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Michel Musson

Death: May 04, 1885 (73)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Place of Burial: 400 Basin Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
Immediate Family:

Son of Jean-Baptiste Germain Musson and Marie Desiree Rillieux
Husband of Genevieve Odile Longer
Father of Germaine Musson; Estelle Angelina de Gas; Mathilde Amelie Musson; Eulalie Desirée ("Didi") Musson and Eugene Henry Musson
Brother of Marie-Celestine Musson; Anne Eugenie Musson; Louis Eugene Musson and Henry Germain Musson

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About Michel Musson

Michel Musson acquired a European education--he was a classmate of Longfellow's at Gottingen--then returned to New Orleans where he was a planter and exporter of cotton under the firm’s name, Musson, Prestidge & Co. on the second floor, backside, of Factor’s Row on Carondelet Street. The facade of the building remains the same today.

Michel married Odile Longer and had seven children: Michael Eugéne, Mathilde, Joseph Germain, Germain Odile, Désirée, Eugéne Henri and Estelle. All four sons died in infancy or before reaching the age of ten, leaving three daughters.

From 1849-1853, Michael was Post Master of New Orleans and declined the position of postmaster general of the United States from friend and president, Zachery Taylor. Also he was an officer of the Citizens Bank, and president of Factor’s and Traders Insurance Company.

Michel’s daughter, Mathilde, married William Alexander Bell, staying in New Orleans. Youngest daughter, Estelle Musson, married Lazare David Balfour, (nephew of Jefferson Davis), a captain in the Confederate Army, who died in October 1862 at Corinth, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Widower, Estelle Balfour with one child, Estelle Josephine, and her mother and sisters fled to Paris in 1863 to stay with the Degas family and later in Italy during the Civil War. Edgar Degas at this time was thirty years of age, had devoted 10 years to painting, but had not yet exhibited.

The financial hardships of the Civil War forced Michel to sell his mansion he had built on Third and Coliseum in the Garden District (1331 Third Street) and he and Odile rented a large house at 372 (now 2306) Esplanade Ave. to accommodate their daughters’ growing families. Edgar came to live and paint at this home in 1872-1873.

Late in life, as a direct result of several family tragedies and business disasters, Michel Musson died in debt in 1885, even owing his daughter Estelle thousands of dollars.

Michel’s obsession of saving copies of corresponding letters between the Degas and the Musson families is why there is so much documented information. On March 30, 1973, the Degas-Musson Papers were placed on a loan in Special Collections of the Tulane University Library in New Orleans. They were lent by the late Mrs. Edmund B. Martin, Sr., née Dora Odile Musson, daughter of Gaston Edgar Achille Musson, son of René Degas and Estelle Musson, the brother and cousin , respectively, of Edgar Degas. In 1991, the family of Mrs. Martin gave the papers to Tulane University in her name. The collection consists of six boxes divided into folders containing some 435 letters and documents in French and English dating from 1834 to 1950.

The former Musson house was divided into three separate residences. Today, the center residence still resembles the original building. “The Degas House” at 2306 Esplanade Ave. is now a bed & breakfast owned by Mr. David Villarrubia.


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Michel Musson's Timeline

January 12, 1812
December 6, 1838
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
January 6, 1840
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
December 28, 1841
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
July 16, 1843
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
May 4, 1885
Age 73
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
New Orleans, Louisiana