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About this collection

Cornelius Emerson Durkee (1837-1933), a resident of Saratoga Springs, New York, was head of the baggage department for the Delaware & Hudson Rail Road in nearby Albany. He came to New Orleans in 1901 with Cassius B. Thomas, a prominent Saratoga Springs businessman and managing director of the Saratoga Floral Association. They appear to have come to New Orleans as guests of the Rex organization and as such had access to the Rex parade floats in and immediately outside the krewe's den on Calliope St., and they were also aboard the yacht that carried Rex into the city on the day before Mardi Gras. The upshot of their visit was the purchase of the entire Rex parade by the Floral Association for use in the 1901 edition of Saratoga's Floral Fete. It is not known if Thomas and Durkee made the purchase while in New Orleans (there is evidence that Thomas, at least, was in New Orleans during the month of April), but we do know that the floats were in New York by May 24, when their arrival was reported by the Troy [N.Y.] Daily Times.

 

Material from the 1901 Saratoga Floral Fete, including a photograph of one of the Rex floats, can be seen at the Saratoga Springs Library Digital Collections - Floral Fete Collection.

 

It is not certain that Durkee was the photographer who exposed the images that comprise this collection. The photographs appear to have been found in a collection of materials given by Durkee or his heirs to Skidmore College and later turned over to Saratoga County. They were kept in two small envelopes, one marked "New Orleans, Feby, 1901" and the other marked "Rex Parade, New Orleans, La., 1901." Violet Dunn, the Saratoga County Historian, sent them to the New Orleans Historic Districts/Landmarks Commission in August, 1976. Saundra K. Levy, Director of the Commission, turned the photographs over to the New Orleans Public Library at a later date.

 

The 70 photographs document aspects of New Orleans life during one week during the month of February, 1901. They include scenes of the 1901 Mardi Gras. Also included are scenes in local cemeteries, in City Park, on city streets, and along the riverfront. A number of the photographs depict African American New Orleanians.

 

 

 
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