The Omnibus’ Funeral

Since the 1820s horse-drawn carriages had been the backbone of public transit in Paris and other cities around the world. Today the humble bus is the workhorse of public transit, in the nineteenth century it was a novelty. Literary scholar Masha Belenky dubbed it an “engine of modernity” in her new book of the same name, which chronicles the cultural sensation that the omnibus was for nearly a century after its debut — the star of page and stage, and a symbol of the dramatic social and economic changes transforming Paris and France in the nineteenth century. Read my summary of the fantastic, forgotten life of the Parisian omnibus. (Lapham’s Quarterly, 04/30/2020)