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In saloons and honky tonks around Vieux Carre French Quarter , the liquor flowed as men stumbled out onto streets pulsing with Afro-Caribbean styled music played by street urchins and lit by a system of electric flares. Brothels and gaming houses became so prevalent they were said to occupy nearly all of the city, and in the waning years of the 19th century, a reform movement had begun to gain momentum under the stewardship of an alderman named Sidney Story , a respected businessman and sworn enemy of the sin and depravity that he felt was plaguing the Crescent City.
To pen in the brothels and sporting houses so the police might gain some measure of control over the raging lawlessness, Story crafted legislation in that designated 16 square blocks just off the French Quarter where vice would be legal.
Once the law was passed, hundreds of prostitutes celebrated by staging a parade down Canal Street, marching or riding nude or arrayed in elaborate Egyptian costumes. Storyville was born on January 1, , and its bordellos, saloons and jazz would flourish for 25 years, giving New Orleans its reputation for celebratory living.
Storyville has been almost completely demolished, and there is strangely little visual evidence it ever existed—except for Ernest J. But the fame he gained would be posthumous. Bellocq was born in New Orleans in August to an aristocratic white Creole family with, like many the city, roots in France.
Reminiscent of the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec , whose misshapen form was believed to be the result of inbreeding, Bellocq was believed to be hydrocephalic. He made his living as a commercial photographer, taking pictures of boats in a shipyard, city landmarks and industrial machinery. He was viewed as having no great talent.