A Journey Through France in War Time
By JOSEPH G. BUTLER, JR.
Member of The American Industrial Commission to France.
THE PENTON PRESS CLEVELAND 1917
Copyright, 1917, by Joseph G. Butler, Jr., Youngstown, O. One hundred copies of this edition have been printed of which this is number 39
TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF FRANCE WHO AMID INEXPRESSIBLE SORROWS AND INFINITE CARES EXTENDED A GRACIOUS WELCOME TO THE AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION AND TO THE AUTHOR THIS BOOK IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
CHAPTER I Origin of the Purpose of the Trip.
CHAPTER II Crossing the Atlantic.
CHAPTER III Bordeaux and Paris.
CHAPTER IV Meeting England's Premier.
CHAPTER V The Birthplace of Lafayette.
CHAPTER VI A Great Munitions Plant.
CHAPTER VII Art and Architecture of Aries.
CHAPTER VIII Along the Mediterranean.
CHAPTER IX Towns in Southern France.
CHAPTER X The Creusot Gun Works.
CHAPTER XI Approaching the Front.
CHAPTER XII Within Sound of the Guns.
CHAPTER XIII The Story of Gerbeviller.
CHAPTER XIV On the Main Front.
CHAPTER XV Reims and the Trenches.
CHAPTER XVI Back to Paris.
CHAPTER XVII On the Way Home—England.
CHAPTER XVIII On the Broad Atlantic.
CHAPTER XIX The French Steel Industry in War Time.
CHAPTER XX Where War Has Raged.
CHAPTER XXI General Joffre.
CHAPTER XXII The Work of Reconstruction.
CHAPTER XXIII French Business Organizations.
CHAPTER XXIV The Carrel Method of Treating Wounds.
CHAPTER XXV A City in an Army's Path.
CHAPTER XXVI Some impressions of France and the French.
Typical French Soldier in Uniform
Photograph of Commissioners, Taken on Train Leaving Paris for Limoges
The Author's Passport
Autograph Signatures of the Commission
Grand Theatre, Bordeaux. Closed Until the War Ends
Miniature French Flag Carried by the Author Through France. The Waving of This Flag by an American Aroused Much Enthusiasm
Lloyd George, Who Says "England is Fighting a Battle for Civilization"
Miss Winifred Holt, "Keeper of the Light House of France"
Ancient Bridge at Limoges—Built by the Romans Two Thousand Years Ago and Still in Use
Tapestry Workers at Aubusson
Lafayette's Deathbed, With Commission's Flag and Flowers
Monastery of St. Michael, at le Puy
Silk Tapestry Menu Used at Dinner to the Commission at St. Etienne
Col. Rimailho With 155-mm. Gun (upper) and Famous 75-mm. Gun (lower) Perfected by Him
Women Employed in Munitions Factories
Arlesiennes—Types of Southern France
Old Roman Arena at Aries—Still Used for Bull Fights and Other Amusements
Shore of the Mediterranean Near Marseilles. In the distance Chateau D'If, Made Famous by Dumas
Types From the French Provinces
Monastery of Chartreuse
New 520-mm. Gun, Carrying Projectile Seven Feet in Length and Weighing 3,100 lbs., Seen at Creusot Works
German Prisoners Passing Through the Village of St. Etienne
The Lion of Belfort
Battlefield of La Chipotte, Showing Monument and Markers on Graves
Ruins of Gerbeviller
Cathedral at Nancy
German Trenches Captured by the French
The Reims Cathedral Before its Destruction
Ruins at Reims. Upper and Lower Plates—The Cathedral. Middle Plate—The Archbishop's Palace
Key of Archbishop's Palace at Reims and Bone From Twelfth Century Tombs Opened by German Shells
Trenches Visited by the Commission
King Albert's Address to the Belgians
Photograph of King Albert of Belgium, with the Royal Autograph
French Marines Operating 75-mm. Gun on Shipboard
Ruins of Village—St. Die
The Prefecture at Reims After Bombardment
Portrait in Tapestry—General Joffre
Ruins at Nancy
Trenches Occupied by French Soldiers
Proclamation Posted in Reims Just Before the French Fell Back to the Marne
Arrival of Wounded Soldiers at Chalons, on the Marne
Proclamation by the Mayor of Reims, Issued on the day the Germans Entered that City, September 4, 1914
First Order From the Invaders
Second German Proclamation
Citizens Warned of Danger
Citizens Warned that Hostages May be Hanged
Postal-card Painted by Artist Soldier in French Trenches
Of all that has been written, or is to be written, by Americans concerning the tragedy overwhelming the Old World, much must naturally be descriptive of conditions in France, since that country is, among those affected by military occupation, most accessible and most closely in sympathy with American ideals and American history.
While the ground covered by these pages may be, therefore, not unfamiliar, the motives prompting their preparation are probably unique. It has been undertaken at the request of friends, but not entirely for their pleasure; since the author hopes that those who read it may see in the patriotic devotion and courage of the French people something of the spirit that should animate our country, whose aspirations toward liberty the French aided even before they were themselves free.
Written in hours snatched for the task amid the press of other duties, these pages endeavor to present a simple, intimate and personal story of experiences enjoyed and impressions gained under most unusual circumstances and herein shared with my friends as one of the most interesting incidents of a long and busy life.
* * *
A Journey Through France in War Time
ORIGIN OF THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIP
In the Autumn and Winter of 1915, a body of distinguished and representative Frenchmen visited the United States, their object being to make an investigation of conditions here, having in mind the great need of France in war munitions, the steel in ingot and bar form very much needed for the manufacture of war materials, and the numerous other commodities necessary for prosecution of the war, which had been in progress more than a year.
The finances of France were also very much in evidence in the minds of the visitors.
The names and occupation of this French Trade Commission appear following:
Chairman—Monsieur Maurice Damour, Secretary of the French Deputies' Commission on Appropriations.
Monsieur Jacquez Lesueur, Delegate of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Monsieur L. Trincano, Director of the Horological School of Besancon.
Monsieur Jacquez de Neuflize, Banker.
Monsieur M. Chouffour, of the Credit Francais.
Monsieur L. Vibien, Director of the National Bank of Credit.
Monsieur E. Delassale-Thiriez, Secretary of the Syndicate of Spinners.
Monsieur M. Saladin, Delegate of the Creusot Factory.
Monsieur Joseph Guinet, Delegate of the Chamber of Commerce of Lyons.
This Commission visited various parts of the United States, principally the great iron and steel centers, Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Chicago.
Much attention was shown the party in their journey through our land.
An introductory luncheon to this French Commission was given by The American Manufacturers Export Association at the Hotel Biltmore, New York, Tuesday, November 23rd, 1915. This luncheon was attended by a representative number of American manufacturers and bankers, and the object of the visitors fully discussed. On this occasion it was suggested by Mr. E. V. Douglass, the efficient secretary of the Export Association, that a return visit of Americans would be in order and would assist in accomplishing the object of the visitors. This suggestion was followed up early in 1916 and took form later on in the appointment and selection of the members of "The Commission Industrielle Americaine en France", the expedition being organized and financed under the direction of The American Manufacturers' Export Association, located at 160 Broadway, New York City.
This association has an active membership of over five hundred manufacturers, firms and corporations engaged in the production of all kinds of fabricated materials, from steel to women's lingerie.
The president of the association, Mr. E. M. Herr, of Pittsburgh, closely associated with the Westinghouse interests, was the moving spirit in creating and selecting the organization and formulating the plans and policy of the Industrial Commission, even to the extent of selecting the chairman.
The membership of the commission, their occupations, business and professional status, is given herewith:
M. W. W. Nichols, President; Vice President "American Manufacturers' Export Association." President, Adjount du Conseil d'Administration "Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Co., Inc.," New York, N. Y.
M. J. G. Butler, Jr., Fabricant de fer et d'acier, Vice-president "Brier Hill Steel Company", Youngstown, Ohio.
M. A. B. Farquhar, President "A. B. Farquhar Co., Ltd., York, Pa." Vice-president "National Chamber of Commerce of the United States."
M. G. B. Ford, New York, Urbaniste-Conseil.
M. S. F. Hoggson, Conseil-Expert en matieres et materiaux de construction; President "Hoggson Bros. & Co., Inc." New York, N. Y.
M. F. J. Le Maistre, Ingenieur-Chimiste-Conseil E. I. du Pont de Nemours et Co., Wilmington, Del.
M. J. R. Mac Arthur, President Mac Arthur Bros., Co., New York, N. Y.; Ex-Sous-Secretaire du Department d'Etat, Washington, D. C.
M. Le Dr. C. O. Mailloux, Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, Ingenieur-Electricien, New York, N. Y., Ancien President "American Institute of Electrical Engineers."
M. C. G. Pfeiffer, Vice-president "Geo. Borgfeldt et Co.," New York, Importateurs et Exportateurs; Member of "National Chamber of Commerce of the United States."
M. J. E. Sague, Poughkeepsie, N. Y., Ingenieur-Mecanicien. Ancien New York Public Service Commissioner; Ancien Vice-president "American Locomotive Co.", New York, N.Y.
M. E. A. Warren, Expert en matieres et precedes textiles; Vice-president "Universal Winding Co.", Boston, Mass.
M. E. V. Douglass, Secretaire General; Secretaire "American Manufacturers' Export Association."
M. E. Garden, Secretaire Francais.
This roster is taken from the previously mentioned booklet, "The Commission Industrielle Americaine en France." The object of the Commission is carefully set forth in the opening, in French, and for the benefit of readers who speak English only, a translation follows:
The American Industrial Commission in France, organized under the auspices of the American Manufacturers' Export Association, with the cordial approval of France and of the United States, principally for a sympathetic study of industrial and commercial conditions in France.
At the time of the visit to America by the French Commercial Commission in the winter of 1915-1916, the idea was proposed to different American industrial and commercial associations, to organize a similar mission for the purpose of returning this visit to France.
This idea was taken up by the American Manufacturers' Export Association, which, incorporated in 1911, numbers among its membership more than five hundred organizations of great importance in the American industrial world. This organization is co-operative in character, with the general idea of developing and maintaining commercial relations between the United States and foreign countries.
The importance of the proposed mission becomes more apparent through a detailed analysis of its program, which comprises a study of the most practical means of utilizing the resources and experience of America for the reconstruction which France desires to make of its communities and of its industries, during and after the war.
The Association has succeeded in organizing a commission made up of men well qualified to render the service desired.
The American Industrial Commission in France will strive to establish an active co-operation with its French associates, with a view of developing the commercial and industrial relation already existing between the two nations and to make them more cordial and more satisfactory on both sides.
The Association hopes to succeed through the work of the Commission in contributing in some measure to this happy result, and at the same time strengthen the friendship and sympathy which has existed between these two nations for more than a century.
A circular issued by The American Manufacturers' Export Association is of interest in this connection and was sent to members under consideration and to manufacturers, soliciting subscriptions for the expenses of the Commission. This circular is herein reproduced.
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AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL COMMISSION TO FRANCE
Primarily, to make a thorough and technical investigation of present conditions in France looking to the reconstruction and re-organization of her communities and industries which will take place during and after the war to an extent unparalleled in history, and further, to determine the best and most complete manner in which the United States may contribute from her resources to accomplish these results; to arrange for largely increased purchases of French products and fully reciprocal commercial relations.
In the cause of a thorough neutrality, it should be distinctly understood that this undertaking is based upon cordial proposals which came to us unsolicited, and that we stand ready to do likewise in all other directions under similar conditions.
Commissioners of known technical experience—members of the American Manufacturers' Export Association and others—will be chosen to investigate the present industrial situation in France in order to aid by American brains, energies and facilities the rehabilitation of a structure seriously damaged, and in many instances destroyed, by the ravages of war.
Extraordinary and unprecedented facilities have been granted by the French Government to aid the Commission in its endeavors, affording every assurance of a successful outcome.
An official account of the Commission's visit, with a summary of conclusions regarding each phase of its investigation, will later be reported and published for general distribution under the authority of the American Manufacturers' Export Association.
It is intended to include all the industries of the United States concerned in French trade under the following classifications:
I. Prime Movers:
(Steam, Gas and Oil Engines; Pumping Engines, Steam and Hydraulic, Turbines, Condensers, Generators and all other adjuncts.)
Heavy Machinery: (Rolling Mills, Iron and Steel Products, etc.)
II. Machine-Tools, Wire, Transmission and Textile Machinery.
III. Milling Machinery:
(Flour and Saw Mills; Cement, Milling, Smelting, Agricultural and Road Machinery.)
IV. Electrical Apparatus.
(Locomotives, Cars, Naval Vessels, etc.)
(Textile, including Laces; Dry-Goods of all kinds; Porcelains, Groceries and Wines; Toys.)
VII. Synthetic Products based on chemical processes; Chemicals, Explosives, etc.
IX. Factory Architects, Engineers and Contractors.
Commissioners of broad experience in their respective lines will be chosen—men of national reputation who will lend dignity and standing to the enterprise and guarantee a result both conclusive and effective.
With the co-operation of the French authorities an itinerary has been tentatively prepared covering the principal industrial cities and sections of France and consuming, together with ocean passages approximately 60 days. A definite program is being arranged with the cordial aid of French chambers of commerce and the great economical associations in the localities to be visited, and this work is now proceeding with the authority and full approval of the French Government. Railway and other transportation throughout France will be provided for the American Commission by the Government. The proposed visit has aroused intense interest on every side, and extensive plans have been made for the reception and instructive entertainment of the American delegation.
One of the commissioners will be appointed to take general charge of the Commission on behalf of the American Export Association and it will be the duty of this representative to collaborate with the French authorities, appointed for this purpose, in the consummation of plans; to assume executive charge of the work of the Commission; and to organize the details necessary to the preparation of the official report to be issued for the full benefit of American industry.
To insure absolute regularity and efficiency of progress the Commission as a body, will be subject to this Commissioner General.
* * *
My connection as a member of the Commission came about through the suggestion made to Mr. E. M. Herr, by Mr. James A. Farrell, President of the United States Steel Corporation, Mr. E. A. S. Clarke, President of the Lackawanna Steel Company, and Mr. Willis Larimer King, Vice-president of The Jones & Laughlin Steel Company.
I was not the first choice, however, as a number of gentlemen had been previously considered and had either declined the honor or had been eliminated from the list of candidates. The pressure upon me from numerous friends in the steel business to accept the task was persistent and continuous, and upon receipt of a telegram from Mr. Farrell, telling me, within a week of the proposed sailing of the Commission, that if I did not accept, the great iron and steel industries of the United States would be unrepresented, the matter was settled and I decided that it was due to my fellow manufacturers, many of whom had been kind to me over a long period of time and who had helped me in many ways, that I should accept the position. I notified Mr. Herr to that effect just one week prior to the date of sailing.
I had intended to take an active part in the political campaign pending and such a trip involved keen disappointment in this connection, as I felt that a change of the administration was necessary for the best interests of the country. I had voted for every Republican president from Lincoln to Taft and wanted very much to be somewhat instrumental in the election of Mr. Hughes.
The McKinley Birthplace Memorial needed my attention, as well as other matters of a public nature, to say nothing about the various business enterprises in which I am still active.
All these obligations were temporarily abandoned and hurried preparations were made for the long and, as thought by many, dangerous journey.
CROSSING THE ATLANTIC
The French Line was selected by the sponsor for the trip as being the safest route and somewhat as a compliment to the French nation. Passage was engaged for the entire party on the Lafayette, booked to sail from New York, August 26th, 1916, at 3 P. M., destination, the French Port Bordeaux.
I reached New York Friday morning, August 25th, and immediately set about getting my passport properly vised by the French Consul. This was accomplished with less difficulty than one would imagine and the precious document finally made ready.
A luncheon was given the Commission at the Hotel Biltmore at noon by Mr. E. M. Herr, which gave the members their first opportunity to become somewhat acquainted. Addresses were made by Mr. Herr and others connected with the launching of the enterprise. We were told to be neutral, and this was emphasized by the chairman from the day of sailing until the journey was over. I received this admonition with a decided mental reservation. It impressed me as being incongruous and entirely out of place for a delegation of Americans to plan a visit to France and not be in accord with that sorely stricken people. It occurred to me also, then and there, that if the Commission expected to accomplish its object it would be necessary to show a genuine sympathy with the Allied cause, and I acted on this theory during the entire journey. A majority of the members cherished the same sentiments, which most of them managed to conceal with more or less success.
Arriving at the dock of the Compagne General Transatlantique, soon after noon on Saturday, August 26th, an inspection of the luggage was made. This was a tedious and thorough process, requiring the unpacking and repacking of all the contents of the trunks and valises, thereby insuring the absence of dynamite, bombs and other destructive material. Numerous devoted friends were on hand to say good bye and "bon voyage", but they were permitted only on the dock.
Passports were carefully examined by a group of inspectors and the voyagers were permitted to go on board the waiting steamer.
The members of the Commission were next grouped together, photographed and motion-pictured, thus beginning the publicity considered necessary for the success of the enterprise.
The departure of the Lafayette was a stirring affair. Promptly at three o'clock P. M. the vessel moved away from her moorings, amidst the din of the band, the waving of flags, the whir of the movie machine, the blowing of whistles and the cheers of friends of the passengers.
Soon after sailing the members of the Commission were formally introduced to each other and, strange to relate, with but a single exception, no two of the party had ever met before beginning the journey.
It was discovered that several of the commissioners—myself not among the number, spoke excellent French. This proved a great advantage to the French-speaking members during the journey and, incidentally, to the members who understood English only.
Among the passengers aboard and attached to the Commission was Mr. Harrison Reeves, a noted war correspondent, formerly connected with The New York Sun. He had been several times at the Front in France in a representative capacity, had lived a number of years in France, spoke and wrote the French language fluently and has a fine personality. His presence was much appreciated, his knowledge of recent events in France and his large acquaintance with men of affairs proving invaluable to the commissioners.
On Monday, August 28th, a meeting of the Commissioners was called for organization and consultation. At this meeting various committees were agreed upon and appointed by the chairman. It was also arranged that daily sessions were to be held and the work of the commission laid out so far as possible in advance.
The chairman had prepared an address outlining the duties of the Commission, which is here reproduced.
* * *
Aboard Steamship "Lafayette" En-route to France,
August 28th, 1916.
To the Members of the American Industrial Commission to France.
We are bound on an errand of constructive friendship. Through the encouragement of the authorities of France and the public spirit of American business men, we are enabled to go on this mission of good will and service.
France, in her griefs and her joys, is always a land of inspiration; she is the classic creator and promoter of the arts which make for civilization. In many ways American life is the richer because France exists.
What greater service can a representative company of thinking Americans render to their land than to visit and touch at first hand the sources of so much that is valuable to the world, and to carry home lessons and messages which may easily be potent in forming stronger ties in the old time intimate relationship between our country and France.
Primarily, we go, then, to learn in meeting our oversea friends face to face, and, if our errand succeeds, to be of any service possible. The great question then becomes: how can we serve best? By keeping our eyes, ears, minds and spirits open and alert to the facts and the possibilities founded on such facts which unfold before us in the course of our visit. Our trip has been announced as an investigation or survey of the industrial situation in France.
Our mission appears to be to examine the present economic life and activities in France, and, in a study of such life as we find it, endeavor to ascertain what the future is likely to bring forth for industrial France.
It is obvious that an intelligent examination of the rich economic development of France must yield valuable byproducts of observation and instruction. The human values in this economic structure are of fundamental importance; civil, social and general economic progress proceeding from the French economic effort will be of wide interest to us.
Undoubtedly in the coming years France will make extraordinary strides in industrial progress. She is planning—indeed has already under way, many projects of manufacture, transportation, housing, labor-conservation and municipal life; projects of deep interest and importance to every American business man and citizen. It may be our special privilege to be taken behind the scenes of this tremendous expansion, see some of the beginnings and, if we are fortunate, to make such contribution as France may desire from the good will, experience and certain peculiar knowledge we can offer for her use in any way that may enable her to attain the end she seeks.
In this commission we represent something more than a body of men who have been selected because of special distinction in fields of their own. Each commissioner touches large circles of interest and capacity. If the opportunity comes to us to indicate to French business up-builders how to come into sympathetic working relations with the enterprise and progressive affairs of our own country, we shall achieve the high purpose of our Commission.
(Signed) W. W. NICHOLS,
Chairman of the Commission.
* * *
Before leaving New York a handsome booklet had been prepared and printed. The brochure contained the names of the commissioners, their public records, halftone portraits and a carefully prepared statement of the objects of the expedition. Twenty-five hundred copies were printed and were to be delivered on board the Lafayette by the printer. After sailing, it was discovered by a thorough search that the much needed booklets were not on board. These documents were for distribution after our arrival in France and were sorely missed.
Subsequently the booklet was produced in Paris, but in somewhat different form, and it was near the end of the journey before the duplicate copies were ready for distribution. The loss of the American made edition was a serious handicap.
A word or two about the personnel of the Commission. Mr. Nichols, the chairman, is a man about sixty with a grave, clerical appearance, formerly a professor or teacher and at one time superintendent of the Chicago Telephone Company. A man of various business experiences, at present connected with the Allis Chalmers Company in its New York office. He is excessively cautious and delivered a daily lecture on neutrality, fearing evidently that some of the members might break away from his idea of being strictly neutral and thus thwart or defeat the objects of the Commission. Mr. Nichols is thoroughly honest and conscientious; he had the success of the venture very much at heart and labored from his viewpoint to that end, priding himself in his broken French.
Mr. John R. MacArthur was a member of the Philippine Commission, is a fine French scholar, a ready conversationalist in both English and French, and has a keen sense of humor. He was a constant help to the non-French speaking members of the Commission.
Dr. Mailloux is an electrical engineer of established reputation and large experience. He had been in previous commissions to all parts of the world; a thorough French scholar, he had lived many years in France and had done much work for the French Government. His knowledge of the French people was invaluable to some of his fellow commissioners but was not utilized to its full extent.
Mr. Edward A. Warren, of Boston, represented the textile industry and is well posted in that line. He was the modest man of the commission, rarely asserting himself and deferring too much to the views of his companions. He is possessed of rare good common sense, but, as stated, kept himself too much in the background, thereby lessening his influence in the work of the commission.
Mr. James A. Sague, at one time vice-president of The American Locomotive Company; is a technically educated man, genial and companionable, and was a useful personage on the commission.
Mr. A. B. Farquhar, is a real veteran of the Civil War, nearly eighty years of age but possessing remarkable physical vigor. He was the friend of Lincoln, heard the Gettysburg address delivered, saved his town (York, Pennsylvania) from destruction by the Confederates, and had much to do with the reconstruction period after the War. He labored under the difficulty of defective eyesight, this somewhat impairing his usefulness on the Commission.
Mr. N. B. Hoggson, a gentleman of infinite jest, genial and persuasive; a great mixer and constant worker, proved a very useful member of the commission in diving after facts and making notes thereof.
Mr. Geo. B. Ford, a well known architect of the firm of Geo. B. Post & Company, New York, was a rather quiet undemonstrative member, but a worker and investigator in his particular line. His observations and recommendations should have great weight in the work reconstructing and rebuilding the destroyed portions of France.
Mr. F. J. LeMaistre, a chemical engineer, quite scientific; not particularly unselfish in his dealings with his fellow commissioners, was nevertheless a useful member of the commission, contributing much to its success. He is connected with the duPont Powder Company in an important capacity. His chemical knowledge came into good play in the journeyings of the Commission.
Mr. C. G. Pfeiffer was, physically, the giant of the Commission. An exporter and importer, a splendid French scholar, utilized on all occasions when a knowledge of French was needed; a hard, conscientious worker, quite close to the chairman and of decided use to the head of the Commission from start to finish—he frequently steered the ship from shallow shoals and dangerous rapids.
Mr. E. V. Douglass, the efficient secretary of the Commission, is entitled to much commendation. His work was heavy and unending. To look after a body of men, many of whom he had never previously met; to deal with their idiosyncrasies and at times somewhat unreasonable demands, and come through with success, was no mean task. Mr. Douglass lived in France and had a wide acquaintance. His knowledge of the French language was of very great service. I think all members of the Commission will unite in saying; "Well done good and faithful servant."
Mr. Emile Garden, the French secretary of the Commission, was very helpful to Mr. Douglass as well as to the chairman.
Mr. Harrison Reeves, a well known writer and newspaper correspondent, had special charge of the publicity work of the Commission and was present and took part in all the meetings of the Commissioners, a trusted attache of the enterprise.
Monsieur Henri Pierre Roche, a French soldier, on leave of absence, one of the editors of the Paris Temps, was also a valuable attache. He accompanied the commission on its travels and returned with the commissioners to America for the express purpose of translating into French, for final distribution in France, the report of the Commission.
Our first news from home came by wireless on Tuesday, August 29th. It disclosed that Germany was reaching out for Rumania. We also got more or less news about the railroad troubles.
At one of our meetings Mr. Nichols presented a letter which Governor Herrick had written to him and which proved to be quite useful. We found, wherever we travelled abroad, that the name of Governor Herrick was a household word. This letter is reproduced as follows:—
* * *
August 24th, 1916.
Mr. W. W. Nichols, The American Manufacturers' Export Association, 50 Church St., New York, N. Y.
My dear Mr. Nichols:—
It gives me great pleasure to take advantage of your kind invitation to send by the American Industrial Commission of the American Manufacturers' Export Association, a message to Industrial France.
France has met in a way that evokes the admiration of the whole world, even of her enemies, the recurring emergencies of this greatest of wars. The patriotic self-sacrifice, the valor, the uncomplaining endurance, the ingenuity which the French people have shown during these two years of war reveal what is in truth the "birth of a new nation". To an extent which scarcely seemed possible, France has discovered within herself the resources of men and materials with which to meet the demands of the struggle.
Europe has learned many important lessons, not only in military science but also in industrial efficiency, since 1914. She has much to impart to the United States in these matters. Yet such has been the wide-spread destruction of men and property that France, and indeed all Europe, must needs call upon other countries after the war for assistance in rehabilitating her industrial and commercial life. France will need to draw upon our stores of food until all her fields are again producing; she will need our materials for reconstruction where war has brought waste and desolation; she will need our machines and implements to carry on the manifold pursuits of agriculture, manufacturing and commerce. To France, as to all the countries where war is causing destruction, America opens her vast stores of goods.
The American Industrial Commission will be doing service not only to Europe and to America but to all humanity, if it can discover the ways by which the wealth that nature has so lavishly showered upon the New World, may be most effectively poured out for the restoration of the Old World.
Very sincerely yours, (Signed) MYRON T. HERRICK.
* * *
The time on the boat was largely occupied in meetings of the commissioners and the formulation of plans for the work in hand; committees were appointed and a great deal of work done.
Among the various discussions, the subject of people living to a great age in Bulgaria was brought up. Specific instances were noted; one, a pair of Bulgarian twins both of whom lived to be one hundred and twenty years of age and both died on the same date. It was suggested that the two oldest members of the Commission, Mr. Farquhar and myself, should emigrate to Bulgaria and take a fresh start.
The Lafayette had, mounted on its stern, one of the favorite French guns known as a 75-millimeter. The captain told us he had orders to fire on the Deutschland if the submarine happened to turn up. The first officer, under instruction from the captain, showed the operation of the gun to the commissioners. This was very interesting; everything was done except to fire off the gun; all the maneuvers were gone through and we discovered on the lower deck enough shells to fight a good sized battle.
On Saturday, previous to landing, a bazaar was held on the boat for the benefit of the French hospitals. This was a very successful affair; contributions were made or supposed to be made by all the passengers. Among other things, I donated a quart bottle of champagne. This was sold at auction, the first bid was one dollar, made with the understanding that the last bid was to be no higher, but was to get the champagne. These bids continued until the bottle finally brought seventy-five dollars. It turned out to be a very good article with all that.
We were also informed before entering port that we were protected by two submarine destroyers.
We discovered on arising, Sunday morning, September 3rd, that we were in the Bay of Biscay and two cruisers were circling around and gradually escorting us into the port of Bordeaux. We were told subsequently that the wireless apparatus has been disconnected and we had been chased by a submarine.
The first land seen was the shore of Spain, the course of the vessel having been diverted on account of pursuit by the submarine. At four P. M. on Sunday a commission from Bordeaux came out in a tug boat to meet us. This delegation consisted of the prefect of Bordeaux district, the mayor of the city and other notables. They boarded the boat and we entertained them with a dinner party. We reached the Bordeaux dock about ten o'clock on Sunday evening, but did not land until the following morning.
BORDEAUX AND PARIS
Upon going ashore, we discovered on the docks a number of stalwart laborers. We wondered why they were not in the army, but were told they were Spaniards. The docks were covered with motor trucks from Cleveland, piles of copper bars, and also very large quantities of munitions and barbed wire made by The Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company and the American Steel & Wire Company. We also saw on the docks steel bars furnished by our own Brier Hill Steel Company.
We were first impressed by the very large number of women employed. We visited several telegraph offices and all were "manned" exclusively by women. We also saw women driving large army trucks and milk carts, and women selling newspapers, some of them anywhere from seventy to eighty years of age. Newsboys are apparently unknown in France.
We were given a reception by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, and quite an address was delivered by the president.
We then visited the docks, which are extensive. The improvements contemplated will make Bordeaux one of the great world ports. In going about the streets we were struck by the number of women in mourning; in fact I can hardly recall any women, except the servants in the hotel, who were not in mourning. The shop windows were filled with mourning goods and people passing on the streets were either women in mourning or soldiers home on leave of absence, many of them crippled.
We were next taken to the prison camp where the prisoners of war were held. We happened to reach it when the prisoners were having a siesta. There were about four thousand in the camp, some hired out to contractors. We talked to some of these contractors, who in turn had talked with the prisoners, and were told that a great many of them were such voluntarily; that is to say, they were very glad to surrender when the opportunity presented. The prisoners were mostly Germans, but there were some Austrians and a few Bavarians. The French people never speak of them as Germans; they always call them "Boches", which, rendered in English, means vandal. They were fat and healthy and apparently contented.
In the evening at Bordeaux a banquet was given in honor of Monsieur Gaston Doumergue, Minister of Colonies. All the commissioners were invited. On my left was Monsieur Etienne Hugard, Vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and a soldier who had been in battle within a week previous. On my right sat Monsieur G. Chastenet, Senateur de la Gironde. Very choice wines were served and the champagne was reserved for the last. There was a speech by the Mayor and a response by the Minister of Colonies. We were given information as we went along and some of this I will record. We were told that a great many submarines had been captured by the French in nets. The popular impression is that when captured the submarines are left under water six or seven days, then brought up to the surface and the bodies of the officers and seamen, who in the meantime have died, are either burned or buried. The submarine is then manned by a French crew and thus turned into the French service.
We made some inquiries in regard to the labor situation and we were informed that before the war a common laborer received four francs per day, about eighty cents of our money, and that they are now receiving five francs. The women received two francs before the war and they are now receiving three. There are no labor unions in Bordeaux or in the vicinity.
We had here our first visit from newspaper correspondents. A number of important Paris papers were represented, with the New York Herald, the Chicago Tribune and other leading American papers. We met the general of the Gironde and the marine official. We were told that at any of these functions we were not to mention the names of the officials to whom we were introduced, and this enabled us to talk quite freely. One of the generals whom I met at this banquet said that the war would end in December, 1917.
On Tuesday, September 5th, the Bordeaux Fair was dedicated. The commission was invited and we took part in the exercises. These fairs are an annual event in many parts of France. There is a very large theatre in Bordeaux, which has not been opened since the war. We were given an invitation to enter it. It is certainly finer than any theatre I had seen previously.
We were then taken to the celebrated wine vaults of Bordeaux, owned by J. Calvert & Co. and Bardin & Gustier. Some of these wines date back to the early part of the last century and the vintages are all the way from five to ninety years old. There were sixty thousand casks of wine stored and about ten million bottles of champagne. The money value of the stocks is very large. We were told that America was one of the best customers for these high grade wines.
In the evening we attended a reception to the Minister of Colonies at Ville de Bordeaux. This was a very enjoyable affair and we met some noted French people.
Wednesday, September 6th, was the birthday of Lafayette. We had been invited by the American Chamber of Commerce to assist in their celebration at Paris, but were unable to reach that city in time.
Instead of going to Paris on this date we visited the Chateau Margaux, built in 1780. We were shown through the private vaults. We met the Duchess, a most charming personage, a grandmother at the age of thirty-five, a very plain, unassuming lady. I supposed up to the time I was introduced to her that she was a newspaper correspondent. During the tour through these private vaults, the guide discoursed on the making of wine, from the planting of the vines to the bottling and selling process. This was all very interesting.
The different sized bottles of wine were described as follows: half pints for sick rooms, pints, and then quarts, with all of which we were familiar. He then told us of the magnum, holding two quarts; the Jereboam, holding three quarts, the imperial, holding five quarts, and the Nebuchadnezzar, holding the Lord only knows how many quarts—pretty nearly as big as a barrel.
In the port of Bordeaux were a great many neutral boats. On the sides of these boats in very large letters, appeared the names of the boats and the flag of the particular country, also the name of the country. We saw vessels from Italy, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Holland. We were told that no nation at the beginning was prepared for war except Germany. It seemed to be the unanimous opinion that the war would last at least one year longer.
Monsieur Gustier, president of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, departed at one o'clock for Paris in a de luxe car. This car was the one usually occupied by President Poincaire and known as the president's car.
Before departing we were given a noonday luncheon at the Hotel Terminal by the "Committee General Franco-American Society."
We were now for the first time told that we were being entertained by the French government, through its different chambers of commerce. On the way, two of the general officers of the railroad company boarded the train.
We noticed on passing through the country, that all the people working on the farms were either old men, women or children, the young men all being in the army.
One of the things, earnestly desired by the French people is to increase the birthrate. A bonus system has been proposed as well as all sorts of plans for increasing the size of families.
We learned here that four million men and women in France were engaged in the wine industry.
We arrived in Paris at 10:30, September 6th. The only light visible was the moon. The Hotel de Crillon, formerly a castle occupied by the French nobility and transformed into a very comfortable and aristocratic hotel, was our stopping place.
Early on Thursday morning, September 7th, I paid my first visit to the American Ambulance. I met Dr. Metcalf, a former Youngstown physician. He has charge of the New York and the Frank H. Mason wards. At the time we were there six hundred soldiers were under treatment. Deaths run about two per cent.
This was my first visit to an army hospital and the impression will never be forgotten. There were men in all different stages of wounds, some of them convalescent; others on the dividing line; with others the treatment was just starting. This American Ambulance is considered the best managed hospital in all France. General Frank H. Mason, who had been consul general and in the consular service more than thirty years, had charge of it up to the time of his death. He was succeeded by Monsieur Benet. It is a thorough business organization.
On this same day I visited Mrs. Frank H. Mason, the venerable widow of General Mason. We drove out together and I again visited the Ambulance in her company. She has been active in benevolent work for many years and was greeted everywhere with signs of affection. She took great pride in the ward named for her husband. In this ward most of the soldiers under treatment are officers.
I also met at the Ambulance Major Kipling, the head of the "flying corps". They have there about a dozen military ambulances that go to the front and bring back the wounded. Over seven thousand have been brought in since March. Two trips are made daily.
I also met at the Ambulance Mrs. Benet, a society woman, but in nurse's garb and actively at work.
I next visited the Church of the Holy Trinity. This is the American church in Paris. It was built in 1842 and is now in charge of Dr. Watson, well known to all Americans who visit Paris. In the urn room are the remains of General Mason and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Judge Birchard. Her husband was in partnership with the late Governor Tod, and it was in Judge Birchard's office that Governor Tod studied law.
On Friday, September 8th, the commission was given a reception by the Association Nationale De Expansion Economique and the Paris Chamber of Commerce, jointly. There was an animated discussion at this luncheon with members of the Paris Chamber of Commerce, all of it in French. Some of the commissioners got badly tangled up, but we got through by the aid of our French-speaking commissioners and matters were pretty well straightened out.
We were given a luncheon on this same day by the Paris Chamber of Commerce at the Armenonville. We met at this luncheon a great many Paris notables, many of them members of the French parliament, and others prominent in business and finance.
In the evening I visited the Rejane Theatre and saw some wonderful moving pictures, taken by means of periscopes; they showed the inside of the trenches, prisoners being taken, big guns firing, one mine explosion, the visit of King George and also of King Albert of Belgium; in fact it was the representation of a real battle and most thrilling.
On Saturday, September 9th, quite to the surprise of many of the commissioners, we were invited to inspect a noted dressmaking establishment, the Callot Saurs, otherwise the Callot Sisters, at No. 11 Avenue Marigon. We could hardly understand what this visit to the dressmakers had to do with our investigating French industrial establishments, but light was thrown on the subject when we learned that these sisters had three thousand employees, principally women. I made the remark that I supposed Worth was the French authority on women's gowns, but was told that Worth was a back number. It was a remarkable experience; we were taken into a large room and for a period of more than two hours were shown marvelous creations in the way of women's gowns. It really looked like a play. There were some lightning changes. We timed some of the models and they changed their entire costumes in less than three minutes. It goes without saying that some of the costumes did not cover enough of the models to require very much time for a change. It was really quite an experience, and some of the commissioners wondered if we could not go back again the next day.
In the evening we were invited to the aviation camp in the suburbs of Paris. This is a school and turns out three hundred aviators monthly. We were given a special exhibition and saw as many as thirty of the aeroplanes go through maneuvers. I was struck by the deafening noise made when the machines arose. One accident occurred while we were there; a machine got out of order and fell to the ground, seriously injuring two of the aviators in charge. The average is one death daily. During the maneuvers a real war call came from the front and four of the largest machines started off. These aeroplanes travel at the rate of over one hundred miles an hour and can reach the front in from twelve to fifteen minutes from Paris. Since these aviators have been guarding Paris, the Germans have given up sending their machines over that city. The plant at the camp manufactures fifty aeroplanes daily.
After this notable aviation exhibition, we called on Robert Bliss, Charge de'affaires at the American Embassy, Mr. Sharp being absent.
On this day we had our first experience in government automobiles. Five military automobiles were placed at our disposal with soldiers for chauffeurs, two in charge of each machine. These automobiles are large and powerful and hold seven persons. In them we saw many interesting sights about Paris and in that section of France, only a few of which may be described.
MEETING ENGLAND'S PREMIER
On Sunday, September 10th, I had the good fortune to meet Lloyd George. He had been paying a visit to General Joffre, and was registered at the same hotel as the Commission. Through his secretary, and through the persistence of some of the commissioners, arrangements were made to meet this celebrated man. I happened to be the first one of the commissioners introduced. During my youthful days, while a clerk in a company store at Niles, Ohio, I had learned some Welsh, and in this language I greeted Lloyd George. He seemed surprised and was kind enough to remark "That is very good Welsh". This put me in close touch with him and I had quite a conversation. He fired questions quite rapidly. He asked me what business I was in and at the same time what chances Hughes had for being elected. I told him I had been in the steel business for a great many years, and that I was a delegate to the convention which nominated Hughes. I told him I had heard Mr. Hughes' father preach at Mineral Ridge, a suburb of Niles. All the other commissioners were introduced. During the interview, Mr. George made this remark:
"I hope your mission will be successful and help France; I hope you can also help England, and when we have settled our little difficulties, help Germany. The world is big enough for us all."
Mr. George spoke very kindly to me of both Hughes and Roosevelt, and at the close of the interview said with earnestness:
"We are fighting the battle for all civilization. We are fighting for you as well as for ourselves, and you are deeply interested."
I had the impression that the famous Englishman was of large stature, but was mistaken. He is a man about five feet, five inches tall, of slender build, with keen, penetrating eye and somewhat nervous manner; he is certainly one of the great men of the world.
In the afternoon with Dr. Mailloux, a member of the Commission, I paid a visit to General Gosselin, formerly chief of munitions, who had been in America on business for the French Government. He spoke very highly of the steel material furnished by the various American manufacturing plants, and said it would have been impossible for the French to succeed as they had without this help. He urged the shipping of steel on contracts with all possible dispatch. General Gosselin is an important personage, quiet and modest. I was told he had already been of great service to his country.
In the evening we visited "Le Phare de France," or "The Light House of France." This is one of the noblest of the many humane institutions being maintained in France by American means. It is under the management of Miss Winifred Holt, who represents the New York Association for the Blind, and is doing an angel's work among the men blinded in battle, of whom there are more in this war than in any other in history, owing to the many new methods employed and the manner in which battles are fought. Miss Holt is known as "Keeper of the Light House," and is much beloved in France. She is a most engaging young woman and deserves all the kind things said about her by the admiring French. Miss Holt is ably assisted by Miss Cleveland, the charming daughter of the late President Cleveland.
This institution is under the direct patronage of the President of France and a committee composed of the highest officials of that country, although the funds to support it are contributed by wealthy Americans, prominent among whom are the Crockers, of San Francisco. In it the men whose sight has been destroyed are being taught useful occupations and cheered with the hope that they will be able to earn a living. They are also taught to read letters for the blind and thus some of the everlasting darkness to which they had been condemned by the horrors of war is dispelled. It is said that many men who could with difficulty be kept from committing suicide in their despair have become cheerful since entering this institution.
On Monday we visited the famous china establishment Sevres. This is one of the oldest works of the kind in France and its product is known everywhere. The plant has now been taken over by the government and used for making gas containers and other accessories used by the army.
Following the visit to Sevres we were entertained in Paris at luncheon by the Circle Republican. On my right sat David Mennet, President of the Paris Chamber of Commerce; on my left sat Monsieur Laffere, Deputy Minister of Labor. Much valuable information was obtained from both of these gentlemen, but it was not of a nature to be recorded.
In the afternoon we visited the famous Renault automobile plant. This plant has been taken over by the government and is employed in making war materials, automobile trucks, automobiles for military use and munitions. The plant employs twelve thousand men and five thousand women. They are engaged twelve hours daily, with one hour off at noon for luncheon. This was our first visit to a munition plant and we were cautioned to be careful in what we might record concerning what we saw. I was struck by the earnestness of the workmen; the expression on their countenances could be universally interpreted, "We are working for France". After this visit to the Renault plant we inspected the plant of Andre Citroon, a Hollander, but a generalle in Paris. He manufactures munitions only, employing seven thousand, five hundred women and twenty-five hundred men. In both of these plants we saw piles of steel made in America and labeled "Youngstown", "Pittsburgh", "Harrisburg" or "Cleveland".
In the evening we were given a banquet by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Palais d'Orsay. On my right sat Consul General Thackara, whom I had known for a great many years. His wife was a daughter of the late General Sherman, who said, it will be remembered, "War is Hell". In view of what we saw later I think he was quite right. On my left was First Secretary of Legation, American Embassy, Arthur Hugh Frazier.
The Herald gives an account of this banquet as follows:
Between ninety and a hundred members of the American colony in Paris met at the Hotel Palais d'Orsay yesterday evening at a banquet given by the American Chamber of Commerce for the delegation of the American Manufacturers' Export Association, which has just arrived in France.
The large dining-hall of the hotel was tastefully decorated with roses, carnations and dahlias, and hardly a seat was vacant when dinner was served, about eight o'clock.
After an excellent dinner, which began with "Tortue clair" and went on by easy stages from "Langouste muscovite" and an excellent "Baron de Pauillac" to the "Parfait glace Palais d'Orsay", and dessert, Judge Walter V. R. Berry, Vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce in Paris, and acting as chairman in the absence of the president, Mr. Percy Peixotto, addressed the company, as follows:
We have all heard so often about the caravels of Columbus and about the Mayflower that, perhaps a hundred years from now, in a brand-new Palais d'Orsay Hotel, an eloquent member of the Chamber of Commerce will refer to nineteen hundred and sixteen as the year in which the good ship Lafayette brought over for the first time a great American Industrial Commission to explore Darkest France.
Anyone who views with a philosophic mind the tremendous cataclysm that is convulsing the world must reach this conclusion: that its results will be more profound, more far-reaching, more epoch-making than were the results of the Revolution of 1789.
Where, under the new conditions, will the United States find itself?
It is a difficult problem to solve; but if one cannot answer, it will be at least a step forward to put the right questions. Gentlemen of the Commission, it is for you, on your return to America, to formulate these questions.
Heretofore it has been impossible to get together in Europe a delegation of Americans, each one of whom was ready to sink his private interests. This is the first time that an American Commission has come abroad, forgetting the individual, looking only to the welfare of the State.
Gentlemen, I congratulate you on your public spirit and your patriotism. I congratulate you, too, on your opportunity, the magnificent opportunity of bringing home to the American people the urgent necessities that confront them.
After the sustained applause had subsided Mr. W. W. Nichols gave a brief account of the objects for which the American Industrial Commission came to France. He referred to the impetus which had been given to the whole idea by M. Damour, the French deputy and leader of the French Commission which recently visited the United States, and declared that the representatives of French and American manufacturers and industries might help mutually in solving the industrial problem which affected the sister republics. "Our aim," said Mr. Nichols, "is reciprocity in personal conduct and co-operation which will lead to the solution of many minor difficulties. Our possibilities are enormous."
Mr. Nichols concluded with an expression of thanks for the welcome which the Commission had received in France and an acknowledgment of the services which the American Chamber had rendered both to France and to the United States.
On Tuesday we visited the school for maimed soldiers in Paris. At this place the men who are unable to return to the front are taught all kinds of trades—barbering, soap-making, shoe making, etc.
On Wednesday, September 13th the Commission made a trip to Rouen.
Women in knitting mills there earn four francs daily, working eleven hours; in the webbing mills they earn five francs daily, working eleven hours. There are no unions. A great deal of the product had been marketed in Germany but this market was lost. At Rouen we saw a large British steamer loaded with soldiers enroute to the front. They saluted the American flag. The harbor was full of shipping. The boats draw twenty feet of water.
I met J. M. Belin, a manufacturer of tubes used in flying machines. I had a very interesting talk with Monsieur Belin. He told me there were ten thousand German soldiers being killed daily on all the fronts and that seventy per cent of the iron and coal formerly belonging to France was now in the hands of the Germans.
On Thursday, September 14th, we left Paris for Limoges, arriving there at five P.M. We were given a reception by the mayor of the town and the president of the Chamber of Commerce at the Chamber of Commerce Rooms. We were driven through the town, across the River Vienne. We saw an ancient Roman bridge, said to be more than two thousand years old.
Also a very old cathedral. A very interesting sight, which I had seen in oil paintings, was that of women washing on the banks of the river. The river was lined for nearly a mile with women all occupied in this useful way.
Limoges is the center of the porcelain industry in France. Its exports to the United States are very large. The consul at Limoges was instructed to do all possible to aid the Commission, and, per contra, the Consul at Rouen was instructed not to accept any invitations or recognize the Commission in an official way.
We visited the Martin china works and saw a veritable "Bull in a china shop", that is to say, there was a pair of bullocks hitched to a wagon going through the warehouse while we were there.
We visited the celebrated Haviland plant at Limoges, and met Geo. Haviland, who is well known in America. With him we had quite a discussion regarding the manufacturers at Limoges increasing their output of low grade wares.
At noon on this day we had a conference with the Chamber of Commerce of Limoges. At this conference I was permitted to say a few words, which were translated for the audience as follows:
Gentlemen, I have been criticised by my fellow Commissioners for not taking part in the discussions. I speak English only, and have hesitated to enter these arguments. It seems to me, though, that instead of trying to enter on the increase of your common product, such as any china manufacturer in the United States can make, you should increase the production of your high grade product. There are high grade porcelains made in Austria and a lot of this comes to us from Germany. Your product is known all over the world—the name "Haviland" is a household word. In my opinion if your manufacturers here at Limoges went into the production of the common qualities of porcelain, it would lower your reputation.
My recommendation, therefore, is that if possible you increase the production of the artistic porcelains.
In the evening a banquet was given us at the Hotel Rue de Lu Paix. On my right was Eugene L. Belisle, American Consul, and on my left was Leon Pinton, Vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce.
The banquet table was a beautiful sight. French and American flags were entwined. Speeches were made by members of the Chamber of Commerce and responses by Mr. Nichols in broken French. I had a most interesting talk with Consul Belisle. He said that one year ago the French would have made a much better settlement of the war than today. They are now better prepared and would demand the return of territory, including Alsace Lorraine, the French people being educated up to this point. He said also that he had come in contact with German prisoners and they were discouraged and would be glad to surrender.
We met at this banquet General Comby, district commander of the twelfth regiment.
Dr. Mailloux and Mr. MacArthur had a very interesting talk with General Comby, Thursday night after the banquet was over. General Comby was in active service at the front after the opening of the war. He described to us particularly what he had seen of warfare at the time of the battle of the Marne. He said it was called the battle of the Marne because of the lack of any other name to give it, but the battle took place over a period of some thirty odd days and covered a considerable region, much of which was far away from the Marne. He informed us that the fresh troops who have not before experienced the severity of battle go into a desperate fight with the greatest valor and heroism; that after troops have seen a long session of fighting, and have been through the hardships of many engagements they lose, and he thinks it is natural they should lose, much of the spirit that accompanies them in their first engagements.
He told us of the very severe losses that were suffered in these first actions of the war; greater than at any other time. Mr. MacArthur understood him to regard this so-called Battle of the Marne as perhaps the bloodiest and most terrible of all battles in history. He informed us that it was not one single battle, but a succession of almost continuous struggles, day and night, over a period of three or four weeks.
General Comby had under his immediate command 18,000 troops, of whom he lost 13,500 in these engagements. He said, however, that in spite of all these losses, he had never found himself nor his troops in the position of defeat; that defeat is largely a matter of sentiment and valor. An army with comparatively slight losses might consider itself defeated if it chose to do so. An army of troops like some of those he had could be cut almost to pieces, and yet, if there was a remnant sufficient and disposed to come together again, they formed a still undefeated and effective body.
The general spoke particularly of a battalion of zouaves that he had, numbering about 1,000, and which was cut down until there were only 280 left. Yet they came together undefeated and effective troops. He said that since the Battle of the Marne the war has taken on a different character. He considered the German defeat as taking place at and by reason of this battle. Had they not been checked then, and turned, there is no telling what the Germans might have done. But they were checked and turned, which constituted their defeat, and all operations that have and are now taking place are simply operations to follow up the victory that was realized at the Marne.
On Saturday, September 16th, we arrived at Aubusson, the centre of the tapestry industry of France, as it has been for the past five centuries.
Aubusson is located in a beautiful country. On our way to that city we noticed women attending sheep, just as we had seen in pictures by Millet and other painters. These women, with only a dog as companion, knit as they tend their flocks.
We arrived in Aubusson at 10:30 A.M. We were first taken to the town hall, where there was a general exhibit of the products of the district on view. I was greatly impressed with a portrait, in tapestry, of General Joffre, the great French commander, idolized by the French people and hero of the Battle of the Marne. It did not occur to me at the moment of examining this tapestry portrait that it might be purchased; but afterwards, while we were at luncheon, I thought possibly it might be bought, and asked Monsieur Damour, who sat next to me, what he thought about it. He expressed the belief that it was not for sale and would not be permitted to go out of France. He said, however, that he would make an investigation, and sent his secretary, who came back in a very short time with the information that the portrait would be sold to an American only. The price was named and without any further negotiations I accepted the offer, making only one condition, that it was not to be duplicated. I had the portrait taken from its frame and brought it with me, having it retrained upon my arrival home. It is certainly a beautiful piece of work, as well as unique; no one but an expert could tell at first glance that it is not a portrait done in oil. It was copied by one of the greatest tapestry artists in France from the oil painting made of General Joffre by a noted French artist.
We visited a number of the manufactories owned by different corporations and individuals. I was personally impressed by one piece of tapestry which had been in the making for a period of four years and would require at least one year longer to complete. It depicted the marriage of Napoleon and Josephine. This piece is about thirty feet by twenty feet in size, and contains forty thousand shades of color. It was not for sale, and we were told it was to be held to take part in a celebration of the Allied victory in the Champs Elysees. The French people are so confident of victory that the windows facing the Arc de Triomphe have already been engaged to view the event.
We noticed there in the textile factories old women winding yarn, many of them eighty years of age, but still vigorous and hard at work. A photograph of a group of young girls was taken by one of the Commissioners and is reproduced in these pages.
A little incident occurred at the luncheon before mentioned which is worthy of record.
I noticed a coarse looking American flag suspended in the dining room. I made inquiry of the woman who waited upon us at the table and she said that she had never seen an American flag, but had read about it and had reproduced what she thought was a copy from memory. It was made from a piece of awning containing stripes, with blue stars sewn in. This waitress said she had worked at night on it and got as near as possible to her idea of an American flag. While it was not a work of art, it was a homely representation of the Stars and Stripes and a tribute from an humble citizen of France to America.
In our wanderings about Aubusson we came across an old man who said he was so old that he had forgotten his age. However, in a broken way, he told of having taken part in the Franco-Prussian war, and remembered having seen the great Napoleon. Inquiry made of some of the citizens revealed the fact that his age was supposed to be upwards of one hundred years.
We visited a very old church with the distinction of having two bells which ring simultaneously.
As we left this historic place it was an inspiring sight. Nearly the entirely populace was present and gave us any number of cheers as the military automobiles took their departure.
At seven P. M. we arrived at Bourboule and had dinner at the Palace Hotel. We met here Col. Cosby, military attache of the American Embassy in Paris. This is a watering place and contains a very large convalescent hospital where soldiers, largely officers, are sent to finally recuperate before going back to the front. The waters contain arsenic, are highly medicinal, and known the world over.
We saw at this place the adopted child of Helen Gould. We also met another bright youth about eleven years of age, who spoke some English. He asked one very pertinent question, "Why don't you Americans send your navy over here to help France?"
We were served at dinner by an Amazon waitress. Without measuring her stature, I should say that she was six feet, four inches in height and formed in proportion. Nevertheless she was very alert and active on her feet. She waited on the entire Commission without help, quickly and efficiently.
The chief decoration was a large American flag in the center of the table. This was made of flowers and was unique and beautiful. Bourboule is in a mountainous country and early the next day we were taken to the top of a mountain, a distance of nearly a mile, on what was termed the "Funicular Railroad". We were served luncheon at the Hotel de Funicular, on the top of the mountain, back of the town. The view from this elevation was wonderful and worth the trip to France. When the war is over this locality will no doubt be a leading watering place.
In the afternoon we motored to Clermont-Farrand. We stopped at Mont Dore and at Royal to see the baths, which are noted for their cure for asthmatic affections. We were given a reception at both places, and waited upon by very handsome waitresses wearing most artistic hats. I tried to secure one of these as a souvenir, but without avail, as I was told they were made especially for this institution and were of a special design.
On this journey we saw many interesting sights. Carts with donkeys attached, resembled somewhat the jaunting car in Ireland. Wild flowers were in great abundance and we stopped many times by the wayside to purchase them from the little girls. We stopped at Salvador Rock and listened to an echo which was remarkable; standing on the crest of the rock, tones almost a whisper could be heard reverberating for some time. The rock was surrounded by trees resembling very much the pine in Arizona and the Lake Superior region.
Next we visited a fine old castle, Chateau Miral, and arrived at Clermont-Farrand at seven P. M. Here we were given a banquet at the Grand Hotel by the Chamber of Commerce. We met a number of prominent people, among others Ferdinand Ferryrolles, who manages several hotels at Monte Carlo. We also met Emmanuel Cheneau, Henri Roche, editor of the Paris Temps, Etienne Morel and Leon Bernardaud.
We left Clermont-Farrand early on Monday, in military automobiles for St. Etienne.
THE BIRTHPLACE OF LAFAYETTE
The question of visiting the birthplace of the immortal Lafayette came up at this time, and some of the members insisted on a trip to this historic spot. The majority carried and we made a detour of nearly one hundred miles to reach St. George's D'Aurac, near which stands the stately Chateau Chavagnac, object of our reverent curiosity. At the time of our visit it was owned by Mr. de Sahame, son of the niece of Lafayette, bearing the title of Marquis of Lafayette, and residing at Neuilly, near Paris. We were met by the mayor of the small village, quite near, and the caretaker of the Chateau, which was in a very good state of preservation, but not at that time occupied. The prefect of the district appeared soon and the Commission presented to the ownership of the Chateau two very beautiful flags, one an American and the other French, together with a large bouquet of palms and roses. These flags and the floral offering were placed in the bed where Lafayette was born. Mr. Nichols, our Chairman, then made the following address:
In a large sense, this auspicious occasion is the most appropriate event of our trip, because it brings us closer to that which has been a constant bond of sympathy between the French and American people. We are more than happy to stand here in the home of our Washington's intimate friend, where he spent his days of peace, and whither he retired when cares of state weighed too heavily upon him. It is not hard to believe that here also was the birthplace of his greatest thoughts, the beginnings of his noblest aspirations.
Lafayette, the apostle of liberty, came to struggling America at the opportune time, and in ways that every school child at home knows, cast his lot with ours in that perfect sympathy which constituted Washington's greatest support. History's record, complete as it is, cannot account for the countless things Lafayette did for us, which many times perhaps changed the course of events in our favor and brought us that freedom of thought, that liberty of action, which he ever craved.
When we stop to reflect that it all began here, our souls may well be moved beyond the mere expression of words. After a century and a quarter we treasure Lafayette's memory and it grows with an increasing realization of the merit of the assistance he rendered us. Our two nations today are the embodiment of the principles he stood for, perhaps was a great factor in inculcating in the minds of our ancestors, to be transmitted by inheritance to us. We rejoice that he lived; that a land like France gave him birth; that the friendship he began continues to make the world better.
May we realize the dream ever present with him, to judge from his actions, which speak more insistent than words, of a mutuality of our national interests; that hand in hand the two great republics may together work out their great destinies, together set an example for the world worthy of its emulation, an example of a fraternity of purpose and attempt which by its very strength will compel the better things of life.
Gentlemen: In reverence to the memory of our great compatriot, let us devote a moment to silent contemplation of the great thoughts that inspired the great deeds of our great brother, Lafayette.
There was a response by the prefect and the mayor of the nearby village.
This visit was an historical event. I had made up my mind, and so talked with another member of the Commission, that it would be a fine thing to purchase this property, endow it with a fund which would keep it always open as a museum and present it to the French Government. Since our return to America the property has been acquired by a group of prominent American men and women, headed by Mrs. William Astor Chanler, for the same purpose that some of the members of our Commission had in mind, a most worthy project. This birthplace is known as The Chateau de Chavagnac-Lafayette. It is the hope of the purchasers to make it "A French Mount Vernon".
The Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette was born at the Chateau de Chavagnac, in the French province of Auvergne, on September 6th, 1757. It is some four hundred miles from Paris, in southern France. The crowning architectural feature of this little settlement of some five hundred souls, it stands, sentinel-like, among the sixty red-tiled roofs of the village. The little church at which Lafayette worshipped is only a step from the Chateau gates.
The original Chateau de Chavagnac dates from the fourteenth century. It was destroyed by fire in 1701, but was very soon afterward rebuilt from the original plans.
It is the purpose of the French Heroes' Fund to make this Chateau in France a complement to Mount Vernon. In it are to be kept records of Colonial days, as well as those of the present war. There is to be a room dedicated to the British; one to the Legion; another to the American Ambulance and still another to aviation. It is also to be made a home for orphans and for soldiers who have been disabled.
After a collation, we visited the reception room, which contains a number of old-time engravings, facsimiles of the Declaration of Independence, a bronze bust of Lafayette, a marble bust of Lafayette and a bronze bust of Franklin. Overhanging the bed in which Lafayette was born is a fine portrait of Benjamin Franklin. Although Lafayette died in Paris, the bed in which he died was brought to the Chateau, and we were shown this also.
Among other things in the reception room was a large placard with the heading "North American United States Constitution Explained". There was also a billiard table which looked as if it had seen much service.
I have alluded to this visit to the birthplace of Lafayette in a little address which I made at Besancon, and which will appear later.
Some photographs of the Commission were taken before leaving. Quite a large sum was raised among the Commissioners and given to the mayor to be distributed among the poor of the village.
Our next objective was LePuy, where we arrived at 4:30 P.M. and had breakfast, so-called, although the detour to the birthplace of Lafayette made us about ten hours late. We were met by the prefect, the mayor and the president of the Chamber of Commerce. We visited a church built on the top of a rock, the ascent to which was by three hundred perpendicular steps, two feet wide. It was said that these steps were built in this way as an opportunity for penance, it being a very hard operation to climb to the top. Some of our people made the ascent, myself among the number. When we reached the top we were rewarded by a magnificent view of the surrounding country. At the highest point is a statue of the Virgin Mary, made of Russian cannon, recast after capture by Napoleon.
While at LePuy we were shown the only spot where the immortal Caesar was defeated; otherwise his reign was triumphant.
Leaving LePuy we arrived at St. Etienne at midnight, after a most perilous ride. A banquet had been planned at St. Etienne, but had been postponed. On the following day we visited the establishment of the Giron Brothers, ribbon manufacturers. This establishment dates back to the very early part of the Nineteenth century, and at present has two thousand employees, nearly all women. Its trade is largely with the United States. On account of the labor situation the factory is working only half time. The men are at war, the women in the munition plants and factories. Wage earners make four, and not to exceed five, francs per day and consider themselves well paid.
We also visited the silk manufacturing plant of P. Staron, Jr. We saw here the most beautiful silks and brocades. Among other fine things were ribbons in the Fleur de Lis design, the national flower of France. On account of the war the employees at work were few.
Here we met Mr. Wm. H. Hunt, American consul and the last appointee of President McKinley before his untimely death.
At St. Etienne I went into a barbershop to get a shave, sat down in the chair, and a youth not over twelve years of age started to lather me. I supposed, of course, that he was getting me ready for the barber, who would soon appear; instead of that he proceeded with the work himself. He spoke a little English, telling me his father was in the army and he was running the business. He gave me one of the best shaves I received in France.
My next experience with the youth of France was with a boy chauffeur. Our military automobiles had disappeared for the time being and I engaged a taxicab.
The boy who ran this was not over eleven or twelve years of age, but he did the work well.
On the evening of September 19th, we were given a banquet by the Chamber of Commerce at St. Etienne. It was a very successful affair. I met here Theodore Laurent, a prominent steel manufacturer whom I had met at Brussels in 1911, when the American Iron and Steel Institute made its famous visit to England and the continent. At this banquet we met also the prefect and other notables.
A GREAT MUNITIONS PLANT
Wednesday, September 20th, we left St. Etienne for St. Charmond to visit the plant at which Mr. Laurent is director general. His company owns several plants, this being the most important and one of the oldest manufactories of cannons and munitions in France. We met here Colonel Rimialho, who is the inventor of the seventy-five-millimeter gun and has general charge of the artillery and munitions manufactured in France. The plant at the present time makes only cannon and munitions. There are no blast furnaces at the works. They use the Siemens-Martin process and melt about seventy-five to eighty per cent. scrap. They also use a quantity of vanadium steel imported from America and furnished by the American Vanadium Company. We were told that France produces five hundred thousand shells or projectiles daily. This plant turns out twenty-eight thousand of this number, besides one hundred and twenty thousand fuses, or detonators. Before the war the works produced one hundred and twenty thousand annually; they now make this number daily. They have sixteen thousand employees, five thousand of whom are women. We saw here a number of Amazonian Junos doing men's work while wearing leather aprons, and were informed that they were fully as efficient as men and are paid the same wages.
We saw at these works a number of the now famous "caterpillars", an armored car moving on a broad track which it lays down as it goes. This machine was invented by an American, and I have seen it at work on the Pacific coast.
After an examination of the works, we were taken to the suburbs of the town and a special test of the big guns was made for our benefit, the firing going to the hill. We were instructed to put cotton in our ears and keep our mouths open, and faithfully observed this injunction. The seventy-five millimeter fired twelve shots in thirty-six seconds, by my watch. The target was brought to us afterwards and we were shown that the projectiles went straight through without a side dent. We were also treated to the firing of some of the very large guns, and by the time this was over I was ready to visit an ear doctor, if there had been one convenient.
When this interesting exhibition was ended we were entertained for the first time in a real French home. Mr. Laurent took us to his home and gave us a luncheon. We met Mrs. Laurent and two daughters, but the four sons had joined the colors. Two of them had already lost their lives in battle.
We met at this luncheon Sir Thomas Barclay, of London, who has taken an active part in the humanitarian work of England, with headquarters in Paris.
The party reached Lyons at 6:20 P.M. by military automobiles and at once had a conference with Mayor Heriot. It appeared that there was some discussion between this official and the president of the Chamber of Commerce as to who should head the entertaining. We were greatly impressed with M. Heriot, but he took a night train for Paris and we were left in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce. We were given a reception by this body, and spent the night at Lyons.
On the afternoon of the following day we visited the textile museum. We also visited the government munitions plant, which was formerly the Lyons fair, but had been taken over by the government, stripped of everything and made the most efficient munitions plant in all France. We met Thadee Natanson, Director General. He is a wonderful character. Our impression of him was very good and he later addressed us in strong but broken English and said he hoped he would learn something from us, and, if we had, in visiting the plant, any suggestions to make, he wanted to hear them. The plant employs twelve thousand, one-half women and the remainder men. The product is shells, cartridges, fuses, and detonators. We were told that this is the only place in France where a projectile is entirely completed, ready to fire. We met Andre Foulcher, engineer of the plant. The production of this plant is twenty-eight thousand shells and twenty-five thousand fuses daily. We were told that here the women were more efficient than the men. At these works we were taken into the most dangerous part of the plant, where frequent explosions have occurred.
We met here George Martin, editor of the Paris "Progress", and also Capt. J. Barret, who had recently lost in the army his only son.
Our tour of Lyons included the Lyons electric light and gas plant. On this side trip we met an entire regiment of Algerian soldiers, black as the traditional ace of spades, but fine specimens of manhood. Their uniforms were almost identical with the uniform worn by our soldiers in the Civil War. They wore light blue overcoats, such as Governor Tod furnished the first company which marched from Youngstown.
Over the door of the gas plant were the words "Defense D'Entrer", with skull and cross bones underneath and with the further words, "Danger de Mort".
At this place we received our first home letters, which were very welcome.
In the evening we were given a banquet by the Chamber of Commerce. The invitation received from the Lyons Chamber, translated, is as follows:
Lyon, Chamber of Commerce.
The Lyons Chamber of Commerce beg you to be so kind as to accept a private invitation at dinner which it will give to the members of the Commission of the United States on Thursday, September 21st, 7 o'clock P. M. at Berrier and Millet, 31 Bellecour Square. Business dress.
We were welcomed in English by the vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, and discussed the following menu:
Supreme of Lobster A l'amiral Tenderloin a la bearnaise Artichoke Hearts Chantilly style Roast Truffled Bresse Chicken Scotch Salad Havana Ice Desert Wines Fleurie (Beaujolais) in Decanter Pouilly (Maconnais) in Decanter White Hermitage 1904 Chateau Vaudieu 1904 Saint-Peray frappe
On my right was General d'Armade, one of the noted generals of the French army, who had seen service all through the present war. On my left was M. Farrand. My talk with General d'Armade was most interesting. He said the best soldiers of both the French and the German armies were gone; that they had been destroyed in the early part of the war and that the soldiers now fighting were civilians who had been trained for two years. He declared that a French soldier was always a French soldier. He had no doubt of the ultimate victory of the Allies. In addition to General d'Armade's experience in the present war, he had been in Morocco and the Sudan with important commands.
On Friday, the day following, we were entertained by the directors of the Lyons Fair. On my left was Charles Cabaud, Russian Consul General. On my right sat Dr. Jules Courmont, who in time of peace is Professor of the faculty of medicine and physician to the hospitals of Lyons, but who now, in time of war, is in the War Department, has the rank of general, and is charged with the hygiene of the army.