Department Store Artwork served as the foundation of newspaper retail advertising for over a century.
Department store artwork vs. photography
Ads from D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche Department Stores in the Times-Picayune, 4-March-1976. The Holmes ad presents ladies sportswear illustrations. The Maison Blanche ad features photographs of models wearing London Fog coats.
Department Store art departments
The artists that worked for Holmes, MB, Godchaux’s, and Krauss provided the ad copy to the newspapers. While some manufacturers offered “camera ready” artwork of their products, the store artists usually fashioned their own interpretations. They transformed illustrations and photos of anything from clothing to washing machines into ads. Even when provided with artwork, the ad creators still had to size and shape it into the newspaper-ready form.
D. H. Holmes
“Summer Separates by Koret of California” – this ad (top) entices ladies to the “Pontchartrain Sportswear” section of the chain’s stores. Additionally, note the mail order form in the bottom left. Holmes regularly presented ads in one section of Da Paper, with MB doing the same in another.
D. H. Holmes operated their iconic 819 Canal Street store, as well as locations at Lake Forest, Lakeside, Oakwood, and Southland Mall in Houma. Notice the ad, in the New Orleans newspaper, doesn’t list the mall’s name in Houma. Most folks in the metro area wouldn’t make the connection. The Lakeside and Houma locations listed here continue as Dillard’s stores.
MB departs from the regular format on this day. While the ad features quality ladies fashion items, there’s a lot of text here. Three models present London Fog coats for women. The chain invited shoppers to meet Lou Ferrari, a representative of London Fog.
Additionally, Maison Blanche announced several events in this ad. In partnership with the Humanities Committee of Greater New Orleans, they presented a forum in the Canal Street store’s auditorium. Models made informal presentations at lunchtime at the Caribbean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel, and the store sought instructors and staff for a new in-house program. MB operated their store at 901 Canal Street, as well as at Airline Village, Clearview, Lake Forest, and Westside.
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Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Want more photos and stories about New Orleans retail? Get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
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.
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.
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
In 1966, newspapers offered Maison Blanche Advertising a solid platform.
Maison Blanche Advertising
The Sunday edition of the Times-Picayune for February 13, 1966 offered a target-rich environment for the department stores. The store placed numerous full-page ads, like this one for “GEORGIA GRIFFIN’S ‘TOWN and TRAVEL’ COLLECTION OF DACRON/COTTONS” – “leaves pressing business behind.” Additionally, they ran an ad for Maison Blanche auto centers,
The dresses featured three neck styles, Italian collar, Double-collar, and Cardigan neck. So, this collection sold at Misses’ and Women’s Dresses, Second Floor of MB Canal. Additionally, they went out to the “suburban” stores. Gentilly Woods, which later migrated to The Plaza at Lake Forest. Airline, which moved to Clearview Shopping Center, and Westside Shopping Center.
MB never sleeps…
With a full final shopping day on Monday, February 14, MB presented Rudy Grenreich’s “Exquisite Form “L’Intrigue” Sleepwear Collection. “(Surprise surprise! … no gossamer peakboo here. All is demure, or is it?)”
Styles from “THE LOCKE SHOE TRUNK SHOWING” by Mr. George D. Williams, stood next to the sleepwear. The “Carol,” “Cameo,” and “Pinafore” enticed women out for the showing. Shoppers ventured only to the downtown Shoe Salon for the Locke shoe. While the outlying stores attracted regular shoppers, the “get dressed and go downtown” view held.
“High-stepping, uninhibited as the season … four great fashion looks from Carmelettes take lower heels, joyous colorings, or the sparkling polish of black.” While the Shoe Department offered several styles and colors only at Canal Street, others appeared at the other stores.
“Carnival arrives at first blush of spring as Samuel Winston, not a moment too soon, proposes you wear his pink frosting spectator’s costume as a foil to the first azaleas and a compliment to a king.” The Designers’ Shop on the Second Floor offered lovely suits perfect for grandstand viewing of parades.
Pfaff’s “DIAL-A-STITCH AUTOMATIC SEWING MACHINE,” priced in the ballpark of the designer suits, contained numerous automatic features. Families with a skilled seamstress at home created their own women’s suits with sewing machines. MB sold them on the Fourth Floor. The 1966 Dial-A-Stitch sold at Canal Street only.
More MB 1966 to come! Be sure to pick up the book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.