Mr. Bingle! Our eighth installment of NOLA History Guy December features Maison Blanche’s iconic snow elf.
NOLA History Guy December – Jingle, Jangle Jingle
Maison Blanche Canal Street, December, 1952
Mr. Bingle 1952
In 1947, Emile Alline was the display-window manager for Maison Blanche. He took his family up to Chicago that fall, for a family trip. While up there, he applied a professional eye to Christmas displays along the “Miracle Mile.” Alline decided his store needed a Christmas character. He sketched a short snowman. Snowman? Not quite right. How about holly wings, and an inverted ice cream cone for a hat? Now Alline had a snow elf!
Mr. Alline brought the concept to MB management. The little guy captivated everyone. The store featured Mr. Bingle all over its print advertising for Christmas, 1958.
Mr. Bingle hooked New Orleans. While the other Canal Street stores did Christmas displays, they didn’t have a character. So, Maison Blanche presented Mr. Bingle. Kids loved him. By 1952, the store displayed Mr. Bingle right up front!
Maison Blanche grew from the single store on Canal Street in the post-war 1940s. They opened stores on S. Carrollton Avenue in Mid City and Frenchmen Street in Gentilly. Mr. Bingle flew out to those locations! So, when Alline commissioned the Mr. Bingle puppets, they visited all the stores.
Canal Street in 1952
Maison Blanche anchored the 901 block of Canal Street for almost a century. S. J. Shwartz built the “MB Building” in 1908. So, by 1952, it stood for over forty years. Shoppers entered on the corner of Canal and Dauphine Streets. The entrance on the left of the photo (behind the bus) led to the office building. The first five floors of the building were retail space. The next seven housed a number of businesses. Many doctors set up shop in the MB building.
Santa and Mr. Bingle look down here from the second floor. So, that area was stockrooms. Eventually, the store covered up the second floor windows with year-round displays.
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
From the back cover:
On October 31, 1897, S.J. Shwartz, Gus Schullhoefer, and Hartwig D. Newman–with financial backing from banker Isidore Newman–opened the Maison Blanche at the corner of Canal Street and Rue Dauphine in New Orleans. Converting Shwartz’s dry goods store into the city’s first department store, the trio created a retail brand whose name lasted over a century. In 1908, Shwartz tore his store down and built what was the city’s largest building–13 stories, with his Maison Blanche occupying the first five floors. The MB Building became, and still is, a New Orleans icon, and Maison Blanche was a retail leader in the city, attracting some of the best and brightest people in the business. One of those employees, display manager Emile Alline, created the store’s second icon, the Christmas character “Mr. Bingle,” in 1947. Mr. Bingle continues to spark the imagination of New Orleans children of all ages. Even though Maison Blanche has become part of New Orleans’s past, the landmark Canal Street store lives on as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
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Our fifth installment of NOLA History Guy December features New Orleans Jazz
NOLA History Guy December – Kid Ory
David Simon’s TV series for HBO, “Treme” was in its third season in the summer of 2012. When I learned the show was green-lighted for a fourth season, I pitched a book to Arcadia, “Faubourg Treme.” A couple of days later, I received an email from one of the acquisitions editors. They liked the idea, but wondered if I would be open to a project of a wider scope. I saw Treme as an important neighborhood in New Orleans history, particularly Black history. They saw Treme as the birthplace of Jazz. (Strictly speaking, it was one of the birthplaces, but we got there in the ultimate book.) So, said, sure, and began work on New Orleans Jazz.
Edward “Kid” Ory, “Dutt” to his friends, was born in LaPlace, Louisiana. As a teen in the 1900s, he came into New Orleans on weekends to play gigs with his friends. They took the train into town, then borrow a wagon. They meandered around the city, promoting their gig for that Saturday evening. The trombone players in these bands played off the back of the wagon, the “tailgate.” That way they could work the horn’s slide without risking damage.
Here’s the caption for one of Dutt’s photos:
Tailgate. Edward “Kid” Ory (1886-1973) played banjo as a child, developing a style known as “tailgate,” where the trombone player plays rhythm, under the lead of trumpets/cornets. Originally from LaPlace, Louisiana, legend is that Buddy Bolden “discovered” the 19-year old Ory in Uptown New Orleans and brought him into the fledgling Storyville jazz scene, but his sister told Bolden her brother was too young to play the clubs. Ory did make it to Storyville in the 1910s, then moved to Los Angeles in 1919, eventually making his way to Chicago. In Chicago, he played with King Oliver, Jelly Roll, and Louis Armstrong. Ory took a long hiatus during the Great Depression, but his career enjoyed radio success from 1944-1961.
Dutt was one of the original “Creole Jazz” players. The Great Migration of Black Americans from former slave states to Northern and Western states saw many Black musicians move to Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. Ory played with King Oliver and Pops in Chicago, then settled in Los Angeles.
New Orleans Jazz by Edward J. Branley
From the back cover:
Discover how Jazz shaped the history and enhanced the life of the citizens of New Orleans.
From the days when Buddy Bolden would blow his cornet to attract an audience from one New Orleans park to another, to the brass bands in clubs and on the streets today, jazz in New Orleans has been about simple things: getting people to snap their fingers, tap their toes, get up and clap their hands, and most importantly dance! From the 1890s to World War I, from uptown to Faubourg Treme and out to the lakefront, New Orleans embraced this uniquely American form of music. Local musicians nurtured jazz, matured it, and passed it on to others. Some left the city to make their names elsewhere, while others stayed, playing the clubs, marching in the parades, and sending loved ones home with jazz funerals. Older musicians mentored younger ones, preserving the traditions that give New Orleans such an exciting jazz scene today.
Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.
NOLA History Guy December offers images from the books.
We’re featuring a couple of images from the books each day, running up to Christmas. To kick this off, here’s the first image (after the cover) in New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line. It’s a photo (photographer unidentified) of the corner of Canal and Rampart Streets in 1914. Three streetcars, all different types, dominate the scene.
NORwy&Lt 614 – a “Palace” streetcar manufactured by the American Car Company. The company built them for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. The design appealed to New Orleans Railway and Light Company, who bought them for the city in 1905. The “Palace” cars earned their nickname because they were, compared to other streetcars, rolling palaces. Their wider bodies offered a smooth ride. The large monitor deck provided excellent airflow. These cars ran primarily on the Canal Street-Esplanade Avenue Belt lines, until Esplanade switched to buses in 1930. NOPSI discontinued their use in 1935. Here, 614 prepares to make the right-turn onto North Rampart Street. It will turn left at Esplanade, heading outbound.
NORwy&Lt 248 – a Ford, Bacon and Davis (FBD) single-truck streetcar operating here on the Paris Avenue line. Ford, Bacon, and Davis were a consulting engineering firm from New York City. The New Orleans City Railroad Company (predecessor to NORwy&Lt) hired them to consult on the future of electric street railways in the city. They made numerous recommendations, which included the design of the terminal at Canal Street and the river. While analyzing the city’s transit systems, FBD designed a single-truck streetcar suited for New Orleans. NOCRR purchased two hundred of these streetcars in 1894. They operated on all lines until replaced by larger-capacity double-truck cars. The smaller streetcars remained on back-of-town lines until NOPSI phased them out in favor of the arch roofs. The Paris Avenue line was one of those backatown lines, running all the way out to Mirabeau Avenue in Gentilly. A second FBD car waits on N. Rampart to turn onto Canal.
While NORwy&Lt 419, here operating on the Jackson Avenue line, looks like the 900-series arch roofs we know from St. Charles Avenue and Riverfront, the 400-series streetcars were the originals. Mr. Perley A. Thomas created the arch roof design. His employer, Southern Car Compay, built them for the New Orleans system. When NORwy&Lt failed in 1923, it re-organized as New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI). NOPSI loved the design. They ordered the 800s, and then the 900s in 1923-24. The company phased out all other streetcars by 1935. The arch roofs ran exclusively from 1935 to 1964, with the exception of the single remaining FBD car, NOPSI 29.
Out to the Lakefront
The electric sign above the streetcars says “Transit To Spanish Fort and West End.” NORwy&Lt electrified the steam railroad service to the Lakefront resorts in 1911. Both the West End and Spanish Fort lines originated at Canal and Rampart. They traveled the West End route, with Spanish Fort turning right at Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Blvd.) Spanish Fort rolled down Adams to Bayou St. John.
New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line
The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.
New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.
Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets.
Uptown’s Carrollton Station is NORTA’s main street rail facility.
Two arch roof streetcars up on the rack for maintenance at Carrollton Station (Infrogmation photo)
Infrogmation photo of Carrollton Station, taken on 1-April-2022. The facility was built by New Orleans Railway & Light in 1915. The barn stands in between Willow and Jeanette Streets, one block off Carrollton Avenue. NORTA crews work on streetcars 934 and 926. Thirty-five of the 1923-vintage arch roof streetcars operate on the St. Charles Avenue line. Streetcars enter the barn from the rear, on Jeanette Street. They exit onto Willow Street. From there they turn onto St. Charles Avenue. The streetcars either head towards the Claiborne Terminal or directly towards the CBD.
Rail Department facilities
By 1905, there had been two attempts to consolidate street rail service in New Orleans. The street railroad companies of the mule-drawn era tried to come together, first as the New Orleans Traction Company. When that attempt failed, the city organized the New Orleans City Railroad Company. Same name as the company that built the Canal and Esplanade lines, different structure. That company also failed. So, in 1905, NORwy&Lt assumed the city’s street rail assets and operations. They closed a number of facilities and re-structured routes. Additionally, the company constructed a new facility to support Uptown lines.
near-empty tracks at Carrollton Station on Willow Street (Infrogmation Photo)
Prior to electrification in the mid-1890s, streetcar stations were truly barns. The operators required facilities to house and feed the mules. Older facilities, like Canal Station (Canal and N. White Streets) converted the mule space into repair and storage depots. Since Carrollton Station opened after electrification, it didn’t have a conversion issue. Even though NORwy&Lt, and its successor company, New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) bought their streetcars from manufacturers in other cities, Carrollton Station evolved. NOPSI added shop tracks for major repairs, and a paint shop.
After the 35 remaining arch roof streetcars were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, NOPSI’s shops at Carrollton, the station’s shops maintained the streetcars as they were at the time of going on the Register. When NOPSI turned over operations to the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority* (NORTA), the new agency applied for and received funds to start a new line, Riverfront, in 1988. While the original Riverfront streetcars were acquired from various sources, the Carrollton shops prepared them for service. Later, Carrollton Station manufactured the 400-series Riverfront and 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars.
Maintenance and Storage
NORTA resurrected streetcar operations on Canal Street in 2004, with the return of streetcars to the Canal line. After Hurricane Katrina, NORTA consolidated operations at the Canal barn. So, all of the streetcars start their service at Canal. They return to Carrollton Station for service and maintenance. That’s why these photos show a mostly-empty barn and streetcars up on the racks.
*a note on NORTA – Most people in New Orleans refer to the authority as “RTA.” We choose to use the full name, because of the broader readership of the blog.
Sunset Magazine began to promote the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Southern Pacific’s Sunset Magazine
Cover of Sunset Magazine, from September of 1904. The Southern Pacific Railroad began the magazine to promote California. They wanted to counteract the notion that train travel to the West Coast was dangerous. Here’s the first graf of the Wikipedia entry for the magazine:
Sunset is a lifestyle magazine in the United States. Sunset focuses on homes, cooking, gardening, and travel, with a focus almost exclusively on the Western United States. The magazine is published six times per year by the Sunset Publishing Corporation which was sold by Time Inc. in November 2017 to Regent, a private equity firm led by investor Michael Reinstein. Regent formed the publisher Archetype in 2019 for its media holdings.
So, promoting California is good business to this day.
The Sunset Limited
The magazine derives its name from the flagship train of the Southern Pacific (SP or ‘Espee’) Railroad. The route originated in New Orleans, traveling west to Los Angeles, then north to San Francisco. The railroad cut back the northern leg in favor of shorter runs, but the NOLA-Los Angeles portion continues to this day, operated by Amtrak.
Here’s the Amtrak Sunset Limited, approaching the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson, Louisiana. The route more-or-less follows US Highway across Louisiana, to Houston. It continues across Texas, traveling the flat, southern route to Los Angeles. At one point, when Pullman operated almost all the sleeping cars on American railroads, a passenger could purchase “through service” from New York to Los Angeles. The Southern Crescent took Pullman cars from New York to New Orleans. Southern Railway transferred a sleeper to Southern Pacific. SP pulled that car to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited.
SP considered Sunset Magazine’s goals complete in 1914. So, they sold it to Woodhead, Field, and Company that year. Freed from the railroad, Sunset Magazine became a sort of “regional Better Homes and Gardens.”
Painting of the “new” main gate at Metairie Cemetery by artist Jeanette Boutall Woest. The painting is dated March 1, 1966. Here’s the THNOC caption:
View of gates of Metairie Cemetery, showing columns, fountain in front of curved roadway, and Josie Arlington’s rose-colored tomb in the background at left.
This photo is of the current main entrance to the cemetery. When Charles T. Howard built the cemetery in 1872, the main gate stood at the corner of Metairie Road and Pontchartrain Boulevard. The cemetery stood along the bank the New Canal. Visitors crossed the canal at Metairie Road, then walked up and into the cemetery. After the city filled in the canal in 1949, the cemetery relocated the entrance. They built a modern set of columns and a fountain at a spot that allowed automobiles to enter. The cemetery later opened a funeral home on the site. They created a second entrance off of Pontchartrain Blvd. This eased access to the “newer” sections of the cemetery.
The artist highlights the red-marble tomb where Storyville madam and legend Josie Arlington was original laid to rest. The Morales family later acquired the tomb, and Arlington was re-interred. Still, and much to the cemetery’s and Morales family’s consternation, it’s referred to the “Josie Arlington Tomb.” There are several stories/legends about the tomb that we’ll tell over time.
Jeanette Boutall Woest worked mostly in watercolors. She painted scenes throughout New Orleans, with a specific focus on Lakeview and Bucktown. There’s precious little information about her available in a cursory search. Find a Grave lists her burial place as Lake Lawn Mausoleum. She passed in 1997. We’ll reach out on social media to see if anyone knew Ms. Woest so we can work up a better bio.