Streetcar at the New Orleans Custom House, 1916

Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, operating on Canal Street, ca 1915-16

Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, operating on Canal Street, ca 1915-16

Streetcars on Canal

The record for this photo of the Custom House by Frank B. More (in the University of New Orleans collection) is undated, but the streetcar narrows it down a good bit. The Ford Bacon, & Davis single-truck streetcar has “NO Ry & L Co.” painted on its side. This stands for “New Orleans Railway and Light Company”, the second attempt at consolidating streetcar operations in New Orleans. The company was formed in 1915, and eventually became New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated, in 1921.

The FB&D streetcars were the workhorses of the “backatown” lines at the turn of the century. While the larger, “double-truck” streetcars ran on the larger lines, such as St. Charles and Canal, the smaller “single-truck” cars spread out into the neighborhoods. Their smaller size enabled them to navigate turns on streets that would dramatically slow down the larger cars. At this time, the Custom House was undergoing extensive interior renovations. The building originally housed the federal courts for New Orleans, but what is now the John Minor Wisdom Building on Camp Street, by Lafayette Square, was just completed. The federal courts and the Post office moved out of the Canal Street building, over to the new location.

Another interesting aspect of this photo is the street vendor to the left, on Decatur Street. Unlike in the movies, I don’t have the technology to “clean that up”, and miraculously read the sign on the cart, to determine what he’s selling. Given all the federal employees that worked in the Custom House, I’m sure that cart did a brisk lunch business.

The easiest way to date most old photos is to look at the make and model of any automobiles in the photo. In the absence of automobiles, however, it can be a challenge. Streetcars were used for decades; the FB&D in this photo likely arrived in New Orleans and went into service in 1894-95. Since the iconic Union Sheet Metal light poles, with their three fleur-de-lis lamps are not visible, we can at least establish that this photo was taken prior to 1930. But the streetcar itself helps anyway for this one, because of the company name.

This photo is also in my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line.

NOLA History Guy Podcast #1


We’re calling it #1 this time because it’s a reboot. 🙂

December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus.

Here’s the Library of Congress article about that event. From the article:

The problem with this story is that it backgrounds all the work – the organizing, the building, the fundraising and traveling – that laid the ground work for that moment to turn into a movement and the effort that kept it going for a year. It turns the Montgomery bus boycott into an obvious event that was destined to succeed, rather than one created by the visions, efforts and continued steadfastness of ordinary people.

1928 NOPSI memo concerning “race screens”.

Franck photo of an arch roof streetcar from 1948, showing the Jim Crow "race screens"

Franck photo of an arch roof streetcar from 1948, showing the Jim Crow “race screens”

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

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Monday Streetcar Blogging – “Palace” on N. Rampart Street, 1918

Screenshot from 2015-10-26 08:15:10

From 1918: New Orleans Railway and Light Company’s streetcar #025 running outbound on N. Rampart Street, on the Dauphine line. This is a “Palace” streetcar, from the American Car Company of St. Louis. To the right is a single-truck Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, heading inbound to Canal Street. NORwy&L 025 is passing The Arlington Restaurant in the 100 block of N. Rampart.