Et tu, Al Rose?

It is well known that Al Rose’s book “Storyville, New Orleans,” published in 1974, is the premier book on Storyville. It’s the book that started it all. It contains some amazing interviews, and a plethora of photographs and advertisements from that era.

And I know this will probably bite me in the ass when I make my first mistake but… this one is kind of a biggie. At least to me.

Rose stated that the Mascot was founded by Joseph Livesy and Billy Mack. Not true.

First off, Joseph’s name is spelled Livesey.

Second, it was founded by Livesey as well as George Osmond and J.S. Bossier. W.M. “Billy” Mack did not join the paper until 1886 – four years after the paper’s debut. In fact, January 16, 1886 was the first time Mack was listed as a proprietor in the newspaper and it was also the same year that he was listed in the City Directory as one of the owners.

Rose also stated that Livesey died in the winter of 1884. Wrong; he died in March of 1884. When Livesey died, Adolphe Zenneck bought an interest in the paper.

It also states that “the shock-proof citizens of the Crescent City were in no way astonished by the paper’s exposes but relished its gossipy quality and its occasional behind-the-scenes peeks at municipal graft and vice.”

Wrong again – I would say that multiple libel suits, three murders, jail time, as well as the Mascot making headlines in newspapers across the county was, in fact, astonishing! Rose doesn’t mention any of this.

However, Rose did have this to say about the Mascot, which I do agree with: “As time went on its political exposures did begin to have an astringent effect on the public, and there is no doubt that certain beneficial social changes were attributable, at least in part, to the influence of the paper.”

Rose uses illustrations, articles, and quotes from the Mascot MANY times. The least he could do was check some basic facts.

Come on, Al… Really!

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2 Responses to Et tu, Al Rose?

  1. Infrogmation says:

    Thanks for your research work!

    I got to know Al Rose fairly well in his last dozen or so years. I considered him a friend, but took what he said and wrote with at least a grain of salt, and sometimes enjoyed playing Devil’s advocate with him.

    Stuff like “Storyville” and “New Orleans Jazz, A Family Album” are have no shortage of errors and sloppiness. However they also got much valuable material out to the public, and are still of value as long as one doesn’t taken them as the last word on the subject.

    Part of me wants to be critical of Al for things like what you mention above. Another part just marvels that he approached such daunting tasks and published such valuable material — at a time when there was not only no internet, but many old city records were not accessible to the public. Much of his material from “Mascot” issues were the result of issues in his own collection gathered bit by bit from yard sales and junk shops.

    The late Bill Russell tried to make his Jelly Roll Morton the complete and comprehensive last word, working on it for about 50 years and looking over the proofs shortly before his death. Al’s approach was less careful but also quicker — getting a lot of material out to the public for later generations to build on.

    Kudos to you for the corrections!

    • sally says:

      Yes, there is a part of me that feels like I am setting myself up – no matter how careful I am – that I too am bound to make mistakes. I do agree with you, he was the first to really write about Storyville, conduct interviews, and bring to light this amazing part of New Orleans history. He really started the interest in Storyville and laid the ground work for other scholars. It’s frustrating because in a lot of my classes, they real push the internet research, which I think is essential but is NOT the only way to research. I love the fact that the TP is digitized and it has saved me a lot of time, but the search engine is flawed. I also discovered last week (HUGE discovery) that the Mascot was still around in July 1897. Rose stated that the last known issue was October of 1896. I always went by that because I could not prove any different. After 1892, microfilm of the Mascot is spotty at best and the only originals I have seen go to 1895. Anyway, I was at the downtown library researching legal cases that had been sitting in the dehumidifier for days – some that none of seen for 125 years. I had pulled all the cases on Francois Bildstein, one of the owners, and one of the libel cases was from an article that they published in July of 1897 and it included in the case file a clipping of the article. There is not a lot written ABOUT the Mascot but everywhere said it ended around 1895 to 1896, but now I know that is not true. Very exciting discovery! I have learned so much from sitting and reading the long handwritten legal cases – it’s amazing!
      Also, a lot of the times the Mascot would write articles in a specific dialect and would spell the name phonetically – all other newspapers would then follow suit. After checking directories and obituaries and case files, I would find that was not actually the way their name was spelled. If one person misspells it…. everyone else does. Something I also found that with Herbert Asbury (who never documented anything). Joy Jackson sourced him a great deal – but would never check the source, so there were a lot of misspellings and incorrect dates, which is frustrating when you are trying to find something.
      But, kudos to Al Rose because what he did was remarkable! And thank you for reading! I could geek out on this forever.
      P.S. And I would die and go to heaven if I ever was able to find any Mascots from yard sales or junk shops. I am looking!

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