Research for a historical (romance) novel and accompanying DVD/Power Point presentation can be challenging, especially when the scenes and research occur in Boston, Mass.; Alexandria, VA; the Scioto area of Ohio; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Lamoine, ME—and Paris, France. Travel to some of these places may be reasonable, since my husband and I travel to New England as often as we are able (I am a New Englander and love the coast). However, travel to France is not reasonable for us.
When my research uncovered a French café that has been in continuous operation since 1686, I sighed contentedly. THIS could be the location of a scene somewhere in the novel, probably used as a back-story. The scene would occur several weeks after the fall of the Bastille. The characters include members of the French Scioto Company (an extension of the Ohio Company’s sub- land grant known as the Scioto Associates). These characters are discussing ways to interest the French populace in purchasing land in Ohio. American lawyer/poet Joel Barlow is present, as an agent of the Scioto Associates, as is an extraordinary woman, Rosalie de la Val (known as Madame). Being female, she was not allowed to be in the café. However, she entered, disguised in male attire (she was to become an independent land speculator in America).
I needed pictures of the Procope Café. I found some on various Internet sites, including the photo site FLICKR. They show an elegant café, where patrons through the centuries met: writers, philosophers, revolutionaries, statesmen, scientists, dramatists, stage artists, play writers, literary critics, Americans.
These excellent pictures supplied me with sufficient visual description to write the scene. However, copying the photos for use in a power point presentation (or to illustrate this post) could lead to copyright theft accusations. The process of getting permissions is unfamiliar to me, and seemed bothersome. What I really wanted to do was to somehow obtain my own photos. And to get them without flying across the ocean!
I was pleased to receive an E-mail from a distant relative in Sweden, Ann Aberg. Her daughter, she wrote, was going to study in Paris for a year. I replied, boldly asking if she might take some pictures of the Procope Café for me. There was no response.
Fortunately, three persons in my community go to France on a regular basis. Since one isn’t a photographer, I begged and cajoled the other two to do some photography for me. I sent the first traveler off with the following note:
I’m writing an article for a historical journal, the New England Quarterly, and am also authoring a historic romance novel, concerning the La Compagnie du Scioto. The time era is 1789-1790. I will have one scene take place at the Café La Procope. I have asked (to continue reading this post, click on: PROCOPE CAFÉ, PARIS: Part 1—Finding photographs: An International Adventure )