A day or two ago, Wilfried summarized a delightful account of a 1903 visit to Salt Lake City by a Frenchman, Jean d’Entraigues, published in 1904 in Le Monde moderne et la femme d’aujourd’hui (I have no more complete citation, having worked from an incompletely cited photocopy). While it’s a bit long for a T&S post, some of you may enjoy reading the entire article.
The Mormons’ City
(A Journalist’s Notebook)
April 1903. Aha! Here is the mission for me! Thanks to my deepening command of English, I have been sent to study the famous Mormon sect in the flesh. The recent death of Brigham Young, Jr., son of the famous prophet, makes Mormonism a current issue of which we people of old Europe have only the vaguest notion.
My childhood dreams are coming true. I am going to cross the great deserts which I often traversed in imagination, with Light-Foot and Falcon’s-Eye. In the reaches of untamed lands, perhaps I will cross paths with the Great Chief, or Clair-de-Lune and Rose-Flower. [These are evidently characters in the French equivalent of penny dreadfuls; the romance of the Wild West was as popular, and for a longer time, in Europe as in America.]
Armed with documents detailing these pariahs hunted from Illinois – these adventurers tracked like wild beasts, made outlaws owing to their fanaticism and dissolute lifestyle – possessed of a letter of introduction from a friend of my mother to an excellent American family living in Utah, I hoped to profit from the week I would spend in Salt Lake City and write a spicy article that would win accolades for me at home.
For one reason or another, the religion in question has never caught on in Europe. One Mormon missionary – one single solitary man – tried to work in Paris, without success. Two of his co-religionists preaching in Berlin were politely escorted to the borders. My subject is, therefore, a novel one.
May 20. I’m on the rails now. I roll along comfortably seated in a California Liner. Ever since New York, I have seen gigantic redwood forests, followed by plains so immense that all the European states could play leapfrog here.
I’m not really bored; all the same, I find the route long. Two thousand five hundred miles to cross! That’s a long way by anyone’s measure.
I am taking advantage of all methods of amusement provided by the railway company for the use of travelers.
After my daily bath, I spend an hour reading newspapers and the latest novels. I have visited the souvenir stand and bought some little China pieces which I watched being painted before my very eyes. I have visited the grand salon and admired the paintings, the knick-knacks, the objets d’art scattered throughout. I have played billiards, and cards, and I won – then lost – a few dollars at poker. I have tasted the gourmet delights of the Chinese chef and learned that he earns $250 a month. I thought, with a sigh, that it paid better to be a cook than a reporter …
But after ten days of rolling along, in the same cars day after day, never putting my foot to earth, I begin to weary somewhat.
The voyage is not, however, monotonous. Now that we have crossed the plains to Utah and are climbing, and climbing, several thousand feet above sea-level now, the views have, as if by magic, done away with my boredom. It is a bit frightening to know that you are at the mercy of iron rails, poised as you are on the edge of bottomless caverns, with the echoing sound of your fiery engine drowning out your every word!
We draw near to our destination … Finally! I will have something to do now besides watch the scenery.
Let us review my instructions:
“Introduce yourself into a Mormon family, and study their habits, polygamy and its effects, the customs which differentiate them from the rest of America, etc., etc.”
That is the plan. Mormons shouldn’t be difficult to find in a city where there are more than 60,000 of them. I don’t know just what they look like – long beards and robes, maybe? – but with my keen wit, I’ll recognize them quickly enough when I see them.
Things might be different, if they still “whittled” strangers. One of my traveling companions just told me about that, after explaining this strange word that I couldn’t find in any of my dictionaries.
It seems that Americans, who can’t keep still, have the curious habit, when they have nothing better to do, of “whittling” sticks. Englishmen, who never miss a chance to make fun of their cousins, claim that when Congress opens, each member is given a stout log to whittle, and the session ends when all that remains is a pile of toothpicks. … Hmm, that’s not a bad idea to import among ourselves … Well, let’s move along. My editor won’t let me talk politics.
When the Mormons set up in Utah, they were afraid of spies who might come in among them. And since they couldn’t demand passports of those who came to settle among them, they came up with this little trick:
As soon as a stranger was spotted, a pair of toughs attached themselves to him, innocently “whittling” their little sticks, never impeding his path, but never letting him out of their sight, either.
If he had nothing to hide, he just laughed at this conduct, not letting it disturb his business in the slightest. But if he was an enemy bent on causing trouble, he quickly realized that he could take no step that would be hidden from his bodyguards, and he quit the field.
Times have changed and I – who really have come to spy on these strange people, will no doubt escape the whittling.
Therefore, I will insert myself into a family, to study its little doings, especially the things having to do with polygamy. That’s what’s going to be fun! I have seen – not in my home, for I am a bachelor – but in the homes of friends, where there are two women in the household, the legitimate wife … and the other woman. What riotous scenes! And how much livelier will it be when there are four or five!
May 22. Here I am at last in Salt Lake City! I registered at the Kenyon Hotel – and I, who should by now have gotten used to the utmost luxury enjoyed ever since I set foot in America, was still bowled over by the magnificence of my temporary home. What in the world do these Yankees find to admire among us?
No sight of a Mormon yet.
May 23. I have just spent the most agreeable day imaginable.
I presented myself at the door of Mr. Ch***, where I was not only invited to lunch but also to spend the entire afternoon.
Nothing could be more charming than that home. I don’t speak of elegance – that is assumed in American life – but what struck me here was the peace and harmony linking every member of the family, from Miss Lily, five years old and the pet of her seven brothers and sisters, all the way up to the aged grandfather, paralyzed by a stroke and lying on a chaise-longue. And then there was the welcome of Mrs. Ch***, who not only knows the French proverb about “friends of friends,” but who puts it into practice. Everything about the house and its tenants sang to me, “You are at home.”
In the company of Mr. Ch*** and two of his sons, Joe and Selah, two good-looking young men of 16 and 18, I toured the city.
I know that if I share my impressions with my boss, he will shrug his shoulders and treat me like a fool. But as these notes are for myself alone, I will rhapsodize as much as I wish.
I have never seen anything to compare to Salt Lake City! With its long avenues lined with delightful houses, its shady boulevards, its wide, regular streets along which ceaselessly run gentle streams of water; with its open spaces, its well laid out public gardens; ringed with snow-capped mountains shining in the sun like a thousand diamonds; with its lake mirroring the sky and and circled with whiteness brighter than you ever guessed white could shine … it is a city of dreams! a fairy city! a city of ever-changing celestial views!
Is it possible that those distant glaciers are really covered with salt, and that water across which small sails dart is really more salty than the ocean?
I note in passing the principle monuments. Here is the Amelia Palace, a little jewel which would be at home on our Champs-Elysees, and which Brigham Young (the first of that name) offered to the favorite of his 40 wives; here is the famous Eagle Gate, marking the spot where the pilgrims first laid claim to the valley; the Lion House, first residence of the Prophet, built with his own hands, as he assumed the roles, in turn, of architect, mason, carpenter, cabinetmaker. Here is the City-County Building, and the Salt Palace, and the spacious, sunlit – dare I say it? joyful – schools of legions of children.
A little tired, we boarded a car that took us to the Great Salt Lake. We walked along it, taking our tea at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Then I returned to my hotel, enchanted by this first day in the Mormon country. Although truth be told, I hardly gave a thought to those Mormons today. I still have six days ahead of me. That’s more than enough to make a study of their customs.
May 24. Mr. Ch***, fearing that I might have missed his note, came to call on me with Lily. I don’t much care for children, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the chatter of this one. She tried to speak French, and chirped like a little bird. She insisted on giving me her hand, and she declared that if I would wait for her, she would marry me when she grew up. When I told her mother about that, she wanted to scold Lily, but how can a woman be severe when she has such gentle eyes!
I haven’t told anyone the purpose of my mission. It is delightful to be one’s own master! But Mr. Ch*** works. He owns one of the largest shoe manufacturing plants in the city; that is where we began our walk this morning. He puts out 5,000 pairs of shoes every day!
In the course of our stroll, we stopped in front of the Brigham Young monument. Standing on his pedestal, the Prophet is, shall we say, not quite artistic, in my opinion. His gesture of half-blessing, the smile in his eyes, the hail-fellow-well-met cast to his mouth – all that made it hard to imagine the dictator who, by the strength of his will, brought a country and a people out of chaos. However, it is to him that the United States owes the inexhaustible mine of riches that is Utah.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t learn much about the two principle curiosities of this Mormon city, the Tabernacle and the Temple. When I wanted to visit them, either with Mr. Ch*** or by myself, I was bluntly refused the privilege. In vain did I give my hand – containing gold, even – to the guardian there. He was inflexible, and I learned that even the faithful themselves may not enter except for religious rites.
All the same, I took my notes, since I had come here to make them.
At first the Tabernacle strikes you as not quite finished, as lacking somehow. What is it? a dish cover, a bird’s nest, a gigantic egg cut along its length? I don’t know, but something ugly, something grotesque. The interior, it would seem, is a vast arena around which circle 14,000 seats, and at the end of which is one of the most beautiful organs ever built. It has no fewer than 3,600 pipes, and in this enclosure, where the acoustics are perfect, the slightest sound is carried without distortion everywhere in the building.
The Temple with its graceful towers rising to arrows in flight makes a noticeable contrast with its heavy cousin, but there, too, Gentiles may not enter. I could only admire the architecture and recognize the valiant efforts of those hardy pioneers who, 50 years ago, brought all the gray granite of which it is constructed from the Rocky Mountains on carts pulled by cattle. They tell me that the interior is fabulously rich, and that the temple cost no less than 40 million dollars. Imagine!
May 25. Three days in Utah, and I still haven’t started on my assignment! It is so easy to be willingly sidetracked by the wonders on every hand!
I am more and more struck by the conduct of the Ch***. These western Americans are so totally different from the cold, sophisticated men of the East. With what cleverness they go about satisfying my every wish! Anyone could live here so happily, with even a modest income.
But my poor boy, you haven’t come to Salt Lake City to amuse yourself. The week they gave you to write your article has only seven days. It’s time to get to work.
Okay, I will … I’ll think about my assignment tomorrow.
Today, I am going with my friends to pass the day at Lagoon, a delightful rail stop several miles from here. This evening, they are taking me to visit a relative, a wealthy manufacturer who is celebrating the engagement of his daughter.
Tomorrow, I promise I will get away from my American friends and busy myself with the Mormons. Doubtless they have built an immense ghetto somewhere in this city, hidden from profane eyes, because I certainly haven’t seen any of them yet. Out of delicacy and fear of offending them, I haven’t dared broach the subject with the Ch***. But sooner or later, I must get around to it.
May 26. Oh, my goodness! If there were prizes for stupidity, I would take first place! Fortunately nobody will ever know – I would die of the shame!
Last evening, I was introduced into company which I will not attempt to describe. These American girls are so pretty, decked out in their fashions straight from Worth, Redfern or Paquin! At home you might find the women with lower necklines, but here, the way they dress is simple and adorable.
I met the guest of honor, Miss Mabel, who spent several years in Paris. She drew me into a window corner and we chatted as if we had always known each other. She expressed herself charmingly in French, and I was so pleased to hear it. She had seen everything at Paris, she knew things about the city I had never known, and she spoke with grace, a little teasing, but with the basic honesty of a young woman who was used to respect. She spoke of her memories until she had lost all trace of formality, and she seemed a thousand times more French than American.
A brilliant idea occurred to me. Encouraged by her graciousness and intimacy, what if I were to share my great wish to see those strange beings which so upset the United States – those Mormons?
I had barely expressed my thought when my blonde companion burst into the merriest peal of laughter I have ever heard in my life – not laughter designed to make a listener admire the musicality of her voice, but a frank, sincere laughter that brought tears to her eyes, a laughter that – despite my fear of drawing the attention of the entire company – I simply had to share. When her laughter subsided at last, she called to a young man who hurried to her side.
“Harris, my dear,” she said, with a touch of slyness, “Mr. Jean d’Entraigues here has come all the way from Paris to dissect the Mormons and serve them up in spicy slices to his countrymen. But through a stroke of unbelievable bad luck, he has yet to meet a single Mormon! Aren’t there any in the salon here that you could introduce to him?”
“You tease!,” said Harris, taking his sister’s fan and striking her lightly on her fingers. “Excuse me, sir. Never mind her. Let me help you with your research. Do you see that gentleman leaning against the mantel, talking with Mr. Ch***?”
“They’re very good looking, both of them, very distinguished, shaped like everybody else, dressed like everybody else,” interrupted Miss Mabel, hiding a smile behind her hand.
“But that’s your father …”
“Exactly!” cried Mabel. “My father, and with him my uncle. Mr. Ch***, your friend! And just think – they are both Mormons. Bishops, both of them, if you please. And my brother is a Mormon, and I am a Mormon. We’re all Mormons here! Oh, no, not quite all. Those three pretty girls in blue, they are Irish, Catholic, naturally. And there is my fiancé Archie, who is looking for me. He is a Protestant, but we love each other all the same, you know!”
And the adorable girl went happily away, leaning on the arm of her future master … or slave.
You could have knocked me to the floor! Mr. Ch***, Mormon! All of them, Mormons! But I never would have guessed it! What about the tales? What about polygamy? What about my article?!!
Mr. Harris, seeing my distress, came to my aid.
“Oh,” he said, “don’t give up. We young people don’t have much to tell you, but if you aren’t afraid of the company of old folks, I can take you to meet some old-time Mormons who can tell you what you want to know.”
And he took me to a little room where the sound of the waltzing could barely be heard, and where two serene old people were chatting with friends. He introduced them to me as his grandfather and his grandmother, who had been part of the first company of pioneers to arrive in Salt Lake City with Brigham Young. Leaving me with them, our conversation turned to that famous trek, to the building and growth of the city, and somewhat to religious principles.
There was one question I longed to ask, but I hardly dared voice it in the presence of that good woman who leaned so affectionately on the arm of her husband.
“But,” I finally said, “is it true that you are outlaws … because of … polygamy?”
“It’s true,” the old man agreed. “We old people, we’re all polygamists. But those days are finished. Today, polygamy is punished by imprisonment, and exists only in memory. Here is my wife, Helen. I have three others, and, along with the two sons whom you have met, and who are half-brothers, I have 29 children.”
“Twenty-nine children!” I stammered. “But with just a few families like yours, you could fill a city!”
My companion smiled softly.
“Well, yes. Our beloved leader, Brigham Young, may have had the same thought when he built polygamy into our fundamental law. He was a great man, and a great governor.
“Do you know the doctrine of our religion concerning polygamy? The souls of men, we are taught, had already been created when God said ‘Let there be light.’ They are waiting, and can only progress by assuming bodies and taking part in the redemption of Christ. Therefore, the more children we have, the more souls we lead to God, and the greater will be our glory in the celestial realms. If we had only one wife, the number of our children would be necessarily limited – but if we can support three, or four, and each one of them has a large family of these waiting souls, what treasures we are heaping upon our heads!”
“But,” I objected, “they don’t all have the same rights, the same privileges?”
“Oh, of course, they certainly do, even though only one is a legal wife.”
“I am his first wife,” said the great lady with a hint of pride. “As for the others, we have our own expression – they are ‘sealed’ to my husband.”
“And it doesn’t bother you, Madame – you, the legal wife, to be surrounded by what we would call in France, ‘concubines’?”
“Fiddlesticks! that’s a filthy word!” she said. “Here, we are all sisters. I am going to tell you something that will surprise you. It was me who begged my husband to take plural wives, in order to reap the greatest crop of souls to open the gates of heaven.”
That would never occur to us in Paris! I decided to push ahead with my questions, and ventured, “You don’t ever bicker for the attentions of your husband? And your children, they live in peace one with another?”
“We all love and respect our husband; if he has a favorite, the others pretend not to notice, and none of us are treated any less honorably than another. When a husband has the means, he gives each wife her own house, but generally we all live together under the same roof, all equals, all happy. Our children, no matter whether of the legal wife or a plural wife, are all legitimate, and all have an equal claim to the wealth of their father. You see how affectionate Mr. Ch*** is with his half-brother? Only the half-brother is my son; Mr. Ch*** is the son of my husband’s third wife.”
If my companions had not had such frank and open faces that shone with truth, I would have believed they were trying to deceive me!
I remained deep in reflection, when pretty Miss Mabel interrupted us with her Archie, calling me out of the small salon.
“Well, Mr. Frenchman, have you interviewed my grandparents enough, and have they converted you to Mormonism?”
“My word on it, Miss, this religion has its good points. But,” I continued smiling, “would you yourself want your fiancé to embrace and accept all its doctrines?
“No, oh, no!” she teased, while an adamant smile crossed her pure face. “I don’t have the same temperament as my good grandmother, and I find American laws wiser than our own. You hear that, Archie? No polygamy, or I’ll throttle you!”
Arm in arm with them, I returned to the ballroom with its noise and its light, after bidding farewell to the sweet old couple.
. . . . . . . . . .
That’s all well and good. But now what am I going to do?!!
I have traveled – on the crown’s expense, no less – tens of thousands of miles to wind up in a pitiful position! I had lived among Mormons – modern Mormons and old-time Mormons – I had seen a polygamist with four wives and 29 children, and the greatest brotherhood prevailed among them! Their habits were peaceful and honorable, their daughters married Protestants, and all this went on in the midst of order, prosperity, and well-being …
Bah! To see savage customs, I should have stayed in Paris! There, if a poor man finds that he doesn’t have enough wife and “seals” himself to another, the legal wife pulls a revolver and reclaims her rights that way. The children of one father and one mother fight over dinner and argue over which of them gets the biggest piece.
Even the countryside here couldn’t shine more brilliantly with safety, richness, and good intentions.
What the devil could I say? My editors would send me to the slaughterhouse if I told the truth. If only the Mormons really were beasts! But no, they live like saints!
Oh, well. What does a lie matter, if you’re far enough away? I will produce a sensational article, describing their degenerate faces, their coarse beards, their acts of jealousy, their hands dripping with blood! I will strike every chord! Readers will tremble! They will quake at the recital of these horrors! My editor will give me a raise!!
May 30. I am preparing to leave this place where I have spent these unforgettable hours. Here on this foreign soil, I have made friendships which I am certain are sincere and will last forever. Joe and Selah, Harris, Mabel and Archie – they will all come to Paris after the wedding. I will be happy to return the generosity they have shown to me.
Last night, I dropped my article in the mail, filled with vinegar and falsehoods, about Mormonism. It is to the point and seems perfectly plausible. I am satisfied, and can enjoy my last Mormon hours with peace of mind.
But – What is this? What is this blue-covered notebook? … Heavens! … My article – copied out and corrected … Oh, no, no! … I made a mistake! I sent my personal notes to the publisher… What is my editor going to say?!
I am lost! I am dead! I am fired!
(translation by Ardis E. Parshall)
25 Comments »
You’re right. I loved this article.
Comment by brent — 12/6/2007 @ 1:18 am | Edit This
This is great! Thanks Ardis and Wilfried!
Comment by Paul Reeve — 12/6/2007 @ 3:14 am | Edit This
This is great, Ardis — it made me smile. Thanks to you and Wilfried for yet another great find.
Comment by Kaimi Wenger — 12/6/2007 @ 4:01 am | Edit This
This absolutely made my day — a very fun read. Thank you so much for the translation Ardis and for the reference Wilfried. I especially liked Miss Mabel!
Comment by john f. — 12/6/2007 @ 6:43 am | Edit This
I wish I knew what brand of whimsy Jean d’Entraigues drank every morning. It appears to be particularly fine stuff.
Comment by Adam Greenwood — 12/6/2007 @ 11:02 am | Edit This
Reminds me of the French diary “Californians and Mormons) that I read around 1975 or so.
Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — 12/6/2007 @ 3:08 pm | Edit This
Enjoyed it. Thanks for the translation, Ardis.
Comment by Justin — 12/6/2007 @ 6:17 pm | Edit This
Although I enjoy lots of what’s on Times and Seasons, there are not too many articles I would recommend to people with limited reading time. This is one of those few posts. Thanks, Ardis!
Comment by East Coast — 12/6/2007 @ 6:33 pm | Edit This
Yes, but what does he think of Mitt Romney?
Comment by Adam Greenwood — 12/6/2007 @ 6:35 pm | Edit This
Wonderful! More, more!
Comment by Chad Too — 12/6/2007 @ 6:37 pm | Edit This
What fun! Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed the French playfulness in this narrative, which I came to appreciate while dining with French in-laws and while working with some French nationals.
Hmmm — my maternal grandmother was named Mabel…
Comment by manaen — 12/6/2007 @ 6:48 pm | Edit This
Glad you enjoyed it, you small band of cosmopolitans who could make room in your day for something besides Mitt. /rueful smile/ It was a pleasure to work on this article, which I absolutely would never have run across without Wilfried, whose comment in turn would not have been drawn out without Paul’s post.
manaen, ya got an Uncle Harris or a Grandpa Archie in there? Just in case, I searched the 1900 census for a family who could be the Ch***, thinking that “Selah” would be a dead giveaway. Jean d’E. must have used pseudonyms, though.
Comment by Ardis Parshall — 12/6/2007 @ 7:10 pm | Edit This
Cosmopolitan?!?!? Flattery will get you everywhere
Comment by Chad Too — 12/6/2007 @ 7:20 pm | Edit This
Comment by Edje — 12/6/2007 @ 8:30 pm | Edit This
Hi. I’m East Coast’s daughter. I’m in seventh grade but home sick from school today. I am only Mormon in my school of 600+ kids. Last year I read Around the World in Eighty Days with my advanced reading class. I was assigned to do a report on the Mormon chapter. At the time, my teacher didn’t know I was a Mormon (Imagine her surprise). My teacher liked my report so much that now I’m going to do it for the sixth graders. Your translation was only about thirty years difference from when Phileas Fogg visited Salt Lake City. I thought it was very interesting.
Comment by East Coast — 12/7/2007 @ 10:59 am | Edit This
East Coast’s daughter — I’d love to read your report. If you’re willing to send it to me, please write to me at AEParshall@aol.com. And congratulations for doing such a good job that you’ve become a model for the next class!
Comment by Ardis Parshall — 12/7/2007 @ 11:05 am | Edit This
“He owns one of the largest shoe manufacturing plants in the city.” I wonder if this detail is valid.
Comment by Justin — 12/7/2007 @ 11:11 am | Edit This
Justin, I don’t think so. For one thing, 5,000 pairs of shoes a day would have provided a new pair of shoes for every Salt Laker every two weeks, year in and year out. I’m not aware that shoemaking on that scale for export has EVER gone on in Salt Lake.
Comment by Ardis Parshall — 12/7/2007 @ 11:21 am | Edit This
Okay. I was thinking that the number seemed way too large. Different question: have you looked for any newspaper mention of Jean D’E. having registered at the Kenyon?
Comment by Justin — 12/7/2007 @ 11:27 am | Edit This
Justin (19), I thought about it but haven’t gotten further than the online newspapers, which could easily have a problem OCRing such a complicated name in the miniscule hotel registration columns. One of these days I’ll pull the microfilms and check at least the dates he used in his article. It would be nice to find some trace of his presence, wouldn’t it?
Comment by Ardis Parshall — 12/7/2007 @ 12:56 pm | Edit This
East Coast’s daughter! Great to hear about your assignment on Jules Verne’s chapter on the Mormons. It’s interesting to note that Jules Verne, who took millions of readers to all the corners of the earth, to the dephts of the oceans and to the moon, never left Europe. So all he could do is use sources to describe the places visited by his imagined heroes. The items on Mormonism in his Around the World in Eighty Days are taken from a few limited French sources of the time of writing, which explains a lot… Also noteworthy is that Jules Verne, basically a pessimistic (and not too good) author had a hard time at first to find a publisher. It was Pierre-Jules Hetzel, famous publisher of Victor Hugo’s novels, who gave Verne a chance, but he corrected much of Verne’s writings, obliged him to rewrite chapters, and requested more humor. It explains why the French servant Passepartout was added to Around the World in Eighty Days – for the comical element. And why the whole episode on Mormons — meant to be comical — centers around Passepartout. Phileas Fogg himself remains out of the picture.
Comment by Wilfried — 12/7/2007 @ 12:57 pm | Edit This
This was delightful! Thank you so much for posting it! I thought this line was interesting:
“Nothing could be more charming than that home. I don’t speak of elegance – that is assumed in American life – ”
A Frenchman, admiring the elegance of life in the Western U.S.?
Comment by Pam W. — 12/7/2007 @ 3:42 pm | Edit This
Pam, by 1903 the wealthy segment of Salt Lake (think: east end of South Temple) was pretty darn wealthy — and elegant. But then, d’Entraigues seems to have been in a mood to be pleased, doesn’t he?
Comment by Ardis Parshall — 12/7/2007 @ 4:00 pm | Edit This
And that wealthy segment had much of their elegance imported from… Paris. This was the era called “Belle époque”!
The journalist writes: “These American girls are so pretty, decked out in their fashions straight from Worth, Redfern or Paquin! … ”
Some background (internet sources) to get an idea:
“The Englishman Charles Worth had become a very successful designer in Paris. He was the first real fashion designer of the system called “haute couture”. He employed well over 1000 employees working as seamstresses. He was the earliest designer to give two seasonal fashion shows and he started a trend we see today. ”
“The Englishman John Redfern started as a tailor and designer of sports clothes for women. In 1881 he established businesses in London and Paris, followed later by branches in Edinburgh and New York. His son Charles Poynter looked after his Paris salon. In 1888 he was appointed dressmaker to Queen Victoria. Redfern helped popularize the high-waisted so-called Grecian style of 1908. In 1916, he created the first women’s uniform for the Red Cross.”
“The French lady Jeanne “Madame Paquin“, trained in dressmaking at the famous Maison Maggy Rouff, opened her own Maison de Couture on the rue de la Paix in Paris, just next door to the house of Charles Worth. In 1898 she opened a couture house in London, following it with others in Buenos Aires, Madrid and a special shop for furs in New York. She was the first couturier to send mannequins to the (horse) races at Longchamps and Chantilly to show off her clothes. She also sent 12 girls to tour the major cities of America. “
See here a fashionable lady in the 1900s. Or this one from Madame Paquin.
And the journalist concludes: “Joe and Selah, Harris, Mabel and Archie – they will all come to Paris after the wedding… ”
I presume our journalist did not spend his Salt Lake City days in an average household… Moreover, his choice had been determined in… Paris, with his “letter of introduction from a friend of my mother to an excellent American family living in Utah”.
Comment by Wilfried — 12/7/2007 @ 5:34 pm | Edit This
Ardis, Wilfried, thanks for the added perspective and the links! This has been a lot more fun than another Mitt post …
Comment by Pam W. — 12/8/2007 @ 1:48 am | Edit This
This was published at another blog on 6 December 2007.