Paris, 1900-1950

D.W. Brogan pays a historical visit to the city of light in the first half of the twentieth century.

When Tom Appleton, the Boston wit, said that “good Americans, when they die, go to Paris”, the heavenly city had much the appearance it has today. None of the big cities of the world in outward appearance has changed so little. Of all the great monuments of central Paris, only the group of buildings on the lull of Chaillot, replacing the Trocadero, was erected in this century. All the rest, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Palais Royal, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacré Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, were parts of the Paris landscape when in the last year of the nineteenth century Paris launched the last really great exhibition. Among the visitors to the Exhibition was the American historian, Henry Adams. Disdaining the pictures and sculptures, he was fascinated by the hall of the machines. “He began to feel the forty-feet dynamos as a moral force... . The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate annual or daily revolution than this liuge wheel.” He had grasped the nature of the change.

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