Today in New Orleans History

June 10

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Crowd at St. Roch Playground for WPA Community Singing
June 10, 1938

From the New Orleans Public Library:
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was established by executive order of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on May 6, 1935. It replaced the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) as the federal government agency responsible for combatting the ill effects of the Great Depression. The WPA was a work relief program and it was instrumental in providing jobs for many individuals who had become unemployed during the nation's economic downturn.

Most WPA projects were carried out by local and state governments using funds provided by Washington. Several projects were administered directly by the federal government, including the Art, Music, Theatre, and Writers' projects. The bulk of WPA spending went toward the construction and maintenance of the nation's infrastructure. Smaller amounts funded educations, recreational, and cultural activities.

In Louisiana, state headquarters of the WPA was located in New Orleans. The agency also operated district offices around the state. In 1939 the program's name was changed to Work Projects Administration. On December 4, 1942, the president ordered an end to WPA activities as the nation's war effort eliminated most of the unemployment that the agency had been designed to combat.

WPA projects in the Crescent City ranged from street paving and bridge building to bookbinding and adult education. A considerable amount of the agency's varied activities in New Orleans and throughout the state was documented by WPA photographers. This collection is the product of their work.

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Piyush "Bobby" Jindal,  55th Governor of Louisiana, was born on June 10, 1971 in Baton Rouge.

Photo -- Pontalba Buildings Renovation, June 10, 1937. The historic Pontalba Buildings (St. Peter and Chartres Streets) were renovated by the WPA preserving the old buildings and converting the old apartments into modern living quarters. (NOPL)

Photo -- June 10 -- 16, 1928 -- The American Legion sponsored a Bathing Beauty Review at Pontchartrain Beach (the "Old Beach" near Spanish Fort).  The adversting poster proclaimed "7 Distinct Review" with "Different Girls Every Night".

Front page news in the Daily Picayune on  September 28, 1911 announced the arrest of Miss Annie Crawford, 28 year-old resident of 1011 Peters Avenue, for the poisoning of her 24 year-old sister Elise at their home. on September 23.    Elise had been ill for quite some time before her death.

The Crawford family had lost three family members within the past 15 months. On June 25, 1910, another sister, Mary Agnes Crawford died suddenly -- the cause of death was attributed to Acute Meningitis.  Three weeks later on July 15 her father, Walter C. Crawford passed away -- the cause of death was allegedly Uremic Poisoning.  Two weeks after that, on July 29 her mother died -- it was thought that she also succumbed to Uremic Poisoning.  Upon the death of  Elise suspitions were raised that the family might have been victims of murder.

Dr. J.C. McGuire who had treated Elise claimed that her symptoms were not connected with the heart trouble she had suffered but that they more closely resembled morphine poisoning.  Dr, McGuire admitted Elise to Charity Hospital where she died the following morning.  The coroner's report concluded that morphine had been found in her stomach after her body was exhumed from St. Patrick's Cemetery Number 3 for examination.  Relatives reported that  Annie had an addiction to morphine.  She had worked in the drug department of the New Orleans Sanitarium (renamed Presbyterian Hospital) but was discharged for alleged irregularities in her accounting of medications.  In her position at the hospital she became familiar with the actions of poisons and other drugs. 

Out of work since losing her job, it was determined that she was the insurance beneficiary of each deceased family member; Mary Agnes was insured for $300, her father for $800, her mother for $800, and her sister Elise for $250.  Another sister, Gertrude, said "I don't want Annie to nurse me if I ever get sick.  She gives such funny medicine". District Attorney St. Claire Adams said, "It was established today the that Annie Crawford is a drug fiend and probably is addicted to morphine.  It is also established that she had access during the past three weeks to morphine and was in a position to obtain it in practically any quantity.  During the indisposition of Elise Crawford she bitterly complained that her food and drink were drugged.  I have charged Annie Crawford with the murder of her sister Elise". 

The case came before the Grand Jury on October 10 and Annie Crawford was indicted.  On March 13, 2012 the began and she pled not guilty. She had admitted to poisoning Elise with morphine capsules but said that she accidentally administered the wrong medication -- she thought she had given Elise calomel tablets which she had purchased at Waldorf's Pharmacy.  She also admitted to being a morphine addict.  

Elise's body was, once again, exhumed for further examination. Laboratory slides harvested from her organs were brought to the courtroom as evidence.  Annie's attorney Lionel Adams exclaimed that this was a "macabre display" while District Attorney St. Claire Adams objected.  Tempers flared and the two began to physically scuffle.  While others in the courtroom attempted to quell the melee the slides were pushed and went crashing to the floor.  Annie was led from the room while fainting.  During the trial, professors from Tulane Medical School were called in as expert witnesses.  Some opposed the opinions of others.  Tulane students aligned with the professor whose opinion favored Annie's innocence rushed to Parish Prison in an attempt to carry her away. Police formed a ring of guards around the building and the students were barred from the courtroom.

This spectacular trial, which attracted national attention, ended as a mistrial on March 26, 1912 as a mistrial.  The jury had voted 9-3 in favor of an acquittal but were deadlocked and failed to reach a verdict.  Anne Crawford was not tried for the murder of her mother, father, or other sister because they had been buried  too long for current forensics to determine if they had been poisoned.   On March 27, 1913, Elise's organs were released to Annie and her remaining siste and reburied at St. Patrick's.  The two sisters reported that they planned to move to Port Arhtur, Texas.

On June 10, 1912, Senator Schator Williams introduced a bill to prohibit written and oral confessions of prisoners.  Citing Annie Crawford's case as a "cruel example" of  third degree methods used by Distrct Attorney Adams' office as an example of coercive tactics, the bill passed with only one nay vote.

Thomas Semmes Walmsley (June 10, 1889 – June 19, 1942) was Mayor of New Orleans from July 1929 to June 1936. He is best known for his intense rivalry with Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long. Walmsley was born on June 10, 1889, to a prominent family in Uptown New Orleans. He was the son of wealthy cotton factor Sylvester Pierce Walmsley and his wife, the former Myra E. Semmes. He attended Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, and then Tulane University in New Orleans, where he was a student athlete. In 1912, he graduated from Tulane University Law School. After graduation, he became a lawyer for a New Orleans firm. On April 15, 1914, he wed the former Julia Havard of New Orleans, and the couple had one daughter, Augusta, later Mrs. Frederick J. King. He served in the First World War as a major in the United States Army Air Corps, forerunner of the Air Force. From 1919-1924, Walmsley served as an assistant attorney general of Louisiana. In 1925, he was appointed city attorney by Mayor Martin Behrman, and he became a prominent figure in Behrman’s Regular Democratic Organization political machine. The Old Regulars helped him become elected as commissioner of public finance from 1926 to 1929. In July 1929, Walmsley was appointed acting mayor of New Orleans to fill in for Behrman’s successor Arthur J. O'Keefe, who resigned because of illness. (NOPL)


John R. Conway was the 30th mayor of New Orleans, serving from June 10, 1868 until April 4, 1870.

Born in New Orleans on June 10, 1833, Pauline Cushman (Born Harriet Wood) was an actress and a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War. Harriet and her seven brothers were raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1851 she returned to New Orleans to join the performance group New Orleans Varieties. Later she would travel to New York where she would take the stage name Pauline Cushman. While touring with a theatrical troupe in Union-controlled Louisville, Kentucky.  By fraternizing with rebel military commanders, she managed to conceal battle plans and drawings in her shoes, but was caught and brought before Confederate general Braxton Bragg, tried by a military court, and sentenced to death.  It is said that she was saved three days before her scheduled hanging by the invasion of the area by Union troops. Some reports state that she returned to the South in her role as a spy dressed in male uniform. She was awarded the rank of Brevet Major by General James A. Garfield and commended by President Abraham Lincoln for her service to the Federal cause, and became known as "Miss Major" Cushman. By the end of the war in 1865 she was touring the country giving lectures on her exploits as a spy. Pauline became popular enough to be featured by P. T. Barnum, which perhaps explains why details of her story may well have become exaggerated. But because her undercover activities on behalf of the government were secret, it also helps to explain the lack of corroborative information about her life at this time. However, in 1865 a friend, Ferdinand Sarmiento, wrote her biography, Life of Pauline Cushman: The celebrated Union spy and scout. Comprising her early history; her entry into the secret service notes and memoranda. In her final years, disabled from the effects of rheumatism and arthritis, she developed an addiction to pain medication.  On the night of December 2, 1897 she took an overdose of morphine, and was found the next morning by her landlady.  She was 60 years old.  Her Civil War fame was recalled at her funeral, which was arranged by members of the Grand Army of the Republic. "Major" Cushman's remains now rest in Officer's Circle at the Presidio's National Cemetery in San Francisco. Her simple gravestone recognizes her contribution to the Union's victory. It is marked, "Pauline C. Fryer, Union Spy." Source:

Servant of  Slaves

A New Orleans lady, born in 1813 to a wealthy Frenchman and a quadroon free woman of color, who rejected the social norms of her times is now the first U.S. native-born African American religious leader whose cause for canonization was officially opened by the Catholic Church.  

TodayInNewOrleansHistory/HenrietteDelilleHolyCard.gifHenriette Delille's birth was the results of a placage, an extralegal "common law" system which became institutionalized in our city during the Colonial Era.  The arrangements included contracts or negotiations between white men and free women of color which stipulated the financial and/or housing arrangements for woman, the settlement of property, and, many times, paternal recognition of any children the union produced. The woman's mother usually negotiated the terms of the agreements, including the financial payment to the parent.  To our modern sensibilities, such arrangements seem arcahaic but they were acceptable in their day and provided mixed-race women with social prestige and financial security.

Dellille had been groomed for such an arrangement. Her mother taught her French literature, music, dancing, and nursing. Her mother kept an eye on Henriette when she attended many quadroon balls, which were the young women's introductions into the social world which would lead to their arranged "marriages".  An independent woman and a feminist (before the word had been coined), Delille became a social worker, educator, and a nun.  Ironically, the most popular location for hosting quadroon balls would later become the convent and school of the order of religious sisters founded by Henriette Delille.
During the 1820s, Delille and Juliette Gaudin, a young Cuban woman, began aiding slaves, orphan girls, the uneducated, the sick and the elderly people of color in New Orleans.  In 1835, at the age of 22, she sold all of her property with the intention of founding a community of  women to teach for free girls of color.  Numerous recordings in archival records at the Saint Louis Cathedral show that, at the age of 23, Henriette had begun her apostolic ministry as baptismal sponsor and witness for slaves.
On November 21, 1836, a small unrecognized congregation or order of nuns, the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was organized. The original members consisted of Henriette, Juliette Gaudin, six other young Créole women, and a young French woman. After several failed attempts, Delille and Juliette Gaudin received permission from the diocese to begin a new religious order. Their board was composed of a director, president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and vice-treasurer. The sisters and laypersons of this society were called upon to teach religious principles and the most important points of Christian morality.  In 1837, Father Etienne Rousselon secured formal recognition of the new congregation from the Holy See.  Sanctioned by the church, their main purpose was to care for slaves, the sick, and the poor. 

Six years later, at the urging of Jeanne Marie Aliquot (an early supporter of St. Augustine Church) and the counseling of Pere Etienne Rousselon (vica-general of the diocese), Delille and Gaudin knelt publicly at the altar of St. Augustine Church on November 21, 1842 and pledged to live in community to work for orphan girls, the uneducated, the poor, the sick and the elderly among the free people of color, thus founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family -- the second-oldest African-American congregation of religious women. 

In 1843, catechism classes were conducted for adults and children on St. Augustine's property at Bayou Road (now Governor Nicholls).  Delille and Gaudin were later joined by Josephine Charles; the first three novices, Delille, Gaudin and Charles, are considered the founders of the congregation. Although the primary work of the sisters was in the area of education, during her tenure as head of the order, Delille made it possible for the order to build a home for the sick, aged, and poor Black residents of the city.

By 1847 the apostolate of the three sisters was supported by an association of men and women incorporated as the Association de la Sainte Famille. Their mission was for the relief of infirm and indigent persons. They eventually acquired a building that was known as Hospice de la Societe de la Sainte Famille. Through legal incorporation and fund-raising, they erected the building on two lots situated on St. Bernard between Plauche and Villere streets. The hospice was blessed on June 10, 1849.
When Henriette’s mother died in 1848, she inherited $1,200 which she used, along with borrowed money, to arrange for the purchase of property on Bayou Road and declared this transaction to be solely for the purpose of establishing an institution for the religious education according to Catholic doctrine for persons of color.  This became the orders first "House" (convent and school) of The Sisters of the Holy Family.  But it wasn't until October 15, 1852, when Henriette, Juliette, and Josephine pronounced first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God in St. Augustine Church before Père Rousselon, that they first wore the black habit of a religious order.
Henriette Delille passed away on November 16, 1862 at the age of 50.  It is thought that her death was a result of tuberculosis.  Her funeral was held at St. Augustine church. She is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.
The order she founded continued her legacy by opening a convent school on Chartres street on December 3, 1867, five years after her death. In 1880 they moved the mother house at 717 Orleans Avenue, between Bourbon and Royal streets -- the site of the Orleans Theatre, the Quadroon balls, the First District Court, and finally the Bourbon Orleans Hotel (Photo of the school.convent)
In 1883, the order opened a convent in Opelousas.  In 1875 the opened a home for aged and infirm people of color on St. Bernard Avenue between Villere and Marais streets.  An orphanage was opened on June 22, 1879 on Conti Street.  In 1892, they opened school for boys and St. John Berchman's Orphan Asylum for girls.  
At the time of her death, her order included twelve nuns. 1909, it had grown to 150 members, and operated parochial schools in New Orleans that served 1,300 students. By 1950, membership in the order peaked at 400. Her Sisters have served  the poor by operating free schools for children, nursing homes, and retirement homes in Louisiana, Texas, California, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Belize, Panama, and Nigeria.
In April 1988, Mother Rose de Lima Hazeur, Superior General of the Sisters of the Holy Family. requested Archbishop Philip M. Hannan to initiate the canonization of Henriette Delille.  In 1989 the order formally opened its cause with the Vatican.  On November 10, 2006, the decree of judicial validity was issued in the investigation into the life, virtues and reputation of sanctity of  Mother Henriette Delille. She was declared venerable in 2010.
A prayer room in the rear of St. Louis Cathedral (where slaves were thought to have been baptized) was commissioned by its rector Reverend Monsignor Crosby W. Kern in her honor. 
In 2011, the City of New Orleans renamed St. Claude Street in Treme in her honor.  Henriette Delille Street now runs at what was the 1000 through 1800 blocks of St. Claude, from St. Philip Street, at the edge of Louis Armstrong Park, to Pauger Street, where St. Claude Street and McShane Place come together to form St. Claude Avenue.

The photo above was taken by Sister Doris Goudeaux in 2008 of the three founding members' tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2.    In summing up Henreitte Delille's life and mission, Sylvia Thibodeaux, a modern Sister of the Holy Family,  told the Los Angeles Times, "She was the servant of slaves. You can't get more committed than that. 

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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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