Creating the Big Easy
New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918–1945

Anthony J. Stanonis

How a city once shunned for its foreignness and decadence has captured America's imagination—and tourist dollars


"Stanonis gives us a New Orleans that is literal and layered. Creating the Big Easy moves New Orleans into the category of cities with definitive, tourism-based histories. Such cities, progenitors of the future, tell us much about the nature of economic, cultural, and social development."
—Hal Rothman, author of Neon Metropolis: How Las Vegas Started the Twenty-first Century

"Studying chambers of commerce, politicians, preservationists and their opponents, novelists, teachers, and the tourists themselves, Stanonis details the surprisingly complex efforts behind marketing New Orleans as a city with an exotic past. The places and events—the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, Mardi Gras, jazz—may be familiar, but the controversies over how or whether they should be tourist attractions are consistently fascinating."
—Ted Ownby, University of Mississippi

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Between the World Wars, New Orleans transformed its image from that of a corrupt and sullied port of call into that of a national tourist destination. Anthony J. Stanonis tells how boosters and politicians reinvented the city to build a modern mass tourism industry and, along the way, fundamentally changed the city's cultural, economic, racial, and gender structure.

Stanonis looks at the importance of urban development, historic preservation, taxation strategies, and convention marketing to New Orleans' makeover and chronicles the city's efforts to domesticate its jazz scene, "democratize" Mardi Gras, and stereotype local blacks into docile, servile roles. He also looks at depictions of the city in literature and film and gauges the impact on New Orleans of white middle-class America's growing prosperity, mobility, leisure time, and tolerance of women in public spaces once considered off-limits.

Visitors go to New Orleans with expectations rooted in the city's "past": to revel with Mardi Gras maskers, soak up the romance of the French Quarter, and indulge in rich cuisine and hot music. Such a past has a basis in history, says Stanonis, but it has been carefully excised from its gritty context and scrubbed clean for mass consumption.

Page count: 344 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Anthony J. Stanonis is a lecturer in modern U.S. history at Queens University, Belfast. He is the author of Creating the Big Easy: New Orleans and the Emergence of Modern Tourism, 1918-1945, and editor of Dixie Emporium: Tourism, Foodways, and Consumer Culture in the American South (both Georgia).