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(image: Bibliotheque National de France, 1876)
Regardless, the department stores had legions of fans. Considering their success, the average Parisian consumer found them a boon. Many had grown tired of limited availability in small shops, which found it difficult to keep up with changing fashions. Ludovic Halevy, a member of the French Academy, wrote in his diary about a young man he encountered in a milliner’s shop. The young dandy evidently was infuriated that the milliner seemed to be continuously crafting the same hats: “Nothing new at all this year!” (Halevy, 171). Among foreigners, who set up department stores of their own shortly after, the French entrepreneurs found wide support. American writers heaped praise on Aristide Boucicaut for his ingenuity and generosity. Nicholas Paine Gilman, in his book Profit Sharing Between Employer and Employee, praises Boucicaut’s attempts to improve the conditions of his fellow salesmen, snidely called “counter-jumpers” in his day: “[Boucicaut] held it a point of honor to…assist those whose talents were not adequate to the attainment of the lucrative post of…superior emplyee” (Gilman, 227). Gilman additionally commends Boucicaut’s efforts in creating investment opportunities for his employees.
Madame Boucicaut, as well, receives praise for philanthropy. Caroline Baker, a contributor to the journal of the Chautauqua Institute in New York, a literary and scientific society, commends the founder’s widow for her magnanimity. She describes her many donations to her employees and the community at large, as well as laud the store for its shopping experience: “If it is so pleasant for those who buy, it is not less so to those who sell” (Baker, 423). George S. Cole’s Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods, generally a dry, dispassionate textbook for the clothing industry, calls “Le Bon Marche” a store that “blends enterprise and philanthropy, individual genius and cooperative thrift…in a way unmatched in history” (Cole, 117). Like Baker, Cole’s entry on the Boucicauts extols their munificence and business genius. British writers as well show favor to Boucicaut and his philanthropy. In the wake of the Siege of Paris that ended the Franco-Prussian War, British charities brought food supplies to distribute to the Parisians. One writer, contributing to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, described his experiences working in the city for one such charity. Aristide Boucicaut, called by the author “an excellent man, as well as a prodigious linen-draper” (Blackwood’s, 551), allowed the Englishmen to use the ground floor of “Le Bon Marche” as a distribution point, even helping them to dispense food and prevent accidents.
For tourists, unfamiliar with the particularities of the small boutiques, the more comprehensive department stores were a godsend. The famed German travel writer, Karl Baedeker, heavily recommends the department stores over the small shops for tourists. In his travel guide to Paris, written for the British visitor, he notes that the department stores “form a very important feature of modern Paris, and…are gradually superseding the smaller shops” (Baedeker, 39). In fact, he warns against visiting small boutiques altogether, as their prices are not fixed and clerks rarely speak English. Signs that read “English Spoken” are often “an attempt to fleece the foreigner” (38). Louise Chandler Moulton, an American visitor to Paris, describes her experiences in a Parisian shop much in the same way. The English-speaking clerk attempts to sympathize with the tourist, but even after a fifty franc reduction in price, Moulton is still aware that both simply wish to cajole her into spending as much money as possible (Moulton, 247). However, she states that “Le Bon Marche” is “perhaps, the most satisfactory for general shopping” (248). Aside from any and all essentials, the store offers dozens of foreign fineries from India, Turkey, and Japan.
Hudson Commodore Eight Convertible
1940, 1941, 1942, 1945 Hudsons
Hudson's 1940 line was rearranged, rebodied and restyled. Though not innovative, the new look was pleasing and clean, with little side ornamentation and a trendy "prow front" dividing a lower horizontal-bar grille. Hudson added another page to its book of durability triumphs by running more than 20,000 miles at an average speed of 70.5 mph, setting a new American Automobile Association record.
Offerings spanned seven series, three wheelbases, and three engines. Smallest were the new 113-inch Traveler and DeLuxe: coupes, Victoria coupes, two- and four-door sedans, a convertible, and convertible sedan. All carried the 175-cid six, now rated at 92 bhp. The 212 engine with 98/102 bhp powered the Country Club Six and a new 118-inch-wheelbase Super Six, plus the two Big Boys.
The old 254 straight-eight was still around, now producing 128 bhp. Standard Eights shared the Super Six chassis and full range of body styles. Country Club Eights remained on the 125-inch span but were down to one six-passenger and two seven-passenger sedans.
Yet for all this, Hudson volume changed little -- just under 88,000 for the model year -- and red ink flowed again with a calendar-year loss of some $1.5 million.
A mild facelift was performed for 1941, when wheelbases were jled once more: 116 inches for DeLuxe and new entry-level Traveler Sixes, 121 and 128 for Super Six and new Commodore Six and Eight. All series listed two coupes and two sedans. DeLuxe, Super Six, and Commodores also offered convertible sedans. Hudson had held onto that body style longer than most makes, but buyers didn't much want it anymore, and only 200 or so were built this year in each series.
Rarer still were the new Super Six and Commodore Eight wagons, Hudson's first: only about 100 of each. Prices ranged from $754 for the Traveler coupe to $1537 for the long-wheelbase Commodore Eight seven-place sedan. As it had for many years, Hudson continued selling a fair number of commercial vehicles. Among seven offerings for '41 was a car-style pickup that now inherited the Big Boy name.
Perhaps because many people suspected war was coming, Hudson recorded 1941-model production of close to 92,000 cars, good for nearly $4 million in earnings. But that profit came mainly from defense contracts, which began materializing in early '41 -- a badly needed breather.
The 1942 models arrived in August 1941 looking smoother, if chubbier. Running boards were newly hidden, the grille was again lowered and simpler, and fenders became more stylishly fulsome. Hudson's famous white-triangle logo graced each side of the prow, and lit up with the headlamps to aid after-dark identification.
Offerings were broadly the same, but wagons were departing, and a new Commodore Custom Eight listed a lush 121-inch-wheelbase coupe and 128-inch six-seater sedan in the $1300-$1400 range. All prices nudged upward, the minimum now above $800. The government-ordered turn to war production in February 1942 ended the firm's model-year car output at just under 41,000. Among them were a handful of Hudson's last four-door convertibles.
Hudson's contributions to winning World War II included "Helldiver" aircraft, "Invader" landing-craft engines, sections for B-29 bombers and Aircobra helicopters, and a variety of naval munitions. The company made small wartime profits, then quickly resumed production after V-J Day. A total of 4735 cars put Hudson fifth for calendar 1945, a spot it hadn't held since 1934 -- and would not hold again.
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