Full title: Lyle Saxon and Robert Tallant: How Their Work with the Federal Writers Project (FWP) Continues to Influence the French Quarter Identity and Historical Tourism in New Orleans.
This chapter explores how the FWP’s fieldwork in New Orleans continues to resonate in the thematic content and delivery of present-day historical walking tours of the city. She focuses on Lyle Saxon and Robert Tallant. Saxon was a journalist who served as head of the Louisiana branch, and was prolific in collecting and recording oral folklore and cultural traditions of the Deep South. Throughout his career, Saxon was a frequent collaborator with friend and protege Robert Tallant. Together, the men launched and wrote a number of influential travel guides for the Project, with Tallant continuing similar work with later collections of folklore, including Voodoo in New Orleans (1946) and The Voodoo Queen (1956). Harris argues that their extensive body of historical work, some of which is still widely available in most French Quarter giftshops, has helped shape the identity of New Orleans, particularly as it pertains to the “haunted tourism.” Saxon remains a figure of some anonymity outside of New Orleans, but he has nevertheless helped define the city in the public’s imagination. As such, this essay provides renewed attention to an under-discussed figure. Moreover, this essay situates Saxon’s work within a larger framework for considering how the study of oral traditions during the FWP have influenced modern tourism practices, and how current scholarship can be used for the same in the future.