Mr. Bingle in New Orleans
New Orleans is known as one of the most vibrant cities in the US (and the food is amazing!), and not without reason. Come spring or summer or fall, the city is always in celebratory spirit.
With Halloween and Thanksgiving gone, it’s now time for Yuletide. And trust New Orleans to bring something extra to the celebration – in the form of Mr. Bingle!
There’s an interesting story behind the adorable Mr. Bingle, the snowman assistant to Santa Claus. In 1948, when the people of New Orleans flocked to Canal Street for their Christmas shopping, there was stiff competition among all the stores there.
Make a Sparkling Mark
The famous departmental store in the French Quarters called Maison Blanche wanted to do something different to stand out from the rest.
That’s when the window display manager at the store imagined the cute little Christmas character called Mr. Bingle, a snowman who had an ice-cream cone hat, holly-leaf wings and Christmas decorations for eyes.
That wasn’t all. The store even hired a local puppeteer to bring alive Mr. Bingle through marionette shows in the front window of Maison Blanche for everyone on Canal Street to see.
The rest is history. Mr. Bingle not only became immediately popular but remained a New Orleans Christmas icon even after Maison Blanche shut shop in 1998.
When Mr. Bingle was first created, the store found it difficult to name the character. So it held a Name The Mascot contest for shoppers but it wasn’t a success. The president of Maison Blanche, Lewis Schwartz Jr., then named the character Mr. Bingle.
This adorable character became so popular in New Orleans that people offered to buy the props used in the marionette shows for huge sums. This prompted the store to start manufacturing Mr. Bingle plush dolls that went on to sell like hotcakes from 1949.
That same year, Maison Blanche also made a supersized figure of Mr. Bingle, installed in front of the store on Canal Street. It was 1949 and the installation took a long time. It became a popular attraction as people gathered to watch the installation of Mr. Bingle.
A Massive Mr. Bingle
Made by a company in Chicago, the 50 feet tall Mr. Bingle figure was shipped to New Orleans by railroad. At the time, it was the biggest such figure ever displayed by any retail store.
The Mr. Bingle theme song is still remembered by many in New Orleans. Before every Christmas, Maison Blanche celebrated the arrival of Santa Claus with Mr. Bingle as his assistant.
Lots of Fun
This event was insanely popular with the crowd, with thousands flocking to see the arrival of Santa. Though this tradition ended with the closing of Maison Blache, Mr. Bingle lives on.
Even until this day, Mr. Bingle appeals to both children and grownups in New Orleans. Not only are there installations around Christmas but Mr. Bingle plush toys are also available.
Like many things in New Orleans, it’s heartening to find that Mr. Bingle is one of those things that refuse to fade away with time.