Elizabeth Olds flourished during the Great Depression
This is a wonderful lithograph by Elizabeth Olds, done as part of a WPA-funded project in New York. From Olds’ bio on Wikipedia:
From 1935 until the early 1940s, Olds was a nonrelief employee for the Works Progress Administration-Federal Art Project (WPA-FAP) in the Graphic Arts Division in New York, where she helped younger artists in the silkscreen unit. She also joined the American Artists’ Congress, Artists Union, and other groups with similar interests. Olds became friends with Harry Gottlieb, another nonrelief artist who also focused on industrialism. Together, they observed the mining and steel industries of New York, and their research lead to Olds’s creation of her award-winning print, “Miner Joe.” Olds used both silkscreen and lithography for the prints for ‘‘Miner Joe,’’ but it was her lithograph that won first place for the Philadelphia Print Club competition in 1938.
Jazz speaks to us in many ways. Olds, working with younger artists in New York, She’s teaching them how to do silkscreen and lithos, is inspired by a jazz band. The traditional brass band is an archetype; this scene could be from NYC, Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, or here in New Orleans.
Jazz isn’t New Orleans-centric
I hesitate to say “especially New Orleans,” because sometimes we forget just how far jazz spread after Bolden. The musicians who left during the Great Migration went far and wide. We hear about King Oliver, Dutt, Pops, and the other icons of jazz, but there were journeyman musicians and others who left, bringing their horns to factories and other jobs in the north. They played casually, maybe on a stoop, passing the music on to others in their new neighborhoods.
I like to think this is what Elizabeth Olds captured, as she did her own part in passing on skills that encourage art and creativity.
The WPA kept a lot of folks going in dark times. It wasn’t about just roads and bridges, and our culture is much the better for that.
The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.
In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s. That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.
Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.
These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.
In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!
Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!
It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.
So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.
Home Furnishings were an important part of the Krauss product line. While many dry goods stores at the turn of the 20th Century specialized in clothing, linens, etc., the Krauss brothers expanded out, offering a wider range of products. Rugs made perfect sense, since they were a fabric product, and the buyers were able to make the right connections in New York to get them. So, the store wasn’t satisfied with that, moving into other flooring options, like linoleum. Linoleum was common throughout the late 1800s. Invented in 1855, good linoleum was a practical and tough floor covering. The product is organic. Modern-day plastic flooring is often called “linoleum,” but that’s more a connection made by older folks who remember walking on the real thing.
Many of the same manufacturers who made rugs also made big blankets. After all, the setup of the production line isn’t all that different. The usually buying method used by Krauss was to negotiate with a factory for product. They’d go looking for one thing, identify other items out there at good wholesale prices, and bring them back to New Orleans. Sometimes they were marked as a special lot and sold as such. Other times that first purchase turned out to be a good thing for all, and the products entered the regular store inventory.
Krauss in 1921 looked a bit different than the big building at 1201 Canal Street now. The brothers expanded the original building back about fifty feet in 1911. That addition went up five stories. All of the expansions after that added on at five stories, goign to six in the back later. There were no escalators in 1921, so shoppers got to the upper floors via elevators.
Newspaper ads were the main way the store had to communicate with shoppers, even after radios became widespread.
When there’s road work on Canal Street, there’s chaos downtown, to this day.
Krauss and Canal Street after the crash
From 1930, Canal Street, shot from the corner of S. Liberty. Just off the blow that was the 1929 streetcar strike, NOPSI and City Hall decided the best way to get folks back on public transit was to rip up the city’s main street. This was the “Beautification Program” of 1930. Krauss is on the left side, with Terminal Station next to it on the other side of Basin Street. So, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the “fleur de lis” lamp poles in the neutral ground aren’t there in this photo. The poles and fixtures you see here are the last thing replaced in this round of Canal Street improvements.
Saenger-Maison Blanche Radio
You can see Maison Blanche looming over the rest of Canal Street, If the MB building seems like it’s even more dominant in these photos from the late 1920s/early 1930s, that’s likely due to the big radio towers on the front and rear of the thirteen-story building. The top floor of MB was the studio for WSMB-AM. MB removed the rooftop tower a few years later, when the station moved its transmission equipment to St. Bernard Parish.
Terminal Station, right next to Krauss, was a beautiful urban passenger terminal. It was demolished in 1954. So, that year, 1954, was the first time since 1907 that shoppers could walk up Canal Street and have a good view of the Basin Street side of the store. Krauss got a boost as a result of the station just across the street.
Because of the road work and financial decisions by the company in 1929, 1930 was one year shy of some big innovations and improvements to Krauss Department Store. Air-conditioning and the Luncheonette come to the store in 1931.
We’re not quite sure what we’re going to do yet in terms of the run-up to the drop of Krauss: New Orleans’ Value Store this fall, so keep an eye here and on Facebook for photos, ad clippings, and other Krauss tidbits. Additionally, we’ll be coming up with other creative ideas to keep you anticipating the release of the book. So, stick around! It’s going to be fun. So many photos of Canal Street are shot looking from the river up towards the cemeteries. We’re going to post more Krauss-to-the-river photos, because it gets you thinking.
Be sure to “Like” our Krauss Department Store page on Facebook!
Dr. Campanella wrote a piece for da paper today on “moonlight towers”, the big structures erected in urban centers in the late 1800s, as a first step in providing electric street lighting. When Susan Granger shared it to our New Orleans group on Facebook, Froggy added a link to some photos in the Commons, showing moonlight towers.
Moonlight Towers lit up Canal
Henry Clay Monument, New Orleans, 1892
This photo of the Clay Monument is from 1892. The moonlight tower is visible in the rear. If the size of statues is any indication, Henry Clay was incredibly popular in antebellum New Orleans. The massive monument to him, located on Canal Street, at the intersection of Royal Street and St. Charles Avenue, remained in place until it was moved to Lafayette Square, in 1901.
Cotton wagon crossing Canal Street, 1890
A big cotton wagon crosses Canal Street at Carondelet Avenue, in 1890. Better view of the moonlight tower. The cupola of the Mercier Building, later Maison Blanche Department Store, is visible in the background, through an electric pole’s cross beams.
Cut down to size
Henry Clay Monument, 1895-1897
Here’s Clay again, sometime after the Canal streetcar line was electrified, and the statue was relocated. You can see the base of the monument has been removed, so tracks would run straight through the intersection. Even then, the cars passed too close to the statue.
Location of the tower on Canal
The tower on Canal Street was positioned at Canal and Dauphine, It cast its light in a 360-degree radius, extending for blocks around. This meant it illuminated the street as far back as Basin Street and the Southern Railway terminal. Even though electric lighting evolved from this format into storefront lighting and individual street lamps, most stores closed around 5pm-6pm in the evening at this time. Night hours were still decades away.
Jerome Smith was a young civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in 1963. Arthur Schlesinger, in his book on RFK, recalls that CORE described Smith as a young man beaten more than any other CORE worker at the time.
Jerome Smith stood up to RFK
It was no surprise to anyone that Smith had no kind words for Bobby or his brother:
“Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke. I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.”
Smith was a man of the streets, not academia, or the entertainment world. He’d been in the streets, on the buses, working to register voters and advocate the cause. In the 1963 meeting Jarvis DeBerry mentions in his article about the film, “I Am Not Your Negro”, he was arguably the wokest person in the room.
I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having seen “Hidden Lines” last weekend, it’s time I did. The movie is about Baldwin, so it’s not surprising that some things get left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerome Smith (assuming they shot his remarks at all. Jarvis explains it:
Because that section of the documentary focuses on Baldwin’s friendship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and her premature death at 34, it is Hansberry’s disgusted response to Kennedy’s hemming and hawing that is given attention. But Hansberry’s decision to snub Kennedy by standing up, bidding him goodbye and exiting the room wasn’t the most demonstrable display of disgust. The most disgusted response, which isn’t in the documentary, came from New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith.
So, it’s no deep conspiracy that the woke young man got left out of the documentary. He just got overshadowed. I learned something new today, that Smith was from New Orleans. I’d not read Schlesinger’s book (it came out in 1978) when I was teaching American History in the early 1980s. I certainly would have highlighted this encounter, if for no other reason, because Smith was a local guy.
Now I want to go back to the classroom. Gotta win dat powerball.