On April 3, 1922, France's Marshal Joseph Joffre (1852-1931) visits Pike Place Market and samples its cuisine. His visit is part of a larger, four-day trip to Seattle that is filled with ceremonies, but his informal tour of the market is one of the events that he seems to enjoy most.
The Hero of The Marne
Joseph Joffre served as commander of the French Army during the first years of World War I (1914-1918). In the early weeks of the war he achieved considerable fame in the First Battle of the Marne, when troops under his command repulsed an aggressive German attack that threatened Paris and had the potential to knock France out of the war entirely. As a result he earned the nickname "The Hero of the Marne."
In 1921 it was announced that Joffre would visit Canada and the United States, including Seattle, the following year as part of a larger world tour to promote peace. Philanthropist Samuel Hill (1857-1931) met Joffre in Yokohama, Japan, in January 1922 and joined him as he toured the Far East. They arrived in British Columbia during the last week of March and visited several cities there before crossing into the United States at Blaine on March 30, where Joffre rededicated the Peace Arch.
Welcome to Seattle
Joffre and Hill arrived by train at Seattle's King Street Station late in the evening on March 30, where they were welcomed by a cheering crowd. They were driven to Hill's residence at 814 E Highland Drive and greeted by Joffre's wife, Henrietta, and his 20-year-old daughter, Germaine, who had arrived in Seattle three days earlier. Exhausted from his trip, Joffre spent most of the next day resting at Hill's home. But the Joffre family and Hill did motor out to the Carnation Stock Farm in the afternoon, where they had a nice lunch and inspected the cattle.
On Saturday morning, April 1, Joffre gave a brief presentation in French to a crowd of 2,500 at Seattle's Coliseum Theatre. His speech was translated by Major Ulysses S. Grant III (1881-1968), grandson of the famed Civil War leader and U.S. president, who served as Joffre's aide during his American tour. Afterward Joffre and his entourage drove slowly through downtown Seattle, past thousands of cheering Seattleites and their children. Children had been specifically asked to attend to please the marshal, who was fond of youngsters.
A Magical Broadcast
At noon Joffre stopped by the Post-Intelligencer Building to deliver a brief radio address. Though tame by standards even a decade later, in 1922 such a broadcast seemed almost magical. Seattle's first impromptu radio broadcast had occurred just two years earlier, and the first call letters for a radio station in the city had only been issued the previous December. Large speakers had been set up atop the P-I building to broadcast the address, and people stopped in their tracks. Explained the P-I the next day, "Outside the crowd listened in wonder. The words of a man in the tones of a giant roared in the air" ("Joffre Speaks By Radio"). A luncheon and a reception with Seattle's French colony followed at the Arcade Building.
The next day was dedicated to an afternoon tree-planting ceremony in Sunnydale (now  part of Burien) in honor of American soldiers killed during World War I. Despite a gentle drizzle, hundreds looked on as Joffre ceremonially shoveled a mound of dirt over the roots of an elm. The tree was one of 1,000 elm trees planted in 1921 and 1922 as a memorial to American war dead between the southern boundary of the Seattle city limits and Sunnydale along an eight-mile stretch of what is today known as Des Moines Memorial Drive.
An Animated Chat
Monday, April 3, was Joffre's last day in Seattle. Madame Joffre had visited Pike Place Market on her first day in Seattle and had been enchanted by it, buying meat and vegetables to cook for the marshal's dinner and telling him more than once that he would have to visit the market while he was in town. So when the family, accompanied by Grant, Hill, and others, went out on a shopping expedition that morning, the market was their first stop.
And the marshal enjoyed it as much as she did. A pretty young lady selling eggs caught his eye as the party entered the market and he stopped to flirt with her, with Hill acting as interpreter. Joffre proceeded to the farmer's side of the market, and was intrigued to learn that the farmers selling the produce had actually grown it themselves. He met a French-speaking farmer and became engrossed in a lengthy and animated conversation with him over the proper way to grow lettuce. Joffre's retinue grew restless. Some became visibly bored. Major Grant edgily fiddled with his bright Sam Browne belt. But they all smiled politely and attentively when the marshal glanced their way.
Joffre finally moved on to a delicatessen stand, where the entourage sampled a ladle of green olives. While they snacked, other French-speaking people came up to chat with the marshal, who was happy to oblige them. When he died in 1931 a Times reporter wrote that although Joffre saw much during his Seattle visit, it was Pike Place Market -- as well as the children he saw during his parade through Seattle -- that he seemed to enjoy most.
The Joffres continued their shopping tour at several other stores, including Frederick & Nelson's, before leaving Seattle late that night for their next stop, Portland.