The Future Of New Orleans

Can the disasters that befell other cities help save this one?

When hurricane Katrina battered down the levees that protected our most fabled big city last September, many of us familiar with America’s “can do” traditions figured it would be a matter of weeks, maybe even days, before the Crescent City was at least on the mend again.

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The Man Who Won The War For Us

THE NEGLECTED EPIC OF ANDREW JACKSON HIGGINS

Until the National D-day Museum got under way in New Orleans, the name of Andrew Jackson Higgins had largely faded in American memory. Long ago this master boatbuilder and industrialist had been dismissed by his city’s social elite as a crude, hard-drinking outsider lacking Old South manners and French Quarter charm. In the Crescent City there are no schools or streets named for the Nebraska-born Irishman.

 
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The D-Day Museum

What do you need to build the only national museum dedicated to World War II? The same things we needed to fight the war it commemorates: faith, passion, perseverance—and a huge amount of money.

In 1964, at former president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s office in gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I met with him at his invitation to discuss my becoming one of the editors of the Eisenhower Papers and his biographer. Of course I agreed—I was then twenty-eight years old, teaching at the brand-new University of New Orleans, and was immensely flattered—and we had a daylong discussion on how I would go about it. At the end he said, “I see you live in New Orleans. Did you ever know Andrew Higgins?”

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Jazz Liberates Paris

American jazz musicians once enjoyed a freedom and respect in France’s capital that they could never win at home. Landmarks of that era still abound.

For all the books and films that have been done about painters and writers who went to Paris, far less has been written about the lives of musicians from the United States who settled there, some for a while, a few for their whole lives. Yet American jazz musicians have felt the influence of that city on their creative abilities no less than did the Lost Generation of American writers after World War I and the impressionists and their successors before them. Much of their world, and of jazz itself, is still there to be seen and enjoyed. Read more »

Caution: I Brake For History

A BOLD NEW KIND OF COLLEGE COURSE BRINGS the student directly to the past, nonstop, overnight, in squalor and glory, for weeks on end

 

O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself. ” I first read Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” in Leaves of Grass , as an Ohio schoolboy. The great democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people have the chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-yearold I already suspected this. Read more »

The Diamond Jubilee Of Jazz

Seventy-five years ago this month, a not especially good band cut a record that transformed our culture

About 325,000 jazz performances have been recorded for commercial release in the twentieth century, according to the Institute for Jazz Studies, at Rutgers University. Plus thousands more have been taken from radio and concert events. Unknown billions of jazz records have been sold. But it was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (ODJB) that made and sold the first jazz records seventy-five years ago this month (now reissued in a diamond-jubilee edition by RCA Bluebird). Read more »

Chopin Called Him “The King Of Pianists”

But was Louis Moreau Gottschalk America’s first musical genius or simply the purveyor of sentimental claptrap?

Even for a city that prided itself on being a preeminent center of European musical activity, the Parisian concert debut of Louis Moreau Gottschalk on April 2, 1845, was a singular occasion. Startlingly, the pianist was a youthful American, and, of course, it was well understood in Paris that Americans were devoid of cultural refinement.Read more »

Paul Morphy, Chess Prodigy

Could he have beaten Bobby Fischer?

Oliver Wendell Holmes once celebrated Americans as a people “which insists in sending out yachts and horses and boys to outsail, out-run, out-fight, and checkmate all the rest of creation.” The concluding champion on his list was Paul Charles Morphy, whose youthful exploits in chess during the 1850’ won the admiration of poets, scientists, and thousands of ordinary buffs. Read more »

Heyday Of The Floating Palace

Nicholas Roosevelt’s fire canoe transformed the Mississippi.

More than 270 years had slipped by since Hernando de Soto first stumbled onto the Mississippi, and in all that time the river had been host to an increasing variety of boats. For longer than anyone could reckon, the sleek canoes of the Indian had been there, but slowly and almost imperceptibly they began to be outnumbered by the arks, keelboats, and flatboats of the white man, laden with furs and less romantic cargoes, making the lazy trip down river.

Acadia Country

The old house, many-hued in ruin, stands rotting, some thirty miles above New Orleans, farther from the changing river bed than in its youth, deserted, its records mostly forgotten; but it speaks of the land of the Acadians, of the Bayous Teche, Vermillion and LaFourche and of a distinctive people. Acadians lived here for many years. They did not build the old mansion, to be sure, for that was the work of the Creoles, the aristocrats.Read more »