A new campaign has been launched to finance a new Statue of Liberty in Central Brittany. The Statue of Liberty has come to represent freedom, democracy and justice. The one in Gourin has come to symbolize the story of emigration from Brittany, France to North America and the undying friendship between USA and France.
In 1967, the NY Times wrote a fascinating article about the story of the Breton community in the Big Apple.
Read the full story below.
NY TIMES, February 1967 - They had been on their feet all day, waiting on table or working in kitchens. They were on their feet all night, dancing, at the 17th annual Brittany Ball, held last Saturday at Manhattan Center. And a lot of them were dancing again on Sunday, above La Grillade restaurant.
Almost all French restaurants were represented at the ball, because almost all French restaurants have waiters or bus boys or cooks who hail from Brittany. And many of them come from one small town and its farming environs, the town of Gourin.
When they first came here in the early part to this century, the Bretons worked, played and stayed so tightly together in New York that few of them learned to speak English. Nevertheless, they were promptly dubbed The Americans when they returned home. Today, most of them seem to pick up English quite fast, perhaps because not all of them still live together in the Forties around Ninth Avenue. Many have moved to Astoria, Queens, and a few live on the East Side.
The Bretons, who are a Celtic people (they were driven out of England by the Anglo-Saxons about 14 centuries ago), have no great culinary tradition. “But they have a natural feel for cooking,” said Mrs. Robert Low, wife of the councilman, who has had a succession of Breton housekeepers. Mrs. Low, who said that a Breton never left without finding a replacement, has visited Bretons who have returned to France.
They seem to have the capacity of being equally happy in either environment, she said.
But not all have been happy back in that bleak northwest corner of France.
And the Brittany Association estimates that only about halt even try to return.
According to the newspaper France-Amerique, there are about 12,000 Bretons in New York City (more than one-third to the French population here). Three-quarters of the French waiters here are Bretons, the newspaper estimates.
Children Stayed in France
The original pattern seemed to be for the husband to go to work in a restaurant and the wife to go into domestic service. The children stayed in France until the parents either sent for them or returned home with enough money to start a small business.
Today, most Bretons who come over are single and, even when they marry and have a family, they can afford to keep the children here and live on what the husband makes. Consequently the children grow up in this country and, even though they may go to French schools, they prefer to speak English, the language of television.
“People take more interest in a country through their children than they would otherwise," said Jean Bodenes, owner of Le Cheval Blanc (145 East 45th Street).
Mr. Bodenes, who has no children and has been here for 37 years, would like to retire to Brittany. Mr. Bodenes traces the start of the Breton restaurant monopoly to the closing of the Michelin Tire Corporation's factory in Milltown, N. J. during the Depression.
A lot of Bretons had been employed there and most of them came to New York where, because they had no particular skills and little English, they went to work as dishwashers or bus boys at French restaurants.
One of the leading figures in the Breton community is the ample one of Mrs. Anna Daniel, who came here in 1914 and might he considered typical of early immigrants. She went to work for a lawyer on Park Avenue (she is still in service there), married a chef who worked in a private club until his death, and had two daughters whom she sent back to France to be raised by her sister before bringing them back here. Although Mrs. Daniel owns a house back in Gourin, she does not plan to live there. “This is my home,” she said, placing her hands over heart.
Mrs. Daniel used to bring a lot of girls over to work for friends of her employers. “How many times have I gone to Ellis Island to get them,” she reminisced. I would vouch for them and then get them fixed up properly so they could work in homes. Now all that has stopped."
Mrs. Daniel was referring to the new immigration laws, implemented last year, under which it is necessary to have a special skill or a very close relative in order to get into this country. As a result, few Bretons are now able to come here.
Restaurant owners are already worried about the situation. “In a few years it will be very difficult,” said Edouard Duthu, one of the owners of Le Marmiton ( 216 East 49th Street). Mr. Duthu is not from Brittany, but most of his employees are. “And a French restaurant without French help is not much appreciated." he added.
Like most people from other regions of France, Mr. Duthu looks upon the Bretons with exasperation and admiration.
“They are individuals, stubborn," he said. “But if you treat them right they work! very hard. And believe me it is no picnic to carry dishes all day.
The Bretons work hard because they are used to hard work and because most of them hope some day to open a restaurant of their own.
Gilbert Le Dour, a waiter at La Croisette (1063 First Avenue, at 58th Street), is no exception.
On Saturday, at the ball, Mr. Le Dour was wearing sideburns and native costume and doing folk dances. On Sunday he was wearing sideburns and casual clothes and doing spine-dislocating acrobatics at La Grillade, where dancing to an Italian four-piece band costs $2 on weekend evenings. Mr. Le Dour, who has been here four years, says he likes it better here when he is here and there when he is there.
“I'm mixed up,” he admitted, and added that in three months he plans to take a vacation in Gourin and marry a local girl.
Grateful for Opportunities
“In France I wouldn't be able to open a restaurant like this, even if I worked my whole life," said Albert Deniel, who opened La Grillade ( 845 Eighth Avenue, at 51st Street) in August.
Mr. Deniel came here in 1957 and started work as a bus boy at La Potiniere (60 West 55th Street).
A year later he married Lisette, who was the checkroom girl at the restaurant.
They have two children who attend l'Ecole Francaise, but prefer to speak English.
"We try to keep together in New York by having four or five gatherings a year.” said Roger Gourin, president of the 300-member Brittany Association.
“All these nationalistic things are beginning to die out," said Deputy Commissioner of Public Events J. J. O'Brien who represented the Mayor at the ball. “But I think the Bretons are probably holding together better than any of the others.”
On October 26, 1776, exactly one month to the day after being named an agent of a diplomatic commission by the Continental Congress, Benjamin Franklin sets sail from Philadelphia for France, with which he was to negotiate and secure a formal alliance and treaty. Franklin arrived on December 4th in the Breton port of St Goustan, Auray.
On arrival Franklin saw a group of peasants and approached them. They had long hair, black hats with wide brim, short jackets, bloomers, and tight gaiters. When speaking to them they did not understand his English or French (which was basic at the time). Franklin later said that he had recognized them as Bretons, older than the English.
Franklin then travelled to Vannes only reaching Nantes on December 7th where he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.
In France, the accomplished Franklin was feted throughout scientific and literary circles and he quickly became a fixture in high society. While his personal achievements were celebrated, Franklin's diplomatic success in France was slow in coming. Although it had been secretly aiding the Patriot cause since the outbreak of the American Revolution, France felt it could not openly declare a formal allegiance with the United States until they were assured of an American victory over the British.
For the next year, Franklin made friends with influential officials throughout France, while continuing to push for a formal alliance. France continued to secretly support the Patriot cause with shipments of war supplies, but it was not until the American victory over the British at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that France felt an American victory in the war was possible.
A few short months after the Battle of Saratoga, representatives of the United States and France, including Benjamin Franklin, officially declared an alliance by signing the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance on February 6, 1778. The French aid that these agreements guaranteed was crucial to the eventual American victory over the British in the War for Independence.
To celebrate Fête de la Bretagne in California (Brittany Week), non-profit organization Breizh Amerika will be hosting a series of events from May 18th-27th to celebrate the culture, food, music, film, and history of the region of Brittany, France.
A special exposition with panels, maps, photographs and brochures will be held at the Alliance Française San Francisco to highlight the authentic beauty and uniqueness of Brittany while also focusing on the presence of Bretons in California as early as the 19th century. Three panels retracing the history of Bretons in western United States, normally exhibited by Bretagne Transamerica at the Chateau de Tronjoly in Gourin, Brittany, will be on loan for the SF exposition. The expo will culminate with a lecture on the evening of May 24th on the adventures of three notable Breton-Californians.
Breizh Amerika : From Brittany to California -- Breton adventures in California
Exposition from May 14th to June 2nd at Alliance Française San Francisco (1345 Bush St, San Francisco, CA 94109)
Exhibition curator: Marion Le Guellec / Photo Exhibit: Madeleine Adkins / Panels : Bretagne Transamerica
Lecture on May 24th, 6:45pm at Alliance Française SF
Gilles Lorand and Claudine Chalmers will share the stories of some Bretons who entered San Francisco and California history.
Breton, founder and tour Guide at “San Francisco by Gilles”
Gilles Lorand will chronicle the story of Joseph-Yves Lemantour (a.k.a “Limantour”), a native from Lorient (Brittany) who owned half of the city of San Francisco and the participation of Breton sailors during the Californian Gold Rush.
Claudine Chalmers, Ph.D.
Historian, author and French Chevalier of the Order of Arts & Letters
Claudine Chalmers will chronicle the lives of two Breton pioneers who left an important mark on California : Ernest Narjot, an artist from Saint-Malo, and Jules Simoneau, a native from Nantes, tavern-keeper who helped Jules Tavernier (painter) found an art colony in the Monterey peninsula, and was best known for his friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson (novelist).
Le 14 février 1778, l’escadre de l’amiral de la Motte-Picquet est au mouillage en baie de Quiberon, Bretagne. La marine royale française veille alors sur sa flotte de pêche et de commerce face à la menace anglaise. Un navire se met en route après avoir appareillé du mouillage. C’est une corvette de 18 canons qui arbore à sa poupe un pavillon aux bandes rouge et blanche, orné d’étoiles sur fond bleu. Il s’agit de la bannière étoilée, le Stars and Stripes, que la jeune nation américaine a adoptée le 14 juin 1777.
L’USS Ranger, commandé par le capitaine de vaisseau John Paul Jones, envoie une salve de 13 coups de canon (du nombre d’états américains) pour saluer l’escadre française. La Motte-Picquet, à bord de la Robuste répond par 9 coups (chiffre réglementaire à l’époque pour une république indépendante) établissant de facto la reconnaissance des Etats-Unis d’Amérique par le royaume de France. C’est la première fois que la Star-Spangled Banner a droit aux honneurs militaires.
Que ce soit pour conjurer le sort ou montrer ses intentions pacifiques en déchargeant de manière ostensible ses armes, le salut au canon est une tradition ancienne. Puisqu’il représente sa nation dans un milieu hostile, le navire militaire constitue un vecteur de diplomatie incontestable, donnant ainsi un poids particulier aux rencontres en mer ou aux escales dans les ports étrangers. John Paul Jones s’empresse ainsi d’écrire au Congrès américain pour rendre compte de ce salut et de son implication pour la politique étrangère de la France. La bienveillance de la France à l’égard de la jeune République s’exprime notamment par le soutien apporté au capitaine Paul Jones dans ses équipées contre les Anglais. Figure fondatrice de l’US Navy, Paul Jones était un amoureux de la France. Il mourut d’ailleurs à Paris et fût enterré au cimetière des protestants étrangers de la Grange-aux-Belles, avant d’être rapatrié plus d’un siècle plus tard à l’US Naval Academy d’Annapolis, où il repose toujours.
La Cinémathèque de Bretagne a lancé une campagne de financement participatif sur la plateforme bretonne Kengo. Cette démarche vise à contribuer au financement de l'édition d'un double DVD. Ce qui permettra ainsi une plus grande accessibilité aux exceptionnelles images d'archives américaines tournées à Brest en 1917, témoignage unique du débarquement et de la vie des troupes américaines à Brest entre 1917 et 1919.
À l’heure où Brest commémore l’arrivée des troupes américaines en 1917, la Cinémathèque de Bretagne a souhaité partager un trésor : les archives filmées provenant des Archives Nationales américaines (NARA à Washington), images du débarquement et de la vie quotidienne des soldats américains à Brest en 1917 et 1918 filmées par les opérateurs de l’armée.
À travers ces images, c’est toute une époque qui revit : débarquement de milliers de soldats sur le port, aménagement de la ville et de la vie quotidienne, choc des cultures…
Imaginez, près de 800 000 Sammies débarquant au port de Brest avec, dans leurs bagages, des savoir-faire techniques encore méconnus en Europe, une musique au rythme novateur (le jazz), un sport jusqu’ici pratiqué uniquement outre-Atlantique (le basket) !
Imaginez, la rencontre des Sammies et des Brestois(es) !
Imaginez, une ville bretonne devenue américaine pendant plus d'un an…
Bref, un tournant majeur dans l’histoire de la ville dont témoignent les images étonnantes et émouvantes que la Cinémathèque de Bretagne souhaite faire (re)découvrir aujourd’hui, grâce à une nouvelle numérisation haute définition. Expo photo, ciné-concert, projection, conférences : plusieurs évènements seront proposés de septembre à décembre 2017, à Brest mais aussi à Nantes.
14 février 1778 : Reconnaissance du drapeau américain
Baptême breton du drapeau américain (Quiberon – Port Haliguen). Le royaume de France ayant signé un traité d’alliance avec les Etats-Unis d’Amérique le 6 février 1778, le lieutenant John Paul Jones de la Continental Navy quitte Nantes (où il attendait la nouvelle de cette signature) à bord du Ranger et vient prendre livraison des navires que la France cède à ses nouveaux alliés en baie de Quiberon. C’est à cette occasion qu’est salué pour la première fois de l’Histoire le drapeau américain. En effet, Jones en arrivant en vue de la flotte du comte de la Motte-Piquet salue, comme c’est l’usage, d'une salve d'honneur le pavillon du Roi. La Motte-Piquet répond baptisant ainsi le drapeau américain.
is an organization established to create, facilitate, promote, and sponsor wide-ranging innovative and collaborative cultural and economic projects that strengthen and foster relations and cooperation between the United States of America and the region of Brittany, France.