Canal Street 1918 – Armistice Day in New Orleans was a day of celebration.

canal street 1918

Men and boys of New Orleans’ Italian community join soldiers in the 900 block of Canal Street on 11-Nov-1918 (Franck Studios photo via HNOC)

Canal Street 1918

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month. The End of World War I was marked with celebration in New Orleans. There’s a seven hour difference between New Orleans and Paris. So, New Orleans woke up to the end of the war. One of the first gathering points was the 900 block of Canal Street, in front of the Audubon Building, S. H. Kress, and Maison Blanche.

canal street 1918

New Orleans celebrates the end of WWI, 11-Nov-1918 (courtesy HNOC)

As the news spread, people gathered on Canal Street. The worst war the world had known was over.

canal street 1918

Sailors and New Orleanians parade around, celebrating the Armistice, 11-Nov-1918 (HNOC photo)

By the afternoon, impromptu parades popped up around the city. Because New Orleans.

New Orleans – 1900-1915

New Orleans enjoyed an incredible growth spurt in the 1900s-1910s. The Sicilian community expanded out from the French Quarter and Treme, into Mid-City. By 1915, they established their own Catholic parish, St. Anthony of Padua, on Canal Street. The Irish and Germans continued growing in the Irish Channel. The city (well, with the exception of the African-American community) was on a roll. They city built new schools. Streetcar routes expanded. Canal Street evolved into a department store nexus.

World War One

Canal Street 1918

Liberty Bond parade, 1917 (Franck Studios photo)

World War I in New Orleans was different from the Second World War. The war started in 1914. The United States didn’t enter the war until 1917. The commitment of the United States to the European war was quite different than twenty-five years later. The US sent an “Expeditionary Force” to Europe. While the battlefields were horrific places, the “total war” of the 1940s didn’t yet exist. So, the biggest issue for New Orleans was the closure of the Storyville District. The Southern Railway brought thousands of troops to New Orleans. They ended their journey at Canal and Basin Streets, right next to Storyville. The military commanders didn’t want their troops in brothels before boarding ships to Europe. Therefore, City Hall closed down the district, after twenty years. Canal Street 1918 was all about supporting the troops.

The Home Front

canal street 1918

WWI tank rolls down Canal Street as part of a Liberty Bond parade in 1917. (HNOC photo)

Aside from sending the boys to the war, New Orleans didn’t play a large role in the war effort. The city’s German community fell victim to a great deal of xenophobia. Berlin Street changed to General Pershing Street, for example. New Orleans, for all of our French/Spanish/African roots, could not separate itself from its German connections, though. The Germans made it clear they were Americans first. The most important role in the war for New Orleans was buying Liberty Bonds. Financing the war effort required cash. Bonds paid the bills. Even though buying war bonds was a sacrifice, New Orleans, like the rest of the nation, stepped up.

War Memorials

Canal Street 1918

WWI Monument on Canal Street, 1919 (courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)

Canal Street displayed war memorials starting in 1919.

Canal Street 1918

Victory Arch in the Bywater (HNOC photo)

The Ninth Ward’s Victory Arch was the first permanent WWI monument in the country. The arch is controversial, because the names of New Orleans’ WWI dead are segregated on the monument.