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1949: Twenty Year Old Modernized Rolls Royce in New Orleans

It is not so much the case today, but it has been said in the past that “Things change slowly in the South.” It is also known that a number of Rolls-Royce owners, who bought their cars new in the period between the teens to the thirties, would on occasion keep it for decades. That apparently appears to be the case here, and the owner is likely to be the gentleman standing in the doorway of the Balter Building, located at 404 Saint Charles Ave. in New Orleans, LA.

This Rolls, photographed late in 1949 appears to be a 1925 to ’29 “Phantom I,” a new model that replaced the earlier “Silver Ghost” that was in production between 1906 to ’26. This particular automobile is equipped with l.h.d. and probably was assembled at the automakers Springfield, MA, factory which was in operation between 1921 to ’31. This exceptional example appears to be wearing its original close-coupled town sedan coachwork with modernized fenders.

Learn more about the Springfield-built Rolls-Royce and view a one owner (77-years) “Phantom I” at the Springfield Museums. The photograph is courtesy of the Louisiana Digital Library.

20 responses to “1949: Twenty Year Old Modernized Rolls Royce in New Orleans

  1. Good morning; I had a difficult time believing this photo was from 1953. Not about the car , but who would have been seen in that suit in 1953 ? In addition there is that bumper showing that would be a rarity in ’53. So off I went to historic N. O. Collections and found it was done in 1949 at 404 Camp st. So at 1949 in NOLO in can believe it . So much changed between ’49and ’53

    • Who would have been seen in that suit in 1953? Well…. Harry Truman for one, in just about every picture I can think of – and he _was_ president until that time. It’s not unusual for the Upper Crust to hang on to some classic style well beyond its perceived sell-by date -the car, the suit and even the pair of white gloves (and perhaps a cane?) in the owner’s right hand.

      Interesting that in a building entrance 10 feet wide, the owner has managed to squeeze in his name three times.

  2. Even in 1953 it would not have been that out of style … at that time Rolls Royce and other Europeans would not have appeared that “ancient”, even the contemporaries, Mercedes, Jaguar , Bentley, as well, compared to the American makes only looked “dowdy”, or maybe eccentric? MG abandoned the same fender style in the mid fifties after they’d brot out their “contemporary” TF. So many of the pre-war American “heaviy” classics were victims of the steel scrap drives or gas rationing during WW2. “Spares” for repairs were hard to come by.

  3. Hopefully this comment is not too long.

    The gentleman standing in the door of the Balter Building is the owner of this Rolls Royce, Colonel J.H. Bluford Balter. The date this picture was taken was recorded as being taken late in 1949

    In the 1930s Colonel Balter apparently lived in Pass Christian Mississippi and commuted by rail. A website has some historical information on Pass Christian and reports that in the 1930s there were two commuter trains daily to and from New Orleans. At that time Colonel Bluford and his wife were apparently using an Isotta Fraschini to get around in Pass Christian. The description of “train time” in the 1930s in Pass Christian is as follows:

    “Meeting the Train
    by Arthur Grant

    The “commuter train” usually had five cars pulled by the engineer who would halt the engine sharply so that at the station there was one coach at its middle and two at each end. This left the last rail car sticking out the end of the station building on the Davis side. Waiting the train would be five or six automobiles at each end of the depot that would park along the boarding platform. Whiling the time of arrival, family members would either sit in their cars or alight to the platform to look down the track for the first glimpse of the train.

    Upon the train’s arrival, those on the west side were treated to a sight that made their wait worthwhile. Just as the locomotive hit the point where Davis Avenue crossed the tracks a monumental foreign car, known as an Isota Franchini, would sweep down Davis, turn into the road to the station, and would run down to a point just behind the first group of parked cars, then it would stop in the middle of the road. The train by this time had slowed to a walk and hanging off the lowest boarding step of the last car, dressed in a white linen suit, cheerfully waving his straw “boater” to all and sundry, was Mr. Bluford Balter. Without waiting for the train to stop, he would spring from his perch, bound across the platform into the street, skirt the parked cars, and step up to the running board of the idling Isota to plant a resounding kiss on Mrs. Balter. Then, he would slide into the driver’s seat, and with a sharp toot of the Isota’s unique horn, he would drive off.’

    Mesmerized by this tableau, the other arriving passengers and their waiting family and friends, stood transfixed until the Isota whizzed off. Then they would slowly wend their way to their own parked cars, as the show was over for the day.”

    Thanks to Arthur Grant for describing the scene, I wish I had been there to see that! (Train time is always at least an 8.0, but the Isotta Fraschini bumps it to least a 9.7 on the mezmer scale.)

    No photos or additional information on either Col Balter’s Isotta or any of the fine other automobiles he likely owned has been located yet. Col Balter passed away in 1971.

    Another Isotta Fraschini was in the New Orleans area at this time, a LeBaron boattail cabriolet bodied 1928 8A SS owned by Harry P. Williams. Mr. Williams was a founder and the financier of the Wedell-Williams Air Service Corporation. WWASC notably produced the Wedell-Williams Model 44 air racer of the early 1930s, flown by Roscoe Turner and others. The Harry P. Williams 8A SS has been restored and now resides in Oil City PA. The ownership history of this 8A SS (if accurate) excludes it being the one associated with Colonel Bluford Balter.

  4. The front and rear fenders are obviously modified , aware the tail lights. The wheel disks were introduced in 1933 on Brewster bodied cars. The radio antenna on the cowl was introduced in 1936. Neat photo.

  5. Excuse my ignorance, this picture made me wonder since cars in the 1920s used wood in their bodies, how did they survive in damp climates like LA, not to mention termites etc. Was the metal shell strong enough to stay together if the wood rotted away?

    • Many of the quality body companies used a product like Woodlife to preserve the framing. And many of these expensive cars were kept in garages much of the time.

  6. Many families kept their depression era large cars into the 1950s. Many had low miles do to WWII. My father took me to Washington DC in 1954. We saw a nice big black limo in front of a Tabbaco Store. The driver explained his boss saw no reason to trade in the 1934 V-12 Franklin as it looked as good as a current Rolls Royce.

  7. This car is definitely a Springfield built. The barrel shaped headlamps are the clue, and I believe they maybe manufactured by “Hall”. You people can come up with the most interesting photos.

  8. I own one of Col. Balter’s cars, a one-off 1923 Pierce-Arrow 4-ps. Landau that was a special order. Pierce dropped the 4-ps. Landau from their catalog in 1920, but the Col. wanted one so they built him one. Pierce would build just about anything a customer might want. I have a picture taken in 1971 when the Pierce was removed from the colonel’s garage that shows another crew removing an early ’50’s Rolls. The second owner of my car told me that there was a 1908 Detroit Electric, complete with original charging station, still in the garage awaiting its new owner. There were other cars, but he did not know what they were. As for wood preservation in old car bodies, my Pierce is built of northern white ash and has no termite damage at all. The wood in the body is excellent. The termites of the Gulf Coast preferred the soft, raw pine in the warehouse rather than the harder, denser ash. It was stored from 1931 to 1967 in a lumber warehouse the Colonel owned. It was moved to New Orleans in 1967 and therefore was saved from Camille in 1969. The lumber warehouse ended up in Bay St. Louis! There is another photo of a 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Sir Henry Continental Tourer, body by Thrupp & Mabberly, taken in front of the Balter Building Dec. 5, 1949. That photo shows the sewing machine store not there at all and the BALTER lettering over the door to not be there. In my picture the Col. is heavier and older than in this picture. Since my photo is dated I suspect that this photo is older than 1949.

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