Rex Dumbo 1960 – the flying elephant appeared in the big parade.
Rex Dumbo 1960
“Dumbo, the Flying Elephant” in the 1960 Rex parade, 1-March-1960. This photo, by Howard “Cole” Coleman, offers a great “unpack.” It features several Canal Street stores, Maison Blanche, Katz and Besthof, Chandler’s Shoes. The K&B had been converted to the “Camera Center” by this time. The parade rolled down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. It turned left going the wrong way up Canal, then made a u-turn at Rampart. Rex then rolled down to the river.
901 Canal Street
Maison Blanche dominates the 901 block. The store boasted five floors of retail space. The two towers of the “Maison Blanche Office Building” rose up an additional seven floors. The store’s entrance was at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Street (right behind Rex Dumbo 1960 here). The “office building” entrance stood at the other side of the building. A separate set of elevators lifted you up to a myriad of doctors, dentists, and other businesses above the store. The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans uses the old office building entrace as the main entrance of the hotel.
Katz and Besthof
K&B opened their store in the 800 block of Canal in the 1920s, to service those going to doctors in the MB building. By the late 1950s, the store became redundant, as the chain also operated a store across the street. So, K&B created the “Camera Center.” They sold cameras and photographic supplies on the second floor. The Camera Center grew in popularity, to the point where it took over the first floor as well.
Chandler’s to Baker’s
The Edison Brothers opened the first in their chain of Chandler’s Shoe Stores in 1922. By the 1930s, they expanded to New Orleans. They opened a Chandler’s in the 800 block, next to Lerner’s, just up from Gus Mayer and D. H. Holmes. The Edisons opened a second chain they called Baker’s Shoes. The New Orleans Chandler’s became a Baker’s in the 1970s. Baker’s eventually moved out to the malls. The chain closed the CBD location. The retail front of the building is now a spa/massage place.
King of Carnival
While many of the retail outlets on Canal Street erected grandstands, the stores in the 801 block chose not to. That offered prime parade-watching spots to folks who just wandered around. Cole Coleman stood on the neutral ground to get his photos. Additionally,Coleman crossed the neutral ground to take shots of the parade on the other side of Canal. At this time, Rex toasted his queen and the court at the Boston Club at 824 Canal.
The streetcars stopped, as they do today, at Liberty Street. They “switch-back” there, beginning their outbound runs.
Proteus 1922 had a rose theme.
Krewe of Proteus chose “The Romance of the Rose” for their theme in 1922. Thanks to the Louisiana Research Collection, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, for maintaining the krewe’s archives. Those archives include design sketches of their floats throughout the years. This post features three floats from that parade, “The Painted Wall,” “Love Conquers All,” and “Sir Mirth’s Garden.”
Proteus first paraded in 1882. They took a hiatus from 1993 to 2004, because of the controversial “Mardi Gras Ordinance” of 1993. Proteus returned to the streets in 2004. The krewe quarantined in 2021, but plan to parade on Lundi Gras 2022.
Le Roman de la Rose
Title float, Proteus, 1922
Like the other “old line,” debutante krewes, Proteus often chose themes from literature and history. “The Romance of the Rose” is a typical choice. From Wikipedia:
Le Roman de la Rose (The Romance of the Rose) is a medieval poem written in Old French and presented as an allegorical dream vision. As poetry, The Romance of the Rose is a notable instance of courtly literature, purporting to provide a “mirror of love” in which the whole art of romantic love is disclosed. Its two authors conceived it as a psychological allegory; throughout the Lover’s quest, the word Rose is used both as the name of the titular lady and as an abstract symbol of female sexuality.
To put this in Carnival terms, the poem offered the krewe a fertile ground for beautiful costumes and floats. Even if most of the parade-goers in 1922 had no idea about the poem, red! roses! costumes! The float designs lived up to the ambition.
“The Painted Wall”
“The Painted Wall”
Standing between “The Lover,” and the object of his desire, “The Rose,” was “The Painted Wall.” To reach his desire, the wall required our protagonist to overcome the trials of Poverty, Villainy, and Hate, among others. This float creates positions for six riders a side, with The Lover up front.
“Sir Mirth’s Garden”
“Sir Mirth’s Garden” Proteus 1922
Once he passes The Painted Wall, The Lover approaches the walled garden of Sir Mirth. Inside, he encounters couples dancing, led by Sir Mirth Lady Gladness.
Love Conquers All
“Omnia Vincit Amor”
This float bears the saying, “Omnia Vincit Amor” on the side. “Love Comquers All.” At the front of the float stands The Lover. The Rose, an artistic blending of a lovely flower with a woman at the center, highlights the float.
Floats then and now
Proteus 1922 floats sit atop old wooden wagons. The krewe use these same wagons to this day (well, to be sure, they’re regularly maintained/rebuilt). Proteus limits its size, so mega-floats are unnecessary. Additionally, a number of the members of Proteus also belong to other “old-line” krewes. It’s important to remember, these organizations present their daughters and granddaughters to society at their respective balls. Before the growth of parading organizations, the actual old-line parades served as glorified transportation to the bal masque.
George Mungnier Rex 1907 – A different angle from Allison’s.
Mugnier Rex 1907
also caught the Rex Parade in 1907. His photo shows the parade moving lakebound, in the 800 block of Canal Street. A “riding Lieutenant” stands behind a float. A classic jazz band is behind the rider. The stores of the 801 block appear background right. the Mercier Building, with its golden cupola, rises, background center. The crowd stands on either side of Canal Street, as the parade goes up the Uptown side, turns around, then goes down the French Quarter side. Mules, draped with white canvas, pull the floats. The flagpole, flag furled around it, is likely the Lazard’s store.
Maison Blanche 1907
In our #AllisonUnpack earlier today, Alexander Allison caught the steel frame of the “new” MB building in distance of his 1907 photograph. Allison stood in the 500 block of Canal to catch this parade. Mugnier’s perspective, standing in the 700 block, offers more detail of the progress of the new store. The Mercier Building went up at 901 Canal in 1884. The Merciers acquired the corner from Christ Episcopal Church. The church chapter auctioned off their gothic-spire church that year. The sale netted the chapter enough to build the current Christ Episcopal Cathedral. That church towers over St. Charles Avenue and Sixth Street. That corner is also a busy area on parade days.
So, Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche in the Mercier building in 1897. Ten years later, he felt growing pains. He planned a building with five stories of retail space. On top of that he built two office towers. The towers brought the total height of the building to twelve stories. A thirteenth story was added to the rear tower later. This became the studios of WSMB Radio.
Rear tower first
To keep MB operating during the construction, Shwartz moved everything from the store into the front half of the Mercier Building. The rear was then demolished. The rear tower rose in the empty space. When that tower was complete, MB moved into the new space. They tore down the front of the old building (alas, losing that magnificent cupola). In its place rose the front of the current building.
Mugnier may never have caught this transitional period for Maison Blanche, were it not for the Rex Parade. Allison’s and Mugnier’s photos are courtesy New Orleans Public Library.
Alexander Allison caught the 1907 Rex Parade from the 500 block of Canal Street.
1907 Rex Parade
The parade of Rex, King of Carnival, heading down Canal Street, on 12-February-1907. Photograph by Alexander Allison. The photographer stood on the roof of a building in the 500 block of Canal, looking up the street. The photo shows the 601, 701, and 801 blocks of Canal Street. The structure of the Maison Blanche Building is visible on the far left side.
Alexander Allison’s photographs
Allison was an engineer for the New Orleans Sewage and Water Board from 1900 until his retirement in 1959. He carried a camera with him all around the city. When Mr. Allison passed in 1964, his daughter donated his photo collection to the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL).
Allison’s photographs document the growth and changes in New Orleans in the first half of the 20th Century. His photos are an incredible resource.
So, Allison catches the Rex parade on Canal Street. The parade came down St. Charles Avenue from Uptown. They turned left at Canal, going on the wrong side of the street. Not a problem, of course, since the parade route was closed. This enabled Rex to pass in front of the Boston Club, in the 800 block. Rex toasted his queen and court there. The parade went up to Rampart Street, where it made a u-turn. They paraded down Canal, turning onto N. Front Street, where they disbanded.
Almost every building on the French Quarter side of Canal Street erected reviewing stands for Carnival. Mayer’s anchored the corner of Canal and Chartres Streets, at 601. The four-story Touro Buildings in the 701 block remain very much as they were when built in the 1840s. After the big fire of 1892, the building at the corner of Canal and Bourbon Street was raised to five stories. The dry goods store, B. Cohn Company, occupied that space in 1907. The first two floors of the Touro Buildings held retail shops, usually owned by Jewish retailers. Judah Touro rented to fellow members of that community, and the practice continued throughout the 19th Century. Marks Isaacs, previously partnered with Charles Kaufman on Dryades Street. He then joined with S. J. Shwartz at Maison Blanche. In 1907, Isaacs left MB, opening his own store in the Touro Buildings. The Marks Isaacs store closed in the 1960s. The 801 block included Hanan & Son Shoes, Kreegers, and D. H. Holmes. Allison’s position in the 500 block compresses the view of the 801 and 901 blocks.
The steel superstructure of the “new” Maison Blanche building is visible on the far left of the photo. S. J. Shwartz demolished the 1884-vintage Mercier Building in 1907. He tore down the back of his store, building the rear section first. When that structure was complete, Maison Blanche moved everything into the new building. They then tore down the rest of the old building, that fronted Canal Street.
Identifying the photo
The NOPL record for this photo lists several inaccuracies that made it a challenge to identify. While the photo said 1908, the theme of the parade and the Viking float at bottom right puts this as the 1907 parade. The MB construction also confirms this. The location listing says Allison was at the Chess, Checker, and Whist Club, but that is also inaccurate. That club stood further up, at 900 Canal Street. So, for this photo, Allison was five blocks further down. NOPL expresses concern about the accuracy of Allison’s dates and locations. The errors on this photo indicate they were likely made by someone going back through the collection, not Allison himself.
NOLA History Guy Patrons
Since this post is the first #AllisonUnpack of the series, it’s not behind the Patreon wall. We’ll elaborate on some of this in a second, patron-only post. After this, these unpacks will be in the usual format. Everyone will see the first 100ish words and the image, with the full story available for patrons.
Hanan and Son, later Kreegers, operated at 801 Canal Street.
801 Canal Street
Ad for Hanan & Son in the Times-Picayune, 30-January-1928
Franck Studios photo of the Hanan & Son shoe store, 801 Canal Street. HNOC dates the photo at between 1925 and 1933. The building replaced an earlier structure that was destroyed by fire in 1892. Hanan & Son was a shoe manufacturer in New York City. Kreeger’s occupied the space at 805 Canal, just to the right. Kreeger’s later acquired 801 and expanded into that space. D. H. Holmes department store wrapped around 801 and 805 Canal. The Bourbon Street entrance of Holmes is visible behind 801 Canal. It’s the three-story building down the block.
Hanan & Son Shoes
The Hanan Company manufactured shoes in Brooklyn. While other manufacturers went with a customized/handmade look, Hanan stamped their name on the soles of the shoes. This increased their sales. Beginning in the 1880s, the company opened retail stores in a number of American cities.
Canal and Bourbon Streets
Postcard from the early 1930s, courtesy H. George Friedman.
The building at 801 Canal Street appealed to Hanan’s. Imperial Shoe Store took over the riverside corner across the street in the 701 block when A. Shwartz and Son closed. Shoppers walked from one side of Bourbon to the other as they sought out the latest shoe styles. Hanan & Son fell on hard times during the Great Depression. They closed a number of stores in the early 1930s. Imperial Shoes picked up the Hanan product line. They added “Hanan Shoes” to their Canal Street signage. So, Hanan’s presence continued on in New Orleans. The company went bankrupt in 1935.
The Kreeger family opened their store at 805 Canal after the rebel surrender in 1865. They sold ladies fashions. Kreeger’s specialized in furs, coats and stoles.
Kreeger’s grew in popularity. They survived the 1892 fire that destroyed the 701 block of Canal and the 801 corner building. When Hanan & Son left 801 Canal, Kreeger’s acquired the space. They expanded the store to Bourbon Street.
The company further expanded in the 1980s. They opened an “outlet” store at One Canal Place. Additionally, they opened stores in Lakeside Shopping Center, Uptown Square, and in Lafayette. The oil bust of the 1980s presented challenges for Kreegers. Changing styles and opinions with respect to furs also hurt sales. Kreeger’s declared bankruptcy in 1986. They closed their remaining store, in Lakeside, that year.
801-805 Canal housed a number of businesses after Kreeger’s closed. In 2010, the first floor retail space was a Foot Locker store. The space is currently a Walgreens. While this seems redundant, given the large Walgreens at 900 Canal, it makes sense. It’s all about convenience in a busy neighborhood.
Some interesting details in the photo:
Imperial Shoes – The store’s street-level sign is partially visible on the left. A pair of nuns cross Bourbon, just below it.
D. H. Holmes – As mentioned in the introduction, the Bourbon Street entrance of the iconic department store is visible behind Hanan’s. that side offered Holmes a separate entrance for the Holmes Restaurant.
Kreeger’s – the signage at 805 Canal is just visible.
Illinois Central – A billboard for the Panama Limited train stands on the roof. The ICRR offered all-Pullman sleeper car service from New Orleans to Chicago. Amtrak continues to operate the route as their incarnation of the City of New Orleans.
The Fellmans and Marks Isaacs contributed to the formation of Maison Blanche Origins.
The Pickwick Hotel, 800 Canal Street, 1895. Two years later, Leon Fellman moved his store to this location.
Maison Blanche Origins
The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche Department Store, opened in 1897. These three ads, from The Daily Picayune on 16-February-1890, present a segment of the New Orleans retail scene at the time. L. Fellman & Co., operated in the 901 block of Canal Street. Leon’s brother, Bernard, continued solo in the 701 block. The Kaufmans and Marks Isaacs dominated the Dryades Street corridor. These men shaped the decisions made by S. J. Shwartz as he planned the Maison Blanche.
L. Fellman & Co.
“Dry Goods and Fancy Goods!” Leon Fellman immigrated to New Orleans in the 1870s, following his older brother, Bernard. He adopted Bernard’s anglicized surname, going from Feibelman to Fellman. After working for other established retailers, the brothers opened a store of their own in the 701 block.
In 1884, the chapter of Christ Episcopal sold their church at the corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets. The The Mercier family constructed what became known as the Mercier Building. They sectioned into separate retail spaces. That’s why L. Fellman & Co. lists 173, 175, and 177 Canal Street as addresses.
Leon Fellman operated a “Dry Goods” store that sold “Fancy Goods” as well. He sold fabrics and accessories for women and men. The concept of a “department store” selling ready-to-wear clothing was not yet a thing in the South. So, Leon’s advertising focused on the tried and true:
The many friends, patrons, and strangers would do well to pay a visit to our Grand Emporium before going elsewhere. Having the advantage of procuring all of our merchandise from the “Fountain Head” — the Center of Manufactory — be they Foreign or Domestic — we can with pride declare that our assortment CANNOT BE EXCELLED, OUR PRICES NOT LOWERED, this side of Mason and Dixon’s Line. We shall mention only a few prices. EVERYTHING WILL BE REDUCED!
Competition with Shwartz
Fellman occupied the lake-side of the Mercier Building, “Next to the Grand Opera House.” After the devastating fire in the Touro Buildings in February, 1892, Simon Shwartz moved his family’s business, A. Shwartz and Son, to the other half of the building. Shwartz, backed by his father-in-law, Isidore Newman, acquired the entire Mercier Building. Leon moved out in the Spring of 1897. Shwartz opened the Maison Blanche that October..
Leon moved his store across the street, to the Pickwick Hotel at 800 Canal Street. His store evolved into a department store in the style of Maison Blanche.
While Leon’s involvement with Shwartz and MB was as a competitor, his investments sparked other Canal Street retail. Fellman bought the buildings in the 1201 block of Canal in 1899. He demolished those buildings. In their place, a new, two-story store rose, in 1903. Since Fellman’s store at 800 Canal (corner Carondelet) was well-established and successful, he invited the Krauss Brothers to lease 1201 Canal. Thus began the 94-year run of Krauss Department Store.
Leon’s older brother preferred to stay in the Touro Buildings (701 block of Canal Street). Maybe it was his age, perhaps his health, but the brothers parted. Bernard operated his dry good store, declaring it, “The Pioneer Of Low Prices.” So, Bernard competed not only with his brother, but with Abraham Shwartz. A. Shwartz and Son stood at the lake-side corner of the 701 block, Canal and Bourbon Streets. This ad lists an extensive inventory of dry goods. He also advertises “over 2000 Jackets, Cloaks and Wraps, from the lowest ordinary to the best.” A half-off sale always garners attention!
Charles Kaufman’s first store opened on Poydras Street in 1877. Charles partnered with his older brother Simon in the venture. In 1889, Charles joined with Marks Isaacs in a partnership. They opened Kaufman and Isaacs. The partners encouraged shoppers to “Join the Procession of Wise and Discerning People” to their store, on Dryades, Euterpe, and Polymnia Streets. They leveraged their proximity to the Dryades Public Market.
In 1901, Marks Isaacs left the partnership. He joined S.J. Shwartz at Maison Blanche. Charles Kaufman passed in 1917. The family continued operation of the store until 1961. They closed the store and sold the building, in the midst of a great deal of strife related to the Civil Rights Movement. The Kaufman’s building is now the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. Dryades Street now bears the name of Civil Rights pioneer Oretha Castle Haley.
So many connections among the Jewish retailers of New Orleans! You’ll find more history on MB and Krauss in my books:
Maison Blanche Department Stores
Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
Additionally, lots of photos of Canal Street in my history of the most important streetcar line in New Orleans:
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line