At Their Doorstep = The Street Fairs of Paris & Their Carnival Folk In Stories & Photographic Postcards, 1900s


At Their Doorstep

“This beautiful, unique photographic coffee table book is an historical treasure, the only anecdotal, photographic album/journal of the vanished, mass street entertainment of Paris in the 1900s and an exceptional and colorful glimpse of the remarkable, mysterious carnival folk who created them.”

From the late 1880s to the late 1950s, and woefully neglected by historians, Paris saw three and four generations of traveling carnival families create exciting, extravagant and earthy mass street events unlike any other continual, street entertainment before or after. In neighborhood after neighborhood, hundreds of tents, steam driven rides, circuses and stalls filled boulevards, streets and sidewalks in mammoth three week fairs right at the Parisians' doorstep.

Unjustly misperceived as gypsies, itinerant carnival families were independent, hardworking, fairground business people with roots in the ancient, itinerant entertainment tradition and the peasant and working classes.

By the early 1900s, their enormously successful fairs were a welcomed escape from the drudgery and boredom of difficult, daily life. Parisians could experience the newest 20th century industrial inventions and novelties, often for the first and only times - an automobile and airplane ride, bright electric lighting, photography, the cinema and more - and enjoy less rigid class and social distinctions with all classes rubbing shoulders and mingling more freely with the opposite sex.

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About the Author

Charlotte Perret

Charlotte Perret lived in Paris from 1964 to 1981 where she raised a family, taught English to French business executives and studied French literature at the Sorbonne. She conducted the interviews for this book in 1980 just before leaving Paris for America. A museum educator by profession, she currently divides her time between Sarasota Florida, Washington D.C and France.

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About the Book

AT THEIR DOORSTEP presents remarkable, personal 1900s vintage street fair photographic postcards and family photographs from families and owners of the great game stands and steam-driven carousels, barkers, actors, carnival employees, circus and other performers that graced the street fairs of Paris in the early 20th century.

Saved for sentimental reasons and captioned with insight and tact in moving, often amusing personal anecdotes, memories and reflections, this unwitting, historical memorabilia offers a unique, first-hand glimpse of the enormous audacity, adaptability and perseverance of the traditional, itinerant carnival entrepreneur. Interviewed in 1980, few carnies are still alive who experienced the old fairs or remember their vanishing, carnival heritage. No family photographs and few vintage fairground photo-postcards have ever before been published.

For several generations and millions of Parisians, these exciting, extravagant, earthy, yet little documented neighborhood street fairs, were the most eagerly awaited events of the year. For the carnival folk, the road and traveling fairs were their way of life, places of hard work and discipline, a constant challenge to their skills and ingenuity, their entire existence.

This undervalued slice of 1900s Parisian life is a beautiful, entertaining, one-of-a kind coffee table book for enthusiasts of history, entertainment, photography, folk and social history, and all things Parisian and French.

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