Anne Tracy Morgan was Junius' sister. She was an educated woman of the suffragette generation, the promoter of women's causes. Her social standing led her to found the New York Colony Club, a woman's version of the exclusive places where the English and American gentlemen discreetly gathered. Her social conscience prompted her to take action on behalf of American working women and, after the outbreak of war, to involve herself in the American Fund for French Wounded. After the United States entered the War, Miss Morgan expressed her desire to be of some use directly in France. The French General Staff was quick to oblige, accompanying Miss Morgan and her organization, the American Committee for Devastated France, to the recently-liberated area behind the front lines where temporary barracks had been set up on the grounds of the former château of Blérancourt.
Three hundred years separated this new occupant of the châeau grounds from its originator, Charlotte de Vieux-Pont, but much united the two in spirit. After establishing the headquarters of her work in the domain of the Gesvres family and becoming involved with the local community, Anne Morgan certainly looked back on those earlier times. She sought to rebuild the château in part, adopting as symbol for her "charitable" work, the griffin a feature of the Gesvres coat of arms.
5. Avenue George V The American Pro-Cathedral
The American Cathedral at number 23, the more socially prestigious of the two American Protestant churches, was founded in the 1860s, inaugurating its new building upon the present site in 1886. In the general proximity of the American embassy at the time, as well as the American Chamber of Commerce, the Cathedral was a gathering place for key figures in the American community living in Paris.
The memorial wall, to the right of the corridor as you walk in, commemorates the American Field Service along with many other American volunteer organizations of World War I.
Off the Avenue, rue de Berri, number 21, was the site of the first American Protestant church around which resident Americans gathered. In the 1930s, the building was sold and the church moved to new quarters at its present location, 65, quai d'Orsay. For a number of years afterwards, the International Herald Tribune remained in this neighborhood, having first rented space from the American Church, before moving to its present headquarters in Neuilly-sur-Seine.
7. A little walk in the 16th Arrondissement a. Arc de Triomphe
That morning, the 20 ambulances, a staff car, two repair trucks, and a huge kitchen trailer were lined up ready to go. The section drove from the Cité along the empty streets to the Gare d'Orléans, across the Seine, and up the Champs Elysées to the Place de l'Étoile, where at 7:30 the cars parked around the circular curb. Representatives of the French army and government and the AFS headquarters staff stood at attention with the American Field Service Section I for a moment of silence by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. After this simple ceremony the drivers returned to their cars, circled the Étoile, and drove down the Avenue Wagram, the Boulevard Berthier, and were off on the road to Beauvais, 60 kilometers north.
b. 41, avenue Foch.
Avenue Foch was inaugurated as the Avenue de l'Impératrice, renamed General Ulrich and then Bois de Boulogne, before receiving the name of the WWI hero. After Evans' death, Bella Rosa was left to the City of Philadelphia which rented it to the French Government during the World Fair of 1900, its first guest being the King of Sweden. The Shah of Persia narrowly escaped an assassination attempt while leaving the house. It was demolished in 1907.
c. Kitty-corners across the avenue Location of the first American Ambulance.
"The day before the declaration of war Dr. Evans called a meeting of representative men of the American colony in Paris. Twenty-five gathered at his office and established a committee called the American International Sanitary Committee. Dr. Evans was named president, with his faithful colleague, Dr. Crane, as secretary. The doctor at once ordered ten U.S. Army regulation tents through his friend and New York lawyer, Horace Ely. What Evans had in mind was to set up a field hospital under canvas, instead of crowding the sick and wounded into churches and public buildings, as was customarily done in Europe. It was decided that the best place to establish the ambulance was in Paris, since the Germans might advance rapidly as indeed they did."
"A plot of ground, about an acre and a half in extent, covered with weeds and poorly drained, was obtained from the Prince de Bauffremont, one of Dr. Evan's patients and a friend of the Empress. The site was across the street from Bella Rosa, with its entrance on the Avenue de l'Impératrice, where the great avenue sloped gently down toward the fortifications. The first tents went up on September 1. A big American flag was borrowed from Bowles Brothers and Company, an American banking house, and in the bright sunlit days of early September the volunteers drove tent pegs and greased the ambulance wagon wheels. American ladies, wearing the brassard of Geneva strapped on an arm, ranged the principal streets, carrying sticks with a sack attached at the end to receive contributions for the wounded: napoleons worth about twenty francs from persons in easy circumstances, sous from working men and grisettes. But most of the money was provided by Dr. Evans himself. He estimated that during the period of the operation of the ambulance he drew on his personal account with the Rothschilds for approximately 1.25 million francs, or $250,000 as he calculated his expenditures in 1873."
d. Place des États-Unis
This statue by Auguste Bartholdi represents the myth of French volunteer assistance to the nascent United States. The young Marquis de La Fayette was "adopted" by the much older Washington, so their personal relationship, as well as their international one, is emphasized here.
After his return to the front-line trenches Seeger found time to write several sonnets which he sent to his "marraine," Mrs. Weeks. In two days, moreover, in the intervals of exhausting work with pick and shovel in boyau digging, he composed the "Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France," without doubt the most noteworthy poem which any American had contributed up to that time to the permanent literature of the war. He hoped to read it on Decoration Day before the statue of Washington and Lafayette in Paris, but this rare privilege was denied him, owing to the failure of his permission for forty-eight hours' leave to arrive in time.
Yet sought they neither recompense nor praise,
The American ambassador to France, Myron T. Herrick, was intimately involved in all Franco-American activity, from the creation of the American Ambulance in 1914 to the founding of the AFS French Fellowships in 1919. When war threatened in late July of 1914, his first concern was to organize in anticipation of the coming chaos. He mobilized the elite of the American Colony of Paris into a Volunteer Committee, whose first task was to help stranded tourists... obtain money. Herrick initiated or inspired, oversaw or gave his blessing to almost all the major volunteer enterprises that sprung up at this time to bring aid and relief to the French, beginning with the creation of the American Ambulance.
Inaugurated in 1923, this monument commemorates the American volunteers who died for France, symbolized by the figure of Alan Seeger ---a young poet from Harvard--- who died in the ranks of the Foreign Legion. On the back of the monument are listed the names of the drivers of the American Field Service (and pilots of the Escadrille Lafayette) who died in service.
GENERAL PERSHING has declared "Mr. Herrick was our first volunteer." Among the noble company of young Americans who followed his example many were killed in battle, and the memory of them all is honored in France as we honor that of Lafayette and Rochambeau. A beautiful monument commemorating their deeds stands in the Place des États-Unis, and every Fourth of July officials from all the departments of the French government assemble there and pay them grateful homage. These first volunteers came mostly from students and other American residents who, when they saw their comrades going off to the front, were stirred by a desire to enlist in the army and strike a blow for France and civilization.
e. Place de Rochambeau
Along with the Place Amiral-de-Grasse at the foot of the Place des États-Unis, this statue commemorates the French military aid which helped the American colonists overcome their British masters.
f. Place de l'Iéna
Another of Houdon's sculptures of Washington, portrayed on foot, stands on the front lawn of the Museum of Blérancourt.
g. Place du Trocadero
Behind and to the west of the statue, the retaining wall of the Passy cemetery is adorned with a bas relief in honor of the soldiers of the Great War. The statue of Foch evokes another: that of the Clearing at Rethondes, near Compiègne, where the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
h. Rue Franklin
Franklin had lived nearby in Passy when it was still a rural "suburb" of Paris, where his experiments with the lightening rod raised eyebrows and where the villagers felt sorry for that "poor old Mr. Franklin" with the "broken" eyeglasses. Franklin had of course just having invented the bi-focals! He was instrumental in winning France to the colonists' side during the American Revolution.
From the New York Herald of 28 July, 1905 :
Mr. John H. Harjes Will Erect at Passy
Reproduction of Bronze Figure at Philadelphia
In view of the approaching two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, Mr. John H. Harjes has offered to the City of Paris a statue of the great statesman and first American Minister to France, to be erected at his cost in the rue Franklin. This offer has now been accepted.
As early as May 23 last Mr. John H. Harjes formulated his offer to M.J. Bouvard, Administrative Director of the Services of Architecture and Promenades of the City of Paris, calling attention to the fact that the month of January next year will mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, who occupies a foremost position among the world's great men.
He felt convinced that Paris should not hold aloof from the celebration of this anniversary, for Franklin was one of its most glorious guests. He came to Paris in 1776 as the first Minister of the new Republic of the United States to France, and remained in France for nine years.
In 1896 the Société Historique d'Auteuil et de Passy placed a large commemorative plaque on the wall in the rue Singer which forms an angle with the rue Raynouard, at the spot where Franklin dwelt from 1777 to 1785. The City of Paris also has given his name to one of the streets running from the place du Trocadéro to the place at which Franklin's house formerly stood.
Desirous that France should honor the memory of the eminent man by a durable monument, Mr. Harjes offered to erect one as his personal gift in the sixteenth arrondissement. He considered that the small grass-covered plot in the rue Franklin, near the placed du Trocadéro, and just in front of the Trocadéro Palace, offered a most appropriate site for the monument.
The statue offered by Mr. John H. Harjes is to be an exact reproduction of the bronze statue standing at present in front of the Central Post Office in Philadelphia and is to be made in America by Mr. John J. Boyle, of New York.
In view of the fact that the pedestal on which the statue stands in Philadelphia appears too massive, Mr. Harjes proposed that the pedestal should be constructed and the statue effected at his cost in Paris, according to M.J. Bouvard's views and after his plans.
Part of the small park featuring the statue of Franklin. In French, the word volunteer has a military connotation. Some 17,000 volunteer soldiers from France helped the American colonists win the war to become American citizens. Americans remembered this in 1914.
j. 8, rue Franklin
While Georges Clemenceau played a dramatic role as President of France during the Great War, he is known in the AFS world for having donated the proceeds of his 1922 conference tour in the United States to the American Field Service French Fellowships.
Then we tackled the men's and officers' kitchens; but both were closed. However, in the meantime, we had seen some nurses in white eating, and I told the brigadier I thought we could count on them to get us what we wanted. So I finally got up my nerve and, in my beautiful French, tried to ask for a little bread, whereupon I was immediately invited to come in and have a regular meal. The lady in charge, who had the Croix de Guerre with the palm leaf, went to a lot of trouble for us and we had quite a feast --- beef, ham, bread and butter (a luxury), jelly, nuts, cheese, and figs. We were informed later that what was done for us was quite irregular, "though done for us with pleasure." The lady, who spoke English, said her mother was an American. When "Redpants" came up for us, he was overawed and must have thought us very, very big guns, for afterwards we learned that the lady with the Croix de Guerre, who had so kindly entertained us, was no other than the daughter of M. Clemenceau, the former Prime Minister of France!
k. 21, rue Raynouard
It was clear that the Field Service was outgrowing its parent organization, the American Ambulance of Neuilly. For practical reasons, separation was inevitable. During the summer of 1916, the American Ambulance Field Service left its nest at the Lycée Pasteur and moved into spacious new quarters in Paris itself, across the river from the Eiffel Tower: 21 Rue Raynouard. Later, in recognition of its new status, it would shorten its name to the American Field Service.
The Field Service was to grow considerably at its new headquarters: from seven sections in the field to thirty-three, plus fourteen sections of military transport trucks. In April of 1917, the United States had joined the Allies in the War and the Field Service was no longer composed of "neutrals". In fact, the entire service became militarized by November 1917, its personnel not volunteers, but American soldiers detached to service with the French.
This was the case until the end of the war and up until the very end ---demobilization--- in April 1919. By July of 1919, at a deserted 21 Rue Raynouard Headquarters, AFS had become but a memory...
Headquarters was but a brief, if memorable, experience in the lives of the AFS volunteers who came through Paris on their way to and from the field. Except for a three-month period in the summer of 1917, it was where newcomers received their orientation before heading out in convoy to the war front. It was the nerve center for logistics and communications involving a vast infrastructure of committees, families and well-wishers in the United States, plus the officials of the French Military Automobile Service and the ambulance drivers themselves.
"In addition to the accommodations for men at "21" itself, and the Châlet, new accommodations were opened up in an apartment at 35 rue de la Tour. The living rooms were once more crowded. The dining room accommodated a hundred and fifty men each meal. After lunch in the sunshine of the wonderful April days you found them seated out on the terrace enjoying the view of the fine old garden, the silvery water of the Seine below, and, in the distance, the sweeping outlines of the Tour Eiffel; or at night watching the lights of Paris, seeming so strange after these long days of war, shimmer in long streaks across the dark water."
19th century Romanticism was fond of symbols. French sculptor August Bartholdi, whose native Alsace fell under German rule after France's defeat of 1870, has become known for two great symbols: the Lion of Belfort (1880), representing the historic resistance of that town, and Liberty Lighting up the World (1886) in celebration of the centennial of the American Revolution. Paris possesses three versions of the latter, the largest one being here. It was a gift of the American Colony of Paris, including a large contribution from Dr. Evans. This quarter-size reduction of Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty was inaugurated on May 12, 1885, before her larger sister in New York. At that time, both statues were looking in the same direction: east. In the 1930s, when the Pont de Grenelle was rebuilt, the statue was rotated to its present position, looking west, both "Liberties" henceforth facing each other symbolically.
The same symbolic relationship, in another light, has also been captured in a popular tourist postcard: the "American" statue photographed against the background of the "French" Eiffel Tower. This pairing also hints at the little-known fact that Bartholdi's statue in New York Harbor his held together by an iron framework designed by Gustave Eiffel!
The other two Parisian "Liberties" are to be found 1) in the Garden of Luxembourg, near the west gate leading into Rue Guyenemer and 2) housed in the French national institute for arts and crafts, the CNAM.
m. The Bir Hakeim Bridge
Commemorates a battle between the FFI during WWII where the AFS unit distinguished itself.
In the action at Bir Hakim, the American Field Service suffered 100% casualties to men and materials. Of 12 cars, 12 were lost. Of the 6 men, 2 were captured (one of them wounded), 2 were killed, and the 2 who managed to get away were both wounded. General Charles de Gaulle wrote of this record as
8. Beaux-Arts Ecole des Beaux Arts, 14 rue Bonaparte,
Founded in 1807. Many artist workshops, where in fact the majority of students came to study, were located in the surrounding area of the Latin Quarter.
The prestige of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, especially after the reform of 1863, started to outshine that of the Academies in London, Munich or Düsseldorf. Moreover, the bustling building atmosphere in the air pervading Paris from Haussmann on, all the new monumental sculpture then rising from the earth, the respect the art professions enjoyed in France, the attention given to art exhibitions by the media and the public, the stimulation and fraternity existing between art students in schools, all these feelings and events unknown in America were instrumental in making studies in Paris a unique experience, bringing to maturation many young artists from the United States.
9. Boulevard Saint-Michel The Sorbonne University
"A Franco-American Committee had been organized in Paris under the direction of the Ministry of Public Instruction, with the aim of creating university degrees for American students in Paris. In a meeting at the home of Dr. T.W. Evans, July 8, 1895, it was decided to form a local committee of Americans to promote this movement. This committee was named 'The Paris-American University Committee', at a meeting held at Dr. Evans' Wednesday, July 19, 1895. Evans was named president of this committee, founded to cooperate with the Franco-American Committee, in order to help to extend French university privileges to American students and to promote their interests in their relations with universities in France. [...] Debate continued throughout the year 1896 and beyond. According to the American Register of December 26, 1896: "The University Council, at its meeting of last Monday [December 21] adopted a resolution that a committee be named to study the establishing of a diploma to be conferred to foreign students, more particularly to American students, which they might take away as proof of their studies and knowledge gained in Paris.' All these discussions would lead to the creation of the Doctorate degree at the University of Paris."
"The first exchanges of university professors were organized at the end of the 19th century and during the first years of the 20th. The first initiatives came from Harvard University. The French Club there, founded in 1886 for the production of French classical plays, began inviting French lecturers, thanks to a foundation created in 1898 by a wealthy and enthusiastic Francophile, former Harvard student James Hazen Hyde."
As more young Americans came to Paris to study art, the American Colony became concerned.
"If American male artists had few problems finding lodgings in Paris where they came in increasing numbers after 1870, it was much more difficult for young American women whose independence shocked French manners. It would seem that one of the first to give his support to the founding of a hostel at the end of the 1880s specifically for American women art students, and called the Lafayette Home for Girls, was Dr. Thomas Evans, the first American legionnaire. At this time, two American women gave their names to two other hostels for women students, both still active today: Elisabeth Mills Reid, wife of the United States Ambassador in France and daughter of a magnate of the mining industry, who established the American Girls' Art Club on the Left Bank which, along with her work during the war merited her the Chevalier cross in 1922; and Grace Whitney Hoff, who established the British-American Young Women's Christian Association center on the Rue de Turin. In 1906, Mrs. Hoff's hostel moved to the Latin Quarter [93 Boulevard St. Michel], and, after World War I, took in women students of all nationalities, now calling itself the 'International Student Hostel'."
10. Boulevard Jourdan Cité Universitaire
The others had come from their jobs or their schools in different
parts of Europe and had already been installed on 1 April in
a wing of the United States House of the Cité Universitaire,
15 Boulevard Jourdan, which had been granted rent-free to the
AFS through the kindness of Mrs. Homer Gage.
11. Rue Chauveau American Hospital of Paris 12. Boulevard Victor-Hugo Today's American Hospital 13. Boulevard d'Inkermann
Headquarters of today's AFS-VSF 14. Rue du Commandant Jean-Duhaïl