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Creating the Big Easy

New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918-1945

Anthony J. Stanonis

Publication Year: 2006

Between the World Wars, New Orleans transformed its image from that of a corrupt and sullied port of call into that of a national tourist destination. Anthony J. Stanonis tells how boosters and politicians reinvented the city to build a modern mass tourism industry and, along the way, fundamentally changed the city's cultural, economic, racial, and gender structure.

Stanonis looks at the importance of urban development, historic preservation, taxation strategies, and convention marketing to New Orleans' makeover and chronicles the city's efforts to domesticate its jazz scene, "democratize" Mardi Gras, and stereotype local blacks into docile, servile roles. He also looks at depictions of the city in literature and film and gauges the impact on New Orleans of white middle-class America's growing prosperity, mobility, leisure time, and tolerance of women in public spaces once considered off-limits.

Visitors go to New Orleans with expectations rooted in the city's "past": to revel with Mardi Gras maskers, soak up the romance of the French Quarter, and indulge in rich cuisine and hot music. Such a past has a basis in history, says Stanonis, but it has been carefully excised from its gritty context and scrubbed clean for mass consumption.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiv

In many ways, my family helped fulfill New Orleans businessmen’s dreams—tourists who fell in love with the city so thoroughly that they moved there. Uncle David drove to New Orleans in the late 1940s and was charmed by the French Quarter, by the broad boulevards lined with stately homes, by the people. ...

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Introduction: The City of Myths

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pp. 1-27

Randall Kenan’s observations at the end of the twentieth century suggest the power of New Orleans’s mythology. The myths identified by Kenan accentuate local uniqueness in a nation of homogenizing mass consumerism. Stories about the past, touched with fictitious embellishments, have defined New Orleans’s ...

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CHAPTER 1 A City of Destiny: New Orleans Businessmen and Modern Tourism

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pp. 28-69

Members of the Convention and Tourist Bureau (C & T Bureau), a department of the New Orleans Association of Commerce, proudly unveiled a new slogan in 1922: “New Orleans—America’s Most Interesting City.” Through the distribution of one hundred thousand stickers bearing the phrase, to be used on packages mailed ...

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CHAPTER 2 New Era New Orleans: The Great Depression, Taxation, and Robert Maestri

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pp. 70-103

In late 1932, New Orleans Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley addressed an appreciative crowd of welfare workers, who honored him for his efforts to boost employment through municipal projects. Walmsley expressed gratitude at their thankfulness, but his tone reflected the gloom Americans felt as the depression reached ...

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CHAPTER 3 A New Babylon: Vice and Gender in New Orleans

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pp. 104-140

In 1925, after months of living in New Orleans, a young William Faulkner put to ink his initial impression of the port city. The sketch likened the city to a “courtesan, not old and yet no longer young, who shuns the sunlight that the illusion of her former glory be preserved.” She surrounded herself with dull mirrors and ...

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CHAPTER 4 French Town: The Reconstruction of the Vieux Carré

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pp. 141-169

As the nation demobilized after the Great War, New Orleanians in the newly founded Vieux Carré Society prepared their campaign to preserve the city’s oldest neighborhood. Success hinged on the society’s efforts to convince the Commission Council, the city’s governing body, to pass an ordinance establishing safeguards ...

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CHAPTER 5 A City That Care Forgot: The Reinvention of New Orleans Mardi Gras

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pp. 170-194

Tourists and locals packed city streets in expectation of the first Mardi Gras parade of the 1947 season. The Krewe of Cynthius slowly rolled down the traditional New Orleans parade route of St. Charles Avenue to Canal Street, where it would then turn onto Bourbon Street and then onto Orleans Street on its way to the ...

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CHAPTER 6 Old New Orleans: Race and Tourism

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pp. 195-234

As Fat Tuesday dawned in 1930, a rowdy bunch of Tulane University athletes crowded into a rented truck to sing, drink, and make merry havoc in the New Orleans streets. Groups of revelers commonly meandered in wagons or trucks or on foot to celebrate Mardi Gras. They started innocently, but after sipping ...

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Epilogue: Boomtown

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pp. 235-244

For a brief period during the Second World War, the New Orleans Item entertained readers with a running dialogue about the virtues and sins of tourism. The language used in letters to the editor by several of the more than one hundred thousand out-of-towners who flooded into nearby military bases or area industries ...


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pp. 245-282


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pp. 283-302


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pp. 303-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780820341583
E-ISBN-10: 0820341584
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820328171
Print-ISBN-10: 0820328170

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2006