Today in New Orleans History


July 1, 1925 -- Pulitzer Brothers Begin Making Ties

According to Buddy Stall at
On July 1, 1925, brothers Sam and Emanuel Pulitzer, ages 20 and 22 respectively, decided to team up and make their mark in the business world. With very little formal education, less experience and even less money ($300), they formed the Pulitzer Brothers Neckwear Company. The basis of their entering this line of business was that Emanuel had worked in New York and had gained some expertise in the sale of neck ties.

Although their business experience was nil, they both had learned from their parents the importance of hard work tempered with scheduled time for relaxation.

In 1925 bow ties were the standard wear. The company purchased them from a manufacturer in New York and the enthusiastic brothers, blanketed every town in south Louisiana. The first month they each earned $60. The brothers were on cloud nine. That is, until they learned the meaning of cash flow. Their selling skills outshined their customers’ capacity to pay on time. They also learned the harsh reality of borrowing money. Through dedication and persistence they overcame these two giant obstacles.

At the end of the work day when Emanuel looked for his coat, it was gone. Sam suggested someone might have taken it by mistake as the coat rack was by the front door. Emanuel took the loss as just one of those unfortunate things. He hoped that someone would bring it back when they realized their mistake. Sam stuck the tie in his coat pocket.

When he got home, he took the rumpled tie out and tied it around his neck. He wore it the rest of the evening. When he took it off to go to bed, he tied a knot in it again. The next morning he could not wait to untie the knot and smooth it out. He had breakfast and when he got back, whamo, there were no wrinkles.

With the new miracle tie, priced at $1, they sold in one week all they could manufacture in three months. Once again that old menace, cash flow, was ready to reappear. The bank said they could not extend a line of credit of that amount unless the company raised an additional $25,000 of capital. In two days, with the help of their influential customers, the $25,000 was raised.

One of the decisions made at this time was to change the name of the company. The new name selected was WEMBLEY. This name was chosen because one of the mills producing the Nor East fabric was located in Wembley, England.

In 1968, Emanuel’s stock was purchased by his brother’s heirs. WEMCO, the new name selected for the company, is currently producing 35,000 ties a day. It is the largest tie manufacturer in the world.

July 1, 1929 -- Streetcar Strike

One of the lengthiest and most violent transit railway strikes the nation ever experienced began in New Orleans on July 1, 1929. Although an agreement was reached in August, the union members did not agree to go back to work until October.

NOPSI took a financial beating during the strike, with four million fewer people using the transit system than in the previous year.

What good fortune could possibly come out of the misfortune just described? It was the beginning of the famous New Orleans sandwich called the po-boy. Benny and Clovis Martin, owners of Martin Brothers Restaurant on St. Claude Street (Avenue), were grateful for the business they enjoyed. Many of those who frequented their place of business were the street railway workers.

With the strike came difficult economic times for these laboring men. Things were already tough because of conditions leading to the Depression. The added burden of no take-home pay added to their misery. The two brothers set out to help in any way they could.

In 1928, they opened a manufacturing facility, and their work force slowly grew to 30. Once again, cash flow’s ugly head raised itself. Because of fair dealings with their employees and the unbelievable loyalty of their customers and suppliers, once again they were able to prevail.

By 1929, the company outgrew the 500 square foot manufacturing facility and moved into a new facility 10 times bigger. All areas of operations, from manufacturing to sales to collection, were hitting on all cylinders until the Great Depression hit. But their fair dealings with customers, employees and suppliers paid off, and they survived.

In 1935 an incident occurred that catapulted the brothers into international prominence. Sam and Emanuel were still single men living the good life. Emanuel had a love for fine clothing and treated himself to a very expensive ($25) new suit. The beautiful brown suit looked like silk but was made of worsted mohair material.

He was proud to show to Sam. Sam was most impressed with not only the looks, but the softness of the new material. Emanuel hung the coat on the coat rack and went to work in the factory. As though it were a magnet, Sam could not take his eyes or his hands off the new coat. Sam noticed that even though he crumpled the fabric on several occasions, when he went back it would be perfectly smooth and wrinkle-free. It was like no material Sam had ever seen. It was truly magical.
Sam knew that when a tie was worn all day, the wrinkles were there to stay. A tie’s life was short-lived, possibly five or six wearings were the most you could get out of one.

Sam’s wheels began to turn. He took the coat into the factory without Emanuel’s knowledge. He laid it out and cut the pattern of a tie out of the back. It took four pieces as the coat wasn’t large or long enough to get a regular cut tie. Sam gave the pieces to the ladies on the assembly line and swore them to secrecy.

They decided the best way was to offer an inexpensive sandwich that would feed practically an entire family. They contacted an Italian baker named Gendusa and told him of their idea.
New Orleans French bread traditionally was short and wide. Gendusa decided he would have a new loaf that would be much longer (36-42 inches) and smaller in width. Martin Brothers, as agreed, purchased and cut the bread into 13-15-inch lengths, filled it with gravy, roast beef, mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles. This they would then sell for a nickel to the poor boys to help them feed their families. The name that stuck from this New Orleans sandwich creation was the “po boy.”

Because of the misfortune of the ’29 transit strike, the city’s No. 1 sandwich, until this day, was born.

Martin Brothers’ kindness in thinking of their customers was not forgotten. The restaurant became the most popular eating spot in town for many years. Its creation received the greatest compliment available. It was copied by every location in New Orleans and Louisiana, wherever sandwiches were sold. Yes, to be copied is the greatest form of flattery.

Source: Buddy Stall at

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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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