Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, March 12, 2015

La Baïonnette and France Welcome the Sammies

In September 1917 the French Magazine La Baïonnette dedicated a special issue to welcome the United States into the war. Here are some pages from that editon.

La Baïonnette (The Bayonet) was first published in 1915, when a group of French illustrators got together and decided to create a satirical/humor magazine on the war. By the end of 1914 and the beginning of 1915, numerous soldiers who had previously been working in the printing industry, were released from military duty and sent back to their former places of work, to meet the increased demand for news publications. Many new magazine titles were also created at that time, La Baïonnette amongst them.

Good Sam and Little Nasty William

The magazine was known by several names: initially as a Coups de Baionnette and a la Baionnette', but later it was simplified to La Baïonnette. It was a fiercely patriotic publication in general, but mainly seen from the point of view of the common foot-soldier, housewife, or French worker. In spite of the impressive number of artists who worked for La Baïonnette it was never elitist or meant for high society. The main artists working for the magazine were from the so-called Montmartre group with Willette, Poulbot, Steinlen, and Abel Faivre, filled out with other renowned illustrators in the Parisian publishing world like Fabiano and Herouard. Dozens of others would also contribute over the years until publication ceased at the end of the war in early 1919.

Lafayette and Washington, the Recognition

Each issue was built up around a theme — leave, food, women replacing men behind the front, godmothers, new recruits, wounded, animals at war, Paris during wartime, and so on. There was no advertising in the magazine. It was partially published in color with many full-page illustrations. The inside pages consisted of more cartoons, satirical drawings, jokes, and witty commentary. Because of its colorful appearance, due mainly to the talent of the top-notch artists contributing, La Baïonnette was often saved over the years as keepsakes from the war years. It was also sold in bound editions and these were even more likely to be saved in households or libraries.

Pro-American or Anti-German Political Cartoons from French & U.S.  Newspapers

Because of its attractive and colorful appearance, La Baïonnette is still avidly collected and fetches relatively higher prices on the secondhand market than other contemporary publications. Extracts from the magazine are still regularly used in modern illustrated books on the Great War, with modern French publications almost invariably containing color illustrations or covers from this outstanding magazine.

The Sale Closed!
(Our readers have advised us that this has the connotation something like, 
"It's a dirty job, but some one's got to do it.")

Text by Contributing Editor Tony Langley


  1. On the last caption, "SALE AFFAIRE," a more accurate translation would be "a dirty affair" or "dirty business." The Germans are doing vile stuff in the dark, it seems, until exposed by the American light.

  2. Note that this is a published instance of the Americans being called "Sammies". Eventually, though, "Doughboy" won out.

  3. Tony, did you take these photos yourself are they digitized somewhere online?

  4. It has been many years since I’ve read “All Quiet on the Western Front”. I seem to recall the protagonist in a shell crater with a Frenchman that he either killed or who was already dead; looking through the man’s pockets he found among other items a document that said he was a printer in civilian life. Now reading this very good article I see that as a printer this man could have gotten off the line, indeed back to civilian life, as a skilled worker in a vital war industry; being in the right place at the right time. … Illya Kuryakin

  5. Great site and promotion of this magazine, Tony. Stumbled across it, searching for the lyric to La Baionette, with its satirical lyric. Keep up the fine work!