Birds-eye view 1851

Birds-eye view 1851

Birds-eye view of New Orleans, 1851, by John Bachmann.

birds-eye view 1851

Click the image for hi-res copy

Birds-eye view 1851

“Birds’ eye view of New-Orleans / drawn from nature on stone by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann].” The Mississippi River stands in the foreground. The view looks north to Lake Pontchartrain. Below the title: “Published by the agents A. Guerber & Co., c1851 (Printed by J. Bachman [i.e., Bachmann]).”

The map features an incredible amount of detail. While the majority of the map focuses on the east bank of the river, scenes on the west bank are visible. Reply/comment with the details that stand out to you!

Bachmann’s maps

John Bachmann, Sr., was a lithographer from Switzerland. While most of his work features views of New York City, he made a number of lithographs in other cities. Students of the Southern Rebellion refer to his drawings regularly. Anticipating conflict, Bachmann traveled to a number of possible flashpoints. He sketched those scenes, then converted them to “aerial” views.

Creating a birds-eye view

The perspective of drawings like birds-eye view 1851 dates back centuries. The idea is, the artist surveys and sketches the scene from a ground-level perspective. They then “stretch” the scene in their imagination. The artist uses that mental image to “look down” on the scene. They review the original details, adjusting the perspective.

So, to draw those riverboats, Bachmann sketched them, most likely sitting on the west bank levee. He added them to the river on the birds-eye, adjusting the angle in his mind. The paralell riverboat now appears from above.

New Orleans detail

Several things stand out to me from this litho:

  • Riverboats. Bachmann captures a number of ocean-going ships as well as the classic riverboats that traveled up and down the Mississippi. The Port of New Orleans bustled in the late 1840s/early 1850s.
  • Old Canal. The Carondelet Canal runs on the Eastern side of the lithograph, merging with Bayou St. John. The bayou then extends to the lake. The left-right body of water visible where canal joins bayou is Bayou Metairie. The city closed the Carondelet Canal in the 1920s. Norman C. Francis Parkway comes to and end in what was the swampy ground joining the bayous.

We’ll return to this drawing again for more detail!

Unloading Coffee 1900

Unloading Coffee 1900

Unloading Coffee is the subject of a ca. 1900 postcard.

unloading coffee

Unloading Coffee

Longshoremen unloading coffee from a freighter at the Port of New Orleans. Detroit Publishing Company postcard, ca 1900-1909. From the 1890s to the 1970s, New Orleans received over 80% of coffee imports into the United States. Freighters traveled from ports in Colombia to the docks along the New Orleans riverfront. The city continues to play an important role in the coffee trade. You can still smell the roasting coffee from the Folger’s plant, along the Industrial Canal.

NOLA and the coffee trade

Aside from occasional disruptions due to tropical cyclones, New Orleans earned the nickname, “logical port” for goods originating in Latin America. This reference, dates back prior to the Southern Rebellion. So, that pre-dates the Panama Canal. Shipments Bananas and other produce from Central America and coffee from South America grew throughout the pre-rebellion period.

New Orleans established an extensive transportation infrastructure. Coffee growers delivered their product to ports in Colombia. Bags of coffee took ship, traveling across the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Ships unloading coffee in New Orleans turned around quickly. Once in New Orleans, coffee brokers bought the beans from the shippers. The brokers then sold the beans to coffee sellers. Those businesses bought the beans and created blends. They roasted, bagged, and sold those blends to consumers.

Coffee brokers

As the coffee trade grew, brokers lined Magazine Street. One of the most influential coffee brokers was Jacob Aron. Aron founded his company in 1898. They operated from 336 Magazine Street. So, that location is now the St. James Hotel.

Riverfront New Orleans

This postcard, taken between 1900 and 1909, shows the riverfront on the Uptown side of Canal Street. The Mississippi River curves around Algiers Point in the background. While this part of the riverfront thrived for decades, the Riverwalk Marketplace and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center now occupy this area.

Photo via the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Digital Collection of the Newberry Library.

NOPSI 924 becomes NORTA 450 #StreetcarSaturday

NOPSI 924 becomes NORTA 450 #StreetcarSaturday

NOPSI 924 came home as NORTA 450 on the Riverfront line.



From my book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line (2004), NOPSI 924 sits at Carrollton Station. The streetcar operated on the Riverfront line until 1997. The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA) numbered it 450. They retired 450 when the line was expanded. A group called Bring Our Streetcars Home acquired the streetcar in 1988. They gave it to NORTA. The transit authority refurbished the car. They painted it red and yellow.

Riverfront service

NORTA established the first new streetcar line in New Orleans in a century in 1988. The Riverfront line operated on an unused track owned by the former Louisville and Nashville Railroad. L&N offered passenger service to New Orleans for decades. It continues freight service as part of CSX Transportation. The L&N passenger terminal stood at the foot of Canal Street, near the ferry terminal. While L&N passenger service moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, the tracks remained.

So, NORTA restored the track, replacing much of the rails. They built a “passing siding.” The siding allowed a streetcar going in one direction to wait so a streetcar traveling in the opposite direction could pass.

Riverfront operated five streetcars. Bring Our Streetcars Home found three 1923-vintage arch roof cars. NORTA put them into service. These streetcars didn’t have wheelchair access. They acquired two Melbourne W-2 cars with center doors. Those streetcars could accommodate wheelchairs.

1997 Upgrades

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990. When NORTA upgraded Riverfront to two-track operation, the line lost its “grandfather” status with respect to ADA. That meant all of the streetcars on the line had to be wheelchair-accessible. Rather than cut holes in the sides of the arch roofs, the authority built new streetcars in the arch roof style. Those 400-series streetcars continue to operate on Riverfront, and occasionally on the Canal line.

NOPSI 924/NORTA 450 continues to languish at Carrollton Station, seventeen years after this photo was taken.

Thanks to Aaron for sharing the memory on Facebook!


NORTA 933 on the Riverfront Line? #StreetcarSaturday

NORTA 933 on the Riverfront Line? #StreetcarSaturday

NORTA 933 on Riverfront?


900-series NORTA 933 on the Riverfront line, 20-Jan-2008 (courtesy Commons user KimonBerlin)

NORTA 933 on Riverfront?

I don’t remember seeing this photo before. After Hurricane Katrina, it took some time to get both the St. Charles and Canal lines back to fully operational status. The green arch roofs were, for the most part OK, but the red, 2000-series cars flooded.

Getting the streetcars running

The overhead wiring on St. Charles was a mess, but it was for the most part fine on Canal. The rail department borrowed a voltage rectifier from MBTA in Boston, connected it to Entergy power, and was able to deliver power to the Canal line in December, 2005. After a few test runs, it was decided to run the 1923-vintage cars on Canal while the Von Dullens were repaired/rebuilt.

Historic Landmark concerns.

The designation of the St. Charles line and its 35 900-series streetcars as a National Historic Landmark is very important for NORTA and the city. The decision to operate the green streetcars on “revenue runs” off St. Charles was technically a violation of the landmark designation. The line and those streetcars were supposed to be frozen-in-time at the point it was put on all the lists.

Yeah, that’s important, but Hurricane Katrina was quite the exception. The city, and NORTA knew that running those streetcars was essential for showing that the city was on the road to recovery. Things were indeed looking less dire by December, 2005.

900s on Canal Street

Seeing the green streetcars run on Canal Street was a flashback for those of us who remember them from 1964 and earlier. The arch roofs had been a mainstay on the Canal iine since the “Palace” cars were retired in the mid-1930s. They ran on Canal until the line was converted to bus operation in May, 1964. From the 1930s, the Canal and West End lines ran the 800s and 900s. West End converted to buses in 1948.

New Places for the 900s

In addition to once again running up and down Canal Street, the aftermath of Katrina saw the green streetcars run on track that didn’t exist when they were limited to St. Charles in 1964. One year after Canal re-opened in 2004, the “Carrollton Spur” went operational. Every third 2000-series Von Dullen car on the line made a right turn, running down N. Carrollton Avenue, to City Park. They pulled into a two-track terminal there at Esplanade Avenue and Bayou St. John, then returned to downtown.


Since the 400-series arch roofs were also damaged in the storm’s flooding, the Riverfront line had the same issues Canal did. NORTA decided to have the 900s make a left turn at Canal and the riverfront. They ran down to Esplanade Avenue, along the riverfront edge of the French Quarter. When they hit the French Market Terminal (stop 1 on the Riverfront line), they changed directions and returned to Cemeteries and City Park.

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line
by Edward J. Branley

cemeteries terminal

New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line

The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.
New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.

Product Details

ISBN: 9781531610920
ISBN-10: 1531610927
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing Library Editions
Publication Date: March 24th, 2004
Pages: 130
Language: English

Mississippi Riverboats–The Henry Frank at the New Orleans Levee, 1854

Mississippi Riverboats–The Henry Frank at the New Orleans Levee, 1854

mississippi riverboats

The Henry Frank at New Orleans

Mississippi Riverboats

From Queen of the South, 1853-1862, the journal of Thomas K. Wharton. Captains of Mississippi riverboats overloaded their steamers, then bragged about it, as you can see here, The Henry Frank carries 9226 bales of cotton, arriving at New Orleans from upriver. Upon arrival at New Orleans, the riverboats were unloaded, and the cargo transferred to oceangoing vessels.

Cotton was exported from the Southern plantations to textile mills up the Atlantic coast, and to Great Britain. This is why “cotton was king” in New Orleans and across the South in the mid-19th Century. It’s the main crop that sustained the institution of slavery in the United States. The planters drove their slaves to pic the cotton and bale it for transport. The riverboat captains took great risks to get that valuable cargo to the second largest port in the country. Only New York was a larger port than the Crescent City. Steam power made Mississippi Riverboats an important part of commerce.


But here’s the catch with moving such large numbers of cotton bales–fire! That stuff burns! So many flammable goods came together on the Mississippi River levee at New Orleans. While the fires of the late 18th Century wiped out large portions of the city, the threat of fire didn’t go away just because the Spanish used brick and stone to rebuild. Wharton notes in his journal that there were many waterfront fires in the city. Still, King Cotton moved out to New England and Great Britain.

Document Photography

mississippi riverboats

IPEVO document camera

I’ve been experiementing with this IPEVO document camera a bit. It’s going to be solid for lectures where I need to show a book, but as a copy camera, it’s a bit weak. I’m going to look at getting a document/book mount for my digital SLR for going up to UNO and exploring the Krauss archives. I haven’t assessed that stuff yet, but the archivist told me a lot of what they have is in scrapbooks. I’m not going to be able to get those onto a flatbed scanner, so I’ll come at it from the top!