Giraffomania — New Friday Salon Series At Athenaeum

la girafe (2.7) The Providence Athenaeum hosts historian and author John Tresch for “Transformative Milieu: The Paris of Geoffroy’s Giraffe,” part one of ‘What use is the giraffe?’ — The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century.

In the summer of 1827 a very young giraffe arrived in Paris, a gift for King Charles X from Muhammad Ali, the Pasha of Egypt, who had reason to curry political favor from the ruler of France. . . she had arrived by ship from Alexandria in the fall of 1826, and where she and the two men who had attended her on the voyage – one a Beduoin and one of Sudanese origin – had spent the winter. . . The giraffe’s journey took 41 days, paced in part to accommodate the increasing and frenzied crowds of thousands, even tens of thousands, of eager spectators that she attracted in towns along the way.  Shortly after arriving in Paris she was presented to the King, and thereafter made her home in the Jardin des Plantes, where for over a year she created an unprecedented sensation, sending Parisians into a state of delirious “giraffomania.”

Copies of Tresch’s 2012 book The Romantic Machine: Utopian Science and Technology After Napoleon will be available for sale and signing. New library exhibit — Zarafa: Spectacle of the Giraff, 1826-1839.

Public welcome, 5pm to 7pm, Friday, February 7th, Providence Athenaeum, 251 Benefit Street

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