Below is a sneak peek of this content!Hugo Kahn City Council Proclamation recognized the President of the Krauss Corporation. Hugo Kahn City Council Proclamation In the waning days of Krauss Department Store, appreciations and tributes poured into the store. Mr. Hugo Kahn, President of the Krauss Corporation, accepted most of these on behalf of the store. The New Orleans City Council went one step further, recognizing Hugo...
Mister Bingle 2020 still goes “jingle jangle jingle!
Mister Bingle 2020
We’ve done a lot of things on Mr. Bingle, the most visible icon of Christmas in New Orleans, but not a podcast ep! Mister Bingle-2020 looks to change that, as we talk about the little snow elf.
The idea of Mister Bingle began with a trip to Chicago. In 1947, Mr. Emile Alline managed the display department at Maison Blanche Department Store on Canal Street. The “Greatest Store South” opened at 901 Canal Street in 1897. Fifty years later, the store survived two World Wars. Alline was an important part of advertising and promoting the store in the post-WWII boom. Alline took the train up to Chicago to see what stores along that city’s famed “Miracle Mile” were up to for the Christmas season. He took note of many things, particularly the signature character, “Uncle Mistletoe,” at Marshall Fields.
Alline decided Maison Blanche needed a Christmas character. He came home from that Chicago run and got to work. Rather than a paternal, big, Santa-like character, Alline sketched a more child-like figure. His concept began with a small snowman. The snowman received wings of holly and a big red nose. An upside-down ice cream cone became his hat.
While it would be Alline’s job to bring his preliminary concept to life, it wasn’t his decision to go forward. He pitched the character to Herbert Shwartz, the President of Maison Blanche. Shwartz liked the concept, naming the snow-elf, “Mister Bingle.” His initials became “MB.”
Sketches and Ad Campaigns
Mister Bingle had the green light for his red nose. Alline went to work with the store’s art department to standardize the character. Bingle found his way into the daily ads in local newspapers. A back story on the snow-elf’s origin was created. New Orleans got a new Christmas story.
The artists of a department store’s Art and/or Display department were some of the most creative people in town. These are the folks that come up with ideas that make memories, like Phil Preddy’s six-foot letters, making lighted messages on the front of Krauss. A decade later, Walt Disney looked for these creatives, to be his “Imagineers.” Mister Bingle 2020 continues to inspire people with talent and drive.
Mr. Bingle goes 3-D
After the 1947 holiday season, MB desired a larger presence for their snow-elf. Alline planned to include Bingle in the store’s window displays. He commissioned a fifteen-inch Bingle doll. The prototype looked great. So, doll Bingles appeared in the windows.
While those display Bingles met different fates over the years, Mister Bingle 2020 includes the original prototype. Emile Alline’s daughters preserved the prototype doll. According to their Facebook pages, the daughters alternate Christmas “custody” of the prototype. Bingle celebrates with both branches of the family.
The Puppets and Oscar Isentrout
The folks who worked at the Canal Street store were quite familiar with businesses behind them in the French Quarter. While Bourbon Street was not as tawdry as it is for Mister Bingle 2020, the street had interesting night clubs. Several Bourbon Street clubs offered burlesque shows, interspersed with Jazz and vaudeville acts. i can just imagine Emile Alline, or one of his team mentioning a puppeteer who worked those clubs, maybe with a “or so I’m told” added to the story.
So, Alline connected with a puppeteer, Edward Harmon Isentrout. Isentrout went by “Oscar” professionally. Oscar Isentrout performed with several marionettes as an act in-between the dancers.
The creatives jumped on the idea for Bingle. Oscar referred them to a German puppet-maker, who built two Bingle puppets. Oscar became the eyes, hands, and most importantly, the voice of Mr. Bingle when those puppets took stage.
While the window displays worked on Canal Street, the “Greatest Store South” grew. Maison Blanche offered three locations for shoppers in the 1948 holiday season. The first store off Canal was at the corner of S. Carrollton Avenue, Tulane Avenue, and Airline Highway. Then came the company’s Gentilly store, on Gentilly Road, just off of Elysian Fields Avenue.
These two new stores meant Bingle hit the road. One of the puppets Oscar used stayed at the main store. The other puppet traveled to the other stores, as well as other venues for short shows.
Television audiences grew across the country in the 1950s. New Orleans was no stranger to this. Maison Blanche expanded their ad strategy to include TV ads. Oscar’s traveling puppet show went to television, specifically, WDSU (Channel 6). Oscar performed live commercials during the station’s morning cartoon/children’s programming. Oscar passed away in 1985, but Mr. Bingle lived on, particularly in animation.
Where are the puppets now?
The two Bingle puppets are still with us. One of those puppets came into the possession of Jeffery Kent after Oscar passed away. The puppet was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Bingle was a flood victim. The worst of the damage was rust-related. The puppet’s metal frame rusted, and the orange color bled out into the fabric. Kent painstakingly restored Mr. Bingle to his original condition. Since local TV weatherman Bob Breck encouraged Kent to take on the project, Mr. Breck re-introduced Mr. Bingle to New Orleans on his show.
What of the other puppet? At the time I wrote my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores, a friend told me a story. He said the second puppet, the one that remained at Canal Street, was still around. According to the story, an individual took possession of the puppet when Dillard’s acquired MB. This tale is similar to the story of the “Holmes Clock.” At D. H. Holmes, a pair of customers feared that Dillard’s would not take the tradition of “meet me under the clock” seriously. So, they removed the clock, returning it to the location when the building was converted into a hotel. I’m told that the caretaker of the second puppet doesn’t want to be identified (my friend wouldn’t give up the name), but the puppet will re-appear when that individual passes away.
The Big Bingle
A large-form Mr. Bingle first appeared on the front of MB Canal Street in the 1950s. That first “big Bingle” vanished in the 1960s.
The store did a number of “big” promotions for Mr. Bingle in the 1950s and 1960s. MB partnered with Eastern Airlines several years, to “fly in” Santa and Bingle. They presented a motorcade/parade. One year, Mr. Bingle arrived at Canal Street, a Bingle doll “landing” on top of the building via helicopter.
By the 1980s, “big Bingle” returned to the front of Canal. The store commissioned a large, fiberglass Bingle for all to enjoy. When Dillard’s acquired MB in 1998, they also acquired Bingle. Dillard’s displayed the big Bingle on the side of their Lakeside store (the former D. H. Holmes Lakeside) in 1999. It’s unclear why the tradition failed, but Dillard’s put Big Bingle into storage.
Big Bingle made appearances in downtown Christmas parades. Carnival krewes, such as Metairie’s Krewe of Caesar, put papier mache Bingles on floats, celebrating New Orleans icons.
Dillard’s finally donated Big Bingle to New Orleans City Park in 2005. Now, he’s an annual feature of Celebration in the Oaks.
NOLA History Guy Podcast 16-May-2020 is part one of our interview with Katy Morlas Shannon
NOLA History Guy Podcast 16-May-2020
Two segments on a longer edition of NOLA History Guy Podcast this week. First is our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History. Additionally, part one of our interview with Katy Morlas Shannon.
May 13, 1966 – City agrees with International Trade Mart on a new building
Our Pick of the Week from NewOrleansPast.com is May 13th. On that date in 1966, the city finalized an agreement with the International Trade Mart. The Mart wanted a new headquarters building, So, they acquired property at 2 Canal Street. The organization’s first headquarters was the above building at the corner of Camp and Common Streets. Mayor Vic Schiro continued Chep Morrison’s plans in his administration. The goal was to make New Orleans a gateway to Central and South America. Modernizing the ITM contributed to this. So, the organization built a 33-story office building at the foot of Canal. That building remains a part of the downtown skyline.
In 1985, the ITM merged with International House to become the World Trade Center. The ITM building housed a number of international companies. That’s how the “Mart” worked. Additionally, the building housed foreign consulate offices. As the city’s economy shifted from port traffic and the oil industry to tourism, things changed. While the ITM building was a good location, newer office towers on Poydras appealed to companies. Hurricane Katrina emptied the building. Even the World Trade Center moved across the street to One Canal Place. In 2012, the organization gave the unoccupied building to the city. So, it will soon become a Four Seasons Hotel.
The New Orleans Bee
The New Orleans Bee was a French-language newspaper that began in 1827. L’Abeille (its French name) offered New Orleans’ Creole community the news for over a century. So, we spoke with author and historian Katy Morlas Shannon about her background, The Bee, and how she came to curate the selection of articles from the paper’s first year.
Katy Morlas Shannon
We did this interview via Zoom, but only used the audio for the podcast. Katy had a really cool t-shirt from Fleurty Girl on!
I promise, we’ll get back to the Riverfront Streetcar Line in a few weeks! While we’ll be talking to folks, research continues. Therefore, the Riverfront segments offer lots of details.
Transit maintenance on Canal Street is our photo breakdown this week
This is a wonderful photo, just to enjoy. It offers a lot to break down as well. The scene is 1901 or 1902, Canal Street, right by the rear of the Liberty Monument. Prior to electrification, streetcars running on the Canal Street line stopped in the 200 block. They turned around there and headed outbound.
The photographer taking our breakdown photo stands right behind the Liberty Monument. For the sordid history of this obelisk (now removed after being designated a public nuisance), start with its Wikipedia entry. In 1894, the two main streetcar operators in town hired the engineering firm of Ford, Bacon, and Davis (FB&D), to make recommendations on how to proceed with electric streetcars in New Orleans. They made a number of suggestions, along with designing a single-truck streetcar specifically for operation in the city.
The photo above shows the Liberty Monument, looking from the river, opposite from our breakdown photo. FB&D designed a single-track loop around the monument for streetcars. The inbound cars looped around, then parked on layover tracks behind the monument, in the 200 block.
By 1899, all streetcar operations merged into a single company. They adopted the name, New Orleans City Railroad Company (NOCRR). This was the name of the company that originally operated the Canal and Esplanade lines, as well as a number of other backatown lines, beginning in 1861. Their main streetcar barn and maintenance facility was in Mid-City, at Canal and N. White Streets. So, our work crew here likely came down Canal from that station, or possibly up St. Claude Avenue, from their Poland Avenue barn. They bring this mule-drawn wagon and two big ladders to Liberty Place. They set up the ladders in the back of the wagon, leaving the mule unattended! I don’t know f I’d have that much faith in the mule to stay still.
There are three types of streetcars in the photo. There are two FB&D single-truck cars, two Brill single-truck cars, and one of the 500-series double-truck streetcars from the American Company. These were the forerunners of the venerable “Palace” streetcars that were so popular on the Canal, West End, and Napoleon lines. This car, 510, ran on the West End line. It’s finished the loop around the monument, preparing for its outbound run to the lakefront. The streetcar system grew rapidly after 1900. So, transit maintenance was important!
Today in New Orleans History – March 17, 1930
In addition to our transit maintenance photo, we offer our pick of the week from Campanella’s NewOrleansPast.com website (also as a Facebook group, Today in New Orleans History) is from March 17, 1930. Ms. Campanella takes us back to a story from the late, wonderful, historian and storyteller, Gaspar “Buddy” Stall. Stall wrote that the first “coffee break” in America happened on this day, in the Hibernia Bank Building on Carondelet. The Mississippi Steamship Company (later re-organized as the Delta Steamship Company, operators of the Delta Queen cruise steamer/riverboat) called their eighty employees together at 3:30pm, for a gathering where they served coffee, in the Brazilian tradition. Word spread around in America, and that’s how we got the “coffee break.”
Zoom Talk 2020-03-19
I’ve presented this talk to several groups in the last year or so. With everyone holed up because of Covid-19, I did the talk yesterday (19-March) via Zoom. It’s a bit long, because I was sorting out the use of Zoom, so you’ll need to fast-forward through the first 20 minutes of the talk to get to its actual beginning.
Also, TIL: it’s too long for YouTube. I’ll edit out that first portion and get it up there over the weekend. If you’d like to view it now, the link will let you download the MP4 version.