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Tag: History

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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...

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Should Marshal Pétain Be Honored?

As the 100th anniversary of the 1918 armistice is being celebrated, public opinion is divided on the inclusion of Pétain’s name in the list of eight French marshals honored by the Elysée Palace on Saturday 10 November. Pétain is a major historical figure, having been both the hero of the Battle of Verdun in World War I, and the collaborationist,...[Subscriber]

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The Hello Girls, the Voice of the U.S. Army in France

The first women recruited by the U.S. Army were equipped with helmets and gasmasks just like their male counterparts, but they were armed with telephones. Some 223 French-speaking American women served as switchboard operators during World War I. Nicknamed the “Hello Girls,” they acted as a link between the front line and the rear guard and between French and American...

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World War I in France Seen Through the Lens of Lewis Hine

A hundred years ago, France was caught in the final year of World War I. American photographer Lewis Hine traveled across the country in 1918 for the American Red Cross, documenting their work with refugees, orphans, and wounded soldiers. Lost for decades, his poignant work has recently been made public by the Library of Congress. Lewis Hine has been acknowledged...

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1918-1926: The Never-Ending War

La Paix Impossible is the sixth instalment of the Apocalypse history documentary series on 20th-century military conflicts. Produced using nothing but restored color footage, the two 45-minute episodes depict the interwar period (1918-1926) and the rise of nationalism. A film by Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle, narrated by Mathieu Kassovitz. Interview. France-Amérique: Why have you called the 1918-1926 period "la...

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Passing the Torch: America One Hundred Years Ago

November 11, 1918, marked the end of World War I and the beginning of American omnipotence — and this era continues today. What exactly do we commemorate on November 11 in France and America? There were no real winners in the Great War. The French and their allies from Britain, the United States, Belgium, Serbia and elsewhere were decimated by...[Subscriber]

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Versailles’ American Splendor

The Château de Versailles is a symbol of French excellence in the arts, emblematic of absolute power and the height of the monarchy’s reign. But it actually owes part of its current grandeur and beauty to a number of Americans who financed its restoration throughout the 20th century. "What I must do is not what other people do, but what...[Subscriber]

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1900, the Birth of the Parisian Myth

The City of Light was at its peak in 1900. The Alexandre III Bridge, Orsay Station, the World’s Fair, and the first subway line were all inaugurated. An exhibition on Paris from the Belle Epoque era, initially presented at the Petit Palais, is now at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville from October 12 through January 6, 2019. It will...

Sergeant York Gets His Very Own Comic Book

An avenue in Manhattan bears his name, but who really remembers Sergeant York, the most decorated U.S. soldier of World War I? He proved his mettle in France during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, whose 100th anniversary is currently being commemorated, and is now the subject of a comic book published by Association of the United States Army. On October 8, 1918,...

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“The Sisters Brothers”: The American Frontier Through the Eyes of a Frenchman

In his very first western, French director Jacques Audiard combines a Canadian screenplay, American actors, and scenes filmed in Spain and Romania. The result, released in the U.S. on September 21, loses its way in parts but offers a beautiful take on America during the Gold Rush. This project was long the stuff of fantasy for movie buffs. But those...

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“The Order of the Day,” a Goncourt Laureate Like no Other

For the first time since it was founded, the Prix Goncourt has been awarded to a historical account instead of a novel. The winner is none other than The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, a staggering work of some 130 pages which was recently translated and published in the U.S. After the initial surprise, readers will be firmly...

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Sennelier, a Merchant of Colors in Paris

A stone’s throw from the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the Sennelier store has catered to the likes of Cézanne, Soutine, Picasso, Karl Lagerfeld, and Sempé. Since 1887, artists have come here to buy their colors that were once hand-milled to order in the workshop behind the store. Among its achievements, Sennelier has invented Helios Red, Cinnabar Green, and...

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Heritage: We Must Save Our Old Stones!

For the European Heritage Days on September 15 and 16, 2018, France will organize a lottery whose proceeds will help restore endangered historical sites throughout France. Thousands of monuments in rural areas or small communities across France are falling into disrepair, including bridges and garrets, abbeys and fountains, theatres and synagogues, factories, ramparts, orangeries, greenhouses, windmills, viaducts, châteaux, and hundreds of...

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France and the United States From Liberation to Exasperation

How did Americans go, in the mind of the French, from gum-chewing liberators to Coke-swilling invaders? A U.S. historian and a French cheesemonger examined this transformation in a book published this summer. During the Liberation, American GIs used calvados brandy to fuel their Zippo lighters. In 1948, the French communist party called for a boycott of the American soda giant, accusing...