Monday, March 28, 2011

Blueprints & Jazz

New Orleans' Warren Easton High School was originally founded as a public school for boys, formed by the consolidation of earlier schools located "above" and "below" Canal Street. With a new building designed by E.A. Christy (completed 1913), Warren Easton boasted a centralized Canal Street location and modern educational facilities to match. By the 1930s, the school was particularly noted for its mechanical drawing course.

John W. Hyman (1899-1977) taught mechanical drawing at Warren Easton High School for nearly two decades, from the 1920s-1940s. Tulane School of Architecture faculty member Milton Scheuermann, Jr. was one of Hyman's students, and tells the story of how Professor Hyman and fellow student Pete Fountain (born 1930) used Easton's blueprinting machine to copy music. Hyman and Fountain washed the prints, then "pasted" the wet blueprints on the chalkboard; when the blueprints dried, they naturally detached from the chalkboard and fell to the floor.

During the period he was teaching mechanical drawing, Professor Hyman had an important side gig performing jazz cornet. He made his first recordings under the name "John Hyman's Bayou Stompers," eventually adopted the stage name "Johnny Wiggs" and retired from teaching. Read more about Wiggs in The Jazz Archivist.

Images above: TOP: Wickes Bros. Blueprint Machine, Southern Architect and Building News (March 1919). The Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. BOTTOM: Joan Whitehead, photographer. Johnny Wiggs "Congo Square" and Other Vintage Material Album Cover from OffBeat: Louisiana Music and Culture. URL:

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