A remarkable history
Jules Jeanneney, Under Secretary of State in the second Clemenceau government in 1917, recounts in an unpublished text what led Georges Clemenceau to settling in the rue Franklin:
« It was [in 1895] at the end of an extraordinary period in his life that Clemenceau moved to the rue Franklin.
At the time of the Panama Affair Clemenceau had been exposed to outrageous slander. Despite his strength of character and magnificent courage displayed in response, his constituents had despicably insulted him; he felt abandoned by his party, let down by friends and under suspicion in his own country. He had finally lost his parliamentary seat and newspaper, whose liabilities he had to cover...
It was from there (his apartment in the rue Franklin) that radiated during the Dreyfus Affair and the troubled years that followed, his tireless combat for justice, the controlled freedom of democracy, and the grandeur of the Nation.
During the 48 months he subsequently (on two occasions) held power [October 25, 1906 – July 20, 1909, November 20, 1917 – January 18, 1920], it was again in his apartment in rue Franklinthat he returned each evening to arm himself for the unrelenting fight. It was there that he continually measured the magnitude and misery of victory, and so much loss ».
Clemenceau could have lived in palatial residences when he was in the government, but always refused because as he once mentioned «I don't want to live in a furnished flat».
The apartment was «conceived for work, rest, and social intercourse with friends». Clemenceau found «an abundance of books and walls hung with numerous mementos of family, travel or friendship», while the little garden satisfied «his taste for fresh air, flowers, the company of his dogs and birds» (he had installed a chicken coop).
The rent was modest. Madame Morand, the building's owner, «knowing that her tenant's resources were very limited, refused to raise the rent. Being quite old herself, she had taken the precaution of requiring that her heirs commit to doing the same». Unfortunately, the heirs could not reach agreement after her death and the building was put up for sale in 1926.
Georges Clemenceau was resigned to the idea of having to live year round in the small vacation home he rented at Saint-Vincent sur Jard in the Vendee. His friends were greatly concerned, though, owing to his advanced age and the house's isolation and relative lack of comfort.
The day after the auction sale of the building, the new owner?s lawyer, an American named Henry Selden Bacon visited Georges Clemenceau at rue Franklin. Bacon was the Paris lawyer of a rich Canadian businessman, James Stuart Douglas, an Arizona mine owner who – like his father – was a great admirer of Georges Clemenceau. At the request of one of Clemenceau's friends, Madame Madeleine Baldensperger, Douglas had authorized his lawyer «to bid without limit, and if need be to disregard any objection from The Tiger» (a Clemenceau nickname).
Thus on May 18, 1926, after a starting price of FFr 500,000 and with just one competing bidder- the neighboring Jesuit school of Saint-Louis de Gonzague looking to expand– Mr. Bacon acquired the building for FFr 950,000.
James Stuart Douglas was not a stranger for Georges Clemenceau. The American businessman regularly visited as a sign of respect when he was in France. In Arizona, Douglas had named a small town near his mining site after Clemenceau.
In this way, Georges Clemenceau was able to live out his life in peace in the rue Franklin apartment.
To show his gratitude, Clemenceau made the following provisions in his will dated December 23,1927: «I bequeath to Mr. James Stuart Douglas of Arizona, the pastel of a female figure by Van Glehn, which is on the mantelpiece in my study (...) to the town hall of Clemenceau (Arizona) the Chaplet vase ( ...) that is above the mirror in my study (...) to Mr. Henry Selden Bacon, I bequeath the sleeping Buddha, in bronze, which is on the table in my bedroom... »
After his death on November 24, 1929, a Foundation was established with the mission « to perpetuate the personal memory of Clemenceau by maintaining the apartment he lived in for 34 years in the exact state it was found in on the day of his death, and by collecting in the building all items or books likely to serve his memory »
The Tiger's three children, Michel, Thérèse and Madeleine, donated the apartment's entire contents to the Foundation.
The museum opened to the public in 1931.
James Stuart Douglas then gave the building to the Foundation
A few years later, the floor above the apartment was converted into gallery space inaugurated in 1935.
« In 1939, at the beginning of hostilities », Jules Jeanneney, the Foundation's first president tells us « the Museum's especially valuable objects were removed to a safe place. During the Occupation, the Germans demanded that the Museum remain open. They visited in large numbers, never failing at the entrance to salute by clicking their heels »