Cocktail Glass

Pin-up girl stemware embodied jazz-era Montreal.

Written by Annick Desmarais

Posted January 5, 2023

Waiters served cocktails in this plastic glass with a pin-up girl stem at Montreal’s famous jazz club, Rockhead’s Paradise.

In the 1920s, jazz musicians flocked from the United States to Montreal — one of the only North American cities not subject to alcohol prohibition — bringing with them a style of music developed in the early twentieth century by the Black community of New Orleans. Many Black immigrants settled in the Little Burgundy district, including Jamaican Rufus Rockhead, who arrived there in 1919.

For eight years he worked as a railway porter — one of the few jobs available to Black men at the time — and benefited, as did many others, from the journeys between Montreal and Chicago to smuggle liquor. He used his savings to make his dream come true, and in 1928 he opened Rockhead's Paradise, Montreal’s first bar owned by a Black man.

Despite a hostile climate towards Blacks in Canada and the United States, Rockhead's Paradise was a safe place for the Black population of Montreal, and its success was instantaneous. The place was known for its warm welcome, its festive and relaxed atmosphere, and its high-quality acts. The club not only hosted renowned musicians including Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more, but also provided a venue for many up-and-coming musicians including the famous Canadian jazz pianists Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones.

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This object resides at  MEM — Centre des mémoires montréalaises.

This article originally appeared in 50 Merveilles de nos musées : les plus beaux trésors de la Francophonie Canadienne. The special interest publication was part of Projet Portage, a five-year initiative to connect history lovers in French and English Canada, generously supported by the Molson Foundation.

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