Timeline of Social Changes Impacting New Orleans Tourism.

  • 1817- New Orleans city council establishes “Congo Square” as the official place for slave music and dancing. This early acknowledgement of black music begins to pave the way for New Orleans to become known as the birthplace of jazz. A century later, despite slavery being abolished and the newfound rights of African Americans, jazz and similar styles are still looked at as slave music by a large portion of the white public.
  • May 18, 1896- Plessy v. Ferguson establishes the policy of “separate but equal.” For the next half-century public facilities in New Orleans are legally segregated. Racial lines begin to cross, especially in the north, but cases of discrimination and police brutality against African Americans in New Orleans remain common for long after.
  • July 6, 1897- Storyville is officially established in New Orleans. Prostitution was able to become popular here through Alderman Sidney Story’s Ordinance No. 13,032. Storyville brought in a huge number of male tourists looking to leave their everyday lives and experience the vice aspects of the city such as drinking and prostitution.
  • 1900- New Orleans musicians are playing a mix of Blues, Ragtime, and brass band music. This style is the beginning of what comes to be known as jazz music.
  • 1902- A 17-year-old Jelly Roll Morton begins to play the piano in New Orleans brothels. Though he is playing Ragtime and Blues music at this point, his music mix is close to what will later become known as jazz.
  • April 6, 1917- The United States joins it allies to fight in World War I. Much of the able-bodied men in the United States join the fight while women left home fill the jobs left empty. This marks the beginning of women gaining independence, as some women choose to remain outside the domestic sphere even after the war.
  • 1917- The Original Dixieland Jazz Band releases what many consider the first jazz album ever recorded. This band was comprised entirely of white musicians playing a style of jazz sometimes known as hot jazz or traditional jazz, based off of the jazz that was created in New Orleans by black musicians.
  • 1917- Louis Armstrong plays with a popular jazz group in New Orleans called the King Ory band. His band was one of the most popular in New Orleans at this time and at various times features many jazz musicians that would gain great fame in the 1920’s and 30’s.
  • 1917- The Navy orders prostitution to be banned in the United States in order to prevent the spread of venereal diseases in the troops. Storyville is shut down and nightlife in New Orleans dims somewhat, taking away a crucial part of male-oriented tourism but unintentionally bringing a great deal of women tourists to the city. Beforehand, women had not felt comfortable going into the streets to shop or enjoy the parts of the city frequented by prostitutes because were labeled as women of questionable virtue. Prostitution will soon secretly move to hotels, bringing back that market while keeping the streets open to the new crowds of women.
  • November 11, 1918- World War I ends after the Germany and the Allies signed the Treaty of Versailles. Men return to the jobs they once had and many women in America go back to their domestic spheres, however they now have a greater recognition of their skills and potential outside the home. Some will find jobs and use the money earned to spend on leisure activities, creating a new demographic of tourists in New Orleans.
  • January 29, 1919- The 18th amendment is ratified, prohibiting the sale of alcohol throughout the United States. Speakeasies develop soon after in New Orleans as taverns pose as soda stands. This brings in tourists and increases the vice factor of drinking in New Orleans because it is illegal and cannot be found in many other places.
  • 1919- After lynches and other instances of violence and discrimination towards blacks by whites, the NAACP creates the slogan “The new Negro has no fear.” This creates a new way of thinking throughout the black community and furthers the development of jazz.
  • 1920- Selznick Pictures releases The Flapper, a silent comedy film. It was the first film to portray the flapper image and the term “flapper” would carry on later into the 20’s when more women would begin to adopt the clothes and behaviors associated with the word. As this occurs in New Orleans, more women start to frequent speakeasies.
  • August 18, 1920- Women gain the right to vote through the ratification of the 19th This inspires many women to fight for a larger role in society.
  • 1923- The Industrial Canal opens in New Orleans, creating a direct shipping link from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. This helps bring profit to the city, which leads to the cleansing of the urban environment needed to draw in more visitors.
  • 1925- Around 25 private streetcar companies merge to from the Residential Streetcar Authority, an important company for New Orleans tourism.
  • 1926- A revolution in women’s fashion comes, with the popularity of dresses falling above instead of below the knee. Around this same time, more women are beginning to experiment with other daring clothing and cosmetics while starting to join men in popular night spots to dance, smoke, and drink.
  • October 29, 1929- The Great Depression begins with the crash of the stock market. The excitement of the Roaring 20’s fades, though the changes in gender roles and relevance of jazz music continues onward.
  • December 5, 1933- Prohibition is repealed through the ratification of the 21st This helps tourism in New Orleans as men and women find it easier to mingle in the public space to drink.
  • 1934- Benny Goodman, a popular musician with a large radio audience, bought 36 arrangements by black musician, Fletcher Henderson. This gave the American public more of a taste of black music and jazz. Goodman and Henderson later performed together, which helped legitimize true jazz in the eyes of white Americans and helped the development of racial tolerance.
  • 1938- The federal ban on birth control is lifted. Though contraception remains illegal in many states, this marked  a step towards widespread use of birth control and an acknowledgement of women’s freedom over their own bodies.
  • September 1, 1939- World War II begins with the German invasion of Poland. The end of the era of these social changes impacting New Orleans tourism is largely over as the country turns tides once again with their involvement in the war.


Hersch, Charles. Subversive Sounds: race and the birth of jazz in New Orleans. Chicago, Ill.: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2009.

Kyvig, David E. 2002. Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939 : Decades of Promise and Pain. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost .

Stanonis, A. J. Creating the big easy: New orleans, american culture, and the emergence of modern tourism, 1915–1950 (Order No. 3085798). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (305300196). 2003. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.umw.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/305300196?accountid=12299