° Angers ° Avignon ° Bordeaux ° Boulogne (° Eustace the Monk) ° Brest ° Caen ° Callais ° Cannes ° Cette ° Cherbourg ° Corsica ° Dieppe ° Gironde ° Le Havre ° LeMans ° Limoges ° Lyon Marseilles ° Monaco ° Montpellier ° Nantes ° Nice ° Orleans ° Paris ° Reims ° Rouen ° Toulon ° La Rochelle
° Napoleon Bonaparte

Celts, Romans, Franks, Legions and Artists

Near the end of the 5th century, the Franks (a Germanic civilization), headed by King Clovis, overtook the Romans and conquered the land which was eventually divided into three parts, the western part being “Francia”, which means "country of the Franks").

Around 1000 A.D., the first French speaking king, Francien, demanded that the ruling class use French, a graduated form of Latin which had evolved through years of dialects, as the official language.

The Vikings moved into the northern part of France. The Vikings.The French king, the Duchy of Normandy, gave a large territory to the Scandinavian Vikings and made peace with them. The people who settled in that area became known as the Normans (Norsemen).

In 1066 William the Conqueror, a Norman, set out to invade England. William had a claim as a relative of the Viking ancestry of the incumbent King of England.

William the Conqueror indeed conquered his rival Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hastings, and for the next 400 years French was the language of the ruling class of England.

Hundreds of castles were built and thousands of French words introduced to the English language.

In the beginning of the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine, French queen, called the duchy of Aquitaine, divorced her husband Louis and married the young English king, Henry (Pantagenet) II, acquiring both large tracts of France, and all of England in her realm.

During the Middle Ages, France grew and prospered until the choking Black Death plague fell upon the population and the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) seriously threatened the country.

The Hundred Years' War, (1337-1451), fought periodically between France and England for control of French territory, was devastated the country, causing thousands of deaths and wanton destruction.

During the Renaissance, (middle 1400s), France flourished magnificently culturally and economically.

France and Art

The 18th century was the period in the history of France called the "Enlightenment," when France was the envy of Europe. It was a time of the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau, and of poetry and romance. Louis XIV was crowned king and during his reign, France enjoyed a rebirth of art, music, drama and literature and Italian styles were the rage.

Francis I commissioned DeVinci, Cellini, Fiorentino to name a few artists summoned. French artists imitated the Italian styles. French chateaus were built with an Italian flair. However, toward the end of the king's reign, the economy of France was spiraling downward into poverty. In 1789 the French Revolution resulted in the end of the monarchy, and a torrent of bloodshed during a turbulent time in the history of France.

In 1848 France had claimed an overseas empire colonizing the West Indian Islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe as well as other smaller islands, Guyana in South America and parts of Senegal on the Guinea coast. France also claimed two islands off the coast of Newfoundland, Miquelon and Saint-Pierre, Mayotte and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, certain areas in India, Algeria, Tahiti, and the Marquesas. Slavery was abolished in these colonies as a result of the 1848 revolution.

France went on to claim colonization of French Equatorial Africa [Congo, Central Republic of Africa and Chad] and Vietnam in more recent years. In 1870, after Napoleon III was overthrown, Georges Clemenceau ("the Tiger"), a strong Republic, was made mayor of Montmarte in Paris.

April 26, 1855, California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences

The Wine Trade of France.
Letter from Dr. Goodrich, U.S. Consul at Lyons

I propose to give you, in this communication, some account of the staple productions of France, that may be of interest to many of the readers of the Merchants' Magazine, and especially so, as the vine culture is beginning to attract attention in the Southern and South-western sections of our own country.

As you are aware, the two principal products of France are wheat and wine both entering largely into domestic consumption, and the latter yielding a surplus for exportation.

The most productive wine districts of France are the South and South-western, and the least productive is the North-western. The vine grows not only on the level and undulating lands, but also on the hill-sides and mountain summits. These lands are mostly stony, sandy, sterile, worn out, and unfit for wheat growing. During the last three or four years a destructive disease has attacked the vine not only in France, but in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. This malady is of a fungoid character, and its preventive or remedy has hitherto eluded the vigilance and researches of the chemist and naturalist.

Alsatian Wine Village. 1884.
Ribeauville, Haut Rhin, Alsace, France

Alsatian Wine Village. 1884.

In the statistics I shall give you and they will be official I will, for brevity, avoid the smallest numerals, as my object can be attained without them. The number of acres of land under vine culture in France differs but a little from 5,000,000. There are about 2,000,000 of persons (mostly females) employed in the cultivation of the vine and the manufacture of wine, exclusive of 250,000 engaged in the transportation and sales of wines. The average annual product is a little more than 800,000,000 gallons for obvious reasons I give you American rather than French terms. The domestic or home value varies of course with the supply and demand, say from ten to twenty cents a gallon. For the last two years, owing to the "disease," the price has augmented from one to two hundred per cent, on former prices. The annual value may be set down in round numbers at $100,000,000.

French-American Fur Trade.

In the year 1849, which is probably the best for several years, the number of acres under cultivation was 5,500,000, producing 925,000.000 gallons of wine. This was an increase of 115,---000.000 over that of the last decade, 1839. Nearly 50,000,000 gallons are annually exported as French wines. In 1849, 41,000,000 were exported; in 1850, 42,000,000; in 1851, 49,500,000; in 1852, 53,200.000; in 1853, 43,500,000. Ninety millions of gallons are annually distilled into brandy, although for the ensuing year, owing to governmental restrictions, there will be but little French brandy exported to the United States except that made from American whiskey imported into France. One-seventh, or about 183,000,000 gallons of wine, are annually exported from France, either as wine or its distillations. The excise duty on wine and its productions paid into the French Exchequer during the past year was $22,800,000. This includes the ordinary excise, as also the "Octroi" or city duty. There are, by estimate, 220,000,000 gallons of wine manufactured into spirits, inclusive of the 90,000 made into brandy. This leaves more than 700,000,000 gallons of wine for home consumption, or about 21 gallons for each inhabitant for the year.

Wine, as a beverage, is universally used here by all classes. The strong liquors are chiefly for exportation; hence, you see very little drunkenness in la belle France.

The disease of the vine in France has for the last two years been very destructive, and it has greatly diminished the production of wine. This is on the increase, and fears are entertained that it may totally destroy the vine. Under this apprehension, may not the subject of vine culture legitimately and appropriately attract the attention of our Southern and South-western planters? Many of our Southern lands, I opine, are peculiarly adapted to the vine, and from natural sterility or other causes are unsuited to products requiring richer and stronger soils. The lands of southern Europe employed by the vine are light and sterile, unsuited to wheat and other grains.

If our Southern farmers would, at this time more especially, turn their attention to this subject, would it not ensure to their own individual interests, enhance the national wealth, and be promotive of national temperance by the introduction into general use of a cheap beverage, that would ultimately root out those "villainous spirits," whose baneful influence is felt throughout the length and breadth of our land?

In regard to the vine and its diseases in Europe, should the present condition of things continue for a few years, would it be the strangest fact in the history of commerce, if our favored country should become the exporter instead of the importer of wine? and may not the vine yet prove one of the sources of our national wealth, as well as the promoter of a sound national morality? Such a result would restore the vine to its pristine value, as one of the good gifts of God.

French sailing vessel has a narrow escape from a thunderbolt during a storm at sea. Artist: Ales.

A Great and Noble Scheme.

Emigration from France

1785: Some exiled Acadians shipped from France to Louisiana.
1789 to 1791: About 500,000 refugees flee the French Revolution for neighboring nations and the Americas. About half later returned.
1804 to 1832: Additional Alsatians emigrate to Ukraine, Bessarabia, and Banat.
1815 to 1817: Political turmoil after the fall of Napoleon leads to a wave of French emigration to neighboring countries and the Americas.
1830 to 1962: French colonize Algeria (Africa).
1830s, 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s: Agents go from town to town recruiting emigrants, mostly in Alsace-Lorraine. Some went to America, others to Russia.

On June 11, 1864, the CSS sloop-of-war Alabama sailed into Cherbourg Harbor. The Confederate States sloop-of-war was commanded by Captain Raphael Semmes, formerly of CSS Sumter. It was Captain Semmes' intention to drydock his ship and receive repairs at the French port.

Currier & Ives: U.S. Sloop of War "Kearsarge" Sinking the Pirate "Alabama." 1864

The Confederate Navy vessel was crewed by about 170 men and armed with six 32-pound (15 kg) cannons, mounted broadside, three guns per side, and two heavy pivot guns, mounted on the centerline and able to fire to either side: one 8-inch, 110-pounder (50 kg) rifled gun and one 7-inch, 68-pound (31 kg) smoothbore gun. The Alabama had been pursued for two years by the screw sloop-of-war USS Kearsarge, under Captain John Winslow. The Kearsarge was armed with two 11-inch (280 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns which fired approximately 166 pounds of solid shot, four 32-pound guns and one 30-pounder Parrott rifle. She was manned by around 150 sailors and officers.

During the battle, more than forty Confederate sailors were killed in action or drowned. Another seventy or so were picked up by Kearsarge. Thirty or so were rescued by the Deerhound, a British yacht, which Captain Winslow asked to help evacuate Alabama's crew, and three French pilot boats.Deerhound rescuing Captain Semmes. 1880.

Captain Semmes and fourteen of his officers were among the sailors rescued by Deerhound. Instead of delivering the Confederates to Kearsarge, the Deerhound set a course for Southampton, thus enabling Captain Semmes' escape. The Confederates got away and avoided imprisonment. Three men were wounded aboard the United States' vessel, one of whom died the following day

In 1871, France was ravaged by the war with Germany and by civil commotions. The idea of regaining the lost provinces Alsace and Lorraine, was spreading across the political spectrum. The idea that France was able to rebuild its image out of its frontiers through the conquest of a colonial empire and restore its national pride was gaining ground in the Republican left. A wave of French emigrants left France, largely for North America.

In 1872, Gambetta declared: "To return to its rank, France must not accept self-effacement. It is through expansion, through influence in the outside life, through the place we take in the general life of mankind that the nations become perennial and lasting; if this life were to stop, it would be over for France."

This policy was particularly embodied by Jules Ferry who entered in the government in 1879, as minister of Foreign Affairs, minister of State Education, and President of the Council. From 1880, he imprinted a decisive orientation to France s foreign policy and amongst other, he supported Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza's expeditions, which included 1875-1878: Discovery of Ogooue; The French Congo 1879-1882 and Colonization of the Congo from 1886 to 1898.

Bay of Biscay

Bay of Biscay is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean, indenting the coast of W Europe from Ushant island (le d'Ouessant) off Brittany, NW France, to Cape Ortegal, NW Spain. The bay is noted for its sudden, severe storms and its strong currents. The rocky northeastern and southern coasts of Biscay are irregular with many good harbors and numerous offshore islands.

The southeastern shore is straight and sandy. The chief ports are Brest, Saint-Nazaire, La Rochelle, and Bayonne in France and San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Santander in Spain. Nantes and Bordeaux, at the head of the Loire and Garonne estuaries, respectively, in France, are also reached by oceangoing ships. There are several resorts along the French coast, notably Biarritz. On December 30, 1896, the Spanish Carranza Martinez, a 1458 ton steamer, foundered in the Bay of Biscay off of Santander, Spain. Of the crew of twenty-two men, twenty were drowned.

The port began to function as an emigration port at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when mass movement once again became possible. As elsewhere, boarding passengers was a by-product of commercial shipments. As ship travel gained importance due to world-wide immigration patterns, the docks at Le Havre were enlarged to accommodate the increased steamboat traffic, initially on the Seine. The first major group of emigrants were Swiss and Alsatians. In 1818, passage from Le Havre to America was 350-400 francs.

The town was enlarged in 1820 and 1852 by the setting back and then destruction of its ramparts. Thanks to 17th century military port, the commercial success with the West Indies in the 18th century and the emigration toward America the 19th century, Le Havre developed rapidly and its population increased strongly.

France - Awaiting transport to the New World

Initially, emigrants booked passage directly with the ship captain, causing crowds of several thousand persons during sailing season to gather while waiting to leave. The wait often extended for weeks and emigrants waited in lodging houses, as well as outdoors. A German colony of innkeepers, shopkeepers and brokers subsequently developed to service the emigrant needs at the port. In 1837, the French government required Germans to present a valid ticket at the French border, severely limiting their entry and business at the port. As such, local offices began opening in Switzerland and the German states. Previously, the only document required to cross the border had been a passport. Near the end of the 1800s and continuing into the next century, Le Havre operated as a major immigration port for many central and southern Europeans.

January 12, 1852, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California

The French Immigration.

The Courier de l"inde I'lnde sailed from Havre on the 15th November, for San Francisco, having on board a number of men, women and children. Some of them are being sent out at the expense of the State, and others from the proceeds of the celebrated Ingot Lottery.


Daily Alta California, July 22, 1854, San Francisco, California


We translate the following additional items of news from the Courier des Etats Unis:

It is reported at Paris that it is proposed in Windsor Palace to withdraw from the Czar the right of wearing the star of tbe Order of the Garter. Nicholas will no doubt feel very bad about it.

There are in Paris a number of artists, of celebrity in different branches of art, who have been at St. Petersburg, and had received pensions from Nicholas. Lately these pensions have not been paid. The conscription, or forced enlistment of soldiers in France for the Turkish war, causes some queer scenes. Among the conscripts was Leon Reynier, one of the first artists of the Conservatoire. Any person can avoid the service by paying $800, but Reynier had no money. Alexander Dumas got up a subscription and Reynier was saved from carrying the musket.

The high price of wine in Paris has been the occasion of the invention of new kind of liquor called " motpogreb." It resembles whiskey in taste and color, but is cheaper. The Count of Chambord, the Bourbon pretender to the throne of France, that fixed up hist establishment at Frohsilort, in Germany, in regal style. Louis Napoleon, thinking himself more secure than ever on hit throne, hat reduced the garrison of Paris.

Generals Baraguay, d'Hilliers, d'Hautpoul, and Ornane, are to be appointed Marshals.


Unloading Wood. Rouen Port. Camille Pisssarro. 1898.

As the historic capital of the ancient Duchy of Normandy, Rouen remains the chief city of Upper Normandy (Haute-Normandie) and is the largest city near Paris. In the Middle-Ages, Rouen was one of France’s largest and most prosperous towns and the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy. Rouen is renown for many famous historic, literary and artistic characters, including Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, Pierre Corneille, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Camille Pissaro and, of course, Claude Monet. When the Vikings first made their incursion up the Seine River in 841, Rouen was overrun and consequently became the Normans’ capital from 912 until the time of William the Conqueror, who decided to establish his castle at Caen.

With easy access to the sea through the Seine corridor, Rouen became a prosperous trading city and port, exporting wine and wheat to England and importing tin and wool in return. As for wool imports, Rouen specialised in the production of textiles that were marketed at the Champagne fairs, in direct competition with the other prosperous cities of Flanders and Brabant.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet, The Coalmen, 1875.
Musee-Orsay, France

Monet. The Coalmen. 1875.Monet shared the preoccupations of some of his contemporaries, such as the painter Degas or the novelist Zola, who were trying to describe all the facets of modern life. The artist lived at Argenteuil from 1871 to 1878 and often went to Paris by the train which crossed the Seine over the railway bridge at Asnires, near where this scene takes place. The bridge in the foreground is the road bridge at Asnires, and the Clichy bridge can just be made out in the grey haze of the background.

A scene showing labourers is unusual in Monet's oeuvre. The Seine here is not the light-hearted setting for regattas, but the river plied by heavy barges. The banks are lined not with trees, but smoking chimneys. Sunday strollers have given way to workers unloading coal from the barges to supply the nearby factory.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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