Early in the 19th century covered passages appeared in Paris which attracted to them the small merchants who could take advantage of this new commercial development. They are still in existence, although some of them are rather shabby. One of them, however, insists upon keeping up with the times and has a “syndicat” of merchants who keep it in the news. This is the Passage Jouffroy, which opens upon the boulevard Montmartre and runs through to the old rue de la Grange Batelière.
Almost directly across the boulevard is the one which had the distinction of being built by an American, James William Thayer, and of being lit by gas in 1816 before any other street in Paris; this is the Passage des Panoramas; and the panoramas which gave it its first popularity were painted, if you please, by Robert Fulton, the first American steamboat builder, who was here in France to study the steamboat models of the real inventor of steam-boats, the Marquis de Jouffroy. As an aside, I mention the fact, generally overlooked, that Fulton gave full credit to Jouffroy, for he was only eleven years old, in 1776, when Jouffroy launched his first steamer.
Fulton had as a co-worker on the panoramas, the young man, Daguerre, who was to give his name to that predecessor of the photograph, the daguerreotype. And they may be said to have ushered in that phase of night-life in Paris which today is in the cinema, for it became very fashionable to go to the panoramas, lit by gas, that “Iatest” of lighting methods!
The Passage has had to give way, in part, to office buildings, but it is still worth a visit. And close by is the Pas-sage des Princes, which became fashionable on the boulevard des Italiens because of the theater of that name, from which the crowds could come into its restaurants and cafés after the performance.
The Passage de Choiseul, named after the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Louis XV, whose great estate was here, serves today as a very useful thoroughfare between the rue St Augustin and the rue des Petits Champs.
On the rue Vivienne, near the rue des Petits Champs there is the Galerie Vivienne, once very popular, but today, like the Galerie Colbert almost alongside, extremely somnolent, in spite of the advantages it offers of going shop-ping without being in danger from wind or weather.
There is one Passage which, if you have a cult for the theater, will demand a pilgrimage; it bears the honored names of the two delicatessen merchants who built it Vero-Dodat. Here came fashion in the early 19th century to eat from the hands of these two enterprising sausage-makers and to visit the shops and the tea-rooms along it. In 1839 the great tragedienne, Rachel, lived here with her parents. Today, in spite of its good glass covering, its splendid locality between the Bank of France and the Louvre, its quaint wooden shutters, the Passage Vero-Dodat is as dead as a door nail.
The Passage Brady runs out of the boulevard de Sébastopol and was once a sort of miniature Coney Island or Bowery; today it is comparatively sedate; and there is another, the Great Stag (Grand Cerf), which connects the rue St Denis and the rue Dussoubs; a third, from St Denis to the rue de Turbigo, Passage de l’Abbé, is a little down at the heels, but full of history no doubt, although no one has yet written it.
The most obvious of all is the Passage du Havre, which is a veritable bazaar and connects the rue St Lazare with the rue du Havre; it is particularly crowded on rainy days.
And then, there are the most modern and latest of all these establishments for commerce under glass, the ones up on that latest of business thoroughfares, the Champs Elysées. It will be impossible for you to miss them, for they are new enough to advertise themselves to visitors, knowing that, as usual, the native Parisian will be a little slow in getting there.
There are others in Paris, but do not study the directory as I once did and think that all the “Passages” are glass-covered. I counted over two hundred before I realized that it would have been impossible to cover so many with glass. But that is the state of mind you get into when you want to tell your compatriots about Paris and not let them miss anything.