The Storyville debate continued past the District’s creation. .
In their edition of 9-October-1897, The Mascot re-printed a letter from “CITIZEN,” originally published in The New Orleans Item. The letter decries the establishment of the Storyville District, not so much because of the morality of brothels, but because of the behind-the-scene shenanigans taking place between property owners and the New Orleans City Council. The City Council created the District via an ordinance passed on 6-July-1897. They designated the area between Basin, Customhouse, N. Villere, and St. Louis Streets as a red-light district, where prostitution was legal.
Opposition to Storyville
Those who objected to the District did so on more than moral grounds. The neighborhood broke down into the up-scale “sporting palaces” along Basin Street, to the “cribs,” small houses going back into the District, towards N. Villere Street. The price of the evening’s activities reflected the location. So, whether the customer was punter with some money, or a working man looking for some action on a budget, the houses of Storyville met the needs. While those who objected to prostitution in any form howled, the notion of creating a red-light district appealed to many. In particular, property owners in the Vieux Carre and in Faubourg Treme on the east side of the Carondelet Canal liked the idea.
The letter writer, “CITIZEN,” decries the shifts in property values created by the ordinance:
The ordinance has not only done an unjustified injury to the property holders owning real estate, to the value of more than half a million dollars, in the former district occupied by the lewd and abandoned, but has really been a barefaced scheme to speculate to the detriment of a large portion of our population, for the benefit of a few, who are on the ground floor of city affairs, and has afforded several human vampires an opportunity for extorting for old dilapidated shanties fabulous rentals out of all proportion to the value of their properties.
Essentially, CITIZEN argues that houses in a red-light district lose value. At the same time others jacked up the rental prices. The description of “old dilapidated shanties” fits with many of the descriptions of “cribs” in the District.
The flowery prose of the letter writer, combined with the parallels of the issues surrounding short-term rentals of modern times make this a fascinating read.
Distaff New Orleans dropped their first issue in February, 1973.
Distaff New Orleans
In December of 1972, a group of women journalists, writers, and others came together to produce a feminist publication. They dropped the “preview edition” of Distaff, a journal for women. The preview generated sufficient interest (and subscriptions) that the team published their first issue the following February. This issue’s editorial describes Distaff New Orleans as a “feminist newspaper collective.” The newspaper covered local, national, and international stories. Additionally, Distaff New Orleans offered the reader art and verse.
Journal for Women
We discussed the history and background of Distaff in our post of 20-Jan-2021. This initial issue rolled out to initial acclaim and thoughtful discussion. While producing a print newspaper (later generations would likely call this publication a “zine”) presented challenges, the staff published for over a year. They ran out of funds in 1974.
Abortion and Roe v. Wade
Roe v. Wade and the larger issue of abortion rights in the United States occupied the thoughts of many in the early 1970s. While the actual Roe case hits the federal courts in 1970, its journey to the Supreme Court progresses to the final decision in 1973. Distaff embraced reproductive rights fully in February, 1973. The issue included several articles covering abortion from both local and national perspectives.
Drawing and verse
So, Distaff New Orleans opened true to the spirit of its preview edition. While the collective presented the heavy national topic of the time, they also offered local stories, along with art, written and drawn. This combination of verse and illustration appears on page 4:
I am a woman
lost in the maze
be my mother
build my wings
(the verse and angelic drawing are signed with initials,)
Additionally, there’s art throughout the issue.
Mary Gehman’s article on page two discusses maternity leave for teachers in Orleans Parish Public Schools. Almost fifty years later, the convoluted mess that entangled tenured teachers in 1973 is settled law, with the Family and Medical Leave Act. While Catholic teachers agree to “morality” clauses, federal law shuts much of this down in public schools. Gehman’s 1973 take demonstrates the evolution at its origins.
The Mascot 5-Jan-1895 presents the tribulations of wealth widows on the cover.
The Mascot 5-Jan-1895, via LSU Libraries Special Collections
Scandal! The Mascot 5-Jan-1895
The front page of this edition of the New Orleans paper, The Mascot, featured an illustration of a wealthy widow. While she thinks back to her late husband, a number of European “noblemen” seek her hand. These men do not have money, but they do have titles. Those titles, naturally, are essentially worthless in the United States.
Marriage for money
Seeking a woman’s hand for her fortune was not a new trend. The Mascot 5-Jan-1895 reflects on the story of a Chicago widow, Mrs. Burke Roche. They come hard at the Europeans. That’s because The Mascot was, to put it mildly, a “scandal sheet.”
Scandal and Slander and Shootings, oh, my!
In 2012, the Times-Picayune published a background article on The Mascot, ahead of a talk about the scandal sheet by Sally Asher. Asher tells the story of the paper’s run. It graced newstands from 1886 to 1897. She offers a couple of anecdotes about The Mascot in the article:
“I found a lot of court cases where writers were misidentified as Mascot writers,” she said, “because nothing was bylined. So they were attacked and beaten up.” Once, she recounted, an unfortunate Times-Picayune photographer was at a local hospital, doing a story. “And the med students said, ‘That’s a Mascot illustrator!’ And they attacked him, and beat him up,” Asher said, rather gleefully.
To my knowledge (and someone more inside, please correct me), no writers or illustraters of the Vieux Carre Courier or The Gambit were ever beaten up for their work.
The Mascot is an early entry in the line of “alt” newspapers in New Orleans. While I enjoy a number of writers on the current staff of The Gambit, it’s no longer “alt.” Antigravity now claims the title of “alt,” and The Gambit is now a “dad” paper.
Neither of those papers hold a candle to The Mascot. We’ll explore this throughout 2021.
Shameless Holiday Plug: Buy my books!
The Times-Picayune Farewell begins. I have concerns. (cross-posted to YatPundit.com)
Screenshot of NOLA.com, 03-May-2019 in the morning.
The phone delivered a tweet with a story about The Advocate acquiring the Times-Picayune yesterday afternoon. I feel a sense of anxiety and urgency over this acquisition.
They’re firing the entire staff at TP/NOLA.com. This wasn’t a merger, it’s a purchase of intellectual property and physical assets. The humans that made NOLA.com what it is are on the street.
When Newhouse delivered their last big round of cutbacks at TP, I felt like something should/could be done to develop a platform in the market that offered a place for some of those laid-off writers to publish and get paid. Folks told me there was no way it would work. A discussion group on the subject failed miserably. Fortunately, Lamar developed the idea for TBB delivered big time in its first year.
TP employed a lot of talented people. Many of them know New Orleans is home, in spite of this setback.
The “digital era” of the Times-Picayune spans over twenty years. While Da Paper struggled, management and staff found a “digital voice.” Forays into video produced good, thoughtful discussion between writers such as Tim Morris and Jarvis Deberry. The bumps in the road were large, though. The first massacre at TP was when Newhouse fired all of the “digital” staff at NOLA.com. That staff operated separately from T-P. Unifying the dot-com with the newspaper offered the organization an opportunity to take charge. All this now shifts to history.
The stories of how NOLA.com grew, then shrunk, then merged with T-P connect with New Orleans’ larger stories in the early aughts and teens. T-P struggled like everyone else during Katrina. They rose above the #shitshow.
We must preserve these stories and memories.
I’m thinking this through, but we have to move quickly. People pack up and leave as soon as other opportunities present themselves.
Work with me to preserve the stories of the last twenty years.