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Two short segments on NOLA History Guy Podcast 22-June-2019
Exhibit from the WWI Museum
NOLA History Guy Podcast 22-June-2019
We’re back after a week off, while we celebrated LT Firstborn’s master’s degree! The submariner earned a master’s in Military History from the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He spent the year as a student living in Kansas City, MO. So, we went up to see him graduate and have him show us around.
On the last day of the adventure, last Monday, we went to the National WWI Museum and Memorial. While it’s natural for New Orleanians in particular to compare the museum here with the one in KC, they’re quite different.
St. John’s Eve
Clip from the New Orleans Times, 25-June-1870
Our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History is a bit of a cheat. We picked Sunday, 23-June, because it’s St. John’s Eve. Pre-Christian religions celebrated the Summer Solstice for thousands of years. When Christianity moved into Northern Europe, the priests integrated pre-Christian celebrations into the church’s liturgical calendar. Mid-summer, the solstice, became the Feast of St. John. The night before offered pagans a chance to hold their rituals.
St. John’s Eve on Magnolia Bridge
In New Orleans, those “pagans” were Afro-Caribbeans, free and enslaved. They worked their spirits, their Loa, into the Christian framework.Those who respect the spirits of Voudon go out to Magnolia Bridge over Bayou St. John to celebrate the solstice on St. John’s Eve.
WWI Memorial in Kansas City
The memorial part of the WWI Museum and Memorial is over seventy years older than the museum. The foundation created to make the memorial broke ground in 1926. Generals, Admirals, politicians, and 60,000 members of the American Legion witnessed the event. The LibertyTower and adjacent buildings opened in 1926.
Exhibit from the WWI Museum
Until 2002, the museum portion operated from the two Beaux Arts buildings on either side of Liberty Tower. Kansas City followed New Orleans’ D-Day Museum, along with others, in upgrading. While the museum in KC isn’t as large as the WWII Museum, it’s comprehensive.
Link to my lecture from last week at the National World War II Museum.
Canal Street 1918 – Armistice Day in New Orleans was a day of celebration.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
WWI Monument on Canal Street, 1919 (courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)
Canal Street displayed war memorials starting in 1919.
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.
John Mendes photo – Maskers in the 800 block of Canal, 4-Mar-1919
There were no parades for Carnival, 1919. World War I ended on November 11, 1918, so the krewes did not plan to parade in 1919. The happy circumstance of the war ending brought out maskers and revelers, though. This John Mendes photo shows an interesting group of maskers and others in the 800 block of Canal Street.
A couple of items of note here:
The streetcar is a “Palace” car, from American Car Company. The “Palace” cars were generally considered to be the most comfortable that ran in New Orleans, including the arch roofs. The operating company in 1919 was New Orleans Railway and Light. It would be four years before the big purchase of arch-roofs from Perley Thomas.
There is a “ghost ad” for “Trianon” on the building behind the streetcar. The actual name of the palace in Versailles, France, where a number of treaties were negotiated over time, is “La Grand Trianon”. The treaty that formally ended WWI wasn’t signed until June 4, 1920. Interesting coincidence.
If anyone know what the product/place “Trianon” referenced here would be, let me know. Here’s a zoom of the ad:
Zoom of Mendes photo from 4-Mar-1919, showing “Trianon” ad.
Parades resumed the following year, 1920.
From 1918: New Orleans Railway and Light Company’s streetcar #025 running outbound on N. Rampart Street, on the Dauphine line. This is a “Palace” streetcar, from the American Car Company of St. Louis. To the right is a single-truck Ford, Bacon and Davis streetcar, heading inbound to Canal Street. NORwy&L 025 is passing The Arlington Restaurant in the 100 block of N. Rampart.