New Orleans at the turn of the century was an exception among Southern cities. A powerful, highly organized urban machine dominated politics in a city that was experiencing rapid population growth due to the influx of immigrants and rural blacks. The clash of these two groups with an already established population--Creole descendants of the original French and Spanish settlers of colonial Louisiana and the descendants of Anglo-Americans from the older states--compounded ethnic diversity and polical complexity.

In Political Leadership in a Southern City: New Orleans in the Progressive Era, 1896-1902 , Edward F. Haas analyzes the composition of the two major factions that vied for political control in the Crescent City. His examination of the ethnic background, political and business orientation, residential preference and social position of the men who dominated Democratic politics in New Orleans chronicles an important and often overlooked aspect of Louisiana history. From this unique viewpoint, he traces the development of Democratic politics in New Orleans, beginning with the White League's 1874 confrontation with the Republican Metropolitan Police at the Battle of Liberty Place. This study places Regular Democratic machine leaders John Fitzpatrick and Martin Behrman and other notable members of the famous Democratic political and social organization, the Choctaw Club of Louisiana, as well as the metropolis's steadfast Democratic reformers in historical perspective.

Haas describes how the Regular Democrats, through tight-knit ward and precinct organizations, gained the support of working-class whites and immigrants and used their ballots to control the more reform-minded business and professional Citizens' League of New Orleans. Though bitter rivals, the Choctaw Club and the New Orleans Reformers were dedicated to white supremacy and to Democratic party control. The interplay between these two opposing Democratic factions dominated Louisiana politics from the late nineteenth century until the advent of Huey Long in 1928.