Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry connected the East Bank with the NOO&GW railroad.
Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry
S. T. Blessing stereograph, titled, “View from Opelousas railroad ferry,” The image is essentially undated. The New York Public Library lists it as 1850-1930. The likely date is 1870s. The photographer stands at the Faubourg Marigny ferry landing, located at Elysian Fields Avenue and the river. The New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western (NOO&GW) railroad operated the ferry, connecting the east bank with their station in Algiers.
The NOO&GW railroad originated on the West Bank, in Algiers. It incorporated in 1853, with the mission of connecting New Orleans to points west. So, prior to the Southern Rebellion, the railroad grew west, to what is now Morgan City, Louisiana. The Union took control of the “Texas Gauge” railroad, from 1862 to 1865. Expansion continued during reconstruction. Additionally, we’ve written a couple of articles on the railroad. It started from a Louisiana operation to ownership by Charles Morgan, to becoming part of the Southern Pacific system.
The Marigny riverfront
Blessing captures an active riverfront scene. The vessel to the center of the photograph is an ocean-going ship. While this vessel may depart for the US east coast, like New York or Baltimore, the riverboat on the right will likely return up the Mississippi. Two mules stand in the foreground, resting after unloading barrels. Those barrels likely contain molasses. Sugar plantations processed raw sugar cane. They converted it to molasses, making it easy to barrel and transport. Longshoremen loaded those barrels on both types of ships.
In the background, a church steeple rises from the neighborhood. Given the position of the photographer, that is likely the spire of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
The ferry itself
Robinson Atlas, 1883, showing the Pontchartrain Railroad station on Elysian Fields and the ferry landing.
The NOO&GW ferry crossing enabled passengers to board trains on the east bank, cross the river, and continue westward. While Algiers was the railroad’s main station, getting passengers there was still a challenge. The railroad ferry gave passengers a more-comfortable ride, in their coach and sleeper cars.
After Charles Morgan sold the NOO&GW to the Southern Pacific system, trains crossed the river in Jefferson Parish. That ferry landing was near the location of the Huey P. Long bridge. Rather than traveling to the Faubourg Marigny railroad ferry, passengers boarded SP trains at Union Station. The departing trains headed north from there.
PATREON Note: So, today’s post is NOT behind the Patreon wall, in the hopes that some of the folks who see the links on social media will get a taste of what patrons get daily. While we present the first hundred or so words on each post to non-patrons, we felt it would be good to offer an entire post.
This railroad stock certificate, from the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad was issued in 1853.
Railroad Stock Certificate
Chartered in 1852, the New Orleans, Opelousas, and Great Western Railroad (NOO&GW) sought investors immediately. The railroad planned to connect New Orleans with Houston, Texas, and points in between. The company built a station in Algiers, Louisiana. They expanded westward from there. By 1857, the railroad reached Morgan City, Louisiana. Construction stopped there for more than twenty years. The company was unable to continue west because of the Southern Rebellion.
NOO&GW used “Texas Gauge” in constructing the initial 83 miles of track (prior to the Rebellion). While “standard gauge” 4′ 8 1/2″, Texas Gauge is 5’6″ in width. Proponents of the wider gauge argued that it allowed locomotives to include more features. They also argued that the wider gauge offered passengers a more comfortable ride. Street railway operators agree, since they use wide gauge track systems. The only remaining railroad in the United States operating with Texas Gauge is Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the subway system for San Francisco, Oakland, and the Bay Area.
Reconstruction and beyond
Steamship magnate Charles Morgan acquired the NOO&GW in 1869. He re-built the railroad using standard gauge. Morgan realized that the railroad would be a better target for acquisition if it connected easily to those systems expanding from the west. New Orleans was already a major rail hub, with connections to Chicago and the Eastern Seaboard. He was right, as the Southern Pacific system eventually acquired NOO&GW.
This stock certificate represents 15 shares of stock in the railroad. The company proclaims capital in the amount of $6 million on the left side of the certificate. The right side states the value of each share is $25. So, its value is a total of $375. That’s a sizeable investment in a company that, at the time of issue, had no track!
Imaginary Map 1874 – “What-if” illustrations are timeless.
Imaginary Map 1874
What-if illustrations exist going back millennia. This one focuses on our rivers in Louisiana. They are a strong force of nature. The rivers are the Red, Atchafalaya, and Mississippi. They define Louisiana and its people.
The convergence displayed on Imaginary Map 1874 presented issues to riverboat pilots. In 1831, Captain Henry M. Shreve dug a canal to bypass Turnbull Bend in the Mississippi. Shreve and others removed the Great Raft logjam. This increased the direction change of the Mississippi. While the rivers were separate, these man-made changes increased the turn of the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya. (Additionally, the Great Raft provided the name for a great Shreveport brewery.)
Baton Rouge and New Orleans
Geologists and other scientists realized the problem. So, the Mississippi moving to the Atchafalaya meant cutting off the two largest cities in Louisiana from the river. Additionally, Nature presented a huge challenge to man. Scientists warned the government. Technology in 1874 limited the response. Still, the warning went out, in the form of imaginary map 1874.
Old River Control
Fortunately for Louisiana, imaginary map 1874’s warning required time to become reality. So, cientists observed the changes in the region. Seventy-nine years later, the USACE prepared to take action:
Between 1850 and 1950, the percentage of latitude flow entering the Atchafalaya River had increased from less than 10 percent to about 30 percent. By 1953, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that the Mississippi River could change its course to the Atchafalaya River by 1990 if it were not controlled, since this alternative path to the Gulf of Mexico through the Atchafalaya River is much shorter and steeper.
This conclusion meant that Baton Rouge and New Orleans lose their water link. The Mississippi below Old River becomes a salt-water estuary. While this didn’t necessarily mean the end of the world for the cities, government grew concerned. The result, the Old River Control Structure, pitted man against nature. The structure opened in 1963. It forced most of the water flow into the Mississippi, not the Atchafalaya.
The map’s notes state:
Imaginary Map showing effects of natural action on the Mississippi, Red and Atchafalaya Rivers if not counteracted. E.H. Angamar, C.E. Prepared by A.F. Wrotnowski, C.E. to accompany special report of Board of State Engineers, 1874. Plate V.
The Louisiana Research Center at the Howard-Tilton Library, Tulane University, holds the original.
Louis A. Wiltz was the twenty-ninth governor of Louisiana.
Louis A. Wiltz, portrait by Paul Poincy, courtesy LSM.
Louis A. Wiltz
Louis A. Wiltz (January 21, 1843 – October 16, 1881), was a New Orleanian who served in a number of political roles in the city and at the state level. He descended from Spanish nobility, on his mother’s side. His maternal grandfather served in the Spanish Army. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the New Orleans Artillery. Wiltz advanced to the rank of captain, commanding Company “E” of the Chalmette Regiment. The regiment was captured at Fort Jackson by Butler’s invasion army. While Butler was successful, Wiltz was exchanged and served honorably until the end of the rebellion. So, in 1868, at the age of 25, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Wiltz was elected Mayor of New Orleans on November 4, 1872. While Wiltz garnered double the votes, the Republicans used a number of procedural tactics and moves to deny Wiltz the office. The mayoral race became swept up in the larger picture of control of the state. After the Republicans exhausted their claims, Wiltz assumed the office on November 30, 1872.
Wiltz served as mayor as the conflict between the Republican and shadow Democratic governments came to a head in 1874. So, the White League attacked the Republican government in what later became known as the “Battle of Liberty Place.” The White League, Wiltz’s allies, were unsuccessful. Additionally, President Grant ordered the occupation of New Orleans. When federal troops withdrew in 1877, Democrats took control of the state.
Lt. Governor and Governor
In 1877, Wiltz served as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana, in the administration of the traitor Francis T. Nicholls. He succeeded Nicholls, becoming governor in 1880. Wiltz only served as governor for nine months. He died of tuberculosis.
Wiltz presided over a very corrupt state government. The Democratic politicians took their orders from leaders of the White League and the incredibly Louisiana Lottery. So, in spite of efforts by the federal government to grant the right to vote to African-Americans, Louisiana Democrats engaged in extensive voter suppression.
New Orleans brewing dates back to the earliest German families in the city.
ED note: This article originally appeared at GoNOLA.com in 2012. Updated with different images and some additional history.
JAX Brewery, Decatur Street, 2013, Ed Johnson photo.
New Orleans Brewing
The German celebration of Oktoberfest is defined by beer. New Orleans has enjoyed a long love affair with beer, chiefly in part because New Orleans has had a strong German community since the 1700s. Those German families built up a strong local beer industry, laying the foundation for today’s excellent local New Orleans brewpubs and craft beers resulting in serious Oktoberfestivities.
Germans have lived in New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana since the 1720s, since the days of John Law’s Mississippi Company. The biggest influx of Germans into New Orleans took place in the 1850s, the result of the turmoil of the mid-late 1840s in Continental Europe. By the late 1850s, the Germans were a strong force in the community, with their own church in the Irish Channel that rivaled the one the Irish built across the street.
Maginnis Cotton Mills, originally the Fasnacht Brewery. Illustration in New Orleans, the Crescent City, as it Appears in the Year 1895.
The first commercial brewery in New Orleans was opened in 1852 by Louis Fasnacht. Fasnacht and his brother, Samuel, came to New Orleans from Switzerland in 1846. They bought the Poeyfarre’ family home, located at Constance and Poeyfarre’ streets, and built their brewery next to it. The Fasnacht brewery did not survive the Southern Rebellion’s tight economic times. The brothers sold the brewery in 1869. The location became Erath and Company Brewery. The Fasnachts re-acquired the brewery in 1872. They closed for good in 1875. The site became the A. A. Maginnis Cotton Mill in 1882. The building is now the Cotton Mill Apartments.
The re-opening of the port after the rebels surrendered the city encouraged others to open breweries, most notably George Merz, in 1869. Merz brewed lager beer. Lagers require cooling. Purchasing ice from Maine boosted the price of Merz’s beer. He operated the Old Canal Brewery in the block bounded by Villere, Toulouse, Robertson & St. Louis. (“Old Canal” refers to the Carondelet Canal, built in 1795.)
Brewing lager made Merz an innovator as well as a brewmeister. He acquired an air compression system built by a Frenchman, Charles Tellier, to improve cooling in his plant. Merz hired a local engineer, F. V. De Coppet, to install it. The Merz brewery became the first with air-conditioning with this installation. Tellier’s system ultimately did not work out as A/C, but De Coppet modified it as an ice-making machine, acquiring several patents for his work.
Brewing continued to grow in the 1870s, and by 1880s, New Orleans became the largest beer-making city in the South. Merz’s Old Canal Brewery, Southern Brewing Company, Crescent City Brewing, Weckerling Brewery, Pelican Brewery, Lafayette Brewing, and Louisiana Brewery all distributed their beverages regionally. Steamboats heading up the Mississippi River and sailing ships connecting ports along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts spread the popularity of New Orleans beer. As part of the cycle of business growth, the industry eventually grew to the point where it was ripe for acquisition. To avoid acquisition by a syndicate of Englishmen, the German brewers merged their operations into the New Orleans Brewing Company, basing their operations at the Louisiana Brewery plant at Jackson Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street, Uptown, and the Weckerling plant, located at what is now the Louisiana Pavillion of the National World War II Museum, in the Warehouse District.
American Brewing Co. truck, featuring Regal Beer ads, 29-Oct-1954. Franck Studios photo via HNOC.
The American Brewing Company opened in 1891. American acquired an old winery on Bourbon Street, between Bienville and Conti Streets. They brewed “Regal” beer. The name is “Lager” backwards! American brewed Regal until 1962.
In 1891, a group of investors opened a brewery across from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. They named their company after the famous general whose statue dominated the square. By the late 1890s, restaurateur Lawrence Fabacher acquired the Jackson Brewing Company. The company purchased the “JAX” beer name from a company in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1956. The facility closed in 1974, to be resurrected as a specialty shopping center in 1984.
Dixie Brewery. Unnamed illustration for the article, “New Brewery Opens: Magnificent Plant on Tulane Avenue Receives Guests.” The Daily Picayune 1 November 1907, p. 6
In 1907, Merz’ son, Valentine, built the brewery at 2401 Tulane Avenue, and the family began to brand their product “Dixie Beer.” Dixie grew in popularity, becoming a top-seller prior to Prohibition. The beer regained its position as one of the city’s popular brands when the 18th Amendment was repealed. In 1982, Coy International acquired the brewery. They sold it to Joe and Kendra Elliot Bruno in 1985. The Brunos filed for Chapter 11 protection in 1989, coming out of reorganization in 1992. Dixie added other beers, including Blackened Voodoo and Crimson Voodoo. The plant was severely damaged during the Federal Flooding of 2005. The Tulane Avenue location never re-opened, and the Dixie brand was farmed out to a Wisconsin producer.
The iconic Tulane Avenue location merged into the new Veterans Administration hospital, in Mid-City’s medical complex. In 2017, Tom and Gayle Benson acquired the Dixie brand from the Brunos. Tom Benson died in 2017. Gayle Benson opened a new brewery for Dixie in 2018. On 26-June-2020, Benson announced re-branding of her beer. The brewery will drop the “Dixie” name.
The German community recognized the need to control the distribution and retail aspects of the beer business, so they opened up a number of restaurants and bars across the city, outlets that would in turn sell their beer. This synergy of manufacturing and retail continued to grow through the end of the 19th Century and into the 20th, but hit a brick wall with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. Most of the small breweries were unable to survive Prohibition, so the industry was quite changed until it could resume legal production in 1933. St. Louis-based Falstaff moved into the New Orleans market with its acquisition of National Brewing in 1936.
Falstaff Brewery, 2600 Gravier St, ca 1949-1950. Franck Studios photo via HNOC
By the 1950s, the incredible diversity of the industry prior to Prohibition was reduced to four brands: Falstaff, Regal, Dixie, and JAX, controlling 80% of the New Orleans market. As the Interstate Highway system expanded, it became easier for national companies to distribute their products, making it more and more difficult for local companies to compete. JAX, Falstaff, and Regal all closed their plants, leaving Dixie as the only old-line brewery left in town. Hurricane Katrina did Dixie in, the owners moving production of the beer to Wisconsin, since the storm did such horrendous damage to the Tulane Avenue plant.
Maskers prepare to board a streetcar in the Phunny Phorty Phellows parade, 6-Jan-2012, dressed as mugs of Abita Beer. Infrogmation photo.
Micro/Craft brewing came to metro New Orleans in 1986, with the opening of Abita Brewing Company on the Northshore. The last 25 years have seen incredible growth of this industry, including new breweries and several brewpubs in town. Like many industries, extreme consolidation opens up opportunities for small operators, who continue the tradition of the Germans of New Orleans.
(Thanks and a raise of my NOLA Brewery tulip glass to www.thebeerbudda.com for great background info!)
I did an informal talk on Zoom yesterday, sharing some images from Antebellum to Reconstruction in New Orleans. Had a fun chat!
Video Here. (MP4 file)