Images of the Month
April 1998


Spring is upon us and, with the low cost of gasoline these days, more and more people seem to be out driving their cars around town and out into the hinterland. The automobile is, of course, an inescapable part of our existence here in New Orleans as it is in the rest of the U.S. and in most of the world beyond.

Automobiles have been a part of the Crescent City scene ever since J. Frank Pickering took some Picayune reporters for a ride in his battery-powered horseless carriage on Thursday, January 5, 1899. New Orleanians have enjoyed the beneficial aspects of the automobile--and have also suffered its negative effects--ever since.

These selections from the Louisiana Division's photograph collections offer a sampling of the many automobile images on hand at the New Orleans Public Library. Sit back and join us for a spin in

Some Cars in New Orleans!


Some cars travel the city's streets with ease.

These quaint buggies are enjoying the wide-open spaces of the newly-paved Gentilly Boulevard, ca. 1938. The highway replaced an old twenty-six foot asphalt roadway with two thirty-six foot lanes separated by a six and a half foot neutral ground. This photograph was taken at Venus Street, looking toward Franklin Avenue.

[WPA Photograph Collection]


Some cars have to pick their way through traffic jams.

These sturdy machines maneuver the mess at the foot of Canal Street back in the early 1950s. City traffic engineers have smoothed out some of the kinks at City Park Avenue, but the intersection can still be snarled during rush hour.

[Photo by Leon Trice Picture Service. New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Dept. of Streets Series.]


Some cars come out of traffic jams or other unfortunate encounters with battle scars!

This 1940 Buick, photographed next to the Criminal Courts Building, was involved in a negligent homicide accident on Burma Road in March, 1945.

[Photograph by John T. Dahmen. New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Police Department Series]


Some cars find unique ways to avoid traffic jams.

This undated photo shows a Pontiac station wagon, modified into a Hy-Rail inspection car, gliding along the tracks of the Public Belt Railroad at Canal Street, ca. 1955. What a way to go!

[Photograph by Leon Trice Photography. New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Public Belt Railroad Series]


Some cars can even fly!

Well, not quite, but for a number of years, Volkswagens entered the country through the port of New Orleans on their way to being markets all along the Gulf Coast. In 1962 alone, sixty vessels brought more than 23,000 of the German vehicles into the port.

[New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Dock Board Series]


Some cars find spacious parking spaces to rest in.

Even on Canal Street back in the "good old days" of the mid-1930s.

[Photograph by Overby's Studio. General Interest Collection]


Some cars have to make like sardines in order to find a parking space!

In the early 1950s, before construction had begun on the new Civic Center, the empty spaces left by the demolition of the "Back O'Town" old neighborhood were used for parking. The cars in the right foreground of this photograph are on land once occupied by the old Criminal Court building--land on which the Main Library stands today.

[New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Dept. of Property Management Series]


Some cars will carry just about anybody just about anywhere.

Taxicabs have an important place on the streets of the Crescent City as they carry convention visitors and other tourists around to our town's many attractions. The City Archives documents the city's taxi business through its collection of Taxicab Bureau records. This photograph was taken in the new Taxicab Inspection Station during the month of February, 1957.

[New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Dept. of Utilities Series]


Some cars help catch the bad guys.

This Mercury sedan was one of two automobiles patrolling Chef Menteur Highway in 1947. According to A. A. Watters, Superintendent of Police, they "...have been successful in cutting down the former high mortality rate in accidents in this area. They cover the highway all the way to the Rigolets. Thousands of tickets have been issued to speeders. Today, high speed is a rare thing for a motorist to try. These cars have earned the respect of the motoring public."

[New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Police Dept. Series]


Some cars are used in parades.

After all, this is New Orleans. Mayor Chep Morrison in his Studebaker convertible leads the way at the June, 1953 dedication parade for the new Marconi Drive railroad underpass.

[Photograph by Leon Trice Photography. New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Streets Dept. Series]


Some cars get no respect.

They just get thrown away when no longer needed or wanted. This 1967 photograph reveals one of the unofficial "graveyards" that have plagued sections of the Crescent City throughout the history of the automobile.

[New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection--Police Dept. Series]


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