- 1 There have been few studies of the American colony per se, but the unpublished dissertation of Warr (...)
- 2 For an in-depth study of this group, see Green, 2014.
1Writers and artists, the American expatriates in Paris of the 1920s have captured the American and French imagination for decades, thanks to their writings, their acquaintances, and the exciting lives they lived on the Left Bank. But there is another group of Americans in Paris less well known yet vastly more numerous and arguably more important for the “American Century” in all that it represents about spreading the “American way” abroad. While the Left Bank Americans escaped from America often in order to criticize it—Malcolm Cowley called them exiles (Cowley, 1934)—the many more Americans of the Right Bank had left the United States largely in order to sell it and to promote its goods overseas. The Right Bank bankers and businessmen went abroad for years if not a lifetime. They were hardly refugees (tax refugees for some? exiles from Prohibition for others?), but the term immigrant is rarely applied to them either. These elite migrants take us to the heart of the problems of categorization. They were largely well-to-do; they were hardly forced to go to France; they went there by choice. Of the different reasons for leaving, there is one we too often forget: to make money. We can therefore ask an Albert Hirschman a question: to what extent did the businessmen have their own particular brand of “exit,” expressed through a distinctive “voice” (such as the bulletins of the American Chamber of Commerce) and reflecting “loyalty” rather than its opposite (Hirschman, 1970)? The Right Bank Americans in Paris do not quite fit the usual history of immigration, but in studying their case, they make us think more generally about the larger categories.1 Rather than provide a detailed case study here, this article seeks to raise questions about the contours of migration history in order to suggest both the importance of a new view of “Americans in Paris” and to widen the scope of the field to include elite migration.2
- 3 For a discussion of the statistical estimates, see below.
2Can Americans abroad be “immigrants”? The question implies another: what do we mean by the word “immigrant”? There are two problems in calling American residents overseas “immigrants” because of two notions that are implicit in the term: social class and length of stay. The definitional implication is that “immigrants” are poor and that they settle forever in their new home. Yet, Americans are rich (or supposed to be), and they are particularly mobile. We can look at each of these factors in analyzing Americans in Paris during the first half of the twentieth century and questioning these categories as a basis for identifying “immigrants.” At their high point, there were some 40,000 Americans living in Paris in the mid-1920s.3 They included not only the better-known but ultimately small number of writers and artists, but also the much more abundant industrialists and entrepreneurs, along with society women, and even some down-and-out Americans.
3Not all Americans were rich, even those who could afford the trans-Atlantic voyage. There have always been impoverished students and artists abroad, and, after the First World War, there was also a large number of former soldiers who had to turn to the veterans’ association, the American Legion Post, or the American Aid Society for help, most often in order to pay their way home. In spite of wanting to settle in, many saw their resources evaporate and, without money and unable to find work, they had to return to the United States. Others managed to stay on, finding modest jobs as car repairmen (fixing jeeps during the war was undoubtedly good experience) or doing other middling jobs. There was also a large number of journalists who just made ends meet, not to mention scores of language or music teachers.
4But most Americans who were part of what they themselves called the “American colony” were businessmen, industrialists, or rentiers, living in the posh parts of Paris on the Right Bank. They inhabited sumptuous villas, and the business avant-garde among them came to set up branch companies and subsidiaries of American firms. They negotiated license agreements, bought French goods for American department stores or, more often, sold American goods overseas, all giving lie to the notion that the United States was isolationist in the 1920s. The Americans of the Right Bank were part of an elite migration, a business migration that has been little studied historically. Thus, while the term “immigrant” is practically a derogatory term in French, linking a notion of the dangerous lower classes with that of foreign origins, what happens when those with foreign origins are rich rather than poor? The case of the “American colony” can help us re-think the boundaries of the meaning of immigration itself.
5Furthermore, do Americans stay long enough to qualify as immigrants-who-settle-in? The other factor implicit in the very concept of “immigration” makes a distinction between those who settle down and those who come and go, such as seasonal workers or tourists. In fact, the “Americans in Paris” who are most well-known often stayed only one or two years, and popular books on the theme often start with the well-known diplomats who, by definition, went home when their time of duty was over: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc. A century later, Henry James is often included in the list of Americans in Paris although he only stayed one year. Edith Wharton, on the other hand, stayed thirty years and is buried in France. For the interwar period—the key years of the Americans-in-France image—the best known Americans, from Hemingway to Calder to Fitzgerald, also stayed but a few years. Only Gertrude Stein continued, like Wharton, to live all her life in Paris and is buried in the famous Père Lachaise cemetery.
6Members of the American colony themselves debated the meaning of residence and the question of how long it took to make someone part of the “stable” American population as opposed to its “floating” population. As early as 1877, the traveler John Russell Young had noted the difference between the two (Young, 1879, 1:136). A decade later, journalist Albert Sutliffe tried to delineate the American population by publishing The Americans in Paris, a sort of “Who’s Who” which included a list of names, addresses, and visiting days. It was aimed at “the lady of fashion as well as to the general reader,” and Sutliffe declared that five years were sufficient in order “to naturalize a good American as a citizen of the American Colony of Paris” (Sutliffe, 1887, 62). The fact of drawing up such lists of names in itself both reflected the growth of the colony and the possibility of defining it. And Sutliffe’s Americans in Paris participated in the construction of the community by the very act of publication.
- 4 These volumes became a “bestseller” of the American Chamber of Commerce.
7Some forty years later, during the interwar period, the American Chamber of Commerce in France, an organization that lobbied on behalf of American businesses abroad, continued the who’s who tradition, publishing a series of registries that also helped consolidate the community beyond just the business community itself. The volumes, entitled Americans in France: A Directory, were comprised of long lists of businesses along with a voluminous Residential List that included thousands of names, from the Havilands to the American head of International Harvester to the more modest singing teachers, journalists, writers and artists (Americans in France, 1925-1940).4 We see Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) redefining himself over the years, from an initial entry under the letter “R,” where he is still listed as a painter even after his first (unsuccessful) art exhibit of 1921. By 1928-29, however, as his secondary activity grew in importance, he added “photographer” to his listing, and by 1929, he was sufficiently well known that an entry under “M” was necessary to direct the reader to the letter “R.” By 1936, the entry under “R” was abandoned altogether, and he had resolutely reversed both his names and categories; he was now “Man Ray, Photographer, painter.” Individuals sent in their information year after year, including where they had taken degrees, what clubs they belonged to, and, albeit much less frequently than in Sutliffe’s day, which days they received visitors. After the Stock Market Crash, we lose track of many who undoubtedly went home, but a good half of the lists stayed on for a good three years or more, and many stayed from the First World War to the Second.
8The Americans of the Right Bank seem to have come together symbolically in the directories while advertising their wares and their whereabouts. But they also constructed their identity in another way, in opposition to two other groups of Americans in Paris. The Right Bank Americans often disdained both the Bohemian types on the Left Bank and the ubiquitous summer tourists. “Hemingway and Fitzgerald? Sure, I knew them, but they were not part of my world,” wrote Thérèse Bonney, famous American photographer of French art and architecture in the interwar period: “I lived in a world where everyone worked for a living” (Kolosek, 2002, 89). The permanent residents also wanted to keep at arms’ length from the short-term visitors, those terrible tourists. According to one historian, it was “snobbery verging on contempt with which [the permanent residents] regarded the average American tourist” (Allan, 1977, 10).
9Thus, in spite of (or due to) their social status, and in spite of a great propensity for constantly being on the move—frequently returning to the United States, often spending long months on the Riviera, or simply migrating between Paris and their summer homes or châteaux in the country—the Right Bank Americans nonetheless created a community, particularly if we define an immigrant community by its neighborhoods, its organizations, its economic niche, its newspapers and its sense of identity. Like other immigrants, the Americans had their neighborhoods in the French capital, and they were over-represented in certain activities. Over one-half (54.8%) of the Americans in the Americans in France Residential List in 1926 lived in either: the 16th (31.5%), the 8th (15.4%), or the 17th (7.9%) arrondissements (districts). The other two districts most chosen by the resident Americans were on the Left Bank: the 7th (12.6%) and the 6th arrondissements (8.1%) (Americans in France, 1926). If there was an American “ghetto,” it was certainly a gilded ghetto. Businessmen, lawyers, and industrial sales executives gathered in their own churches and their own clubs. They certainly need to be counted among the panorama of foreigners populating Paris in the twentieth century.
10There is, however, perhaps a final but important difficulty in terms of categorization. Americans abroad never consider themselves “immigrants.” They themselves question the category. Americans in general may see themselves as immigrants or more likely as descendants of immigrants in the United States. But Americans, even those abroad, rarely think of themselves as emigrants, those who have left their home country (the United States) in order to become immigrants elsewhere. Nor did most of the interwar Americans of the Right Bank consider themselves “expatriates.” They took umbrage at the very term, considering it to be a derogatory epithet and writing in to the Paris Herald to say so (Laney, 1947, 144). It was hardly considered to be a proper term to describe the business going on on the other side of the Seine. For the most part, the Americans in Paris thus simply called themselves a “colony” from the nineteenth century on until that term, frequently used until the 1950s to refer to groups of foreigners in major cities, was generally abandoned, a side effect of decolonization. Since the 1960s, a new term, “expat,” is often used.
11For the most part neither “expatriates” nor “immigrants” was used by the community itself. The former, as one American in Paris complained more recently, sounds too much like ex-patriot, the opposite of the way most of the Right Bank Americans identified. The latter is class-bound and also often implies a permanence not always fulfilled. By using “colony” then and simply “Americans overseas” today, the Americans themselves have implied a critique of the categories and prefer to refer substantively to home and only adjectively to place (Green et al, 2008; Green, 2009; Groppo, 2003).
- 5 Emigration to escape from racism would become more explicit after the Second World War (Fabre, 1991 (...)
12The best known of the Americans in Paris were thus the least numerous, although the “Lost Generation” expatriate writers and artists have left an abundant and beloved trace of their activities. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald form the core of “Americans in Paris” in the American imagination, although probably the most well-known of Americans in France in the interwar years—as seen by the French—was Josephine Baker, symbolizing the United States or Africa, or the image that the French had of both (Jules-Rosette, 2007). But there were other Americans, perhaps less well known today, such as the Princesse de Polignac, born Winnaretta Singer, who reigned over an important avant-garde musical salon on the Right Bank for a good half century. Rich legatee of sewing machine magnate Isaac Merritt Singer, she founded the Fondation Singer-Polignac which continues her work to this day (De Cossart, 1979). Life in Paris incarnated liberty for many Americans: sexual freedom away from a more Puritan America, whether it be heterosexual or homosexual; freedom to experiment with the language, as did Stein and James Joyce; freedom, too, for some African-Americans, far away from racial segregation in the United States.5 The writings and activities of the interwar writers have remained a vibrant testimony to the Roaring Twenties à la parisienne.
13The problem however is that the flamboyant writers and artists, spending their time in cafés and workshops, have masked the other nine-tenths of Americans in Paris, those who wrote contracts rather than novels. Industrious industrialists, buying but above all selling, acting as sales representatives for American companies soon-to-be multinationals—they too perhaps chose Paris because it was Paris, in a France that they had maybe first encountered while fighting in the war. But above all they chose Paris as an entrée to business on the Continent, a new frontier for American capitalism. For some of them France was also the country of more prosaic freedoms: the right to drink, fleeing Prohibition (1919-1933), or to avoid income tax after the first income tax law was voted in the United States in 1913. The latter “motives” were in any case those that caught the attention of Americans at home who were often critical of their errant overseas counterparts. Nonetheless, while the writers found in Paris a perfect spot for criticizing the frenetic commercialism of American life, others, far more numerous, were expatriates of another sort, living in Paris in order to engage in commercial trade and “spread the American Dream” (Rosenberg, 1982; De Grazia, 2005).
- 6 Résultats statistiques du recensement général de la population, 1926, t. 1, 5e partie, 39; and ibid (...)
- 7 Appendix to the letter of the American Consul in Paris to the Secretary of State, February 19, 1934 (...)
- 8 Chicago Tribune European Edition, November 16, 1923, 2. The census gives much smaller figures. Dire (...)
- 9 Susman, 1957, 165, 205, 180, uses the 40,000 figure, citing the Chicago Tribune European Edition. S (...)
14According to different estimates, there were some 30-40,000 Americans living in Paris during the interwar period, testimony to the steady attraction of the French capital and the large increase since some 5,000 Americans lived there at the time of the Commune (Katz, 1998, 26). The growth in business dealings, especially after the First World War, increased the importance of Paris as the primary Continental business center, as a place for investment, and as a site for settling in to do business. The year 1926, the last census before the Depression sent many businessmen like the writers home, appears as the high point of this United States presence in pre-World War II Paris. But the official statistics throughout the period are varied and, as for most official counts, undoubtedly under-estimate all foreigners. According to the 1926 French census, there were 17,966 Americans in France, of which 9,363 were in the Seine Department that included Paris. Five years later, the official count was only 9,714 for all of France.6 However, we know that throughout the entire period there were probably tens of thousands of undocumented Americans—American “sans papiers.” In 1931, we even have a rather precise count since that year 11,878 Americans had French residence cards although the American State Department counted 19,466 Americans in the Hexagon.7 More than 7,500 were thus without French papers, not counting those who escaped the State Department’s vigilance as well (Torpey, 2000; Robertson, 2010). At the same time, the American newspapers in Paris and even the Paris City Hall gave much higher estimates. An article in the European Edition of the Chicago Tribune of November 16, 1923, reported that the Paris Municipal Council believed that there were 32,000 Americans living in Paris alone. This represented 6.7% of the 478,000 foreigners in the city, the Americans thus being the sixth largest group there, after Belgians (85,000), Italians (81,000), Russians (42,000), Swiss (42,000), and the British (38,000)8. The American newspapers gave even more generous estimates, of up to 40,000 Americans in Paris, a figure which has been taken up by historians and which led Warren Susman to consider that the writers and artists thus comprised only a small one-tenth of the total.9 The vast nine-tenths, less visible and surely a diverse lot, were nonetheless largely composed of “trade missionaries,” to use Malcolm Cowley’s phrase (Cowley, 1934, 62).
- 10 Archives of the Law Offices of S.G. Archibald, now closed. Thanks to the generosity of the lawyers (...)
15Two important sources allow these “other” Americans in Paris to come into closer view: the archives of a law firm and those of the U.S. Consulate in Paris. Both allow us to write the history of a foreign community in Paris and to explore, from the ground up, important facets of the already globalizing early-twentieth business world (Green, 2014). The lawyers dealt with financial and tax issues along with the personal affairs, from marriage contracts to divorce settlements, of their mostly wealthy clients. The consulate, an understudied hub for citizens abroad, is the place to which Americans turned in order literally to exercise their citizenship rights, calling upon their home state especially in times of trouble.10
16These sources thus reveal a population that was largely one of means but that was varied in its demographic composition, its lifestyles and in its occupations and preoccupations. Each of the sources in fact has somewhat of a class bias. The wealthier Americans turned more quickly to their lawyers for business or personal matters, whereas the less well-off turned to the consulate in time of need. American men and American women in interwar Paris also had somewhat different social profiles, and there were two very different types of mixed marriages. “Mixed marriages” is in itself a diverse category, joining American women with French men and American men with French women in very different circumstances. In the first case, there were the much-decried rich American legatees who married cash-poor French aristocrats. They came under public scrutiny when their fancy weddings and then many of their just as public divorces were reported in the newspapers’ society pages. Anna Gould, for one, who first married that Paris man about town, Comte Boniface (“Boni”) de Castellane in 1895, subsequently divorced him and married his cousin, the Duc de Talleyrand/Prince de Sagan. Boni’s recently republished memoirs recount, with passion and a bitterness tempered by humor, how he spent his wife’s money (notably in building le Palais Rose on the avenue Foch) but also how their temperamental, national, and lifestyle differences led to a falling out that led Boni back to his own financial woes, or, as the title of his book exclaims: L’Art d’être pauvre, the art of being poor (De Castellane, 1925). The American press shed not a tear for Boni, but it was worried that American legatees were squandering good American money on no-good European aristocrats.
17At a more modest level on the social scale, the other Franco-American marriages more frequently brought American men together with French women. Many former soldiers had stayed in France or had returned there after the First World War to marry their French sweethearts whom they had met in hospital tents or in town during the war (Meigs, 1997). That is undoubtedly how Stephen Perry Jocelyn, Jr., who earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1916 and belonged to the American Legion, ended up as a poultry farmer in the north of France, undoubtedly staying on for the love of Yvonne Dugas, his wife, if we interpret their listing in the Americans in France Residential List correctly.
- 11 Résultats statistiques du recensement général de la population, 1901, t. 1, 311, and t. 2, 2; 1911, (...)
18Not everyone was married, and there were in fact a notable number of women on their own, sometimes teaching music or voice. Other women settled in with their daughters in order to give their girls a Paris education. There were in fact more American women than men officially registered in the French capital most years; 56 to 59% of all Americans in Paris in the French census were women in 1901, 1911, 1926, and 1931; only in 1921 and in 1936 were the women just less than half of the Americans in the city.11 A certain democratization along with a feminization of travel had occurred since the late nineteenth century. The Americans in Paris were no longer just an elite of rentiers or their sons on a Grand Tour. The First World War helped broaden the social class of Americans in Paris while ultimately bringing more women and more businessmen of all sorts to the French capital.
- 12 “savoir se déplacer a toujours été le préalable à savoir commercer.”
19Among the diverse American population in Paris, those who are the most important for a history of Franco-American economic relations in the twentieth century are indeed the businessmen and lawyers. Some came only for months at a time, but many others settled in for years. They represented all sorts of American manufacturing firms, and they sold everything from agricultural machines and airplanes to soap and Shredded Wheat. They often first came to export, but they soon began to manufacture directly overseas, through licensing agreements and eventually by buying local French companies or setting up their own plants or sales outfits. From large industrial companies like Singer, Westinghouse, International Harvester, or United Aircraft to those who dealt in smaller consumer goods, such as Sun Maid Raisins or Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, the introduction of many American products in France came first thanks to the presence of those Americans who set up there. Certainly, overseas investment can be done without a designated American living abroad. Many companies simply hired French representatives to work for them. But, as sociologist Alain Tarrius has commented, “to know how to be mobile is always a prerequisite for knowing how to sell” (Tarrius, 2000, 253).12 These post-World War I Americans in Paris would at times be described as a second “American invasion” (Susman, 1957, 178, 187) a peaceful one, but a determined one, on the battlefield of trade.
20Finally, no overview of this community is possible without looking at the organizations it created. Not surprisingly, the first formal act of mutual self-help and socializing of Americans in Paris began with religion. Setting up their own church groups was undoubtedly all the more necessary for Protestants living in a Catholic country. The two major and imposing American churches still active in Paris today thus owe their origins to the early community of Americans in Paris in the nineteenth century. The very first Protestant services took place in 1814, and a first church was established on the rue de Berri in 1857; it became the American Church now located on the quai d’Orsay (the current building having been built in 1931). Episcopalians began holding separate services as early as 1847, and they would create the Holy Trinity parish in 1859 that ultimately erected the American Cathedral on the avenue Alma (today avenue Georges V) in 1886. A series of social and economic institutions followed to service the community as well as establish a specifically American presence abroad. The American Chamber of Commerce in Paris was founded in 1894, later renamed the American Chamber of Commerce in France, and the American Hospital was created in 1906. Both institutions, studied by Nicole Fouché (Fouché 1991, 1994, 1999), like the churches, are still alive and well and have remained among the most important American organizations in town. The Americans also published their own newspapers in Paris, notably the American Register (1868-1915) and two European editions of American dailies, the New York Herald, starting in 1887, and the Chicago Tribune European Edition, beginning in 1917, until it merged with the Herald in the mid-1930s. Well-known bookstores and libraries also attempted to prevent Americans from becoming “lost in translation.” There was Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co. on the Left Bank, of course, but also Brentano’s bookstore on the Right Bank. And the American Library in Paris, like the American Hospital and the Chicago Tribune, was the direct result of the war: its first collection came from donations sent by the American Library Association for troops stationed in France during the war. Other clubs and associations, some for men—the American Legion Post; alumnae clubs of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc.—and others for women—the American Women’s Club of Paris, two separate chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution—were also active in the city. Last but hardly least, there were important trade organizations whose explicit purpose was the promotion of American goods and techniques overseas: the American Dental Club, the Automotive Club of Paris, the National Aeronautic Association of the USA (Americans in France, 1925-1940).
21The terminology itself is testimony to the difficulties of incorporating a well-heeled elite into the migration paradigm. This is aggravated by the French use of the terms, in which “immigrés” are perhaps even more resolutely down-trodden (as in “travailleurs immigrés”) than the corresponding term, “immigrants,” in American English; “immigré” is arguably more of a bad word in France than in the United States. Just as “race” has a different salience in each country, so does the immigration question, although reciprocal visions have also led to borrowings of terms (Keaton et al, 2012; Green, 1999).
22The rich Americans, living in the wealthy western neighborhoods of Paris, laboring in their own economic niche of high-end sales, and creating their own religious and community organizations in which to socialize, can be described as an immigrant community if the definition of “immigrant” is based on neighborhood, concentration in certain economic sectors, and the creation of their own institutions. Certainly, however, the Americans’ social position means that, if they may be considered immigrants, they were immigrants of another sort. The Americans were elite migrants who had the means to build long-lasting organizations with imposing edifices and to indulge in lavish banquets of their own making. It is perhaps our definition of “immigrant” that needs to expand in order to encompass all social classes and in order to contemplate how the difference of means makes a difference in experience, perceptions, and integration.
- 13 However, the isolationist vision of America has been criticized at least since Susman (1957) and La (...)
23At the same time, these Americans of the Right Bank are important for both American and French history of the twentieth century in that they show first of all that the United States was much less isolationist during the interwar period than it was for a long time imagined.13 Indeed, the former soldiers who stayed in France would be among the first to call upon the United States to continue its “good fight” and enter the fray in defense of France in the Second World War (Ragner, 1939). However, this early American presence from the late nineteenth century and its growth after the First World War raises the question of the origins of a precocious Americanization in France. Certainly, numerous Americans were in France for the love of France—or of a specific French (wo)man. Yet they brought with them their own customs and practices, goods and technology which many of them came explicitly to sell. Thus, well before the American expansion of the post-World War II period, the beginnings of American influence was a source of concern in France and in good part due to the actual presence of Americans in the country. I will show elsewhere the uncertainties and difficulties that Americans had in their self-anointed task of spreading the American dream (Green, 2014). But what is important to stress here is how these early Americans of the Right Bank created the conditions that would facilitate the post-World War II expansion. By creating community institutions and organizing various forms of social and business self-help organizations, this precocious transnational elite formed part of the first period of contemporary globalization and set the stage for the expansion of the latter part of the twentieth century. It was a globalization still full of trial and error, with negotiations on both sides and resistance from the locals. The Americans of the Right Bank are a window onto a more inclusive history of immigration that contemplates the rich along with the poor. They also stand as a bellwether in the history of Franco-American relations.