24 June 2016

Celebrating la Fête in 19th-Century Massachusetts

Pamphlet-souvenir de la fête patronale des Canadiens-
     français de Lowell, Mass., le 24 juin 1891
Lowell, MA: Bureaux et ateliers d'imprimerie de l'étoile, 1891

An item I don't own, though I dearly wish I did, this pamphlet-souvenir is just the sort of thing that 19th-century American nativists might've used as ammunition. Twenty-first-century nativists favour ammunition of a different sort.

I can't look at it without thinking of Antoine Gérin-Lajoie's Jean Rivard, le défricheur and Jean Rivard, économiste, twin fantasies written in an effort to stem the southern flow of Canadiens. Nearly one million francophone Quebecers left for New England in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Charles Laflamme, Commissaire-Ordonnateur-en-Chef de la Fête St-Jean-Baptiste, was one.

Inspector Laflamme is one of twenty-eight men – they're all men – featured in this chapbook. Note the emphasis accorded his place of birth. Others came from Béconcour, Longueuil, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières, l'Avenir, St-Eustache, St-Valentin, St-Laurent, St-Judes, St-Grégoire, St-Guillaume d'Upton and St-Théodore d'Acton. No one appears to have done so well for himself as Doctor J.D. Desisle.

The mind behind Dr Delisle's Kinium Compound Wine, he was clearly a man of means, and could easily afford a full page ad.

It's remarkable just how many pharmacies advertised in the pamphlet-souvenir; I count eight, including these two.

This being la Fête, as one might expect, a fair number of the ads play on patriotism...

...but most are ads from firms that neither play up nor hide their heritage.

And then there are the ads placed by those who saw la Fête St-Jean-Baptiste as an opportunity to show their appreciation for their immigrant neighbours:


The Internet Archive has scans of the pamphlet-souvenir here

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