Media Contacts: 

Eli A. Haddow, The Historic New Orleans Collection
(504) 556-7603 |
Sarah Chambless Federer, Gambel Communications
(985) 373-5271 |
New Orleans, Louisiana 70130
(504) 523-4662 | |

September 2016 | New Orleans, Louisiana-In a bygone era, consumers across the South in search of the latest styles of furniture, silver or china browsed the shops lining the streets of New Orleans. Beginning Friday, Sept. 23, visitors are invited to survey a century's worth of cosmopolitan wares at The Historic New Orleans Collection's exhibition, "Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans, 1825-1925," on view at 533 Royal St.
A special opening reception for the exhibition will take place Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 6:30-8 p.m. at 533 Royal St. The reception is free and open to the public. Normal gallery hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, and 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Sunday. This exhibition will be on view until April 9, 2017. Admission is free.

Whether in a Chartres Street china shop or a gallery along Royal Street's Furniture Row, New Orleans showrooms brimmed with stylish merchandise that entered through the bustling port. From the second son of a German count to shopkeepers from the Northeast, retailers brought expertise and trading connections that propelled the Crescent City into a nationally significant retailing hub.

"New Orleans has always been a port city, rather than a manufacturing center, and the majority of the goods sold here came from somewhere else," said Lydia Blackmore, curator of the exhibition and the decorative arts curator at THNOC. "Because New Orleans was the largest port in the South, people flocked here to shop for the latest fashions from around the world, and retailers sought to meet those needs."

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, mass-produced household items became cheaper and more accessible than ever. At the same time, consumers came to prefer uniform styles and patterns of silver and china to hand-crafted, custom pieces. Retailers capitalized on these developments, flooding their showrooms with crates of merchandise manufactured along the Eastern Seaboard and in Europe.

"This exhibition seeks to correct some misconceptions about decorative arts and will display advertisements and objects from retailers who were often thought to be craftsmen," said Blackmore. "For example, Prudent Mallard was long thought to be New Orleans's greatest cabinetmaker, but he was actually one of the most prominent importers of furniture."

With over 150 artifacts, including ceramics, silver, furniture and clothing, "Goods of Every Description" recalls the era's wall-to-wall displays, featuring merchandise sold at 32 different New Orleans retailers. Among the standout items are a massive three-section Rococo Revival armoire and a green velvet ball gown that dates back to approximately 1885 on loan from the Louisiana State Museum. Advertisements, photographs, receipts and an interactive map will chart the location of each retailer and offer insight into the business behind the shopping.
Eye-catching presentation pieces-including some rare, handcrafted items-appeared in elaborate shop displays. The exhibition revives this marketing practice with a replica shopwindow, featuring showpieces such as an ornate portico mantel clock and a miniature mule-drawn streetcar made entirely of silver.

"The shopwindows of some of these stores were attractions for prospective customers," said Blackmore. "By the end of the 19th century, the windows served not only to let light into the store in the daytime, but to illuminate the street at night with electric lights."

As cheaper consumer goods continued flowing through the port, dry goods retailers such as D.H. Holmes swelled into vast department stores, and by the turn of the 20th century, giants including Maison Blanche and Godchaux's were established landmarks. Around the same time, secondhand furniture stores on Royal Street, capitalizing on customers' nostalgia, began to stock European antiques. Some of these family businesses continue operation to this day.

"The antiques stores and department stores, like the furniture, dry goods and other retailers before them, brought fashionable goods into the city," said Blackmore. "They continued to provide a wide range of quality and price to meet the demands of the customers who came to New Orleans to shop."

"Goods of Every Description" features artifacts from The Historic New Orleans Collection as well as objects on loan from the following institutions and individuals: Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, Historic Natchez Foundation, Pilgrimage Garden Club, Stanton Hall, Hill Memorial Library Special Collections at Louisiana State University, Oak Alley Plantation, Mickal Adler of Adler's, Leslee Shapiro of Royal Antiques, Andree Keil Moss of Keil's Antiques and Jerry Cohen of James H. Cohen & Sons Antiques.

Related programming:
Opening reception
Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 • 6:30-8 p.m.
533 Royal St. in the French Quarter
The public is invited to attend the opening reception for the exhibition "Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans, 1825-1925." The galleries will be open for an extended period, and curator Lydia Blackmore will be on hand to discuss the exhibition with guests. Light refreshments will be served. Admission is free.

Presentation on Japanese textiles with collector Diane Genre
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 • 2-4 p.m.
533 Royal St. in the French Quarter
Collector and former Royal Street business owner Diane Genre will discuss Japanese textiles that were popular among international markets between the mid-1870s and 1920s. Copies of the book "Re-envisioning Japan: Meiji Fine Art Textiles" (5 Continents, 2016) will be available for purchase following her talk. This event is free and open to the public. The book retails for $80.

About The Historic New Orleans Collection
Founded in 1966, The Historic New Orleans Collection is a museum, research center and publisher dedicated to the study and preservation of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. For more information, visit or call (504) 523-4662.