1841 New Orleans color

1841 New Orleans color engraving. “New Orleans. – Taken from the Opposite Side a Short Distance above the Middle or Picayune Ferry.”

1841 New Orleans – The nation’s second city

I spent Sunday researching Krauss stuff, and came across an engraving that was used by an author writing about the Jewish community in New Orleans. It was a lovely scene of 1841 New Orleans, drawn from across the river in Algiers. Since some of the buildings on the other side of the river are fuzzy, I put the article up on the “Ain’t There No More” group on Facebook. It’s a great group of folks, who like to help out. I received a great response. My friend Carlos “Froggy” May came right back with a link to the Commons. It was a link to a color engravingĀ of a similar scene.

Cooperative research

So, itĀ turns out that the black and white sketch I found was drawn by someone named A. Mondelli. Then the sketch was then turned into a color engraving by William J. Bennet, and published by Henry I. Megarey of New York.

Here’s Froggy’s entry in the Commons for this engraving:

View looking from Algiers (probably about where Mardi Gras World is now) looking across the Mississippi River. On river are a variety of sailing ships, steam ships, row-boats, and a flatboat. Across the river is the skyline of the “American Quarter” of New Orleans, with the dome of the first St. Charles Hotel prominent just left of center. The French Quarter to the right is mostly obscured by ships, but the towers of St. Louis Cathedral can be recognized behind ships’ rigging near the right edge. In the foreground along the river batture are seen, left to right: two men in top-hats and prosperous outfits of the time with a dog; a small group of African Americans (likely slaves), both men and women, working taking soil from the river edge and putting it in wheel-barrows (presumably building up the high-water levee a short distance inland); two white men in working garb seated on a log with barrels; two large metal anchors; and two men moving a small sailboat which is tied to a post on the bature (presumably either about to put it back in the water or almost finished dragging it on land).

The original sketch

1841 New Orleans black and white

the original A. Mondelli sketch

Here’s the original sketch. While the color engraving keeps the spirit of the orginal, I love that Mr. Bennett did not simply colorize the sketch. He let a bit of time lapse. Notice that the flatboat in the river is now past the domed building on the east bank. The artist stands a bit to the left, which reveals the robust shipping traffic along the river at this time.

New Orleans before the Civil War

This scene depicts typical river traffic from the antebellum period. Most coastal and trans-Atlantic ships still used wind power. We start to see larger steam-powered ships in the 1840s. New Orleans at this time was a bustling port, tying the South to Baltimore and New York City, as well as Havana and Europe. Ocean-going ships docked at New Orleans, then steamboats took the cargo from Europe into the center of the United States. The need to transfer cargo, first to riverboats, later to trains, was critical, and it’s why the Union took seriously the capture of the city at the beginning of the Civil War.

Such a fun rabbit hole to go down!