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Tag: History

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When New York Was Called Angoulême

Before being colonized by the Dutch, who renamed it New Amsterdam in 1624, New York was actually called Angoulême. Forgotten by the history books, this homage to King Francis I, Count of Angoulême, was revealed in 1950 in a thesis by historian Jacques Habert. An investigation-style documentary looks back over this French odyssey in America. A former officer from the...

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On the Trail of French-Speaking Migrants in North America

We know everything about Jacques Cartier, the French sailor who discovered the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada in 1534. But we know far less about the other Francophones who settled in North America from the 17th century onwards. This is the ambitious objective of a transatlantic research project set to finish in 2026. Des Moines in Iowa, Traverse City...

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When the Free French Forces Trained in the U.S.

During World War II, more than 4,000 French pilots, navigators, radio operators, machine-gunners, bombardiers, and mechanics were trained in the United States. A little-known chapter in the history of the French Air Force. Boston, June 23, 1943. The French soldiers disembarking from the U.S.S. West Point were ashen-faced, having spent two weeks aboard a luxury ocean liner that had been...

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How Charles de Gaulle Rescued France

As Julian Jackson insists in the preface of his biography, published by Harvard University Press in 2018 and translated in French by Seuil, De Gaulle is “everywhere” in modern France, its undisputed hero. This claim, like some other confident statements in the book, may strike a reader as both narrowly true and what a French thinker might call metaphysically false. His...

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Conneaut Hosts D-Day in Ohio

Every August, a little town in Ohio hosts the world’s biggest reenactment of the Normandy Landings. More than 2,000 armed and uniformed volunteers will be taking part in this year’s edition from August 15 through 17. On the shores of Lake Erie, the sandy beach by the little town of Conneaut is somewhat similar to Omaha Beach. Wooden obstacles painted...

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The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy

A collection of rings, brooches, coins, and manuscripts, now on display at the Met Cloisters in New York City, offers a rare glimpse at the life of the Jewish community of Colmar, Alsace, during the Middle Ages. In May of 1863, workers came upon a cache of coins, jewelry, and other valuables inside the wall of a house in the Alsatian city of...

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Pierre Angénieux: Lunar Lenses

On July 20, 1969, fifty years ago this week, Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. This internationally groundbreaking moment was caught on camera thanks to an invention from a French engineer. At 10:39 pm EST on July 20, 1969, six hours and 22 minutes after landing, Neil Armstrong emerged from the lunar module Eagle. While...

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What Do We Celebrate on Bastille Day?

The French do not celebrate the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day; they may not even know what it means. Americans, on the other hand, are familiar with what they call Bastille Day, an expression that, strangely, does not exist in French. This enthusiasm for the Storming of the Bastille is not shared by all French people — the Revolution,...

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Revolution as Play in France

On July 14, Americans celebrate Bastille Day. On this day, the French celebrate more than their National Day or the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille: They celebrate the everlasting spirit of the 1789 Revolution. “The French are better at fighting revolutions than making reforms”, wrote Alexis de Tocqueville in his notes in 1848. As a Deputy of the Manche...

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Three Colors

Why do the French and American flags share the same colors? Is it a coincidence? No one knows who designed these two flags, but there are a few clues. For the thirteen original colonies marked by British culture, and whose officers, most notably George Washington, had served in the occupying army, blue, white and red were already familiar shades used...

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The 177 French Soldiers of D-Day

The D-Day Landings on the Normandy beaches took place on June 6, 1944, led by 57,500 American soldiers, 58,815 Brits, 21,400 Canadians, and just 177 Frenchmen! A tiny but elite commando force the history books have long forgotten. “Action stations, 0430 hours, the last coffee before France. The night is drawing to an end, we are stunned by the sight...

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Simon Pagenaud: History of a French Come-Back at Indianapolis

Simon Pagenaud won the Indianapolis 500, the most renowned car race in the United States, on Sunday May 26. He is the first French driver to claim victory for over a century. The last time a French driver was at the top of the podium in Indianapolis, World War I had not yet begun and protective gear consisted of a...

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Edgar Degas, an Impressionist in New Orleans

Edgar Degas is renowned for his paintings of young ballet dancers and horse races, and his series depicting women ironing. A lesser known painting is that of New Orleans. He travelled to the city in 1872 to see the American side of his mother’s family, who worked as cotton and textile merchants. The painter saw this six-month stay as a...

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From Connecticut to Normandy: The Planes of D-Day Take to the Skies

Ten World War II cargo planes took off from an airfield in Connecticut last Sunday morning. They will fly across the Atlantic and drop several hundred parachutists over Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 1944 landings. D-Day Doll is almost 76 years old but purrs like she has just come out of the Douglas factory in Santa Monica,...

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A French Geographer in Search of Lafayette in the United States

A young French history and geography buff is undertaking a project to map and signpost the 5,000 miles of the Marquis de Lafayette’s 1824-1825 tour across America. His work has already received the support of Emmanuel Macron and the White House, and his initiative is being put before the New Hampshire Senate this Thursday. Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette,...

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Bessie Coleman: Black Wings Over France

On June 15, 1921, Bessie Coleman became the world’s first Afro-American woman pilot. At a time when no school in America was ready to admit a colored student, she earned her license from Le Crotoy in Northern France. Seen today as a pioneer of emancipation of women and Blacks, Bessie Coleman is a legend in the United States. In 1915,...

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The Merci Train, a Locomotive Built on French-American Goodwill

The cane used by the Marquis de La Fayette, 49 Sèvres porcelain vases, a silk wedding dress, and toy soldiers belonging to a ten-year-old boy. These were just a few of the objects gifted to the United States in a convoy of transatlantic solidarity organized after World War II: the French Gratitude Train. Seventy years ago on February 3, 1949,...

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Gallipolis, a French Utopia on the Banks of the Ohio River

One thousand French people fled to the United States after the Revolution, aghast at being stripped of their privileges and sensing the imminent arrival of the Reign of Terror. Championing the philosophy of the Lumières and its idyllic vision of the New World, they founded the Gallipolis colony on the banks of the Ohio River — a Garden of Eden,...

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The Invention of Santa Claus: From Thomas Nast to Coca-Cola

Père Janvier, Father Christmas, Christkindl, Santa Claus… Whatever name you happen to give him, Father Christmas and his origins still spur controversy. Coca-Cola may have claimed ownership of the symbol and widely circulated the image of a bearded and smiling Father Christmas, yet the brand didn’t actually invent anything. Much earlier, the American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902) fashioned Father Christmas’s...

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Secrets d’Histoire, a Recipe for Success

Two episodes from the twelfth season of French television show Secrets d'Histoire will be shown for the first time on TV5MONDE in December. Following on from Christopher Columbus, J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Lafayette, viewers can discover the mysterious lives of Egyptian queen Nefertiti and Jesus of Nazareth. Presented by Stéphane Bern, the series paints a picture of historical...

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How Skinny Saint-Nicolas Became Jolly Santa Claus

Before Santa Claus, there was Saint-Nicolas. The tall, skinny bishop the people of Lorraine honor as their patron saint on December 6th eventually became the pot-bellied fellow we know today. An American writer, a German-born cartoonist, and a famous brand of soft drinks are each partially responsible for his transformation. Remember Asterix and his band of indomitable Gauls holding out against an ever-impending...