Paul Morphy Book Shop


The  Paul  Morphy  Book  Shop

I was trying to find more information on the different Paul Morphy Chess Clubs in New Orleans.  The first chess club in the Crescent City, appropriately named the New Orleans Chess Club, was formed in 1841. Like most chess clubs of its day, it was faltering and barely hanging on until the early 1850s when a local chess hero named Paul Morphy infused it with his brilliance. Later Paul Morphy even served a president but after he retired from public chess completely in the mid 1860s, the club once again lasped into a comatose state. In 1880 some of the former members of the New Orleans Chess Club banded together to form the New Orleans Chess, Checkers and Whist Club. Its existance became legend. It survived a destructive fire a decade later that resulted in the loss of all its records, it's Morphy memorabilia and it's magnificent library. It recovered from that great loss and prospered into the late 1920s.  The first Paul Morphy Chess Club was founded by members of the former great N.O. Chess, Checkers and Whist Club in 1928, establishing itself in the Baxter Building. It moved several times during its existance: to Commercial Place, then to Camp Street (this street will be mentioned later in this article), then to the corner of Polydoras and St. Charles and finally to St. Charles Avenue proper.  It opened its doors on Morphy's birthday, June 22.

A later Paul Morphy Chess Club, paradoxically, didn't concern itself at all with chess. The members played Bridge exclusively and didn't even own a chess board or a chess set.

Fortunately, after running into multiple dead-ends, one of my side trips reminded me of the Paul Morphy Book Shop.  Once again there is an misconception with the name.  The reason that the book shop was named after Paul Morphy was that it was located in the building on 419 Royal St. where Morphy was raised. 

I'll give some facts about the book shop, but the rest of the article will talk about the book shop's owner and some peripheral, non-chessical, yet interesting sidelines.

Rosalie Nixon was a New Orleans native, apparently from a well-off family.  Her father was likely James Oscar Nixon and he mother Louise Jonas Nixon. Rosalie was born on November 8, 1880.  She attended the Newcomb Academy for girls, as well as the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of Tulane University where she graduated with a BA in Modern Languages in 1899.  The Newcomb College was located on Washington Ave, between Camp and Chestnut Streets (remember Camp St. is where the Morphy club once resided).

Every year in New Orleans there is the Mardi Gras. It dates back to the 19th century and has undergone numerous changes since its beginning. On Feb. 14, 1900 the now defunct Krewe of Consus put on a production, which started at the French Opera House, called "The House Boat on the Styx."
          "The cast entered to the dirge of Chopin’s Funeral March,
          and proceeded to a banquet hall with jewel-encrusted walls."

The important role of Queen went to Miss Nannie Grant, but our very own Rosalie Nixon was one of her eight Maids-of-Honor.  Strangely enough, the Krewe of Mithras had the exact same theme that year [Standard History of New Orleans by Henry Rightor, 1900].

On June 11, 1902 Miss Rosalie Nixon, age 21, married Mr. James Miller, age 27, at Christ Church Cathedral in an afternoon ceremony.  For some reason I can't fathom, Rosalie, unlike almost all women of her time, seems to never have been referred to as Rosalie Miller, or even more common for her time, Mrs. Miller - always Rosalie Nixon, even Mrs. Rosalie Nixon.

Rosalie went to France during WWI to serve as a volunteer.

The next reference we find to Rosalie Nixon is through he book store:

from Double Dealer  Nov. 1921
     Herein are assembled four separate businesses, videlicet—The Patio Royal, a tea room; Chic Parisien, a distinctive French establishment (lingerie, etc.); the Paul Morphy Book Shop, and Gallup, Inc., interior decorators. Of the quartet, I find the book shop most to my taste. . . .
But the book shop! One sees or seems to see in such a shop the commencement of a new regime in lettered Nouvelle Orleans. The place has all the charm of an artist's rendezvous with perhaps the one pleasant failing of freshness and femininity.
However, by this very token, it achieves an atmosphere -which might be found lacking in a more perfunctory, less feminine establishment. Books there are here and about, bidding you peep behind their gaudy jackets. In time, of course, there will be a larger array, rarer and more diversified—first editions, association items, Americana, incunabula, preciosa, etc.—but all in time. Here, in any event, is a valiant beginning and one that deserves all the encouragement we shamefully diffident Southerners (when it comes to things literary) can give it.

Rosalie Nixon appeared to have had some connections-

      Rosalie Nixon, of the Paul Morphy Bookshop, New Orleans, has been in New York  this last week on a spring buying tour. She was most optimistic about her new  venture, and reports that business has been especially good since she opened her  shop last fall...  -Publishers' Weeky 1922.

     In New Orleans, they are to have something new in the Bookshop. Rosalie Nixon, a  delightful lady who recently came on to New York to purchase books, tells us that they  have taken over an age-old building In the old French quarter, and that there is to be  a combination teashop, bookshop, antique furniture shop, and lingerie shop, all  operating under the same roof. Back of them is a delightful courtyard which, she  promises all those who come to visit her, will be filled with charming southern belles.  The house was the home of Morphy, the great chess player, and a tablet to his  memory is to be dedicated at the opening of the shops some time in October. The  Archbishop, we believe, is to come in order to give his blessing to the enterprise.  While the teashop and the lingerie shop have rooms of their own, the books are to be  scattered around among the antiques, so that the atmosphere of the place will be  quite in keeping with the historical associations of the part of the town where it is  located. We suggested that the most popular fiction be kept among the laces; but  Mrs. Nixon seemed to feel that the suggestion, while novel, was irrelevant. -The Bookman: a review of books and life 1922

The Step Ladder, July 1922,  lists under the representatives of the  Order of Bookfelllows -Rosalie Nixon, Paul Morphy Book Shop 419 Royal St. New Orleans, La.

Ms. Nixon was also listed as an officer in the National American Woman Sufferage Assoc. Handbook in 1920.

The most interesting part of this whole exercise was reading the Tulane University handbook for Rosalie's senior year 1898-9. The Handbook lists the tuition, requirements and expectations for women enrolled in the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College. It seems a far cry from the student experience of today:

Applicants for admission to the college must not be less than 16 years of age.
     Candidates for admission to the Freshman Class will be examined in the following  fundamental requirements for all the courses:
     General Arithmetic, including a knowledge of the metric system. Algebra, through  quadratic equations. Plane and Solid Geometry, eight books of Wentworth or  Chauvenet, or their equivalent.
     English Grammar and Analysis. Elements of Rhetoric, as given in Hart's Composition and Rhetoric, or D. P. Hill's  Rhetoric, or equivalent. It is also very desirable and strongly recommended that all  applicants should possess some familiarity with the elements of English and  American literature, and should have carefully read or studied a few of the best works  of standard authors. Geography, political and physical.
     United States History. General History, as given in Myers' General History, or its  equivalent. Elements of Physiology.

The following additional requirements are made, according to the course of study  chosen by the applicants:
Modern Language Course.
     A full two years' course in French and German.
Scientific Course.
     Latin Grammar and Reader. Caesar, De Bello Galleco, four books. Cicero, four orations. Vergil's Aeneid, two books. The Roman method of pronunciation is used.French or German, as in the odern Language Course.
Classical Course.
     Latin, as in the Scientific Course. Greek, Frost's Greek Primer, or its equivalent, and one book of Xenophon's Anabasis.Continental method of pronunciation is used.
It is recommended that the applicant be prepared in French or German, as in the Scientific Course.

The scholastic year is divided into three terms, for which the tuition is as follows:
High School. College.
Fall term—October 2 to December 22 $30 $35
Winter term—January 2 to March 26  $25 $35
Spring term—March 26 to June 20  $25  $30
Per Term
Class exercises, two hours per week $4.00
Class exercises, three hours per week $6.00
Class exercises, five hours per week $8.00
Normal Course 20.00
The tuition in the Art Department is $15 per term; half term $10.
Students entering for any special art study are permitted to take others that may  seem desirable or necessary, without additional expense.
For special single studies, other than Art or Physical Culture, per term. $12.
All dues are payable in advance.
     The demand for a boarding department has led to the erection of the "Josephine  Louise House," named in honor of the beloved founder of the College. The building is  situated on Washington avenue, directly opposite the College grounds, and was  opened for the reception of students in October, 1894. It is provided with the most  approved appliances for the care and comfort of its inmates. Steam heating is used  throughout, and, in construction, every sanitary precaution has been taken.
     Owing to the increasing number of boarding students, it has been found necessary to  secure another building for their accommodation ; this will be ready for occupancy at  the opening of the session, October, 1899.
    The care of the students are intrusted to competent matrons and resident teachers,  who will maintain correspondence with parents or guardians whenever necessary or  desired.
     Charges for board, $60 per term; for the College year, $180.
     This charge contemplates the placing of two students in each room. In case the  space is not required, a student may occupy a room alone, but will be charged $75 a  term; $225 for a College year.
     This does not include tuition.
     Washing extra, at reasonable rates.
     Boarding students are not received for a shorter period than a full term.
     Each student will furnish her own napkins, towels, mosquito bar and bedding.
     In consideration that rates have been placed at the lowest prices consistent with  good board and accommodations, all charges must be paid promptly in advance. No arrangements can be made for a shorter period than one term.
     The students in the boarding department are subject only to such rules as are found  necessary to their proper care and security, and requisite for the successful  prosecution of their studies. No exceptions, therefore, can be made in the case of  special students desiring special privileges. The wishes and instructions of parents,  in each case, are recorded and followed so far as is consistent with the general  regulations.
     Application for rooms should be made before September 15, or earlier, if possible.
For further particulars address
Miss Alice Bowman, Lady in charge.
     Prompt attendance is required at meals, chapel exercises, and all classes.
     Rooms will be cleaned by the servants once each day. The students should make up  their own beds and keep their rooms in good order at all times.
     All complaints or requests for special service mu st be made to the lady in charge.  Servants are not permitted to comply with requests from students.
     Quiet lady-like behavior is required at all times, but is especially necessary at table  and in the halls.
     Meals will be served in rooms only in case of sickness and at a charge of ten cents  for each meal. In case of continued sickness a special nurse may be employed at the  student's expense.
     No meals or entertainments may be given in student's rooms without special  permission.
     A student must not go out walking alone, but always in company with a teacher or  another student; whenever she desires to leave the home, except as her college work  requires, special permission must be obtained.
     No student will be permitted to go out in the evening, except in company with a  suitable chaperone, who must call for her and return with her. Permission to go out,  and receive callers will be given only for Friday evenings, or such other evenings as  immediately precede a school holiday. All others must be devoted to study or rest. All  students are required to be at home on Sunday evenings. Exceptions to this rule will  be made only for imperative reasons.
     All students should attend religious services in their respective churches once each Sabbath.