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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FLY CANADIAN PACIFIC, c. 1950s

Afternoon of the Dead: 1895

Afternoon of the Dead: 1895

Circa 1895. "Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

 

Metairie Cemetery postcards

Mattie -- Metairie Cemetery continues to be a popular spot with both locals and visitors, and if not as common as it once was, going there for a picnic lunch is still occasionally done.

The 1920s postcard you reproduced is the reworked version of a postcard from some 20 years earlier. Rather than shoot a new photo, apparently the C. B. Mason postcard company of New Orleans just had their artist shorten the women's skirts to make the old card up to date.

Attached is the earlier version of the same card.

City of the Dead

It looks to me like Justo Garcia y Leon lived at 130 Perdido Street, according to the 1871 New Orleans city directory. Justi Garcia y Leon (a son or a relative?) lived nearby at 138 Perdido. The occupant of the second tomb from the right could be another Justo Garcia y Leon, of course, and someone else was living at 130 Perdido.

The house doesn't look to be now standing at 130 Perdido, but if Google's mapping function located the placement of the address correctly, the Justo in the city directory lived just northwest of the present location of the LA Superdome, near what is now the Medical Center of LA. The cemetery is about three miles northwest of the same address.

And unless he's playing a funeral in the cemetery the day this photo was snapped in 1895, Buddy Bolden is 18 years old and kicking it, with Frank Lewis on coronet, maybe in the Storyville red light district located around South Rampart and Perdido Streets, just a couple of blocks from Justo's front door.

Whatever. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Strolling among the headstones

Metairie Cemetery was still a popular garden spot in the 1920s, apparently.

Notable residents

According to the Wikipedia article, many notables are entombed at Metairie Cemetery, including baseball Hall of Famer Mel Ott, trumpeter Al Hirt, and bandleader Louis Prima.

re: Set a Spell

It is a cultural thing. Very Southern, and very old. Back in the day, cemeteries served as parks. Families would visit and even have picnics by the graves of their beloved.

I am imagining some old widow or widower visiting weekly, or even daily, to be close to their resting loved one. Sounds macabre, but rather sweet.

Abide With Me

Well, 1890's fashions for women and the climate offer one explanation. But many graves all over have benches nearby -- for those who visit to have a brief repose. It seems very likely that folks would go to visit the grave of family members and encounter others they knew (New Orleans was a small town, and still is in many ways) and sit and chat.

Prie-dieu

The prie-dieu and two chairs for relations are a common theme outside of Paris tombs. They are meant for prayer, chairs for the relations that cannot kneel on the stone prie-dieu in front of each tomb.

Set a spell

There's a cultural thing I'm not understanding here, and I hope someone can explain.

What's the purpose of the chairs outside the tombs? Obviously for sitting, but to this Northwesterner, that seems an odd place to hang out.

Young man with a horn

Somewhere out there Buddy Bolden is blowing "Didn't He Ramble."

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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