The ongoing series in which local performers interpret letters and documents about culturally vital individuals from various times and Louisiana communities. Performances are free and open to the general public. During COVID-19, programming is podcast, listen HERE

The 2021 Season:

Slide 32 in the 1962 Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans slideshow presentation.

Thanksgiving: Mad Men New Orleans-style!

Premiering HERE November 25 at 6pm and remaining on air thereafter, letters and ephemera created in 1962 by a local professional association for graphic designers, ADDA.

If you liked the TV show, Mad Men, you’ll love the real thing, New Orleans-style. Art Directors and Designers Association of New Orleans (ADDA) was chartered in 1961. Illustrators, lettering artists, art directors, photographers, commercial artists, and graphic designers banded together and promoted themselves to advertising executives throughout the Gulf South.

Central to this was a promotional slideshow presentation. Digitized in 2008. You can view an animation of it HERE.

If you are curious about the then new-fangled entertainment gizmo, slideshows, watch the Mad Men scene about their origin, HERE.

Join our reader Colin B. Miller, himself a practicing graphic designer, as he continues the programming theme 2021, Doing Business in New Orleans.

Intro and outro-music in the podcast, and the promotional slideshow presentation, are from the original reel-to-reel audio tape recording of the jingle composed and performed in 1961 for the slideshow by Paul Guma. Guma’s music plays an interesting part in the 16th podcast in this series. Airing New Years Eve!

This, Thanksgiving Eve event at 6:00 pm CDT, is the 15th full-length podcast. Don’t fret if you cannot listen at that hour, it remains available thereafter.

Scrapbook: Quarantine Tour of Central America and Panama by Health Authorities as guests of the United Fruit Company. The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1996.14.17.

July 15: Bananas Anyone?

This podcast comprises readings from the 1905 scrapbook produced contemporaneously with the last documented yellow fever outbreak in New Orleans and the United States. Featuring readers William Bowling and Grace Kennedy with audio production by Steve Chyzyk and Sonic Canvas Studio.

In photographs and text, this interesting relic presents the idea that bananas imported by the largest importer of them in the world at that time were safe and did not promote the spread of yellow fever.

What was the purpose for this curious piece of ephemera compiled and produced in New Orleans? Documentation of United Fruit’s best practices in sanitation and mosquito abatement? Merely propaganda? For over four years prior, effective protocols for mosquito eradication had already been in place for most American cities. Characteristically, New Orleans lagged behind.

As explained previously in the December 2020 Letters Read Incubator: In 1901, Major Walter Reed, M.D., U.S. Army, and his colleagues confirmed the theory that yellow fever was transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, and not by human contact. Further:

Despite the conclusions of the U.S. Army Yellow Fever Board … many people in New Orleans still did not take the threat of mosquitoes seriously. Residents got their water from wooden cisterns, a breeding ground for the insects.—American Experience, NPR.

In a stubborn manner usual to New Orleanians, preemptive measures had not yet been adopted by all citizens. As a result, in the city that had been ravaged multiple times by catastrophe and disease, in 1905 cases of the saffron scourge did show up presaging another, and final, yellow fever epidemic.

What part did the United Fruit Company play? Listen to the podcast at 6:00 pm CST and anytime thereafter at this LINK as it airs Thursday, July 15. Listen now to other Letters Read podcasts there, too.

You can follow along and browse through the entire photo album HERE.

A Cotton Office in New Orleans
A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas, painted in New Orleans, Louisiana, 1873. The painting is in the collection of Musee des Beaux-Arts de Pau, Pau, France.

March 25: The Letters of Edgar Degas

A podcast of personal letters from Edgar Degas surrounding his 4-month stay in Reconstruction-era New Orleans.


Christopher Kamenstein reads as Degas. Audio production is by Steve Chyzyk and Sonic Canvas studio. The event is emceed by stationer and project director Nancy Sharon Collins.

This podcast is hosted by Pitot House and co-promoted by Alliance Française de La Nouvelle-Orléans. Letters Read fiscal sponsor is Antenna.

Join us for an intimate listen to thoughts and emotions experienced by Edgar Degas as he visits his mother’s family in the Crescent City as it strives to heal post-antebellum wounds after the American Civil War. Business, money, family, property ownership, class, race, and privilege, all play important roles in this compelling story.

In late 1872, Degas accompanied his brother René to New Orleans where he observed his paternal family’s business managing the post-Civil War cotton trade. The painting used to illustrate this online event is the oft cited depiction of his time here. It captures a moment during the decline of his uncle Michel Musson’s business, the Cotton Office. Which went bankrupt shortly thereafter.

Upon his return to France early in 1873, Edgar learned that René had also bankrupted their own father’s banking business.

It was about this time and occasioned by the family’s multiple financial misfortunes that Degas turned his trade as a serious painter into a successful livelihood.