Maroon Monday – SS President in 1933
Kicking off a new feature here – “Maroon Monday” – featuring ads and other interesting items from The Maroon, the student newspaper at Loyola University New Orleans.
Our first Maroon feature is from 1933. It’s an ad for dance cruises on the riverboat SS President. Riverboat cruises go back to the 1910s and earlier. The steamboats did nightly dance cruises, and afternoon trips on weekends. The cost in 1933 was seventy-five cents; by the time I was in high school in the mid-70s, a Friday night cruise on the President cost five dollars.
The band on the President in the fall of 1933 was “Fate Marable and his famous Cotton Pickers”. Marable was a well-established band leader, one of the musicians filled the void left when Buddy Bolden stopped performing in the 1900s. Marable worked with riverboat owners, putting together bands of black jazz musicians. Joe “King” Oliver and Louis Armstrong were just two of the musicians who played in Marable’s riverboat bands in the 1920s. Marable’s bands played on the SS Capitol and other riverboats of the time. Those wooden boats had a short lifespan, however. The Streckfus Company upgraded the President, rebuilding the superstructure in steel. The boat officially called St. Louis home, but it moved back and forth from St. Louis to New Orleans as Streckfus chose.
While the name “Cotton Pickers” for a “creole jazz” combo may be a bit cringe-worthy now, it was code for a “colored band” in Jim Crow Louisiana. There are a couple of photos of Marable’s bands in New Orleans Jazz.
Here is the SS President, thirty-seven years later, in 1970. We would go on the President to see “Colour”, a 70s Beatles Cover band, among other acts. The boat had not changed much from those “new” days, back in the 1930s.