The Early American Obsession with French Culture

Nicole Mahoney discusses how elite Americans looking to shore up their status in the Early Republic adopted French forms of high culture: from furnishings and fashions, to social customs and events, to French words and exclamations.

She talks about this French fetish by focusing on two sources she used at Hagley. The first was the library of books that the du Pont family brought over with them when they emigrated. The second "golden nugget" source she discusses is the diary of Margaret Izard Manigault, a wealthy American from a prominent background.  In her diary, Manigault detailed her travels, purchases, enormous social circle, and the constant work it took for her to maintain her elite status.


Banner images: Sample page from the 1799 du Pont family packing lists, Hagley Library. Mrs. Gabriel Manigault portrait, The Met.

Nicole Mahoney is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park.