Today in New Orleans History

April 2

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Daniel Henry Holmes Establishes D.H. Holmes Department Store
April 2, 1842
This advertisement, which ran in the March 28, 1924 Times-Picayune, announced D. H. Holmes Company's upcoming 82nd anniversary.  The pictorial time-line included Holmes' first store at 22 Chartres Street which opened on April 2, 1942, as well as the first widespread usage of the telegraph in the United States, and womens' fashion of the day. Elias Howe's invention of the sewing machine in 1845) is included as is Cyrus McCormick's development of the reaping machine, the placement of the Andrew Jackson memorial in New Orleans, the building of the Custom House on Canal Street, and the French Opera House fire of 1919 -- all of which had taken place since Holmes opened his first store.
In 1849 Holmes moved his headquarters to Canal Street, where he developed his first department store, patterned after the finest stores of Paris and New York City. His store offered customers fine and unique products and services and become one of the most successful retail establishments in the nation.  By the end of the 19th century, it was the largest department store in the South, with customers served by more than 700 employees.
The April 2, 1938 advertisement on the right welcomes shoppers to celebrate Holmes' 96th birthday by enjoying a piece of a 400 pound cake which depicted the store and its famous clock, under which New Orleanians gathered -- "Meet me under the clock" had become a part of our city's vernacular.
Through the years, the Holmes company added new stores, becoming a regional chain.  The Canal Street store was a landmark for 140 years, until Dillard's Department Store chain bought Holmes' stores in 1989.
After Dillard's closed the Canal Street store, the City of New Orleans with Historic Restoration Inc. converted the building into a luxury hotel which opened in 1995 as the Chateau Sonesta. It was renamed Chateau Bourbon when it joined the Wyndham Chain in 2008. It became the Hyatt French Quarter Hotel in early May 2012.
In his Pulitzer prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole's character Ignatius Reilly meets his mother under the clock in the opening pages. The clock was stolen when D.H. Holmes closed but was returned to the hotel in 1995 by thieves who purported that they took it for safe-keeping -- and became local heroes. Under the clock now is a life-sized sculpture of Ignatius Reilly which was financed by Chateau Sonesta and the Downtown Development District. "Holmses" is gone forever but New Orleanians can still meet under the tiny but beloved clock.

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On April 2, 2009, Archbishop Hughes joined a growing chorus of Catholic bishops deploring the University of Notre Dame's decision to award President Barack Obama an honorary doctorate at graduation exercises in May 2009. The reasons concerned Obama's support for abortion rights and other issues viewed as incompatible with the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, with which the University of Notre Dame is affiliated.

An 1855 match, known as the Great Stakes Race, featuring the horses Lexington and Lecompte was such a renowned event that Currier & Ives were commissioned to design a commemorating the race. The center text reads “Celebrated horse Lexington (5 yrs. old) by "Boston" out of "Alice Carneal": Bred by Dr. Warfield, owned by R. Ten Broeck, esq. winner of the great 4 mile match for $20,000 against "LeCompte's" time of 7:26. Over the Metairie course [now Metairie Cemetery]. New Orleans, April 2nd 1855. Won in 7:193/4!!!”  #037mt

The Medical College of Lousiana opened on April 2, 1835.  It would later become Tulane University.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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