Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Original Keepa, 1870: Franco-Prussian War

Original Keepa, 1870: Franco-Prussian War

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 05, 2010

The humor of the original Keepapitchinin of 1867-1871 doesn’t often translate well to 2010. Some of it almost does, though, like this drawing published shortly after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War:




  1. I’ll have a real post up later in the morning — hafta check out something first to be sure I haven’t misidentified our hero.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 5, 2010 @ 8:02 am

  2. Thanks, Ardis.

    If you hadn’t posted this, I wouldn’t have learned when the first telegraph cable was laid under the Atlantic, and I would have persisted in my belief that the Franco-Prussian War was over in six weeks. (It was about six weeks from the French declaration of war until their ignominious defeat at Sedan, but the war continued until the fall of Paris in January 1871 and then negotiation of the peace treat took another four months.)

    And all of that because I wondered if the war might not have been over by the time that cartoon was published!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 5, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  3. Thank you, Mark. Somehow I’m not surprised that you are the first one to do a little probing to fit this cartoon into its proper historical context.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 5, 2010 @ 9:55 am

  4. Yeah, the image and caption are probably a little more ironic than actually humorous. Still, I love seeing examples of attempted wit, silliness, humor . . . it rounds out my perception of those in our past. Thanks.

    Comment by Hunter — April 5, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  5. The Franco-Prussian War was the last straw for my great-great-grandfather, Albert Rennwanz. As the Prussian armies swept through Alsace-Lorraine leaving death and destruction in their wake, he decided that he was going to emigrate to America, where he wouldn’t have to “keep two flags in a trunk in his attic”.Although considering himself French, he came to America and married a German woman. Normally, Albert was a kind, soft spoken, tolerant man and said nothing when his wife decided to display a framed photograph of Kaiser Wilhelm II. However, when payday rolled around, he would walk down to the local tavern in the Germantown section of Chicago and buy his customary “bucket of suds”. Once home, he would grab his glass mug and sit on his front porch with the beer filled bucket next to him. He would drink and dip his empty mug into the bucket for a refill(s) as he greeted his neighbors as they came home from work. Occasionally, his wife would join him, but Augusta would drink her beer from a coffee cup so that the neighbors wouldn’t think ill of her. When the bucket was empty, he would take it back into the house. Passing through the dining room, he would pass the the Kaiser’s photo and remember the war. Temporarily losing his self control, he would remove the picture from the wall and smash it on the back of a chair while shouting, “Augusta, to hell with the Kaiser!” With typical Germanic pride, Augusta would grab her rolling pin and chase him around the house getting in enough good whacks until he agreed to take the picture to be repaired the following day. And thus was how my family commemorated the Franco-Prussian War.

    Comment by Velikiye Kniaz — April 5, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  6. Now, that’s a great story!

    Comment by Mark B. — April 5, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  7. Great story!
    Kind of hard to smile at a cartoon about a war where the civilians were so close to starvation they ate the animals in the zoo,or so we were taught at school. Different times indeed.
    Thanks, Ardis!

    Comment by Anne (UK) — April 5, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

  8. Just taught about the Franco-Prussian war in my courses.

    Comment by Steve C. — April 5, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  9. What? The Parisians were reduced to eating animals! Egads!

    But that does show one thing, Anne. Nobody in any American high school has ever been taught anything about the Franco-Prussian War. The only things we ever learn about that period are:

    1869–Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad
    1876–Custer’s Last Stand

    And nothing else. Oh, maybe a word about the Republicans stealing the 1876 presidential election from Samuel Tilden. But that happened when Custer was no longer standing.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 5, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  10. Mark: that’s my school from age 14 to 16 we studied British history 1830 to 1914 and European history 1848 to 1914. However the only US history we covered were ‘major events’ and events impacting on us eg Civil War.The rest was US ‘splendid isolation’. From 16 to 18 we studied Anglo Saxon England and the Crusades. I was at uni before tackling US history in any depth!
    (However my Ladybird books and ‘Blue Peter’ on the telly-sorry,can’t link from my phone,google them- taught me about Custer and the US railroad)But yes at age 16 I would have told you the Siege of Paris was one of the reasons the Treaty of Versailles was so harsh-the French weren’t for forgetting that one- and thus sowed the seeds of WW2. As children in the 60s we played on undeveloped WW2 bombsites.In retrospect it made history somehow immediate.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — April 6, 2010 @ 2:00 am

  11. We must have studied something about the 1870s in High School history, but for the life of me I can’t recall much at all being said about the period from the end of the Civil War until the events leading up to the Spanish American War. Oh they mentioned Reconstruction, but what happened to go from that period into Jim Crow and the Progressive Era (Hays-Tilden, TR, etc.) is a blank to me. The trans-continental railroad and the closing of the frontier were mentioned, I am sure, but they hang strangely out of place in time.

    The world history I learned at that time can be summed up pretty much as European powers dividing up the world as colonies. England left the scene after the War of 1812 and didn’t surface again until WWI, when we were obvious allies, which of course we were not. I am sure I heard of the Franco-Prussian War, but probably only in reference to the harshness of the Versailles treaty.

    The is probably totally unfair to my teachers and discounts the distractions that kept me from fully engaging my brain. I am sure taught more than this, but it IS how it lives on in my memory. Even so, I must have learned something:

    My father was with the American Automobile Association and in 1976 when I was 14 he took our family on a business trip to Europe. We joined him for lunch at the Royal Auto Club in London. (I had come in very touristy clothes, and the club rules specified coat and tie in the dining room for “gentlemen,” so they gave me a hideous tie and a jacket that was three inches too short in the arms, but, by golly, I met the requirements of the dress code!) Conversation revolved around the club-to-club agreements my dad was negotiating, and there must have been some discussion about discord between the French ACF or AFA and the German ADAC. Our host commented that the French were still fighting the war, and I, thinking of the 100 Years War, Napoleon vs. Blucher, F-P, WWI and WWII, brought the house down with my innocent question, “Which one?”

    Comment by Eric Boysen — April 6, 2010 @ 7:22 am

  12. Anne (UK), Your comments connecting the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871) to the Treaty of Versailles (1919) are very important and something that I try to emphasize to my students. The annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, the heavy indemnity and the occupation after the Franco-Prussian War certainly sowed the seeds of discontent between Germany and France for many years to come.

    Comment by Steve C. — April 6, 2010 @ 7:26 am

  13. Eric, FTW!!

    But, luckily my British cousins are beyond all that! Do the trains from France still arrive at Waterloo Station? How unfortunate that they come into St. Pancras International now! Can’t we change that back? Nothing like a little reminder every time they buy a ticket!

    And, let’s hear it for Agincourt, we happy few, we band of brothers (not freres)! Heck, it’s only five and a half years until the 600th anniversary.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  14. All I heard in school about the Franco-Prussian War was in an English class, not history. We read a short story that is probably by someone famous, but I’ll be darned if I know who. A young boy in either Alsace or Lorraine hated the tedium of grammar drills in his French class and he played hookey one day. When he came down from the hills or up from the streams or wherever he had been playing, he found that the war had come and that his town was now German, and that his funny little French teacher would never drill him again on his verb forms, and, of course, every little inflection of his native language became suddenly very precious to him. I thought they ought to teach that story in our French classes rather than in English.

    Anybody recognize the story from my 30+-year-old memory?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 6, 2010 @ 8:34 am

  15. I think my son would have been overjoyed at any excuse for getting out of French class.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  16. Alphonse Daudet, “La Derniere Classe” (“The Last Class”).

    Thanks Google, you make me look like a genius! : )

    Believe it or not, that came up on the following search:

    “short stories Alsatian boy french Franco Prussian War”

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  17. I should have included a link

    Or, if you’d prefer it in French, try this.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 9:09 am

  18. Merci!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 6, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  19. Eric- your ‘which one’ comment made me snort my fizzy water. Excellent.

    I had never heard the story of the little Alsatian boy…Keepa triumphs again. And Mark, from someone whose maternal family lived in the grim Dickensian shadow of Waterloo station all their lives- it had never occurred to me before reading your post how ironic the Waterloo issue was!

    I *heart* Keepa for posts and comments such as these….

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — April 6, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  20. No matter how often it happens — very — exchanges like this still catch me by happy surprise.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 6, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  21. Anne, I must confess that I didn’t come up with that one on my own. Some years back, I read about the decision to change the London terminus of the Eurostar trains from Waterloo to St. Pancras, and someone commented then that it might indeed take some of the sting out for the French (in the interests of international comity, I just typed “French” in place of a slang term which they might not think complimentary) when buying tickets to London to not be reminded of Wellington and Blucher and all that.

    Here’s the money quote, from a Times article published March 12, 2004:

    The closure would at least please those French politicians who have claimed that it is humilating for their countrymen to arrive in London at a station named after Wellington’s victory in 1815 over Napoleon. In a letter appealing to Tony Blair to rename Waterloo, Florent Longuepée, a member of the national executive of President Chirac’s RPR party, wrote: “You will understand, I am sure, the discomfort the French feel when they are welcomed by the name Waterloo after crossing the Channel tunnel, a symbol of co-ordination and co-operation between our two nations.”

    For the whole article, go here.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 6, 2010 @ 12:09 pm

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