A Facebook friend shared this TedEd video this morning. It’s clarity and frankness impressed me. This video (about five minutes long) is a great resource for classroom teachers and homeschoolers alike. If you teach History in middle school or above, add this to your lessons. This is the perfect addition to inadequate textbooks.
The Atlantic Slave Trade brought enslaved Africans to North America. One of the things folks excusing human trafficking say is, “Africans sold their own into slavery.” Yes, this is true. So, this presentation explains European involvement in the trade. African rulers sold their enemies from rival areas and tribes to the Europeans. In addition rulers profited from enslavement. It was an easy solution for refugees and prisoners of war.
New Orleans and Human Trafficking
New Orleans became a major port of entry for enslaved Africans. It wasn’t a direct part of the Atlantic Slave Trade, though. Africans died in large numbers in transit. Therefore, traffickers ran from West Africa to North America as quickly as possible. They unloaded the survivors of the passages in cities on the Atlantic coast. Additionally, they traveled to the Caribbean, Saint-Domingue or Havana. New Orleans connected the Islands to the US. As the plantation economy grew in the Deep South, slave owners in the islands moved their property to the mainland. Even though the British outlawed the slave trade in 1807, the practice continued for decades. The port of New Orleans moved many of the enslaved into the country.
Museums and Memorials
USS Constellation, anchored in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (courtesy Flickr user sherseydc)
This video presents the background for the concept of a “slave ship museum.” In Baltimore, the USS Constellation museum recognizes the ship’s past as a slaver. So, the impact of human trafficking isn’t the main focus. Is New Orleans the right place for such a museum? Check out the video and share your thoughts.
Cover of Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store, by Edward J. Branley
The cover of the Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store
And here it is! Here’s the back-cover text:
For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders, and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.
Krauss book drops on 25-September
I’m excited! This was a fun story to tell. So much here–Jewish retailing families, Storyville, the Creoles of Treme, transportation…even a Pontchartrain Beach connection! From Leon Fellman to the Krauss Brothers, to Leon Heymann, his son, Jimmy, grandson Jerry, Krauss was a family operation. Like many department stores, Krauss was a large extended family. Krauss to touched many people over the years.
The book chronicles the store’s how Leon Fellman decided to buy up the 1200 block of Canal Street. He built a store that the length of the block. Fellman leased that building to the Krauss brothers. They turned the building into a “veritable trade palace” whose lifetime spanned almost the entire 20th Century. Krauss rode the highs and lows of New Orleans, including two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the post-war boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. The store didn’t pop up at once, of course, growing back from Fellman’s original building. Krauss eventually filled up the entire block from Canal to Iberville Street, then the block behind that, Iberville Street to Bienville Street! The store was right in front of Storyville, right next to the train station, as well as in the hearts of many.
Milneburg, Alexander Milne’s port on Lake Pontchartrain.
‘Winter in the South’ – Article from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, December 1858. Woodcut engraving ‘The Light-House-Lake Pontchartrain’. (h/t Pontchartrain.net)
Milneburg – Port village on Lake Pontchartrain
A short drive or bus ride from downtown out to the campus of the University of New Orleans brings you back to one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, Milneburg. The area is all commercial-use now, but it began as port area, then resort, then an important part of the city’s contribution to the war effort in the 1940s.
The area at Elysian Fields and the Lakefront was swampland when the French established New Orleans near the Mississippi River. The Spanish colonial government, seeing little value in the land, sold it to a Scottish businessman, Alexander Milne. Milne came to New Orleans in 1776, where he started a brick making business. That business became quite profitable after the great fires of 1788 and 1794, when the Spanish ordered the city be rebuilt with brick structures, rather than the wooden ones built by the French. Milne worked to develop his lakefront property, particularly on the eastern side of the city. By 1830, he had encouraged a group of businessmen to form the Pontchartrain Rail-Road Company, which built a five-mile right-of-way, connecting Faubourg Marigny with Milneburg.
Bypassing the Mississippi River
Fishing camps along the lake in Milneburg, 1923 (photo: public domain)
Milne constructed a small port on the lakefront, building a pier which extended out into the lake far enough that ocean-going ships could dock there, and their cargo could be taken by rail to the city. The path from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, to the Rigolets Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain and finally to Milneburg, was attractive to ship captains, since it was faster than coming up to New Orleans from the mouth of the river. To improve safety at the port, the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse was constructed in 1834.
Theresa Gallagher and her husband, Conrad Freese, at Milneburg, New Orleans c. 1880 – 1890 (Photo: public domain)
Milneburg was the terminus of the Pontchartrain Railroad. The trains ran down what is now Elysian Fields Avenue, to the company’s station at Elysian Fields and Chartres, in the Marigny. The Pontchartrain Railroad operated for over a century.
Quarella’s Restaurant, Mlineburg, 1914 (photo: public domain)
Commercial use of Milneburg boomed during the antebellum years, and continued through the Civil War. The U.S. Navy so totally dominated the Confederate forces in 1862 that New Orleans surrendered without a land battle. Milneburg’s use as a commercial port waned in the late 1800s, but the area continued to be a popular day trip from the city. Saloons, clubs, and restaurants popped up in Milneburg as early as the 1840s. By the 1900s, the area was a network of fishing camps, resorts, and restaurants.
Milneburg also became known for its music. In his biography of Edward “Kid” Ory, Creole Trombone, John McCusker writes of Ory’s memories of busking for tips in Milneburg. Ory and his band would come into the city from LaPlace, and would head out to Milneburg during the day, going from fishing camp to fishing camp, playing for tips. Perhaps it was Ory and his band that influenced a number of Italian-American boys like Sharkey Bonano, who lived in Milneburg to play Jazz. Either way, Jazz stayed in Milneburg even after Ory’s band became well-known and played paying gigs uptown and in Storyville. Younger musicians would ride the “Smokey Mary” (as the Pontchartrain Rail-Road was known locally) out to the resort area, hang out, and play.
Milneburg in 1921 (photo: public domain)
Food and music kept Milneburg popular long after its usefulness as a port had diminished. The railroad continued passenger operations until 1932. When land reclamation projects around Bayou St. John and Spanish Fort pushed Pontchartrain Beach further back from the the lake shore, Harry Batt persuaded the city and the WPA to build bath houses and a beach area at Milneburg. He re-opened Pontchartrain Beach at the end of Elysian Fields in 1939.
NAS New Orleans, Pontchartrain Beach, and Camp Leroy Johnson, 1947. (Photo: courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
Milneburg at war
World War II changed the character of Milneburg and the overall lakefront dramatically. The War Department appropriate the land on either side of the amusement park. Naval Air Station New Orleans opened on the western side of Pontchartrain Beach. On the other side, the Army built Camp Leroy Johnson, a supply depot. The aircraft manufacturer, Consolidated Vultee, built an aircraft factory at the end of Franklin Avenue. Consolidated built PBY seaplanes there. The assembly line ended at the lake. The planes rolled right out into the lake for testing.
After the war, the Navy moved the air station down to Belle Chasse. They returned the Lakefront base to the Orleans Levee Board. The OLB leased it to LSU. The school opened Louisiana State University in New Orleans, now UNO. The Army gave back the western section of Camp Leroy Johnson to the OLB. The board developed that parcel into what is now the Lake Oaks subdivision. The Consolidated Vultee aircraft plant on Franklin Avenue became an American Standard factory. The Army also gave the eastern portion of Camp Leroy Johnson back to the state. That area became the University of New Orleans “East Campus.” That parcel is now home to the UNO Lakefront Arena and the Privateer Park baseball stadium. The Department of Defense retained the eastern section of the Army base. It’s now home to the Army and Navy Reserve centers, and the local FBI headquarters.
Milneburg the port was long gone by the end of the 19th Century. Milneburg the resort vanished by World War II. Pontchartrain Beach closed in 1983, so now all that’s left of the original town is the lighthouse. Well, that and “Milneburg Joys.”
Markers of graves of Unknown Soldiers from the Civil War in Chalmette Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)
Chalmette Cemetery and United States Colored Troops
Many men died fighting for the Union in South Louisiana. New Orleans surrendered in April, 1862. The Union Army used the city as a base to move north. They pressed the rebels from both directions along the Mississippi. Major General Benjamin Butler brought a force close to 3000 men to Ship Island to invade New Orleans. A sizable contingent of that force were United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Black men served in the US Army for a number of reasons. They were citizens of the free states. Some were the sons and grandsons of slaves. Their ancestors escaped from the South. So, they made lives for themselves in the Northern states. There were 175 regiments of USCT by 1865, a full one-tenth of the US Army.
Fighting for the Union
Chalmette National Cemetery (Edward Branley photo)
Black soldiers fought as segregated units The “Colored Troops” battalions and regiments were often raised by white men who were willing to command black soldiers, such as the 54th Massachusetts. While the men might know each other, was, the white officers didn’t. In many cases, Their soldiers didn’t live anywhere near where the unit was raised. So, when these men died in action in the Deep South, the survivors and the locals had no idea who they were.
Butler held incredible power as the general commanding the occupation. Since the war continued after the invasion, the army needed a place to bury their dead. The battlefield in Chalmette was a possible choice for a cemetery. The city preserved the battlefield, and nobody really lived down there, even by the 1860s.
The army sectioned off a portion of the battlefield on the eastern side. This was the “British side” of the battlefield, Pakenham’s army advanced on the Americans from there. Since the bulk of the action took place on the “American side,” nobody considered the cemetery as an affront.
The top photo shows the markers of “unknowns,” mostly USCT soldiers. The second photo shows the standard markers used by National Cemeteries at the time.
NOPSI 972, coming out of the barn on Canal Street for the last time. (Courtesy Tulane LaRC)
Which “Last Streetcar?”
The last day of regular service on the old Canal line was May 30, 1964. There are a number of interpretations as to which run was the “last” streetcar. Irby Aucoin’s famous photo from the night before is arguably the last “revenue” run. This car, 972, the next morning, was the last streetcar on the two-track main on Canal. That wasn’t a “regular” run, however. NOPSI started cutting down the overhead wire right behind 972. There were slowdowns to the point where that last trip took hours instead of minutes. Still, that banner on the side was big news, as 972 switched off of the Canal main track. When the car turned onto the third track that makes the turn to St. Charles Avenue, Canal service was gone.
When 972 turned onto St. Charles that morning in 1964, plans that were long-made came to completion. NOPSI kept 35 of the arch roof streetcars of the 900-series for operations on the St. Charles line. They earned the nickname “Charlie cars.” Some of the remaining 800- and 900-series cars were donated/sold to museums and private collectors. The rest were unceremoniously cut in half and scrapped. NOPSI had no interest in fighting with the so-called “streetcar activists” that appeared on the scene after the announcement that Canal would be discontinued. So, they cut down the wires, cut up the streetcars, and deployed a fleet of green, air-conditioned, modern Flixible buses.
NOPSI promised the people of Lakeview and Lakeshore “express” bus service that would enable them to get on a bus within blocks of their homes, then ride into the CBD in air-conditioning. No transfer at the foot of Canal Street, to ride a streetcar in sorry shape. No crowds bunched together in the heat, humidity, and rain of the spring and summer. Nothing the uptown folks could do or say would convince the people who actually used the Canal line at the time to change their minds.
Bus ridership changed dramatically during the forty years of no streetcars on Canal. When the red Von Dullen cars took to the street in 2004, people were ready for a ride from City Park Avenue into town. Air conditioning doesn’t hurt, either.
Prytania and Fourth in the Garden District. WPA photo from the 1930s. The entry in the LOUIS database is amusing for the Lafitte reference:
B&W photo, date unknown. An Antebellum mansion in the New Orleans, Louisiana Garden District. Also known as the “cornstalk fence” house. Written on photo: This antebellum mansion is a grand example of the opulence of the sugar boon before the Civil War. This wrought-iron fence is famous for its corn stalk design. Local legend says that Jean Lafitte forged this iron work in his blacksmith shop which was located on the corner of Prytania and Fourth Streets.
The contrast between the architecture of the French Quarter and the Garden District is stark. The Quarter has lovely houses whose courtyards and interiors rise to the same level of opulence as these large homes in the Garden District. The Spanish/Moorish design hides that opulence behind large walls facing the streets. You have to get past the wall and gatehouse and enter the courtyard, then you realize you’ve stepped into a place of elegance. The walls conceal the beauty from passersby on the street.
There were many reasons the Anglo-Irish chose to settle into neighborhoods upriver from Canal Street. House design was one of them. The neighborhood is very British. Big front lawns, Most of the houses have low fences that allow those walking by to admire the lawn and garden. The homes display the owner’s tastes for all to see. There is a good mix of house types in this area. Some shotguns and creole cottages pop up on the smaller lots, but the big houses are, for the most part, English-influenced.
There so many wonderful stories about these homes. A guided tour of the Garden District is great, so you can learn some of the stories behind the houses. Grey or Loki can tell you all about it if you book one of their tours.