Postcard of former enslaved woman at old St. Louis Hotel
Standing on the auction block from which she was sold in New Orleans
This postcard from 1914 depicts an African American woman standing on the St. Louis Hotel slave block from which she was sold as a child for $1,500.
The lot at the corner of St. Louis and Chartres Streets played one of the longest and most involved roles in the New Orleans slave market. First serving as a coffeehouse that served as a gathering spot for men to talk politics, socialize, imbibe, make business deals, and purchase slaves, it would become the new St. Louis Exchange Hotel in 1838. The hotel spanned the entire block lining St. Louis Street between Chartres and Royal.
Known for its modern, luxurious accommodations and its architectural beauty, the hotel hosted a cosmopolitan and international crowd. It also continued—in the tradition of its coffeehouse predecessors—to serve as one of the city’s best-known slave trading sites. Auctioneers positioned at elevated podiums around the room hawked men, women, and children alongside furniture, paintings, and land as they raised funds to settle estates, bankruptcies, and their employer’s accounts.
The St. Louis Hotel continued to host slave auctions well into the Civil War. After the war, as the hotel fell steadily into disrepair, the building’s rotunda and auction blocks became popular tourist attractions. Even after the hotel was torn down in 1916, images of the auction blocks lived on in the form of popular postcards titled "The Old Slave Block."
This object is one of more than 75 original artifacts on display in the special exhibition, Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865.
Courtesy The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Alan Freedman and Patricia Mysza of the Midwest Center for Justice, Evanston, Illinois
Books and Printed Material
3 3/8" W x 5 5/16" H
Time Period: 1866 - 1936
Exhibit: Purchased Lives
This artifact is currently on view.