MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

MB Memories Escalators

Escalators at Maison Blanche on Canal Street

MB Memories – Escalators on Canal Street

While Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store was the first department store on Canal Street to install an escalator, MB wasn’t far behind. MB Memories for me include a lot of up and down on those escalators.

Early Escalators

Krauss added an escalator from the ground (first) floor to the “Mezzanine” in 1927. Not to be outdone, Maison Blanche acquired an escalator system a year later. Those first escalators were “up-only” systems. They were meant to get shoppers upstairs quickly. Getting down was another story. The store wasn’t all that motivated to get folks out of the store. So, initially, the paths back down to the first floor included stairs (from the second floor), and the elevators.

Eventually, MB expanded the escalators to all five floors. The elevators were towards the rear of all the stores. The open architecture of escalators made them attractive to customer and retailer alike.

Maison Blanche in the 1950s

This Franck Studios photo is from the early 1950s. The post-war boom was in full swing. Returning vets finished their educations. They moved out of mom and dad’s house, to Gentilly and Lakeview. Really adventurous folks headed to the suburbs, Metairie and Chalmette. Maison Blanche recognized this, opening stores in Mid-City and Gentilly in 1948. The Airline store wasn’t far behind.

Throughout all that expansion, Canal Street anchored the chain. The five-story store continued drawing shoppers from all over the city. Buses replaced streetcars on many transit lines, but that didn’t stop the shoppers. They still came to Canal Street.

Many older shoppers didn’t trust escalators. They didn’t like stairs, so they continued to use the elevators. MB’s elevators had human operators for years. Automatic, push-the-button service, was considered bad treatment of customers. Cheerful smiles encouraged buyers to buy!

Finding photos in unlikely places

Finding photos in unlikely places

Finding photos in unlikely places

(this article is cross-posted from ArcadiaCoach.com)

finding photos

Carver House Terrace Restaurant at Lincoln Beach, New Orleans, 1956 (courtesy NOLA.com)

Finding photos in unlikely places – it’s fun!

Checking our Facebook group, “Ain’t There No More” (the title is an homage to a popular New Orleans song) this morning, I saw Todd Price of NOLA.com posted another of his “lost restaurant” articles. Todd’s one of the food-and-drink writers for the Times-Picayune newspaper. You’ll see me refer to the T-P as “Da Paper” occasionally. Da Paper has an extensive photo database. Todd makes wonderful use of it. Not really sure how he gets his job done, some days. One day, I’ll get Da Paper to hire me in some capacity. Then, access to all those images and articles is mine! 🙂

Most of Todd’s old restaurant photos engage readers, However, today’s article had a neat find. The photo up top is Carver House Terrace Restaurant. This was the “nice” place at Lincoln Beach, the old Jim Crow amusement park. Here’s Todd’s caption:

CARVER HOUSE TERRACE
The restaurant was part of Lincoln Beach, the lakefront amusement for black New Orleanians. When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, the previously whites-only amusement park Pontchartrain Beach was integrated. Lincoln Beach closed that same year. (1956 photo)

This is a particularly nice find, because it’s hard to come up with good photos of Lincoln Beach. Since it was the segregated park. Therefore, you didn’t have photo-bug white folks with disposable income walking around, like one would see at Pontchartrain Beach, the whites-only amusement park. Newspaper reporters didn’t go out there as much for slice-of-life segments, or people-having-fun stories. Most of the photos that are easily viewed are from after it closed, or of musicians and other entertainment acts that played to the African-American audience.

Be creative when you search

That doesn’t mean photos of Lincoln Beach don’t exist. It’s a question of refining search fields and digging in the right offline collections. In this case, Todd found Carver House in Da Paper’s restaurant files. It’s likely that the photo wasn’t tagged with a keyword for the park.

Jim Crow-era research is problematic in general, because so many of the “separate but equal” facilities were anything but. So, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, those facilities were rendered redundant. White-only facilities were far better, so black folks integrated into those. The other big problem is that Jim Crow-style segregation was outlawed 53 years ago. This photo of Carver House is from 1956. It’s over 60 years old. While archivists will save everything they get their hands on, government agencies were quick to box up segregation and put it on the shelf. Sometimes the “shelf” was the dumpster out back.

Finding photos on African-American subjects

Researching Jim Crow-era subjects? Your best bet for finding photos is family photo collections. Maybe grandpa and grandma saw Fats Domino out there. Possibly they ate at Carver House. So, ask around. Somebody’s got a box of old photos in the attic.

Go dig around!

Maison Blanche Department Stores
by Edward J. Branley

mb book

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building 13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors.

The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character Mr. Bingle, in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade 1953

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Ford Cars parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953 (Franck photo)

Canal Street Christmas Parade in 1953

New-model Fords parade up Canal Street, Christmastime, 1953. We’ve had numerous versions of the Canal Street Christmas parade over the decades. Commercial parades such as this don’t happen like they used to, mainly because permit costs have risen dramatically. The modern non-Carnival parade in New Orleans is the “wedding second line” we see almost daily in the Spring and Fall. This is where a just-married couple stops their motorcade three or four blocks from their reception venue, then have a second line parade from there to the hotel/restaurant. It’s good fun and easy money for the bands, even if everyone else complains about stopped traffic in the Quarter.

Canal Street in 1953

Lots of interesting stuff going on in this photo. This is the first-generation “Big Bingle” on Maison Blanche’s flagship store. Mister Bingle is only six years old at this point. This is why he’s teamed up with Santa Claus. As Bingle got older, locals pushed Santa aside. For the first few years of Mr. Bingle (Emile Alline of MB created him in 1947), he was a drawing in advertisements. Then the Bingle puppets appeared. Oscar Isentrout pulled the strings on the puppet.

Lights cover the front of the MB building, all around Santa and Mr. Bingle. Those lights disappeared in the 1960s. The store introduced decorations along the front of the store at that time. There are no front windows on the second floor of the store. Christmas decorations adorned those big front panels.

WSMB

Canal Street Christmas Parade

Detail of WSMB sign

Another interesting item in this photo is the WSMB sign. I’ve got a bunch of MB photos, and this is the first time I’ve noticed this sign. My MB book includes a wide shot of Santa and Mr. Bingle from this time. The WSMB sign is right in front of the “Office Building” entrance. That entrance stood at the lake-side end of the building. It opened into a lobby with elevators that took folks up to the office floors above the five floors of retail space. The radio station was on the thirteenth floor. When the elevator doors opened, visitors looked into a big glass window, into the studio. This ground-floor entrance is the main entrance of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Fords

I’m awful at identifying automobiles, so if you can spot the types of cars in the parade, please do in comments!

Maison Blanche Department Stores
by Edward J. Branley

mb book

On October 30, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building 13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character Mr. Bingle, in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

William Smith to his wife, 1862 (courtesy Howard-Tilton Library)

Letter from William A. Smith to his wife, Caroline, 1862-12-29

I’m sure most of you know that, in addition to my history books, I write fiction. I’ve written two YA novels and an Urban Fantasy story.

One of my longer-term fiction projects is a novel set in Civil War New Orleans. So, I regularly save primary sources from the period, to get a better feel for the period.

New Orleans during the Civil War fascinates me, because the city was taken out of the action/fighting relatively, in April, 1862. As the war raged, the city went back to being a busy port, albeit for the Union. While access to the city from the north was a challenge, waterborne commerce resumed when US Navy lifted its blockade. Therefore, goods and people came back to the city. Intrigue and excitement came with them!

From the North to Ship Island to Baton Rouge

Since I’m more interested in the “feel” of the time and the tactics of the regiments, I haven’t looked into the Smiths at all. He’s clearly in a Union regiment, since he talks about Ship Island. Ship Island, in Mississippi Sound, was the staging area for Butler’s troops. They moved up from the swamps near Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, then into New Orleans. Eight months later, this regiment fought in the area around Baton Rouge.

There are numerous stories and legends about Benjamin “Beast” Butler in New Orleans. Most of them are inaccurate, being part of the “Lost Cause” mythos. So many schools taught the Lost Cause as fact over the last 150 years, folks in the South have it backwards. While Butler is important to the story, I see him as the least interesting. Accounts like Smith’s letter here make far better stories. Since they’re part of the written record, as opposed to tall tales passed down, they’re more valid.

Source for this letter

This letter is available from the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library at Tulane University.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

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.

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 1

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 1

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 1

new orleans history books

Images of America – New Orleans Television by Dominic Massa (Octavia Books link)

New Orleans History Books for Christmas – Part 1

Over the next few days, we’ll be offering some suggestions for books on New Orleans History for Christmas. We’ll feature two or three books each evening.

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children: . . . and Other Streets of New Orleans! (Paperback) by John Churchill Chase

new orleans history books

Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children by John Chase

This is the first book I usually recommend when someone says, what’s a good New Orleans history book. I grew up with John Churchill Chase’s editorial cartoons, at the New Orleans States-Item newspaper and on WDSU-TV. I remember the huge history mural he drew for the lobby of the main branch of New Orleans Public Library on Loyola Avenue.

Chase’s book tells the story of the city through its streets. Just roll with it. It’s awesome.

The Joy of Y’at Catholicism by Earl J. Higgins

new orleans history books

The Joy of Y’at Catholicism by Earl J. Higgins (Octavia Books link)

I first met Earl Higgins at a book signing at Loyola University in 2006. i signed my Canal Streetcar book, he this book. I’d never heard of him before. It was one of the best two hours of my life. He’s bloody brilliant. The book is, in many ways, a follow-up to Chase’s book. He uses the streets, buses, and streetcars to tell stories, but they’re tied together with Catholicism. My favorite line from the book is (paraphrasing), everyone in New Orleans is a little bit Catholic, even the Jews. 🙂

From the book’s description:

The term y’at is an affectionate nickname proudly worn by some New Orleanians. Higgins, a proud Jesuit High School blue jay and y’at, explains how all these Catholic customs and traditions have blended throughout history to create a unique lifestyle and shorthand language found only in New Orleans.

This is a great book for locals and visitors alike.

New Orleans Television (Paperback) by Dominic Massa

new orleans history books

New Orleans Television by Dominic Massa (Octavia Books link)

There are going to be a number of “Images of America” books in this series of suggestions, and not only because I’ve written four of them. 🙂 I love this book, because it brings back so many memories of television when I was a kid. Now that I’m approaching sixty, the memories are fuzzy. So many of the old shows weren’t recorded, so Massa’s photos make for fond recollectins.

From the book’s description:

This collection of vintage photographs highlights the history of popular programs and personalities, beginning with the city’s first station, WDSU-TV. After signing on the air in 1948, Channel 6 introduced favorites like Mrs. Muffin, The Great MacNutt, and Midday while building a news team that included local icons Mel Leavitt, Nash Roberts, and Alec Gifford.

If you’re not familiar with IoA books, they’re essentially photo collections. Easy reads, for all ages.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

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.

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

st. louis cathedral, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819. Drawing by Benjamin Latrobe (public domain image via THNOC)

St. Louis Cathedral, 1819

I’m working on a scene that’s a bit of a flashback to 1820 New Orleans, for my next novel. As usual, I looked around for some contemporary illustrations of the Quarter, and found two interesting drawings of the St. Louis Cathedral.

The first (top) is a drawing by architect Benjamin Latrobe. This is the 1794 construction. The original parish church burned in the fire of 1794. Andres Almonaster y Rojas, notary for the Spanish Colonial government (and father of the Baroness Pontalba), financed the construction of the church. With the appointment of the first Bishop of Louisiana in 1792, this was the first cathedral on the site.

Unknown Illustrator, 1819

St. Louis Cathedral 1819

Scene showing the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytere, before 1820. (Public domain image courtesy THNOC)

The illustrator of this second drawing is unknown, but it’s from the same period. While Latrobe’s drawing has the precision of an architect, this sketch captures the church’s surroundings. The Cabildo is on the left. Pirate’s Alley is between the Cabildo and the St Louis Cathedral, 1819. That name for the alley wouldn’t come into common use for decades. Therefore, the cathedral is center, then another alley (to later become Pere Antoine Alley). Trees obscure the Presbytere on the right.

Place d’Armes

The square in front of cathedral was not yet Jackson Square. It was the parade ground, the Place d’Armes, or Plaza das Armas, in Spanish. So, the Cabildo was the seat of the Spanish Colonial government. When the Americans took ownership of Louisiana in 1803, the building remained the seat of government. W.C.C. Claiborne kept his office as Territorial Governor. He also stayed there as governor of the State of Louisiana.

1830s Expansion

The cathedral chapter and the diocese decided the church needed to be more prominent. So, it was expanded in the 1830s. Unfortunately, the extensions to the towers put too much pressure on the structure. By late 1840s, the building was in danger of collapse. The diocese re-built the cathedral into the building we know today.

 

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

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.