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French Family Chronology: The 20th Century

Figure 1.--This unidentified French family scene looks to be from the mid-1930s. It is probably a rural village scene. We are not sure what the occasion was, but we suspect that it is a visit home by the grownup children who had moved to the city so that the old folks could off the grand kids to mother and dad. A French reder writes,"Looking at the face these peoples on this photograph. I suppose they are from South the France or Italien immigrants." The basket seems to be filled with mushrooms.

We have a number of French family images during the 20th century. Our 20th century archive is much larger than our 19th century archive. Not only do we have more images, but now we have family snapshots rather than just studio portraits. The snapshots tell us not only about fashion, but also a lot of information about family life. World War I had profound impacys on family life, especially the role of weomen in France. There are not enough images to draw any conclusions, but they provide some interesting glimpses into the French family and developing fashion trends over time. We notice a lot of boys wearing sailor suits in the early 20th century. The convention of younger boys wearing declined in popularity, especially after World War I. A new fashion appeared for younger boys, rompers. We see knee pants and bloomer knickers in the early-20th century. Short pants became more common after World War I. Knickers were never as common in France as in merics, but some older boys wore them.

Major Developments

Major economic and political developments affected family trends. As with other major European countries, France increasingly industrialized which meant urbanized during the 20th century. There was still a very large and vocal rural sector. France was not as dependent on food imports as Germany and Britain. This trend toward industrislization and urbnization made for smaller families as extra hands useful on farms were not needed in an urban setting. Anoother major development was World War I. With large numbers of men at the front, mothers had to run the family. And as soldier pay was small, they had to figure out how to mske money. In addition, huge numbers of men were killed or crippled in the War. Thus the man could no longer be relied on as the family breadwinner. France did not go as far as some other counties (America and Britain) in employing women in the indidtrial work force, but this began. And France did not permit women to vote as they did in America, Britain, and Germany, but there were definite shifts in the family dynamic. Children in particular became very precious. For many wives, they were all they had of their husbands. And they were needed to repopulate the ntion. A French reader writes, "The people's attitutes toward children came from the fact that after World War I there was a policy to repopulate our country. Much of an entire generation was lost in the War." Casulaties in World War II were much more limited, largely because France capitulated early in the War. For a long time in France, it was normaly the mother was kept the household money. After Wotld War I, mothers received a monthly family benefits, It was paid in cash to the mother. There was an obligatory delivery in cash into the hand of the mother. Untill 1960, the paying agent came inside each home and could ask to see the children. The French family benefits were allowances given each mounth to famillies with children. Untill 1960, the payment theses allowances were delivered by an agent in cash. The father couldn't personally receive them. This allowance is one of the four French welfare payments called "Allocations familiales".

Decade Trends

The 1900s

We still see some younger boys wearing dresses. Long hair was also seen as well as hair boys for boys from comfortable families. French boys in the 1900s commonly wore blouse sets and to a lesser extent suits. Sailor suits were very popular. Boys mostly wore knee pants and boomer knickers in the 1900s. We notice a lot of children wearing school smocks. Apparently children did not just wear their smocks at school, but commonly wore them after school as well. We are not sure if mothers encouraged this to protect clothing or if the children just could not be bothered to change. This was he first decade with extensive family snapshots. So we cannot compare it to 19th century trends. We continue to see boys wearing smocls oitside school in the 1900s, but notvas commonly in the 1900s. Hosiery varied, but long stockings were not as common as in Germany or America. They could be worn in cool weather or when dressing up. Some poor children went barefoot. And we still see some destinctive provincial dress such as the Breton family.

The 1910s

Unidentified military family (about 1913)

Here we see a French military family in the 1900s. We would guess thatvit was taken in 1913, just before World war, but it could have been taken during the War (1914-18). The father wears a infantry officer's jacket (model 1913). The photograph was taken at the David studio in Châtellerault. The jackets worn by the two oldest children was a popular style at the time. Military styles often influence men's and boys' wear. The jackets resembles the military jacket of their father (collar, pocket, and belt). These styles disappeared after the War.

Guyomard family (1917)

This World War I portrait shows second lieutenant Edouard Guyomard in 1917 with his family (his mother or mother in law, his wife and their five children). The girls wear white dresses with shoes. One boy weaes a sailor suit and the other one a short tunic with a lace collar. Bothe boys wear closed toe sandals without socks. The family was from Dinan, Brittany.

Trogoff Family (1918)

This is a photograph of a wealthy French family at the end of World War I in 1918. They are the Trogoff family and they owned the Château de la Giraudaye. Pictured here are Yves (age 47), Raymond (age 12), Cath (age 13), Suze (age 7), Elisabeth dite "Pépée" (age 10), and Cécile (née Pontbriand de la Caunelaye, age 44). Not pictured is an another family member who inherited the Château. The two youngest girls wear pinafore-type dresses. Two of the girls have hair bows. Raymond wears a collar buttoning kneepants suit. He has a detachable stiff, white collar made in the Peter-Pan rather than Eton style and worn with a small floppy bow. I am not sure what he is holding. One of the girls and mother for some reason holds a can. You can see Pierre's family in 1930 at the Château.

The 1920s

Pontremoli Family (1910s-20s)

The Pontremoli family was a wealthy Jewish family. The father was a noted French architecht. We have an image of the daughter and two sons at home. They look to be posed in the family's well-appointed parlor. We are not sure when the portrait was taken, but we believe it was taken in the early-20s. We are hoping to be able to date in better by finding out when the children was born, but we know it was well after 1899 when Pontremoli married. The boys' clothing suggests the portrait was taken in the early-20s.

First Communion Family (early-1920s)

World War I decimated an entire genrration of Europeans. French casualties were horendous. The Frenvh Army did not break, but was rendered largely incapable of major offensive operations. After the War, we see many French family portraits withiut the father or older brothers. Here we see one of those family portraits ith the father missing. Ehe family is unidentified, but almost certainly the father was lost in the War with the mother left to hold the family together. The portrait is also undated, but looks to us like the early-1920s. The youngest boy is doing his First Communion. He wears a knee pants sailor suit with the ornamental sleeve ribbon. Usually for the occassion an individual portrait ould have been taken. We are gussing that with father gone, the family finances were strained, so mother used the occassion for a family portrait as well. The older brother wears a long pants suit. Notice the cuffs. The two younger girls wear white dresses with large hair bows, one with white long stockings, the other with colored ankle socks.

Family Scene (1920s)

The postcard here is an idealized French family during the 1920s. It is a posed scene, but was probably an actual family. They probably dressed up for the photograph. A French reader tells us that the clothes were probably what the family wore. Post card studios did not have large budgets for costuming their subjects. We are not sure how common such outfits were, especially the starp shoes. The hair styles are quite carefully done. We suspect that they are more elaborately done than was common for the family. There are four children. The oldest two look to be a boy and girl.

The 1930s

Trogoff Family (1930)

This is a another wealthy French family. Trogoff doesn't seem to me a French name, perhaps our French readers will know more. They are a branch of the Trogoff family that we first see at the Château de la Giraudaye in 1918. We believe it is a brother's family, but we are not yet sure. The individuals in the photographare Patrick (age 17), Elie (age 6), Alain (age 21), Odile (age 11), Pierre (age 52), Yves (age 8), Noémie (age 45), Hervé (age 13), Charles (age 16), Guy (age 7), et Bernadette (age 20). More clearly liked sailor suits. This is a good illustration of the social class conventions. I'm not sure what Elie is wearing. Two boys wear standard sailor suits. Herve wears a rather destinctive outfits. I'm not sure if it is a sailor suit, but we have seem similar jackets being worn, mostly for formal occassions.

Family Outing (1930s)

The family snapshot is unidentified. We believe it was taken in France during the 1930s, probably the late 30s just before World war II. It looks to be a family outing. I don't think it is a picnic as the family is rather formally dressed and mother has her purse. They look to be out in country somewhere along a road. Rather an unusual place to take a photigraph. Picnic photogrpha are normally taken off the road. Perhaps they had a country home. Photographs here are usully taken with the home in the backgound. The men all wear business suits and ties and the ladies dresses or skirts. The girl wears a short white dress and white knee socks. Girls still wore dresses with few exceptions. The boys all wear various short pants outfits, two also with white knee socks.

The 1940s

The 1940s was the World War II decade. France was occupied by the Germans (1940) and not liberated until (summer 1944). The Germans diligently exploited France, both food and consumer goods. The Frenchg by the 1940s begfan to go hungary--not as hungry as iun the East but food shiraages became increasingly serious. Consumer goods also disappered from shelves and it became increasingly difficult to obrain clothes and shoes. We note a French-Canadian family which is dressed more like Americans than French children. We note an unidentified French family during the War (1943). By this time in France clothing was becoming hard to get. Much of what was produced was shipped to Germany. Despite the shortages the family is reasonabably dressed. We suspect that mother has made the clothes. The outfits are all coordinated. The boy ad baby wear rompers with the sane styling as the dress, both smocking and baloon sleeves. We also have some information after the War and France becan the difficult recovery from the War. We see well dressed children, we think largely due to mothers' strenuoish efforts under diffiucult circumstances. We see boys wearing romper suits--barboteuses and short pants suits. Starp shoes and sandals were very common. We see fewer bous wearing berets and smocs.

Boivin, Couture, and Benoit families (1940-42)

We have found two family portraits from the Boivin-Couture family during the early 1940s. The portrait was taken in the same room. They are not identified as French, but the individuals are named and the names could not be more French. Now I supose they could be Belgian or Swiss, but French is much more likely. Andare wearing is a goof reflection of eraly 1940s styles. The boys in the 1940 portrait all wear similar polo-style shirts, longish dress short pants, knee socks, and leather shoes. The girls wear dresses, white socks, and strap shoes. The adults and older chilren ear formal suits and dresses. A much larger group is shown in 1942, but with many of the same people. Some of the boys in the 42 portrain ar wearin more grown-up long pants suits One boys wears suspender shorts. He and the girls wear long stockings becuse the portrait was taken in Decemnber. Long stockings were common in Germany at the time, but not in France, except in the north. So we have an idea of where the portaits were taken. Notably noth portaits were taken during the German World war II occupation of France, The first immediuateky after the fall of France. The second well into it. I see no impact of this in the images.

Family Snapshot (1943)

Here we see a French family during World War II. Unfortunately the family is unidentified. The photograph was taken in 1943. By this time in France clothing was becoming hard to get. Much of what was produced was shipped to Germany. Despite the shortages the family is reasonabably dressed. We suspect that mother has made the clothes. The outfits are all coordinated. There re slight differences in the dresses for the older and younger girls. The boy ad baby wear rompers with the sane styling as the dress, both smocking and baloom sleeves.

Family outing (1947)

We note an uidentfied French family on an outing. It looks lke an outing into the countryside, but actually the were at a seaside resort. We think that they are posed along a rocky coast. The beach was apparently behind the camera. It was Perros-Guirec, a commune in the Côtes-d'Armor department in Brittany in northwestern France. It has been a seaside resort since the end of the 19th Century. The family snapshot was taken in 1947. It must have beeb taken durung the summer vacation--probably August. The fact that many of the children ar not wearing socks is a strong indicarior that the snapshot was taken durung the summer. This obviously can not be a nuclear family, we suspect it is, however, an extended family with lots of cousins. Even though they are on an outing, every one is dressed up in suits or prim dresses. Notice the boys with suits andcties are all wearing white shorts. The chikdren wear sandals or strap shoes. We wonder if they have just come from church. The yonger boy is wearing a dressy vwhire romper suit -- barboteuse. They are not dressed for the beach ior even outdoor play.

Family Snapshot (late 1940s)

Here we see a French family in the late 1940s after World war II. Unfortunatelt the image quality is very poor. It looks to be a mother who has dressed the children up in summer outfits. The snapshot was probably taken by father in the family's back yard. After World War II the photographs often are poor quality. The boys at the left were often dressed in rompers throughout the year. They had both Summer and Winter rompers. Here they are wearing Summer rompers. Tey often wore the classic barboteuse style rompers. Practically all French boys through the 1950s were dressed with rompers from infancy to about age e years. Some boys wore rompers longer to about age 6 years. The classic style romper was very common in the 1940s.

The 1950s

We have quite a few Fremch family images from the 1950s. We clearly see the raising prosperity in France following World War II.

Family Scene (1950)

The postcard here is an idealized French family scene about 1950 (figure 1). It is a posed scene, but was probably an actual family. They probably dressed up for the photograph. We believe that this was an actual family. How common was it to dress like this at home in 1950 I am not sure, but many French families weree still quite formal, even at home.

Family Snapshot (about 1950)

A French reader writes, "A short time ago, I spoke with my neighbour. He was a petit garçon modèle during 1947-55. He told me, "I have fond memories of my childhood and how my mother so carefully took care of me." His mother commonly dressed him in rompers as a little boy until he was about 6 years old. " One photograph shows him wearing a bib-front romper suit with smocking. The snapshot here shows im wearing a traditional barboteuse romper suit. The photograph is black and white, but these suits were often a light blue. He is pictured with his mother and older brother who looks to be doing his First Communion.

Family Snapshot (1950)

Here we see a French family in 1950. We are not entirely sure that is a precise date or just an estimate, but the clothing and background look about right for 1950. We are not entirely sure about the family. We think here we are seeing the grandparents and daughter who is the mother of the two boys who are close in age. Perhaps the father is taking the photograph. One boy wears bib-front shorts and his slightly older brother wears shorts held up with suspenders. They clearly live in the city, but we are unsure as to what city. It looked to be a working-class neighborhood.

Rural Family (1950)

Here we see the Breuitelle family in 1950. We know nothing about the family, but based on the size we would say they probanly are a devout Catholic family, likely living in a rural area. Rural families tended to be larger than rural families. The older boys wear suits. One boy wears a short pants suit. The younger boys wear a shorts set and rompers. The Breuitelles have an impressive 12 childre and given that the children seem to come once a year there may be more to come. This is one of the largest families archived on HBC.

Middle Class Family (1950s)

HBC has acquired several images of an obviosly middle-class family. The images are undated and unidentified. We believe that the photographs were all taken at the same time during the early 1950s. One photograph inclues a family car so we should be be able to date the image. We know the photographs were taken at the same time because the children were all dressed the same. We do not know where the family lived because the photographs were taken on a family picnic. There appear to have been five children and their clothing reflects the various styles worn at the time by various age groups. The father apparently took the photographs. There are two ladies one photograph which look like the grandmothers.

Family Portrait (1951)

Here we have a formal portrait of a French family. The parents are dressed casually. There little boy Michele who is 4 years old is dressed in a classic romper suit with with baloon sleeves. The suits also had back tieing bows, but you can't see it in the portrait. Michel's romper suit looks to be a patterened one.

The 1960s

Guétary family (early-1960s)

Here we see a French father taking his two children to primary school. The children look to be about 6-11 years old. The father in this case was Georges Guétary (1915-97). While the name is probably unfamilar with most Americans, he was a popular French singer for severl decades. He made one notable appearnce in a major American film--'An American in Paris'. It is interesting that an important French entertainer (and therefor presumably well off finncially) has his children in what looks like a public primary school. His entertainment career apparently gives him the flexibility to walk his children to school. The photograph is undated, but we would guess was taken in the early 1960s. The weather is a little cool. The father and the children are wearing jackets. Father, but not the children wears headwear. The boy wears a jacket, short pants,ankle sicks, and leather shoes. His little sister wears long pants to school. We do not see smocks. Girls mostly wore dresses often with smocks to school earlier. We do not see girls wearing pants to school in the 1950s. .

Lenoux family (1963)

Armand Lanoux was born in Paris (1913). He had many jobs, including village teacher, artistic designer (candy boxes), bank clerk, artist, journalist, media expert, and author. Duing World War II he was drafted as a reserve liutenant. After the German victory, he spent the rest of the War in a Gernan POW camp. After the War he became an editor for the literary journal Artheme Fayard (1950) and editor of the magazine À la page (1964). He played an important role in French media. He chaired the Committee on French television (1958-59), and was appointed Secretary General of Radio and Television International University. His left-wing oroentation show with his membership in the France-USSR Association. By the 1960s, the crimes of Stalin and totalitarian nature of the Soviet Union were widely known. He helped draft the 'Code des Usages'. He authored several books in different genres: the novel, non-fiction, chronicles, drama, and poetry. He is perhaps best known for his novel When the tide goes out. He took a specil interest in Honoré de Balzac in his work.

Colnard family (1968)

Pierre Colnard was born in Liffol-le-Petit (1929). He was a French athelte who was a world-class shot putter. He represented the club Union Sportive Nemours. He placed high in French and internatiinal competition. He was the French champion in 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, and 1970. He was the first French athelete to throw past the 17 metre mark (1961) and past the 18-metre mark (1965). His personal best was 19.77 metres (1970). Here we ee him with his two children in 1968.

Algerian-French singer family (1969)

Here we have a French singer family, Enrico Macias with his wife, Suzy Leyris, and heir children (Jocya Macias and Jean-Claude Ghrenassia) during 1969. They are on the floor of the children's room, wonderfully populated with stuffed friends. . Gaston Ghrenassia was born in Constantine, French Algeria (1938). His stage name is Enrico Macias. He is a French Pied-noir (settler) singer, songwriter and musician. He became a popular Musician (1960s). He came from an Algerian Jewish family in the then cosmopolitan city of Constantine. He began playing the guitr as a child. His father, Sylvain Ghrenassia (1914–2004) was a violinist in an orchestra that played primarily maalouf, Andalo-Arabic music. Gaston began playing in the Cheikh Raymond Leyris Orchestra at age 15. He trained to teach school, but continued perfecting his musical skills. As France at the end of the Independence War began to withdraw from Algeria, the National Liberation Front (FLN) began to take out retribution on those who favored the French. The FLN shot his band leader and future father-in-law, Cheikh Raymond Leyris (1961). The situation was clear for the Jews and French settlersa well as Mulims who had supported the French. Ghrenassia Gaston left Algeria with his wife, Suzy, and sought refuge in France where he made his career in music. He sings in many languages including French, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Turkish, Greek, English, Armenian, Arabic and many of its dialects, and recently in Yiddish.


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