Adolphe Gouhenant (Hardcover)

French Revolutionary, Utopian Leader, and Texas Frontier Photographer (Texas Local Series #3)

By Paula Selzer, Emmanuel Pecontal

University of North Texas Press, 9781574417692, 464pp.

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

List Price: 34.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Adolphe Gouhenant tells the story of artist, revolutionary, and early North Texas resident Francois Ignace (Adolphe) Gouhenant (1804-1871). Born at the dawn of the Romantic era, Gouhenant traveled from a small village near the foothills of the Alps to France’s second largest city, where he built a monument to the arts and sciences atop Lyon’s famous Fourvière Hill. His wildly ambitious schemes landed him in court and ultimately devastated him financially. Participating in clandestine revolutionary organizations, Gouhenant organized a secret meeting under the guise of a Masonic banquet and was later imprisoned for conspiracy against the monarchy.

Aligning himself with the early communist movement, Gouhenant advocated for workers’ rights and was selected by well-known Icarian communist Etienne Cabet to lead an advance guard on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic to settle a utopian colony in North Texas. Despite broken wagons, severe weather, and lack of food, he navigated overland from New Orleans in 1848 to establish a small settlement in Denton County. The community, beset by hardships, ultimately scapegoated Gouhenant and accused him of being a French agent deliberately sent to lead the group to destruction into the wilds, and for this “treason” they shaved his head and beard and expelled him from the colony (which collapsed shortly thereafter).

Gouhenant then journeyed to Fort Worth to teach the federal soldiers French and art, and next to Dallas where he founded the town’s first arts establishment in the 1850s. He set up shop as a daguerreotypist and photographed the town’s early residents. His Arts Saloon was the scene of many exhibitions and dances but ultimately became the high stake in a nasty battle among Dallas’s leading citizens, setting legal precedent for Texas homestead law. Gouhenant’s death in a freak railroad accident left behind mysterious claims that contribute one last chapter to this amazing man’s story.

About the Author

PAULA SELZER is a third great-granddaughter of Adolphe Gouhenant. She has spent twenty-five years working on children’s health policy for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EMMANUEL PÉCONTAL, a French professional astronomer and an historian of astronomy, works at the Centre Recherche Astrophysique de Lyon.

Praise For Adolphe Gouhenant: French Revolutionary, Utopian Leader, and Texas Frontier Photographer (Texas Local Series #3)

Adolphe Gouhenant presents a more truly multicultural view of early Texas/early Dallas than perhaps previously explored. It is meticulously researched.”—Michael R. Grauer, author of Rounded Up in Glory: Frank Reaugh, Texas Renaissance Man (UNT Press)
“This is a fascinating story. The authors have mined court records, Masonic records, correspondence, and limited newspaper accounts to present a much fuller portrait of Gouhenant. Particularly impressive is the amount of material they unearthed in France, revealing Gouhenant’s early life as an art restorer, amateur architect, and communist revolutionary.”—Michael Hazel, editor of Legacies and author of Historic Photos of Dallas and Dallas: A History of Big D

“Adolphe Gouhenant has been Fort Worth’s Mystery Man for 170 years, vaguely remembered as a French man of letters who brought civilization and gentility to a frontier outpost, part of which included teaching music and art to Maj. Ripley Arnold’s daughters. Until now he was more mystery than substance. Selzer and Pécontal have brought him to life, doing research on both sides of the Atlantic. Gouhenant becomes more than a Fort Worth figure; he is an important figure in Texas history.”—Richard Selcer, author of A History of Fort Worth in Black & White: 165 Years of African-American Life (UNT Press)