[A typical New Orleanian outside his barbershop in 1930s]
For six weeks, throughout the months of January and February of 1936, The Louisiana Weekly newspaper held a contest to choose the most popular barbers in the city. The staff members of the paper knew that this contest would be one of the most heated ever staged in New Orleans so they laid down some basic ground rules before it began.
Contest Rules: (1) Credit would only be given to votes made out on coupons/ballots which appeared in the Louisiana Weekly each Saturday. All others sent in any other form would be eliminated. (2) The deadline for all entries would be Wednesday, February 22, 1936 at 12 o’clock noon. (3) Ballots had to be mailed, brought or sent to The Louisiana Weekly’s Barber Contest Editor, 632 South Rampart Street. (4) All contestants with not more than 100 votes would be eliminated.
Alex Moore ” Uptown barber”
The official coupons or ballots wherein one voted for his/ her favorite barber stated: I do hereby cast 500 votes for_______________________ whose address is ______________________ as the most popular Barber in New Orleans. Signed_________________________.
Staff members were hoping that by conducting this contest, more newspapers would be sold since the results of each week’s tally could only be found in the Saturday edition of their newspaper.
As the 2nd week of the contest (Jan. 4, 1936) rolled around, twenty-eight local barbers had entered the contest. Clem “Broadway” Jones was in the lead with Fernand Cobette Jr. coming in second and Henry Ferrouillet only a short distance behind. Barbers were told to not be discouraged since the contest was still young but to just work harder to gain the co-operation of their customers. By the 3rd week Fernand Cobette, had taken the lead followed by Henry Ferrouillet and“Broadway” Jones. Darrell Narcisse was now in 4th place but gaining votes rapidly.
The public was told “Think this over! Are you giving your favorite barber your best support in this sensational contest? Wouldn’t you like to see your barber have the distinction of being crowned New Orleans Most Popular Barber? Why, of course you would! Just clip the coupon at the bottom of this story, fill it out, and mail, bring or send it to the Louisiana Weekly’s Barber Contest, 632 S. Rampart St.”
Fernand E. Cobette ” Astoria Hotel Barber”
When the Feb. 15th edition of the paper was distributed, the public found out that Alex Moore was leading the pack but there was a desperate struggle for second place which Levi Hartman was holding at the moment, with “Broadway” Jones and Darrell Narcisse closing in fast!
“They are less than a head apart as they head for the Promised Land” wrote Cliff Thomas, the contest editor. “Oh, boy! What a race. Stick around, folks, and listen in, the winners will be announced in our next broadcast.” It was also wildly rumored that a number of contestants were “holding out” votes for a landslide last-minute rush. Incidentally, the interest had indeed caused the circulation of the newspaper to reach new heights just as the editors had hoped.
Finally, the contest came to a close on Wednesday, February 19th at 12 o’clock noon. The winner was Alex Moore of 2818 LaSalle Street. Very close behind him was Ferdinand Cobette who gave the contest tabulators a headache by showering the headquarters with 1,007,400 votes a few minutes before the deadline. Darrell Narcisse of 1607 Dumaine Street came in third and knocked Henry Ferrouillet down to 7th place
Henry Ferrouillet “Barber pride of Creoleland”
On Friday night, February 21, at midnight, a huge dance for the winning contestants and their friends and families was held at the Little Gypsy Tea Room. Special entertainment was provided, after which two magnificent barber sets were presented to the winners of first and second place, respectively. Advance tickets were sold for 20 cents while the price at the door was 25 cents. The Louisiana Weekly considered the contest a huge success and they were repaid in the form of thousands of additional circulations, in and out-of-town.
Names of Contestants + Total Votes Received:
Alex Moore…..1,252,000/ Fernand E.Cobette …..1,231,600/ Darrell Narcisse…… 1,110,400/ Clem “Broadway” Jones……930,900 /Levi Hartman….720,700 /Eldridge Morton……317,800/ Henry Ferrouillet……269,200 /Louis Gilbert……247,400 /S. Howard, Sr……232,800/ Edmond Collins……192,500/ Charles Harris……188,000/ Andrew Smith……153,400/ Charles Clements……132,700 /Peter Williams……88,000/ Sonny Green……67,200/ I.B.Condoll……65,900/ Sidney London……43,500/ Albert Harris……39,000/ George Roland……32,800 /Joseph Frick……31,600/ S. Barze……22,500 /Tom Alfred……9,800/ Martinez Santiago……7,700 /Walter Gause……6,500/ Daniel Barnes……5,700/ E.Yearby……3,500/ Harry Matthews……3,100 /R.N.Walters……1,000/
Sources : The Louisiana Weekly 31 August, 1929 page 4; 04 January 1936 pages1 &7; 11 January 1936 pages 1&7; 15 February, 1936 pages 1&7; 22 February 1936 pages 1&7.
Lolita V. Cherrie