(see previous post in this series: August 5 — Charles Inman Barnard)
Thursday, August 6, 1914. — Fifth day of mobilization. Cloudy in the morning, fair in the afternoon. Thermometer at five P.M. 17 degrees centigrade.
There is probably no more forlorn street in Paris at the present moment than the Rue de la Paix, the headquarters for dressmakers and milliners. Upwards of seventy-five per cent. of the shops are closed, and on both sides the street presents a long, gray expanse—broken only at intervals—of forbidding iron shutters.
It is not here, however, that one must look for the effect of the war on American business, but rather along the Avenue de l’Opéra, the Grand Boulevards, and other well-known business streets.
In the Avenue de l’Opéra, at the intersection of the Rue Louis-le-Grand, the Paris shop of the Singer Sewing Machine Company is closed, while on the other side Hanan’s boot and shoe store is also shut. Just off the avenue, where the Rue des Pyramides cuts in, the establishment where the Colgate and the Chesebrough companies exploit their products likewise presents barred doors. Two conspicuous American establishments remaining open in the Avenue de l’Opéra are the Butterick shop and Brentano’s.
Mr. Lewis J. Ford, manager of Brentano’s, said that they had lost a quarter of their employes and fifty per cent. of their trade by reason of the war, but proposed to keep open just the same.
In the Grand Boulevards the Remington typewriter headquarters are closed, as is the Spalding shop for athletic supplies; but the establishments of the Walkover Shoe Company, both on the Boulevard des Capucines and the Boulevard des Italiens, are open.
In spite of the hardship entailed upon American firms, they are far from complaining. On the contrary, there is a concerted movement among American business men at this time to assist the French in keeping the industrial life of Paris going as normally as possible during the war.
At night Paris is still dark and silent, but in the daytime the city is beginning to adapt itself to the new state of things. Many places from which the men have been called away to serve their country are being filled by women.
Women are becoming tramway conductors, and there is talk of their working the underground railway. Girl clerks are taking places in government and other offices.
The unusual state of things prevailing in Paris is the cause of many picturesque scenes. This morning there was an unwonted sight of a hundred cows being driven by herdsmen of rustic appearance along the Boulevard des Capucines. A little further on, the eye was arrested by a brilliant mass of red and blue on the steps of the Madeleine, where a number of men of the Second Cuirassiers were attending special mass.
The cheerful tone which prevails among the people in the street is very noticeable. All faces are smiling and give the impression of a holiday crowd out enjoying themselves at the national fête, an impression which is reinforced by the gay display of bunting in most of the streets in the center of Paris.
A remarkable sight is the Rue du Croissant in the afternoon, at the time when the evening newspapers are printed. The unusual number of papers sold in the streets has brought thousands of boys, girls, women, and old men from the outlying districts of the city.
~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).