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This image gallery is to show the history of New Orleans tourism in the 1920’s and 1930’s, specifically how the social changes of this era helped shape New Orleans into a successful vice tourism location. The main focus of these social aspects are prohibition, the outlaw of prostitution, changing gender roles, and the examination of race.
Before the 1920’s New Orleans attracted many male tourists to enjoy Storyville, one of the most popular red-light-districts of this time.
Basin Street, Storyville. Prostitution, gambling, and other usually illegal activities were regulated here.
The Choctaw Club, a popular nightspot to drink and party in New Orleans.
New Orleans was an open environment of smoking and drinking, seen by the large cigar sign in this picture of Carondelet Street.
Prohibition came into effect 1920, banning the sale of alcohol throughout the United States.
New Orleans sex worker, 1912. Prostitution was banned in the US in 1917 because the military wanted to ease family fears and keep World War I soldiers from spreading venereal diseases. The combination of making both alcohol and prostitution illegal hurt New Orleans nightlife and a plan had to be made to bring in more tourists.
Mayor of New Orleans during the time, Mayor Behrman, decided to keep prostitution and alcohol in New Orleans in order to keep profits coming into the city. He, business leaders, and other politicians decided to maintain a policy of benign negligence.
Speakeasies became popular with taverns posing as soda stands and selling alcohol to customers secretly.
New Orleans sex worker advertisement, 1920s. After prostitution was made illegal, hotels took on the role of brothels in New Orleans. This allowed for profits to still be made in a more discrete manner.
1936: Liberty Theatre on St. Charles. Movies of this time glamorized the type of nightlife found in New Orleans and helped bring in more tourists to the city.
At the end of the 1920’s and in the 1930’s, a revolution in gender conventions came. Women began to dress more promiscuously, drink, smoke, and go out into the public spaces that beforehand had been occupied only by men and women of questionable virtue.
With prostitution illegal, women felt more comfortable going into areas of the streets previously occupied by men and prostitutes. Women gained more freedom to mingle closely with men at events like Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras goers of the 1930’s.
As gender roles continued to change, he 1930’s became a time in which it was common for men and women to go to clubs to dance and drink with one another.
New Orleans before this era was not exempt from the history of slavery, as shown by this abandoned slave auction block at the St. Louis Hotel.
Jazz began to gain some popularity in the 1920’s with musicians like Jelly Roll Morton.
Creole jazz band, 1921. Though racist attitudes persisted, New Orleans leaders knew jazz was good for tourism and continued to use it as a marketing tool. They did so, however, in a way that made it fairly clear that they were still there to entertain the white tourists and therefore were still inferior.
1930’s New Orleans street during the Depression. Though jazz began to gain popularity in the 20’s, a change in white attitudes was required before it could fully take off. Before the Depression, jazz was seen as too unruly by many white people. Afterwards, however, the music became a way to ease anxieties brought on by the economic turmoil.
1936 New Orleans home during the Great Depression.
Jazz was known as a vice element partly because of its rambunctious, improvisational style and its ability to bring the two genders together in suggestive dances. However, the main vice allure of it was that it blurred race lines, bringing whites and blacks together in a seemingly uncontrolled environment.
Though attitudes on race were beginning to change, the 1920’s and 1930’s were still the Jim Crow era and racism in New Orleans was highly present. Tourism guides either erased black culture or tried to show it as inferior. As jazz became popular, a complex relation between white tourists and black musicians formed.