A Hazy Morning in December by Alexander John Drysdale

A Hazy Morning in December by Alexander John Drysdale

A prolific painter, Alexander John Drysdale came to New Orleans in 1903

Alexander John Drysdale

Alexander John Drysdale’s A Hazy Morning in December

Painted in 1913, this work presents a scene along the Mississippi River at New Orleans. Given the perspective and the curve in the river, it’s likely Drysdale stood on the dock of a wharf uptown. A ship awaits the day’s loading/unloading. A tugboat travels upriver, managing the currents. The view looks toward the French Quarter and the Third District. He captures the blurry, hazy, smoky, not-romantic vibe of the working riverfront.

The Artist

Born in 1870, Alexander John Drysdale was educated in New York City. He began painting professionally when he came to New Orleans in 1903. From Wikipedia:

The start of his professional life as an artist coincided with his move to New Orleans in 1903. At that time, he became heavily involved in the Artists’ Association of New Orleans. He established his studio at 320 Exchange Place in the New Orleans French Quarter. Significant commissions included D.H. Holmes Department Store and Sushan Airport, as well as showings at Tulane University and the National Association of Newspaper Artists. In later life, Drysdale was partially supported by the Civil Works Administration. Today his art can be viewed at the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Historic New Orleans Collection.

1913 Riverfront

New Orleans rose to prominence as the second-largest port city in the United States prior to the Southern Rebellion. This was in part because its location near the mouth of the Mississippi River enabled easy export of cotton and indigo and import of finished goods of all kinds from Europe. Cotton was still king by the time of the Industrial Revolution. High-volume cotton presses improved export volumes. Planters and smaller farmers sold their crop to factors in New Orleans. Those companies transported cotton via riverboat (go read Derby Gisclair’s book on steamboats) to the city. The raw cotton was compressed and loaded on freighters like the one in this painting.

Additionally, New Orleans became an import nexus for coffee and bananas. Riverboats and railroads moved the goods north.

Christmas Tide – Rex 1914 #watercolorwednesday

Christmas Tide – Rex 1914 #watercolorwednesday

“Christmas Tide” was a float in the 1914 Rex Parade.

christmas tide

Rex presents Christmas Tide

The theme for the 1914 edition of the Rex parade was, “The Drama of the Year.” It’s no surprise that the krewe featured Christmas as part of that drama. This is a design sketch for the “Christmas Tide” float. The float features a Celtic Cross formed by light emanating from the Star of Bethlehem. A choir of angels surrounds the cross as a shepherd and his flock look up in wonder.

From the Tulane library record: Watercolor on paper, 16.5 x 20 inches, Rex float designs, Carnival Collection, Manuscripts Collection 900, Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Elaborate themes, exciting floats

The School of Design regularly presents beautiful parades. After all, the King of Carnival requires an appropriate escort when he takes to the streets of Uptown. While a modern parade offering a calendar/holiday theme might use “pool floats” on the cheap, Rex doesn’t play that. Their “drama” included floats like this one, “Lament of the Winter Winds,” and “Court of King Winter.” Artists hired by the krewe begin with pencil sketches of the floats. The Captain and his officers finalize the parade’s order. The sketches become watercolor paintings. The float builders turn those paintings into three-dimensional reality.

Actual photos

While this is #watercolorwednesday, I neverhteless wanted to find an actual photo of this float. I’ve yet to find one. There’s an auction site that offered a copy of the newspaper “broadsheet” published that year. I’m not a customer of that site, so all I can see is a thumbnail.

Happy Holidays!

I hope you had a wonderful Festival of Lights! May your Yule this week be everything you wish, and Christmas next week be happy and peaceful. May Mr. Bingle smile on you and bring you joy.

NOLA History Guy December (9) – Legendary Local A. Baldwin Wood

NOLA History Guy December (9) – Legendary Local A. Baldwin Wood

NOLA History Guy December continues with Legendary Local A. Baldwin Wood

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A. Baldwin Wood (left)

 

Baldwin Wood’s story is our next for NOLA History Guy December

In 1899, A. Baldwin Wood graduated from Tulane University with a degree in Engineering. He took a job with the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board that year. Wood was more than just an engineer. He was an inventor. His signature creation was the “wood-screw pump.” That pump revolutionized drainage in New Orleans. Wood and the S&WB installed his pumps in stations across the city. While his wood-screw pumps have been replaced by modern turbines, his contributions to the city’s infrastructure and drainage strategy can’t be understated.

The caption

nola history guy december

The Melpomene Street pumping station is named for Wood

The book offers two images for Wood:

Pumps. A. Baldwin Wood (1879-1956) worked for the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, where he invented the Wood Screw Pump that revolutionized flood prevention in the city. Pumps based on Wood’s designs have been in operation for over 80 years. (Images courtesy NOPL and Carlos “Froggy” May)

 

Legendary Locals of New Orleans

nola history guy december

As mentioned earlier, Legendary Locals of New Orleans differs from the IoA books. A few years ago, a local group of school librarians invited me to speak at one of their meetings. I told them, of the books I’ve written, the one that really should be on their shelves was Legendary Locals. Think about it–a teacher assigns a project for social studies, write a report about someone notable in the city’s history. What’s the kid likely to do? Go to the school library and lay the assignment out for the librarian. Rather than simply suggest a name or two, hand the student my books. Tell them to flip through the short (100-150 word) entries on each Legendary Local. Some may pick an athlete, others a musician. There’s a wide range of personalities.

(NOTE: this book is a great gift for the library at your kid’s school. If you do that, order the hardcover edition of the book. It costs a bit more, but the librarian will appreciate it.

From the back cover:

Since its founding in 1718 by the LeMoyne brothers, New Orleans has cemented its status as one of the busiest ports on the continent. Producing many unique and fascinating individuals, Colonial New Orleans was a true gumbo of personalities. The city lays claim to many nationalities, including Spaniards Baron Carondelet, Don Andres Almonester, and French sailors and privateers Jean Lafitte and Dominique Youx. Businessmen like Daniel Henry Holmes and Isidore Newman contributed to local flavor, as did musicians Buddy Bolden, Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima. War heroes include P.G.T. Beauregard and Andrew Jackson Higgins. Avery Alexander, A.P. Tureaud, and Ernest Morial paved the way for African Americans to lead the city. Kate Chopin, Lafcadio Hearn, Ellen DeGeneres, Mel Ott, Archie Manning, and Drew Brees have kept the world entertained, while chefs and restaurateurs like Leah Chase and the Brennans sharpened the city’s culinary chops. Legendary Locals of New Orleans pays homage to the notables that put spice in that gumbo.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.

 

NOLA History Guy December (7) – Canal Street, 1906

NOLA History Guy December (7) – Canal Street, 1906

NOLA History Guy December continues with a Canal Streetcar image.

nola history guy december

Ford, Bacon, and Davis

Alexander Allison captured four New Orleans Railway and Light (NORwy&Lt) streetcars in this image of the 801 and 901 blocks of Canal Street. The stores display red,white, and blue bunting and banners, marking Independence Day, 1906. There are several Allison images in New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line.

Three single-truck cars designed by Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FBD) roll up and down Canal Street. The streetcar on the left rolls on the outside inbound (towards the river) track. The two outside tracks on Canal enabled the lines converging on the main street to turn around. For example, a car coming up Royal Street would turn onto Canal for a block, then turn onto Bourbon Street. While the modern St. Charles line does something similar with Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue, St. Charles operated in “belt” service with Tulane at the time of this photograph.

The car on the left-center track also travels to the river. It will circle around Liberty Place, then proceed on its outbound run.

The third single-truck rolls outbound (towards the lake) on the outside track. It will turn either on Dauphine (by the Mercier Building), or go up to N. Rampart Street.

The fourth streetcar in the photo is a double-truck “Palace” car. It’s running on the Canal/Esplanade belt. If it’s running on Esplanade (the roll board displaying the route isn’t visible), the motorman will steer the car to N. Rampart. If the car operates on Canal or West End, it’s heading towards the cemeteries.

The buildings

Most of the 801 block buildings remain the  same today. The Mercier Building looms in the background, at 901 Canal Street. It’s the home of Maison Blanche Department Store. The company will replace this building with the 13-story one we all know well in a year.

The photographer

Alexander Allison was an engineer for the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board. He was also a prolific photographer, taking photos all around the city. His job took him to every corner of Orleans Parish. His photo collection is maintained by the New Orleans Public Library.

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.

New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets.

NOLA History Guy December (6) – Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

NOLA History Guy December (6) – Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

Our sixth installment of NOLA History Guy December features Krauss Department Store

NOLA History Guy December

NOLA History Guy December – Krauss

At the end of the 19th Century, the 1201 block of Canal Street consisted of a series of single-family homes. In 1899, Businessman and real estate developer bought those buildings. Fellman demolished those buildings in 1903, building a two-story retail store.

Fellman was a well-established merchant in New Orleans. He started with his older brother, Bernard, running a dry goods shop in the 701 block of Canal. The brothers split, with Leon opening his own store in the Mercier Building at 901 Canal. When S. J. Shwartz acquired 100% of that building, Fellman moved to 800 Canal. While he saw potential for a successful store in the 1201 block, he wasn’t going that far up the street.

Leon invited his nephews, the Krausz brothers, to open their own store in his new building. The brothers changed their last name to Krauss, and opened what the Daily Picayune called “a veritable trade palace” in 1903. Krauss Department Store operated there, eventually occupying two city blocks. The store closed in 1997.

Growth and expansion

Krauss was an instant hit. Since the four Krauss brothers were bachelors, none of them had family to turn the store over to upon their retirement. So, they passed control over to Leon Heymann, their brother-in-law. Leon a New Orleanian with business interests in Houma, married Tekla Heymann. He assumed control of Krauss in 1920. Heymann acquired the entire square block behind the store, as well as the block directly behind that. With help from his son, Jimmy, and brother-in-law, Leon Wolf, Heymann expanded the store to fill the 1201 block, back to Iberville Street.

Christmas, 1952

In the 1950s, J. Phil Preddy managed the store’s displays and advertising departments. Preddy, a talented artist in his own right, created works for the store ranging from ad illustrations to giant murals painted on the front of the store. What better for NOLA History Guy December than Preddy’s Christmas display mural for the 1952 holiday season.

The Book

nola history guy december

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.

NOLA History Guy December (5) – New Orleans Jazz

NOLA History Guy December (5) – New Orleans Jazz

Our fifth installment of NOLA History Guy December features New Orleans Jazz

nola history guy december

NOLA History Guy December – Kid Ory

David Simon’s TV series for HBO, “Treme” was in its third season in the summer of 2012. When I learned the show was green-lighted for a fourth season, I pitched a book to Arcadia, “Faubourg Treme.” A couple of days later, I received an email from one of the acquisitions editors. They liked the idea, but wondered if I would be open to a project of a wider scope. I saw Treme as an important neighborhood in New Orleans history, particularly Black history. They saw Treme as the birthplace of Jazz. (Strictly speaking, it was one of the birthplaces, but we got there in the ultimate book.) So, said, sure, and began work on New Orleans Jazz.

Dutt

Edward “Kid” Ory, “Dutt” to his friends, was born in LaPlace, Louisiana. As a teen in the 1900s, he came into New Orleans on weekends to play gigs with his friends. They took the train into town, then borrow a wagon. They meandered around the city, promoting their gig for that Saturday evening. The trombone players in these bands played off the back of the wagon, the “tailgate.” That way they could work the horn’s slide without risking damage.

Here’s the caption for one of Dutt’s photos:

Tailgate. Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973) played banjo as a child, developing a style known as “tailgate,” where the trombone player plays rhythm, under the lead of trumpets/cornets. Originally from LaPlace, Louisiana, legend is that Buddy Bolden “discovered” the 19-year old Ory in Uptown New Orleans and brought him into the fledgling Storyville jazz scene, but his sister told Bolden her brother was too young to play the clubs. Ory did make it to Storyville in the 1910s, then moved to Los Angeles in 1919, eventually making his way to Chicago. In Chicago, he played with King Oliver, Jelly Roll, and Louis Armstrong. Ory took a long hiatus during the Great Depression, but his career enjoyed radio success from 1944-1961.

Dutt was one of the original “Creole Jazz” players. The Great Migration of Black Americans from former slave states to Northern and Western states saw many Black musicians move to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Ory played with King Oliver and Pops in Chicago, then settled in Los Angeles.

The Book

nola history guy december

New Orleans Jazz by Edward J. Branley

From the back cover:

Discover how Jazz shaped the history and enhanced the life of the citizens of New Orleans.

From the days when Buddy Bolden would blow his cornet to attract an audience from one New Orleans park to another, to the brass bands in clubs and on the streets today, jazz in New Orleans has been about simple things: getting people to snap their fingers, tap their toes, get up and clap their hands, and most importantly dance! From the 1890s to World War I, from uptown to Faubourg Treme and out to the lakefront, New Orleans embraced this uniquely American form of music. Local musicians nurtured jazz, matured it, and passed it on to others. Some left the city to make their names elsewhere, while others stayed, playing the clubs, marching in the parades, and sending loved ones home with jazz funerals. Older musicians mentored younger ones, preserving the traditions that give New Orleans such an exciting jazz scene today.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.