Race Screens on NOPSI 930 were typical on the 800 and 900 streetcars.
Movable race screens on NOPSI 930 streetcar. (Franck Studios photo in the public domain)
Jim Crow segregation began in the 1890s. They started in the wake of the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision. It comes as no surprise that the city where Homer Plessy and the Citizens Committee did their work embraced Jim Crow. White families of the area asserted their supremacy over the former enslaved and their families. We often look at New Orleans society as something more than white versus black. Creoles of color had extensive influence in the city. The White League saw them as “colored,” however. Because they weren’t “white”, the Creoles of Color were no better than the former enslaved to white people.
The Jim Crow laws, and the overall attitude of racial segregation helped foster the Great Migration of the early 20th Century. The most visible impact of this movement of African-Americans to the north and west was with musicians. Jazz started out as a musical style in the various black communities of New Orleans. Musicians tired of having to enter/exit venues via the back door got on the train for New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. The music spread. It stayed home, too, as many African-Americans didn’t leave the South.
Back of the bus
Separate but equal was problematic on public transit. While the Canal and West End lines looped around Liberty Place, many of the lines operated “point to loop.” When the streetcar reached the outbound end of the line, the crew changed the direction of the electric poles on the roof. They also changed the direction of the seats. With the seats flipped, the race screens were at the front of the car. Black folks would get in and sit, but had to keep going to the back as white riders boarded. On crowded runs, it got to the point where black riders stood in the aisle. White riders kept moving the screens back.
Naturally, black riders got fed up. In Montgomery, Alabama, that came to a head when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955. New Orleans was spared a Montgomery-style bus boycott. A federal judge ordered the race screens on NOPSI streetcars and buses be removed in 1958.
Cash Boys moved the money before cash registers
D.H. Holmes used Cash Boys up to the 1920s. Here’s a group of them in 1910.
Cash Boys were employees of large dry goods and department stores. Before cash registers, these stores puzzled over how to control money on the sales floor. Cash drawers meant money spread out everywhere. Managers trusted their employees, but they didn’t trust customers. Shoplifting required security. Cash required even more security.
Stores centralized cash, usually at a “cashier” station. In some stores, a clerk sat in a booth like that of a bank teller. Sales people worked hard to please customers. Sending the shopper to a cash cage cut into customer satisfaction.
Enter the Cash Boy. The sales clerk wrote up the transaction. The customer paid. The Cash Boy ran the money from the sales counter to the cash desk. The cash clerk made change, stamped the receipt as paid. The Cash Boy ran those back to the customer.
Stores, from Fellman’s to MB, to Holmes, trusted Cash Boys. They were usually children of store employees. They knew that stealing would cost the parent their job. Besides, being a Cash Boy had interesting perks. At Krauss, a couple of cash boys grabbed a quick nap. They slept longer than planned, though. When they woke up, the store closed for the evening. To survive the night, they made their way to the candy counter and sugared up! They didn’t suffer dire consequences, though, since everyone was glad they were all right.
Mechanization of the transaction
Multiple cash drawers required multiple locks and keys. It’s easy to pop open a simple cash drawer. As recently as the 1980s, Radio Shack stores used simple cash drawers. The drawers unlocked by pulling two or three levers under the drawer with your fingers. Simple enough, but a strong pull on the drawer forced it open. When the chain added computers to the sales counter (ironic, given they sold computers for years), a more-secure drawer became part of the system.
Canal Street stores stuck with Cash Boys until well into the 20th Century. Concerns over child labor motivated changes. Some stores converted to cash registers. Krauss Department Store favored a centralized system. They installed a pneumatic tube system in the store at 1201 Canal. They ran tubes from sales counters throughout the store to the office. A five-foot-by-five-foot box fan provided the airflow in the tubes. When a clerk sold something, they wrote up the transaction and put the cash and sales slip into a pod. That pod went in the tube and flew up to the office. The cash clerk processed the sale and returned the slip and change via the tube. Cash boys went back to school.
Sears, Feibleman’s and Canal Street retail.
Feibleman’s Department Store, 201 Baronne in the CBD
Sears, Feibleman’s and Canal Street
With Sears, Roebuck all but closing down nationwide, let’s look back at how Sears came to New Orleans. The Chicago company acquired stores owned by the Feibleman family, most notably, their big department store at 201 Baronne Street. Sears bought Feibleman’s in 1936. The name recognition of the local store was strong. Advertisements for Sears still mentioned Feibleman’s, years after the purchase.
Fellman and Feibleman’s
Feibleman’s ad in the Loyola Maroon, 1926
When Lippman Feibelman came to New Orleans in 1870, he changed his name to Leon Fellman. Fellman became one of the major retailers in the city, along with his brother, Bernard. By the 1880s, the Fellmans were in the top-tier of dry goods merchants. When the Merciers demolished the Christ Episcopal Church building on Canal and Dauphine in 1884, Leon expressed his desire to move into the new five story building. His brother Bernard wanted to stay in the 700 block of Canal Street. The brothers split the partnership. L. Fellman and Company opened at what is now 901 Canal Street.
Leon Fellman operated from 901 Canal until 1897. He shared the location with Simon J. Shwartz, son of Abraham Shwartz. Abraham operated a dry goods business in the 700 block as well. When fire severely damaged the Touro Buildings, Simon Shwartz moved to the 900 block. He acquired the entire Mercier Building in early 1897. Shwartz served notice to Fellman that his lease was terminated in February of that year.
Move to 800 Canal
Leon Fellman’s, 800 Canal Street, 1910
Fellman moved his store to the former Pickwick Hotel, at800 Canal (corner Carondelet Street). He operated “Leon Fellman’s” there until his death in 1920.
Sears ad, 1939
That’s when things got interesting. With the passing of the patriarch, the family changed the store’s name to Feibleman’s. The store continued at 800 Canal for ten years. The family moved Feibleman’s to 201 Baronne Street in 1930. They sold to Sears six years later.
Sears takes over
Sears ad in the Loyola Maroon, 1940
Eventually, the Feibleman name faded, leaving the national store and its huge mail-order catalog. Other Sears stores opened in the New Orleans Area. Only one remains, in Clearview Mall. That store is scheduled to be closed this year.
Basin Street was the location of Terminal Station
Southern Ry 6850 switching at Terminal Station in New Orleans ca late 1940’s Frank C. Phillips Photo
Terminal Station, Canal and Basin Streets, 1910 (Detroit Publishing photo)
Terminal Station serviced Southern Railway and the Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio Railroad, from 1908 to 1954. Travelers and shoppers on Canal Street saw the arched facade of the building. Those keeping the trains running had a different view.
Terminal Station opened in 1908. It replaced an earlier structure for the Spanish Fort route. In the 1880s, New Orleans City Railroad operated steam service to Spanish Fort, at the Bayou St. John and Lake Pontchartrain. Electric streetcars replaced steam service in the late 1890s. The streetcars followed the West End line. So, the Basin Street terminal stood unused. Southern Railway acquired the property in 1908. They built a much larger, 4-track terminal.
Track diagram of Terminal Station on Basin Street (City of New Orleans)
The terminal’s four tracks extended back a bit over three blocks from Canal Street. Southern Railway and New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad (NONE) operated trains from the station when it opened. NONE merged into the Southern system in 1916. The railroad continued operations in its own name until 1969. While it was all one system, Southern Railway’s Alabama Great Southern Railroad legally absorbed NONE that year. GM&O also offered service from Basin Street.
Diagram of tracks turning north from Basin Street (City of New Orleans)
Trains operating from Terminal Station arrived and departed New Orleans on tracks running in the “Lafitte Corridor,” between St. Louis and Lafitte Streets. So, trains left the station, crossed over Basin Street on an auto underpass. The tracks turned north, heading out to Mid-City, then Gentilly. The area marked “Cemetery” in the diagram is St. Louis Cemetery Number One. The “Church” below the tracks is Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The city ordered the railroads to combine passenger operations at Union Passenger Terminal on Loyola Avenue in 1954. Because of the location change, Southern Railway no longer used the Basin Street/St. Louis Street tracks. The path of those tracks became the Lafitte Greenway, a walking and bike trail.
Southern’s engine #6850 was an EMD NW2 switcher locomotive. The railroad owned 69 NW2s, two of which (6850 and 6851) belonged to NONE. So, this switcher moved cars in and out of Terminal Station, from Southern’s yards along the Lafitte Corridor.
The track diagrams in this article are from a 1949 grade crossing survey commissioned by the City of New Orleans. I found it in the Special Collections section of the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans. I shot just some quick phone-pics. So, I use these diagrams as prototype/background for my Pontchartrain Railroad (N-Scale) layout at home. I’ll return and shoot proper photos at some point.
Just Hotels – Where once retail ruled.
This photo from the 1950s sums up the “before” of Canal Street beautifully. The corner of Canal and Camp Streets was one of the first to be demolished, to make way for a hotel. While the old Godchaux Building gave way to the Marriott New Orleans on the French Quarter side of Canal, the Sheraton New Orleans went up on the CBD side.
Waterbury’s Drug Store
Waterbury’s was a drug store chain that had two locations on Canal Street. One store anchored Canal and S. Rampart, the other Canal at Camp. The chain competed for business with K&B and Walgreens for prescription and retail business. Families chose drugstores for a number of reasons. Proximity to the home was often the main factor. Chains that also had downtown locations boosted their popularity. K&B opened their first location Uptown. The Canal Street location gave customers the option of picking up prescriptions on the way home from work. S. J. Shwartz opened the “Maison Blanche Office Building” in 1908. Many doctors rented space on the floors above the retail space. Shwartz opened a “Maison Blanche Pharmacy” in the building. The tenant docs brought their patients’ prescriptions straight to the pharmacy. K&B feared losing business. Their Canal Street store was two blocks down. They thought folks would go for the closer location. They opened a location on the corner of Canal and Dauphine, across from the MB building
Waterbury’s adopted a similar strategy. They placed multiple locations on Canal Street. This caught the folks on multiple bus and streetcar lines.
Older New Orleanians fondly remember Waterbury’s for its soda fountains. They made nectar-flavored sodas. Folks passionately debated who had the best nectar ice cream soda.
I’m too young to have memories of Waterbury’s, but my dad said we went there occasionally in the 1960s. We’d take the Franklin bus downtown, from my grandmother’s house in Gentilly. Most of my soda fountain memories are of the K&B in Clearview Mall. The chain closed that location last. Because I worked at MB Clearview, I ate there a lot. Chocolate shake (with K&B vanilla ice cream, of course), please.
Unpacking the photo
Waterbury’s Drug Store occupied a two-story building at Canal and Camp Streets. The store placed a billboard on the roof. They painted a wall sign on the building next door. Businesses regularly took advantage of height mismatches such as this. The photo shows the two-track main line in the Canal Street neutral ground. The city ripped those tracks up when the line converted to buses in 1964. “Just Hotels” as a trend came along with the return of the Canal streetcar in 2004.
The big hotels
The Sheraton New Orleans and Marriott New Orleans, as seen from the French Quarter (courtesy Flickr user Dieter Kramer)
The Marriott and Sheraton demolished the old buildings on their property. Later hotels converted existing buildings, because the city didn’t want to lose the Canal Street facades. The Waterbury’s wall sign contrasts well with the modern skyscraper hotel. It may make it into the book.
Algiers 1865, The railroads were a lifeline for the Union.
Trains at the Algiers Terminal of the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad, in 1865. The NOO&GW served the Union forces after the capture of New Orleans in 1862.
portion of J. H. Colton’s map of Louisiana, 1863.
The railroad was chartered in 1852. Track construction began in Algiers. Track reached Morgan City in 1857. Morgan City was the western terminus for the company. NOO&GW used “Texas gauge” of 5’6″ until 1872, when Morgan converted the tracks to standard gauge.
Because it originated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, the railroad didn’t need ferries or bridges going west. Businesses using NOO&GW ferried their goods across the river to Algiers, then loaded them on trains. This made for an easy route west.
When Louisiana seceded from the Union, rebel leaders knew a blockade of the Gulf Coast was eminent. The state considered NOO&GW important as a land connection to Texas. The Union Navy captured New Orleans in late April, 1862. The Union Army moved immediately, taking control of NOO&GW in May, 1862. While rebel troops managed to re-capture some of the tracks near Morgan City in May, the Union troops regained complete control by November, 1862. From there to the end of the war, the railroad serviced the Union.
Benjamin Franklin Flanders founded NOO&GW. He sold the railroad to shipping magnate Charles Morgan in 1869. Morgan re-named the railroad, Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company. He later sold the company to the Southern Pacific Railroad. The NOO&GW merged into the SP system, becoming part of its main line.
Southern Pacific expanded the original NOO&GW terminal in the 1890s. SP operated a large yard in Algiers, until the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in the 1930s. The railroad moved their yard to Avondale then, taking advantage of the new bridge. Even now, many Algiers residents refer to the area between Atlantic and Thayer streets as the “SP Yard.”