What is Delgado School's True Birth Date?

By: Bob Monie
Historians interested in the exact opening date for Isaac Delgado Central Trades School in the 1920s have their work cut out for them. Stephen Patureau, in his 1939 master’s thesis, gives at least four different dates – October 18, 1920, August 21, 1921 (a Sunday), September 1921 (no specific day), and October 1921(also no specific day) – for various aspects of the school's operation. A few more dates, such as November 23, 1921, the anniversary of Isaac Delgado's birthday, come tumbling in from other equally reliable sources. Clearly, the school did not open on a single inauguration day marked with brass bands, electrifying speeches, fireworks, newspaper headlines, and Kleig lights. Instead, from October  18, 1920 to March 31, 1921, next to the old City Hall (Gallier Hall) on St. Charles Ave, in a quiet corner of the Howard Annex  that once was the home of New Orleans philanthropist Frank T. Howard, the newly-appointed  Delgado Trades School director, Henry Giles Martin, and his assistant, O. J. Davieson, begin to train instructors and offer a few classes in drafting and mathematics to 12 night students, while awaiting the completion of  the Delgado building, designed by E.A. Christy, on City Park Avenue.
The Howard Annex next to Gallier Hall on St. Charles Ave. where Delgado Director H. G. Martin first taught teachers and 12 night school students
E. A. Christy, Architectural Designer of the Delgado Trades School building
The earliest known photos of Delgado Trades School in last phase of construction just before opening in 1921
Excerpt from Dodge, Louis A. "Isaac Delgado Central Trade School." The American School Board Journal. August 1921.
In early 1921, the secretary to the Delgado Board of Managers, Louis A. Dodge, submitted an article to  The American School  Board Journal, along with photos that show Christy's building substantially complete, so the wait must have been for final details such as readiness of the physical plant, building code inspection, and delivery of equipment – motors, lathes, and printing presses required for teaching the trades. An original copy of the Delgado Trades School Announcement of Trades Courses 1921-1922, initialed by Isaac Delgado's close friend and later benefactor to the college, Elleonora Moss, gives June 6, 1921 as the date when the school year will start at its permanent location on City Park Avenue. An expected early June opening is also announced in the May 1921 issue of the National Painters Magazine and the February 27 edition of The Times-Picayune.  Yet The Times-Picayune did not report the opening of Delgado until the photo-spread and feature article in the Sunday, September 4, 1921 issue. Most probably, the number of students attending in June was not many more than the 12 who had attended at the Howard Annex. When enrollment climbed to 75 in September, more attention from the press was warranted.  But tantalizingly, the reporter gives no date for the opening day that he witnessed, and, later writers in the 1924 graduation edition of  Delgado's newsletter, The Tool Kit, recall that electric shop classes started “early in the month of August 1921,” and the first print shop classes began “September 1, 1921 with an enrollment of 13 students.”  Each department seems to have regarded the first day of school as the day when its own machinery was in place and its classes began. Perhaps The Times-Picayune reporter witnessed a school opening the same day the print shop got started – September 1, 1921 would be a crisp, easily-remembered starting date – or a little earlier on Sunday, August 21, 1921, but available historical documents do not resolve the issue. 
Pages from the Announcement of Trade Courses 1921 - 1922
The official  “Formal Opening and Dedication Exercises” for the entire school took place  Wednesday, November 23, 1921,  after classes were well underway. On this anniversary of  Isaac Delgado's own birthday, Elleonora Moss, before an assembled audience of more than 700 guests, including  Governor Parker, Mayor McShane, and State Superintendent and T. H. Harris, presented a portrait of Isaac Delgado. She encouraged the students and faculty to develop their skill as artisans, and, quoting from the writings of transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson,  urged them  never to be limited to a merely verbal education that misuses words to “break, chop, and impoverish the infinite mind.”  Their spirit would find expression in framing houses, wiring circuits, and improving the built environment of the city. Certainly by then, Delgado Trades School was rolling, and the students were  advancing into the Jazz Age, tools in hand, whistling the “Beale Street Blues,” and not caring much about which of the school's four or five possible birthdays they should celebrate in the years to come.

Early brochure announcing that Canal and Esplanade streetcars stop in front of the school at regular intervals

Old streetcar stopping at Delgado Trades School

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