Thursday, July 14, 2022

Bastille Day in Old LA

On this day in 1789, the French Revolution began.

I an pretty open about having a complicated relationship with La Fête Nationale/Bastille Day. My dad is a descendant of an earlier French monarch, which makes both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette my very distant cousins. My mom's family comes from centuries of French peasant stock.

Still, I wish I could take a time machine to Old LA on this day. The French community put on quite a Bastille Day celebration.

In fact, it used to be a pretty big deal in LA.

Los Angeles Herald, 1881

One of the earliest references I can find lists the parade route: Aliso to Arcadia, Main to the Plaza, then to Spring, Spring to Second, Second to Fort (Broadway), Fort to Fourth, Fourth to Main, Main to the junction with Spring, and to the Turnverein Hall for speeches. "A representation of the Bastille" (i.e. a very early parade float) was included in the procession.

This route would have effectively started in the French Colony, gone to the Plaza, doubled back and wound through downtown, ending up where the Convention Center parking lot is today. For comparison, the Rose Parade follows a roughly 5.5 mile route.

Two of the speakers were Pascal Ganée and Georges Le Mesnager, who was quite well known for his speeches! More on that in a minute. 

Bastille Day 1881 concluded with a banquet at the Pico House, prepared under one of LA's early celebrity chefs, Victor Dol.

On this day in 1882, the festivities began with a 21-gun salute at sunrise from Fort Hill. The Mayor, the President of the City Council, "delegates from fire companies and civil societies", French citizens of varying prominence, and a beauty queen - the Goddess of Liberty - all made appearances.

The Goddess of Liberty chosen for the event, by the way, happened to be 14-year-old Narcisse Sentous, eldest daughter of Jean Sentous. She was carried in a "Car of Liberty" with several maids of honor, all girls from the French Colony.

Los Angeles Herald, 1882 (snippet of much longer article)

The parade procession was big enough to have two divisions, both made up of prominent citizens and local societies. Besides the Car of Liberty, another car had Marie Deleval representing France, Mathilde Reynaud representing the United States, Honoré Penelon (eight-year-old son of the late Henri Penelon) dressed as the Marquis de Lafayette, and ten-year-old Auguste Lemasne dressed as George Washington. Rounding up the rear were citizens riding donkeys in tribute to the city's butchers.

Eugene Meyer, the "President of the Day" (i.e. Grand Marshal) and then-Agent for the French consulate, gave a speech in French and introduced Frank Howard (who gave a quick history lesson on Bastille Day in English). "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung, the band played, "La Marseillaise" was sung, and Georges Le Mesnager gave a speech in French.

And that wasn't all. A large model of the Bastille had been built on Fort Hill. After the sun went down, it was stormed and set on fire. (Good thing two fire companies were there!)

The day concluded with a party at Armory Hall.

In 1886, the French Colony invited the editor of the Los Angeles Herald to attend the Bastille Day celebration. He had a prior commitment in Long Beach that day, but thanked the French Colony in the newspaper.

Los Angeles Herald, 1886

The newspaper did still cover the event, of course. 

In spite of a half-hour rainstorm (an extreme rarity during a Southern California summer), the parade went on, although many people who had planned to join the parade waited inside the French Theatre for the rest of the day's events. The President of the Day was Jean-Louis Sainsevain this time - and again, one of the last speeches was given by Georges Le Mesnager.

The biggest celebration of them all was held in 1889 - the 100th anniversary of the French Republic. Besides the usual festivities, an extravagant banquet and ball was held at the Pico House, then owned by Pascal Ballade and renamed the National Hotel. The speech Georges Le Mesnager gave on this day was particularly well remembered by French Angelenos - and you can read most of it (thoughtfully translated into English by the Los Angeles Herald) here.

Los Angeles Herald, 1891.

An interesting footnote to the 1891 celebration is that one of the vocalists was J.P. Goytino, who despite having some musical talent was also a highly problematic newspaper editor/slumlord/all-around dirtbag.  Goytino is perhaps most notorious for stopping issuance of a marriage license five years later when his extremely wealthy father-in-law, Joseph Mascarel, sought to legally marry his common-law second wife. (He needn't have bothered; Mascarel left most of his fortune to his grandchildren from his first marriage.) I could do a pretty ugly deep dive on Goytino, but David Kimbrough already did a very thorough one on Facebook (warning: it's a 12-parter).

Los Angeles Herald, 1900

Los Angeles Herald, 1901

Los Angeles Herald, 1908

Los Angeles Herald, 1908

By 1908, Bastille Day was a big enough celebration that it was held at Chutes Park - and pyrotechnics were part of the event (no gunfire here!).

Los Angeles Daily Times, 1926

By 1926, two thousand French Angelenos were coming to the Bastille Day celebration. That evening's grand ball was a fundraiser for the French Society for the French War Orphans - and hosted by Felix Clavere.

Los Angeles Daily News, 1930

Hollywood Citizen-News, 1940

Bastille Day took on a somber significance in 1940, with two-thirds of the country having fallen under Nazi control. The following year, the Colony was nearly as divided as France, but everyone agreed that a big party wasn't appropriate during a time of war. Supporters of the Free French (who accounted for most of the Colony), believing France would rise again, had their own event at the Riverside Breakfast Club. Supporters of the Vichy government spent the day in mourning.

Los Angeles Daily News, 1941

In 1943, Capt. Paul Perigord addressed the United Nations Committee at the Hotel Clark. His keynote? "France is rising again." While there understandably doesn't seem to have been a celebration, the Fighting French tricolor flag was flown from City Hall's flagpole. (In case anyone needs to be reminded: the French are fierce fighters.)

Los Angeles Times, 1943

Los Angeles Times, 1946

Los Angeles Times, 1947

After the war, Bastille Day was back - and hosted by the Los Angeles Breakfast Club! 

Two years later, Bastille Day was marked by a flag ceremony at City Hall.

Los Angeles Daily News, 1949

Los Angeles Times, 1951

Hollywood Citizen-News, 1952

Los Angeles Times, 1957

Highland Park News-Herald and Journal, 1957

Los Angeles Times, 1960

Bastille Day was a big enough event to merit an annual flag ceremony at City Hall and draw a crowd of thousands to the Colony’s celebration. That certainly isn't the case now, and I fully expect Mayor Garcetti to ignore Bastille Day again, as Mayors of Los Angeles have tended to do for years.

What happened? 

Bastille Day fell on a Sunday in 1968. 

Any city employees involved in the ceremony would have had to come in on their day off, and overtime pay would have more than doubled the usual cost of the ceremony. The City Council didn't want to pay for it, voted against increasing the budget, wanted to scrap the ceremony entirely, and Councilman Wilkinson sniped "you ought to remember what France has done to us in the past year or two". 

French Consul General Gerard Peres put an end to the uproar by canceling the ceremony himself "so that City Hall personnel will not lose a day off and municipal expenses will not be increased at a time of financial difficulties". 

Mayor Sam Yorty sent Peres an official apology for the Council's rudeness, and the French tricolor did still fly alongside the US flag in the Civic Center.

At one of my lectures, I was asked when the last Bastille Day parade was held. I can't be 100 percent certain when the parade was retired, but the last time the city officially acknowledged Bastille Day at all (although wordlessly flying a flag barely counts) seems to have been in 1968.

Knowing that the flag ceremony was retired for budgetary reasons, when the city now spends a fortune lighting up City Hall in different colors for just about everything, is pretty irritating. There is no liberté, egalité, or fraternité in regards to what the city chooses to consider important enough to recognize.

Have a good Fête Nationale anyway, dear readers!

Monday, July 11, 2022

Prudent Street in Maps

Beaudry Street, named for the Beaudry brothers, still exists.

Victor Street, named for Victor Beaudry, still exists (although it was bisected by the 101 long ago).

Victor Heights, also named for Victor, still exists (although it tends to get lumped in with Echo Park). 

There is no street named for Prudent Beaudry specifically.

Anymore, that is. There was a Prudent Street!

1894 Sanborn map showing Prudent Street

1906 Sanborn map showing Prudent Street

1920 Sanborn map key detail showing Prudent Street

Sanborn map revised 1923, showing Prudent Street

Sanborn Map republished 1953, still showing Prudent Street

A 1950 atlas page that is unfortunately too blurry to post here indicates that Prudent Street was close to Naud Junction, the Bauchet Tract, and the elusive (because the street grid is gone) Ballesteros Tract.

So Prudent Street did exist, and no longer does. Where did it go?

As shown above, railroad tracks and freight houses were built right alongside Prudent Street. A 1912 news article notes the Southern Pacific Railroad applied for permits to legalize 18 existing railroad spurs. All of the spurs were either on Prudent Street or in its immediate vicinity.

Before the railroad came to this part of LA, it was residential. Two news blurbs from the 1880s reference people who lived on Prudent Street.

Those Southern Pacific spurs are lost to time now, Union Station having made them redundant. As for Prudent Street, its site is currently a big dirt lot near Metro's Chinatown Station.

Monday, July 4, 2022

So You Think You Hate the French, Huh?

Dear Readers: 

As I type this, July 4, Independence Day, is coming to a close. This day would not be possible if France hadn't backed the fledgling US in the Revolution - in fact, I seem to recall something about French ships defeating the Royal Navy at the very end of the war. 

For over 20 years, I've seethed at every philistine who makes nasty, untrue, or just plain bigoted comments about French people. Excusez-moi? I don't go around spouting rude remarks about other ethnicities/cultures, so I don't think it's unreasonable to demand a little respect.

Although it's outside the scope of this blog, I've been tempted to speak my mind on this subject for a long, long time. I promise I'll be back with my latest discovery in a few days (and it was a total shock!). In the meantime, please feel free to share this with anyone you know who might need to read it. 

So you think you hate the French, huh?

If that's really true, you had better act like it and stop availing yourself of everything good they've brought to this world. I will never, ever pretend France or its people are perfect (I openly discuss some very badly behaved Frenchmen in this very blog, plus I don't approve of the whole colonialism thing, even though I'm a product of it twice over). 

This list is not intended to be exhaustive. I don't know everything there is to know. Yet, anyway. Now here we go...


What could be more All-American than jeans? Oh, wait, sorry, you're not allowed to wear them anymore! Jeans are made from denim, which is French. The name itself comes from "serge de Nîmes", referencing the fact that denim was originally produced in Nîmes, France. 

Are you a shoe fiend? Not anymore you're not. Shoes in and of themselves have existed for millennia, but it was Louis XIV's passion for fancy heels that made shoe addiction a thing. (Read Joan DeJean's "The Essence of Style." Actually, read everything she's written. Professor DeJean knows her stuff.) 

Do you read fashion magazines? Cancel your subscriptions immediately and chuck your back issues in the recycling bin tout de suite. Fashion was first reported in print in Le Mercure Galant, way back in the 1670s. Fashion dolls, fashion plates, even depicting the latest styles on the celebrities of the day - that all began in 17th century Paris.

Lingerie as outerwear? Been there, done that, again in the 17th century. It was called "en déshabillé négligée." And I personally guarantee you that Versailles' courtiers wore it better.

And strictly speaking, you really shouldn't be dressing fashionably, or updating your wardrobe, or wearing anything mass produced, at all. Until the court of Louis XIV (yup, him again), clothing didn't change for decades, or even a few centuries, at a time. Trust me on this, I studied History of Costume extensively. The fashion industry itself was born at Versailles, again in the 1670s. Before that, everything was made-to-measure for the wearer.

Retail therapy is now firmly off limits. Until (you guessed it) 17th century Paris, most stores weren't much more than a storage room with a window for service. Customers stayed out in the street and would tell the shopkeeper what they wanted. What fun is that? Chic Parisian shops had the first luxe store interiors and the first window displays - so if you work in retail, you'd better change jobs.

You can also forget about getting a nice stylish haircut. The first professional hairdresser (also the first celebrity hairstylist) was one Monsieur Champagne, whom DeJean compares to Warren Beatty's character in Shampoo. The word "coiffeur" (still used by French speakers) had to be created to describe his job. 

Do you own rain gear? Donate it to a homeless shelter. Waterproof clothing - and compact folding umbrellas! - are French inventions.

Are you absolutely certain you want to dress like a 16th century peasant and cut your own hair yourself? If you truly hated the French, that's what you'd do.


Do you buy antiques? Thank 17th-century France (again). High-end Paris shopkeepers were the original antiques dealers. Heck, the French word "antiquailles", meaning "worthless old furniture" spawned the word "antique" to distinguish worthless old furniture from desirable old furniture. So hand over the oil paintings, ginger jars, and Bergere chairs - you get to hit the Burbank IKEA!

Turn your dining room into a reading nook while you're at it. The first dedicated dining room was at the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Do you have a dresser? Donate it - like so many other things in this entry, they debuted at Versailles.

Don't even think about turning on your central heating (if you have it) in the winter. French doctor Louis Savot invented and installed a special air-circulating fireplace at the Louvre, and French lawyer and scientist Nicolas Gauger innovated a heating system with ducts and registers to circulate and heat fresh air. Their work paved the way for an American invention - the Franklin stove.

And you can wave goodbye to your modern bathroom, too. While the French cannot claim to have invented the first-ever toilet, the first modern flush toilet - complete with bidet faucet and ventilation piping - was introduced in early 18th century France. As for actual bathing in a room built for that purpose (with faucets and a water heater etc.), it too began in the homes of the French elite, albeit in the mid-17th century. The increasing demand for modern sanitary facilities, by the way, led to tearing up French streets to install pipes that would bring water to private homes. By contrast, Los Angeles didn't get proper plumbing for another two centuries (through the efforts of a French-Canadian developer, a French-Jewish entrepreneur, and a public health official). If you hate the French, build yourself an outhouse, dig yourself a well, and get used to bathing in a horse trough.


You can't be a foodie anymore. At least not without some restrictions.

For starters, the first modern cookbook, Le Cuisinier Francais, was published in 1651 by professional chef Francois Pierre, under the pen name La Varenne. This was the first cookbook that made recipes and techniques public knowledge, the first one that grouped recipes by section, and the first to have an index. So you'd better get very good at memorizing recipes very fast, or just tape a random assortment of recipe clippings to your refrigerator.

You can't have a pressure cooker (this includes the famous Instant Pot), either. French physicist Denis Papin invented the first pressure cooker. (It's also the forerunner to the autoclave, so hold off on getting any tattoos.)

Pasteurized food of any kind is absolutely forbidden. Louis Pasteur was French. Good luck not getting sick from raw milk.

Don't like mixing savory and sweet in one dish? French cuisine was the first in the West to separate the two and move sweets to the dessert course. Now pour some maple syrup on that cheeseburger!

I'm sure I don't have to explain why you can't have any sparkling wine, regardless of where it was made. Even if it's not actual Champagne, the process for making wine bubbly was still invented by a French monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon. Heck, any wine with a cork is off limits because Pérignon made corks the standard way to seal wine bottles. 

Also firmly off limits: all California wine, even if it's boxed. Regular readers already know California's wine industry got its start with Bordeaux native Jean-Louis Vignes.

Although restaurants pre-date France itself (a surviving Roman-era fast food place in Italy is proof of that), fine dining began in France - again, in the 17th century, when the elite would dine chez le traiteur. Dine out all you want - but you can't go anywhere upscale. Celebrity-chef establishments are off limits anyway, since the first one was Francois Vatel.

And you might not want to order soup when you're out. Soup bowls, and the rise of individual spoons, came about in late 17th century France. Up until then, diners simply drank soup from bowls. That's normal in Japanese restaurants, but not so much anywhere else. So have fun with that.


Kiss your tourist guidebooks goodbye. They were first published in 1690 for foreigners visiting Paris.

Actually, you won't be able to get very far anyway. See, you won't be able to travel by air. The hot air balloon, which kicked off modern aviation, was invented by the Montgolfier brothers, the first human-powered dirigible was invented by Jean-Pierre Blanchard, and although two Southerners tend to hog all the credit, the first machine-powered flight on record was performed in 1890 by Clément Ader. All Frenchmen.

Public transportation is off limits, too. The first public mass transit system (shared carriages running on regular schedules) was invented in Paris, and co-created by famed mathematician Blaise Pascal at that. So no buses, no trains, no trolleys.

You can also forget about driving. The first automobile (albeit a steam-powered one) was invented by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. 

Hope your French-hating self can handle riding a bike everywhere! 

Oh, and it goes without saying that greater Los Angeles is permanently closed to you. This blog is about LA’s extensive French and Francophone roots. Modern LA would simply not exist without people like Prudent Beaudry, Remi Nadeau, and the cinema pioneers who made the entertainment industry possible (more on them in a minute). Oh, you’re an actor/model/whatever? Too bad. Suck it up, start walking to New York, and don’t come back. Ever.


Without streetlights, nightlife as we know it simply would not exist. Operas used to begin in the middle of the afternoon so everyone could get home before it got too dark. Guess how Paris got the nickname City of Light? Because it was the first city to light the streets after dark. Which, in turn, made evening events possible and made nightlife a reality. So you can't go out after dark anymore.

You can never, ever see a movie again. Ever. Without Louis Le Prince, the Lumière brothers, and Georges Méliès, movies simply would not exist. (The LACMA exhibit City of Cinema: Paris 1850-1907, which ends in a few days, provides ample proof of this.) That means no television, either, since motion picture technology made television possible. Watching TV on your laptop or smartphone is still watching TV, so give that up too.

Everything Disney touches is also off limits, including its theme parks. Besides a disproportionate number of Disney princesses being French (Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty), the Disney family has French roots. "Disney" was originally "D'Isigny", after Isigny-sur-Mer. The fact that Walt Disney's longtime home in Los Feliz was influenced by Norman architecture may not be a coincidence.

Don’t even ask me if you can go to the ballet. The answer should be obvious.

Are you absolutely sure you hate the French? Are you? Because all those nasty, hateful comments sure sound like sour grapes to me.