New Orleans, Louisiana; Kansas City, Missouri, and Shawnee Mission, Kansas: 1965. Album. These two matching leather albums with custom gold lettering and decorations measure 10.5” x 11.5” and contain over 100 plastic-protected pages with over 65 b/w and color vernacular and professional photographs ranging from 3.5” square to 8” x 10”. There are over 80 ephemeral pieces including celebratory messages (programs, invitations, letters, cards, and telegrams) and about 25 newspaper/magazine clippings (some toned). Small items are glued down. Everything is in nice shape but for four vernacular photos which were stuck to a page protector when mounted. These albums were assembled in the heyday of both Mary Hudson and the Krewe of Venus. The photos show the Queen, her King, her Page, and her court in lavish costumes at their ball and on their parade float. The krewe’s theme for 1965 was “The Giants of Literature,” and among the Royal Court Maids were Catherine from Longfellow’s Evangeline, Chryseis from Homer’s The Illiad, Cassiopeia from Tennyson’s The Princess, Badoura from the Arabian Nights, and Shakespeare’s Cleopatra. Some of the congratulatory messages in the albums are from companies related to the oil industry, and there is an invitation from Hudson to all members of the krewe to attend a follow-on June celebration featuring cocktails, a buffet, and movies at the Hudson Oil Company in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Very good. Item #009192
Mary Hudson was 21 years old in 1933 when her first husband was killed in a truck accident. She borrowed $200 from her father and used it to re-open a twice-failed gas station in Kansas City which she christened the Hudson Oil Company. With no mechanics, repair bay, or attendants, Hudson offered pump-it-yourself service and manned a cash register in a small kiosk herself. This allowed her to undercut the competing full-service stations by one or two cents per gallon, a significant discount when a gallon of gas was selling for only ten cents. Both aggressive and frugal (it’s said she personally painted her stations when their trim began to look dingy), over the next several decades Hudson built a chain of stations with rock-bottom prices and no-frills self-service. She purchased an oil refinery in Oklahoma, and by the early 1980s operated over 300 gas stations and convenience stores in 35 states. In 1982, Forbes named her as one of the 400 wealthiest Americans, the first woman to be so recognized. Unfortunately, for Hudson, in 1984 after it was discovered that she had altered her pumps to provide less gas to customers than shown on the gauges, she pled no-contest to felony theft. Although her fines were minimal, and she was sentenced to only two-years of probation instead of jail, confidence in the Hudson brand plummeted along with sales. Worse, by this time most competitors had cut costs by switching to self-service pumps as well. The Hudson Oil Company was forced into bankruptcy following numerous consumer fraud lawsuits and a $9 million court decision that found Mary had also failed to pay her employees minimum wages and overtime pay. None-the-less, Hudson remained resolute and continued to oversee her other assets including cattle ranches, farms, convenience stores, and a Russian petroleum consulting firm well into her eighties. She died at 86 in 1999. (See various articles in The Kansas City Star between 1965 and 1999) The Krewe of Venus became the first all-female Mardi Gras krewe to parade through New Orleans in 1941, and in the fifty-one years of its existence, it out-lived almost twenty other follow-on all-female parade krewes. After its 50th Anniversary parade mustered only 20 floats and 275 riders, the krewe disbanded in 1992. A unique record of a tough-as-nails female oil tycoon and the first all-female Mardi Gras marching krewe at the top of their game before both would crash and burn 20-25 years later. Scarce. Although Mardi Gras scrapbooks occasionally appear for sale or at auction, they never feature the one-time-richest woman in the United States as Queen of the first all-female marching krewe.