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Louisiana Anthology

John Smith Kendall.
“The History of New Orleans.”

p614 Chapter XXXIX

Commerce and Business

Modern New Orleans, the second largest seaport of the United States and the greatest manufacturing center of the new South, presents a graphic illustration of the frequently quoted saying, that American energy and enterprise can accomplish all things. It has often been said that New Orleans is a European city set down in the United States. This is an error. New Orleans of is full of romance; it cherishes the memory of its singular and picturesque history; but builded around and upon this is one of the most truly American of American cities. Although much of the foundation on which the present commercial importance of the city is based was laid a quarter of a century ago, the real development of New Orleans as a port began with the present century. The unique position of the city at the point of convergence of railroad lines which serve all of the principal divisions of the country and at the entrance to one of the world's greatest waterways, is primarily responsible for its pre-eminence. But it is likewise due to the fact that, within the last two decades, great sanitary works have been brought to completion in the city, making it one of the most healthful spots in the United States; that municipal ownership has been systematically fostered along the harbor front, and that unusual inducements have been offered everywhere to capital and enterprise. New Orleans aspires to be the first port in the country; and in the shifting of commercial tides which is in progress at the present time, this ambition is neither impossible nor improbable. •Nearly four miles of steel and concrete docks, protected from the weather; gigantic warehouses and grain elevators equipped with the most modern apparatus; a harbor in which the largest vessels may ride in perfect safety; an inner harbor with a depth of •32 feet of water assured at all times of the year, and a ship canal extending from the Mississippi through the heart of the city to Lake Pontchartrain and the sea; modern shipbuilding plants; a wonderful climate which makes possible twelve months' work in the year; the city itself a progressive business center, meeting every demand of progress in the way of civic development — these are the conditions which justify and make feasible the idea of the ultimate pre-eminence of New Orleans among the country's ports.

The position of New Orleans as second largest port in the country was definitely established with a total for 1919 of $740,359,086 imports and exports. This amount was more than $63,000,000 in excess of the total import and export business of Philadelphia, and nearly twice as much as Baltimore. In 1920 the proportions were still more striking. The total commerce of New Orleans in that year was $986,453,444, while that of Philadelphia was but $724,442,853, of Galveston $679,982,468, of Boston $585,554,985, and of Baltimore $451,384,973. It will thus be seen that at the present time New Orleans leads her nearest rival for second port, Philadelphia, by the enormous total of $262,000,000; her nearest Southern rival by $307,000,000; and Baltimore and San Francisco together by p615$97,000,000.1 Compared with 1919 the trade of New Orleans increased in 1920 by 33 per cent, while New York's increased only 12 per cent, and that of the whole United States but by 14 per cent. The percentage of the total commerce of the United States which passed through the port of New Orleans increased from 1917 to 1919 as follows: Imports, from 3.93 per cent to 4.54 per cent; exports, from 4.85 to 7.10 per cent. The ship tonnage of the port increased from 6,611,070 in 1919 to 9,454,802 in 1920 for vessels engaged in the foreign trade alone. The ownership of these vessels was distributed among 60 foreign nations, but 54 per cent of the total tonnage was American.

Of the total exports of the United States New Orleans in 1920 handled one-third of all the barley, one-half of the rice, one-quarter of the wheat, one-half of all the shell fish exclusive of oysters, one-third of the harness and saddlery, one-third of the unrefined paraffine, one-quarter of the boat oars and paddles, one-quarter of the hogsheads and barrels, one-third of the box shooks, one-third of the staves, and one-quarter of the zinc. Of the imports of the whole United States there passed over the wharves at New Orleans no less than one-third of the bones, hoofs, etc., one-quarter of the coffee, one-half of the bagging used for cotton, one-half of the bananas, one-half of the sugar, and one-third of the mahogany. New Orleans handles one-fifth of the total imports and exports of a great variety of other products, but it is not necessary here to carry this computation out in detail. The figures cited suffice to indicate the enormous volume of business done at this port — a volume which shows every sign of steady annual increase.

The principal exports from New Orleans are: Cotton, sugar, lumber, oil, rice and other grains, iron and steel, foodstuffs, cooperage, soap, tobacco, and paraffine. At the present time about one-half of the value of the total exports are cotton. The following table interestingly exhibits the amount and value of this article, as well as the wideflung distribution of it:

country exported to — dollars pounds

Austria 410,832 1,175,207

Belgium 8,619,754 22,635,706

Denmark 267,442 830,544

France 25,349,389 67,315,495

Germany 10,901,119 36,309,597

Greece 100,784 288,701

Italy 48,174,453 128,490,856

Netherlands 4,338,862 10,983,357

Norway 258,364 701,342

Portugal 587,760 1,698,920

Spain 11,139,119 28,599,756

Sweden 7,568,121 19,859,120

Switzerland 2,824,690 7,615,972

England 102,211,409 245,457,539

p616 Guatemala 194,648 586,510

Panama ........ ........

Mexico 1,697,763 7,199,712

Cuba 1,556 4,835

Argentina 4,803 21,757

Colombia 50,329 123,794

Ecuador 300 1,500

Peru 252,195 875,331

China 457,364 1,142,100

Japan 21,809,322 56,094,825

Czechoslovakia 443,742 1,027,274

Poland 982,674 2,254,115

Totals $248,646,794 641,293,8652

The exports of cotton from New Orleans are fairly constant year after year. In 1911, for example, the total exported was 792,194,503 pounds, valued at $115,653,172. In 1919 the totals were 700,587,627 pounds valued at $230,159,326, the immense increase in value being due to the abnormal conditions which then prevailed. It may be of interest to append a few figures as to the exports of articles manufactured from cotton, as, for instance, of duck cloth, etc. There were exported in 1920 802,758 yards of unbleached duck and 185,358 yards of bleached duck; 3,246,921 yards of other cloth, unbleached, and 3,496,174 yards of other cloth, bleached; 2,189,020 yards of printed cloth, 3,126,908 yards of cloth dyed in piece and 6,960,402 yards of cloth dyed in yarn. Wearing apparel for men, valued at $1,751,214 and for women, valued at $117,430, represent a recent development in a promising field.

The exports and imports of sugar and molasses have shown remarkable increases since 1900. The following table shows the amount and value of the imports during this period:




1911 422,595,136 $10,779,680

1912 417,876,354 12,035,790

1913 602,244,066 13,781,045

1914 796,381,702 16,232,633

1915 581,021,321 18,869,897

1916 580,156,153 23,930,187

1917 786,608,408 34,298,285

1918 788,613,182 37,334,142

1919 930,403,513 52,536,769

1920 1,080,877,439 136,208,296

The following table exhibits the exports of sugar over the corresponding period:




1911 1,430,531 $68,247

1912 1,106,116 54,648

1913 1,788,211 82,995

1914 2,313,880 102,422

1915 21,372,467 799,394

p617 1916 84,518,025 4,642,905

1917 123,806,557 7,867,212

1918 50,791,514 3,211,199

1919 236,780,486 17,593,242

1920 105,916,893 10,112,410

The exports of molasses in 1920 amounted to 224,795 gallons and the imports to 80,267,569 gallons.

The magnitude of the figures of the sugar business at New Orleans is explained by the fact that in or near the city are located four very large exclusively commercial refineries — the American, the Henderson, the Colonial and the Godchaux — which confine their operations entirely to the conversion of raw sugars, principally foreign imports, into the refined products. In 1919 there were twenty of these commercial refineries in America, the combined imports of which were 7,019,690,475 pounds, of which New Orleans handled an amount only exceeded by that imported at Philadelphia and New York. The refinery at Chalmette, completed in 1910 by the American Sugar Refining Company, is one of the largest and most modern establishments of its kind in the world. While it exceeds in capacity the other three refineries, they, also, are notable examples of efficiency among the great industrial plants of the globe.

New Orleans leads all the southern ports in the volume of lumber exports. This is natural in view of the fact that for many years Louisiana has been the second largest lumber producing state in the Union, with an annual production of 4,000,000,000 feet. In volume of production it is exceeded only by the state of Washington. In 1919 the exports of lumber from Louisiana amounted to 173,354,000 feet. This compares unfavorably with the export for the last year before the war when 377,987,000 feet were shipped, but represents an increase over the years during which the war was going on. The principal wood exported was pine, but cypress, oak, cottonwood, willow, ash, red gum and tupelo were also included.

The following table exhibits the development of the lumber business at New Orleans in 1919 and 1920:

Dollars Thousand Feet

p618 Class of Lumber 1920 1919 1920 1919


Yellow Pine


Other Softwood













Hewn Timber—











Sawed Timber—

Pitch Pine (long leaf)


Other Softwood













Boards, Planks and Scantlings—





White Pine

Yellow Pitch Pine (long)

Same (short leaf)

Other Yellow Pine



Other Hardwood

Other Softwood






















































Railroad Ties $643,240 $237,467 No. 476,240 204,635

Shingles 12,254 7,635 No. 1,342,000 1,306,000

Other Lumber 1,397,068 662,945 ........ ........

Total value $14,384,145 $11,611,112


Dollars Thousand Feet

1920 1919 1920 1919

Logs $179,833 $46,059 2,287 577

Hewn Timber 13,604 19,738 157 336

Sawed Timber 1,410,741 1,864,095 25,805 36,645

Boards, etc. 10,724,295 8,773,173 122,659 136,458

Totals $12,331,573 $10,703,065 150,908 174,016

In recent years the exports of oil have increased by leaps and bounds. In 1915 there were practically no oil developments in New Orleans; today there are six refineries, with a combined daily output of 54,000 barrels of 42 gallons each; two with a daily capacity of 10,000 each, and 14 oil-storage plants, with a capacity of 3,175,765 gallons. In 1919 the exports amounted to 318,263,861 gallons of mineral oil products valued at $38,983,760. In 1920, however, these totals had changed to 434,464,545 gallons, valued at $75,462,011. In 1919 New Orleans already led the United States in crude-oil exports, was second in crude-oil imports, was first in gasoline exports. The following table gives the figures for 1920:



Crude oil $5,167,743 34,895,806

Fuel and gas oil 7,414,743 85,567,940

Illuminating oil 17,534,319 132,170,776

Paraffine oil 283,127 581,026

Other lubricating oils 3,772,475 14,396,023

Gasoline 29,142,235 118,378,433

Other naphthas 12,147,579 48,474,441

Residuum 31 100

Totals for 1920 $75,462,011 434,464,545

Totals for 1919 38,893,760 318,263,861

Increase in 1920 $36,478,251 116,200,684

p619 The growth of the rice business at New Orleans from year to year is remarkable. The exports in 1919 represented an advance of over 20,000,000 pounds upon those of the preceding year. In addition there were coastwise shipments of 800,000 pockets, and interior shipments by rail aggregating 640,000 pockets. The figures for 1920 are: Exports, 176,788,178 pounds; imports (cleaned), 3,164,662 pounds. In that year the coastwise shipments amounted to 832,410 pockets, and the shipments by rail during the same period were 764,765 pockets. Of the exports, Cuba took 41,198,283 pounds; Germany, 31,102,163 pounds; Belgium, 21,396,882 pounds; France, 16,489,556 pounds. The importance of New Orleans as a rice port is due principally to the fact that out of the total rice crop raised in the United States in 1920 of about 54,000,000 pounds, Louisiana produced approximately one-half. The total acreage in the United States planted to rice in 1919-1920 was 1,337,000, in which Louisiana was represented by 700,000 acres. The rapidity with which the rice exports at New Orleans are growing may be estimated from the following figures showing the total exports:

year total pounds exported

1915 40,714,201

1916 59,724,837

1917 61,509,058

1918 147,358,646

1919 169,700,153

Much of the rice exported from New Orleans is prepared in the city. There are nine mills with a capacity of 8,400 sacks per day.

The exports of grains other than rice are, as may be inferred from the fact that the facilities for handling such articles at New Orleans are extensive and important, steadily growing in volume. The following are the figures for 1920: Barley, 5,949,073 bushels; corn, 1,142,998 bushels; oats, 907,068 bushels; rye, 177,857 bushels; wheat, 48,571,864 bushels. Breadstuffs other than grains included: Bran, 2,310,000 pounds; corn meal and flour, 27,836 barrels; oat meal, 988,342 pounds; wheat flour, 1,617,169 barrels; mill feed, 4,112 tons; bread and biscuit, 1,944,013 pounds; cereal preparations, $197,255; other foodstuffs, $344,140. The imports of breadstuffs, however, are small, being limited to cleaned rice, of which 3,164,662 pounds were brought in during the year, and 89,015 pounds of uncleaned rice.

The exports of foodstuffs other than grains and cereals amounted to a large total, which can here be but approximately indicated through the citation of a few items. The hog-products sent out of the port in 1920 aggregated nearly 50,000,000 pounds. Confectionery valued at $184,604 was also exported. Of eggs no less than 725,340 dozen crossed the city wharves. Nearly 1,000,000 pounds of herring, 3,000,000 pounds of dried salmon, and 1,000,000 of cod fish, 900,000 pounds of dried fruits, 1,000,000 pounds of vegetables, more than half a million dollars worth of canned fruit, and $52,500 worth of spices are included in the list. Salt to the amount of 41,902,423 pounds was exported. The exports of corn starch amounted to 4,143,298 pounds. In this connection we may note also the exportation of 15,986,673 gallons of alcohol, and 71,198 gallons of whiskey. There is, of course, a considerable importation of foodstuffs, but the items not specifically described elsewhere are comparatively small.

p620 Iron and steel in various forms also constitute an imposing feature of the commerce of the port. The bulk of these articles are exported. Only a few items out of several hundred can be instanced, the classification made by the Association of Commerce being too elaborate for complete reproduction here. In 1920 there were exported 74,634,000 pounds of pig iron, 2,866,152 pounds of bar iron, 11,152,025 pounds of wire rods, 2,176,796 pounds of bolts, nuts, etc., 12,439,857 pounds of wire nails, 20,358,484 pounds of cast pipe, 76,062,159 pounds of wrought pipe, 12,952,075 pounds of galvanized plates, 101,715,008 pounds of steel plates, 16,061,703 pounds of barbed wire, 30,599,731 pounds of other wire, 21,980,000 pounds of structural iron, and 2,667,986 pounds of tin plates. The exports of machinery in 1920 exceeded $12,000,000 in value.

The other principal exports of New Orleans may be briefly disposed of. The exports of cooperage and allied articles are considerable, including in 1920, 10,075,234 ')" onMouseOut="nd();">pounds of hoops and 20,000,000 staves. New Orleans shipped out in that year toilet soap valued at $83,021 and other soaps to the amount of 21,585,434 pounds. The tobacco business, which has long been important in New Orleans, has shown a steady increase in recent years. The exports of leaf tobacco in 1920 totaled 93,242,870 pound; stems, etc., 2,548,829 pounds; cigarettes, 56,464,000; plug tobacco, 66,205 pounds, and other varieties to about 100,000 pounds additional. There is also some small import of tobacco, chiefly fillers, of which 81,896 pounds were received during the year. Unrefined paraffine was exported to a total of 29,032,662 pounds, and refined to 41,044,758 pounds. A few other items merely mentioned to complete this hasty survey of a wonderfully varied and constantly expanding commerce: Exports: Resin, 301,006 barrels; turpentine, 1,034,423 gallons; oakum, 68,198 pounds; oil cake and meal, 44,373,604 pounds; cottonseed oil, 18,650,317 pounds; zinc spelter, 48,173,338 pounds; and zinc sheets, 1,012,683.

The principal imports at New Orleans are coffee, bananas, sisal, nitrate of soda, nuts, oil, mahogany, sugar, molasses. New Orleans has been, since 1915, recognized as the second greatest coffee port in the United States. The total imports for 1920 were 380,293,701 pounds. The greater part of the coffee received through this port comes from Brazil. In 1919 2,434,199 bags were imported from that country, as compared with 251,897 from other countries. Expressed in pounds, the total imports of coffee at New Orleans in that year were 358,912,417, valued at $73,367,711. After Brazil the most important source of coffee handled at New Orleans is Colombia, from which is received the celebrated Bogotá coffee, said to be the best in the world. Coffee is also received from several Central American republics. Until recently the facilities for handling green coffees have not been of the best, but in 1919, through the exertions of the New Orleans Green Coffee Association, expert methods and modern methods have been introduced, the most impressive feature of the work being the loan by the association of $600,000 to the dock board for the extension and repair of the Poydras Street landing, where most of the coffee received at the port is handled. This improvements also include the installation of a conveyor which handles the cargo directly from the ship's hold into the warehouse, obviating all of the hand labor which has hitherto been necessary. There is also some export of coffee, aggregating 5,992,438 pounds in 1920.

p621 The business in tropical fruit, while dating back in New Orleans to the early '80s, has been built up since 1899 chiefly through the gigantic enterprises of the United Fruit Company. In 1920 the value of the bananas imported at New Orleans was $8,895,652, representing 20,071,440 bunches. During that year there were also imported 12,682,089 of cocoanuts, 7,357,792 pounds of palm nuts, and other fruit valued at $603,791. The last-given figure includes the valuation of lemons, almonds, filberts, desiccated cocoanut meat, and peanuts, all of which does not necessarily originate in tropic countries. A part, notably the lemons, proceeds almost exclusively from Italy.

The other principal imports are (figures for 1920): Sisal, 105,252 tons; burlaps, 65,352,285 pounds; nitrates and other fertilizers, 25,067 tons; crude mineral oil, 623,412,819 gallons; mahogany, 16,139,000 feet; bones, hoofs, etc., 55,631,338 pounds; oil cake, 11,239,016 pounds; spool thread, 838,367,260 yards; laces, 149,813 yards; and spices, 294,217 pounds.

On account of their almost limitless possibilities of development a special interest attaches to the commercial relations between New Orleans and Latin America. In 1895 (fiscal year) the imports from Latin America amounted to only $196,516,050; in 1910, they had grown to $392,955,257; in 1914, the year of the war, to $469,082,667; and in 1920 to $1,805,516,408. Of the total imports, 26.85 per cent came from Latin America in 1895, and 15.05 in 1920. In 1895 New Orleans exported $74,422,739 of merchandise to Latin America; in 1910, $242,123,502; in 1914, $282,070,153; and in 1920, $1,221,099,099. Of the total exports, 9.22 per cent went to Latin America in 1895 and 15.05 in 1920. Thus the most undeveloped and least populated section is supplying 34 per cent of the local needs and taking 15 per cent of productions. Nearly one-fifth of New Orleans' total exports in 1920 went to Latin-America. Of the total value of New Orleans' exports for the calendar year 1920, Latin-America took $141,338,418.3

The 1920 totals by countries were:

British Honduras $2,367,653

Costa Rica 1,571,651

Guatemala 3,300,838

Honduras 10,911,276

Nicaragua 2,963,199

Panama 5,773,637

Salvador 415,825

Mexico 31,457,963

Jamaica 3,583,955

Trinidad and Tobago 62,731

Cuba 52,207,710

Dutch West Indies 372,130

French West Indies 1,702,611

Haiti 396,494

Dominican Republic 2,906,084

Argentine 9,935,975

Bolivia 290,258

Chile 3,271,913

Colombia 2,540,073

p622 Ecuador 1,686,705

Peru 2,908,400

Venezuela 1,196,294

Brazil 8,530,508

Paraguay 7,550

Uruguay 976,925

Total $141,338,418

In the three last decades of the past century the exports and imports of New Orleans varied between $70,000,000 and $100,000,000. Since the beginning of the present century the figures for each year ending on June 30 down to, and including 1918, are as follows:



Percent of U. S. Totals


Percent of U. S. Totals

Imports & Exports

1900 $17,490,811

. . . . . $115,858,764

. . . . . $133,349,575

1901 20,462,307

. . . . . 152,776,599

. . . . . 173,238,906

1902 23,763,480

. . . . . 134,486,863

. . . . . 158,250,343

1903 28,880,744

. . . . . 149,072,519

. . . . . 177,953,263

1904 34,036,516

. . . . . 148,595,103

. . . . . 182,631,619

1905 33,933,298

. . . . . 150,936,947

. . . . . 184,870,245

1906 39,464,982

. . . . . 150,479,326

. . . . . 189,944,308

1907 46,046,772

. . . . . 170,562,428

. . . . . 216,609,200

1908 42,785,646

. . . . . 159,455,773

. . . . . 202,241,419

1909 45,713,098

. . . . . 144,981,625

. . . . . 190,694,723

1910 55,712,027

. . . . . 140,376,560

. . . . . 196,088,587

1911 66,722,295

4.37% 172,835,293

8.43% 239,557,588

1912 75,089,887

4.55% 149,160,910

6.77% 224,250,797

1913 82,399,100

5.54% 169,980,277

6.89% 252,379,377

1914 89,382,261

4.72% 193,839,961

8.20% 283,222,582

1915 79,754,404

4.76% 209,373,159

7.57% 289,118,563

1916 90,045,564

4.09% 211,498,749

4.88% 301,544,313

1917 104,516,862

3.93% 303,510,401

4.83% 408,027,263

The figures of the total exports and imports of New Orleans for 1918, 1919 and 1920, in each case for the full calendar year, follow:





1918 $124,258,353 $399,996,933 $524,255,286

1919 177,386,076 562,837,782 740,123,858

1920 274,073,005 712,380,439 986,453,4444

Following is a list of the eighty-one principal steamship lines operating from the port of New Orleans in 1920:

Acme Operating Corporation

Aluminum Line

American Line

Anglo-American Oil Co.

Atlantic Gulf & Far East Line

Beninato Fruit & S. S. Co.

Bluefields Fruit & S. S. Co.

')" onMouseOut="nd();">Caribbean Line

Compania Naviera Mexicana

Congress Line

Cosmopolitan Line

Creole Line

Crescent Line (Present., A. R. Williams)

Cuban-American Line

p623 Cuyamel Fruit & S. S. Co.

Delta Line

Elder Dempster Line

Ente ')" onMouseOut="nd();">Trasporto Cotoni

Federal Line

French Line

French American Line

Gans Line

Gans S. S. Line

Green Star Line

Gulf & International S. S. Co.

Gulf & Southern S. S. Co.

Gulf Navigation Co.

Harrison Line

Head Line

Holland American Line

Isthmian S. S. Lines

Kerr S. S. Co.

Lamport & Holt

Leyland Line

Lloyd Brazileiro

Lloyd Royal Belge

Lykes Bros. Lines

Maclay Line

Manchester Line

Mayer Lines

Mexican Fruit & S. S. Co.

Miller, A. K. & Co.

Mississippi Shipping Co.

Moore & McCormick Line

Morgan Line

Munson Line

Nosaº Line

New York & Porto Rico S. S. Co.

Nippon Yusen Kaisha

Northern Transport Line

Northway, Mexico & Gulf Line

Osaka Shosen Kaisha

Otis Manufacturing Co.

Pacific, ')" onMouseOut="nd();">Caribbean & Gulf Line

Pan American Petroleum & Trans. Co.

Pan American S. S. Co.

Panama Far East Line

Pinillos Line

Polis-American Navigation Corp'n.

Prince Line

Royal Holland Lloyd

Shore Line

Shore Line (1119 Whitney)

Segari Line

Società Nazionale Di Navigazione

Società General de Tranp. Mar. a Vap.º

Southern Pacific S. S. Co.

Standard S. S. Co.

J. H. W. Steele Co.

Swedish American Mexico Line

Tampa Inter-Ocean S. S. Co.

Taya's Jose Sons

Texas Transport & Terminal Co.

Toyo Kisen Kaisha

Trans-Atlantic S. S. Co.

Trosdal, Plant & Lafonta

Union Fruit Co.

United American Line

United Fruit Co.

United States Shipping Board

United Steamship Co.

Vaccaro Bros.

Ward Line

Western Fruit & S. S. Co.

Total eighty-four

The countries with which New Orleans had no trade during the period 1911-1919 were: Argentina, Australia, Barbadoes, British Guiana, British South Africa, Dominican Republic, Finland, French West Indies, Gibraltar, Haiti and Venezuela. With the Philippine Islands its trade amounted to only $92.

p624 The following table presents in brief form the most significant features of the New Orleans shipping in 1920:

American Vessels in Foreign Trade Foreign Vessels in Foreign Trade

Entered Cleared Entered Cleared

No. Tonnage No. Tonnage No. Tonnage No. Tonnage

Jan. 66 130,664 74 170,552 58 102,400 67 148,233

Feb. 72 144,580 77 160,306 51 121,508 58 121,914

Mch. 98 193,431 82 168,970 67 117,274 71 148,604

Apr. 86 175,303 85 188,181 62 125,470 67 142,300

May 102 212,746 87 171,830 71 136,583 82 168,646

June 104 222,531 85 199,913 82 179,844 77 170,089

July 108 248,849 104 222,531 83 187,193 94 209,400

Aug. 106 237,202 91 237,193 95 232,966 95 227,548

Sept. 99 245,676 101 270,548 84 207,501 92 235,646

Oct. 101 241,511 119 279,294 80 175,455 109 266,058

Nov. 96 217,842 97 254,061 89 210,808 76 197,492

Dec. 98 267,770 90 223,862 104 252,576 122 283,948

1,136 2,538,105 1,101 2,547,241 926 2,049,578 1,010 2,319,878

Summary for 1920 No. American Tonnage No. Foreign Tonnage No. Total Tonnage Per Cent American

Entered 1,136 2,538,105 926 2,049,587 2,062 4,587,683

Cleared 1,101 2,547,241 1,010 2,319,878 2,111 4,867,119

Totals 2,237 5,085,346 1,936 4,369,456 4,173 9,454,802 53.8%

The railroads serving the port are the New Orleans Public Belt, Illinois Central, Yazoo and Mississippi Valley, Gulf Coast Lines, Louisiana Railway and Navigation Company, Louisville and Nashville, Louisiana Southern, Missouri Pacific, Texas and Pacific, New Orleans and Lower Coast, Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company (Southern Pacific), Southern Railway System, New Orleans and Great Northern. The track storage facilities of these lines amount to 15,156 cars. The actual track facilities alongside the wharves for the entire port will accommodate 600 cars at one setting and there would be no difficulty in making four or more settings a day. The railroad operating conditions at the port are such that the number of settings is limited only by the ability of the ships to take the cargo. The Joint Traffic Bureau estimates that the port can handle a total of 3,000 cars a day, made up of 1,800 cars of general commodities and 1,200 cars of grain.

The Illinois Central Railroad has extensive terminal facilities at the Stuyvesant docks in the upper part of the City of New Orleans and at Southport above the city, the Southern Pacific has fine facilities and extensive waterfront privileges at Algiers, that part of New Orleans on the west bank of the river; the Texas and Pacific has a wide frontage at Westwego on the west bank opposite the upper limits of the city, while the terminal and slip at Chalmette below the city furnishes a water terminal for other roads.

p625 An important element in the port facilities of New Orleans is the Public Belt Railroad, the only municipally owned and operated railroad in the United States. The idea of a road of this sort was first broached in 1888, but nothing of a definite nature was done till 1897. In that year an effort to obtain support from the South Legislature for the enterprise failed, but a systematic campaign was then begun to secure a right of way along the river front which could eventually be used for a belt road. This was naturally opposed by the roads which enjoyed a monopoly of the river front at that time, but the ensuing litigation, having been carried up to the State Supreme Court, was decided in favor of the city, and measurably cleared the way for ultimate success. The first link in the projected road was constructed in 1899 by the Illinois Central, from the upper limits of the Parish of Orleans to Audubon Park, under an agreement with the city by which the company received the right to lay its tracks on what is now known as Leake Avenue and to reach the river-front from the rear of the city. In August, 1900, an ordinance providing for a belt railroad successfully passed the city council.5 However, nothing was done under this law. In 1903 injudicious ordinances passed by the city council granted to certain railroads the right to make use of the public belt tracks as far as laid. These franchises were clearly incompatible with the idea of a municipally owned and operated road, and were fought in the courts, with a result that they were declared without effect. In 1904 the local commercial exchanges recommended to the city council the adoption of the system which is now in existence. This system involved the creation of a Public Belt Commission. An ordinance to cover the proposed organization was passed in October of that year.6

Unfortunately, at this time there were no funds available for the construction of this work. However, a survey was made of the route around the city. Practically the entire right of way along the river-front which the commission proposed to follow was so complicated by anterior franchises that it seemed impossible to clear them away without prolonged litigation. This, however, was achieved, principally as a result of the firmness with which the mayor asserted the rights of the city in the matter. The financial difficulty was eventually solved by the city council making appropriations in anticipation of the revenues of the city, against which five percent interest-bearing certificates were issued, the aggregate appropriations, up to December 31, 1916, being no less than $534,691.68. The city, however, could not provide the entire amount necessary to carry out the plans of the commission. In November, 1908, an amendment to the state constitution was adopted by which it became possible to issue bonds to the amount of $2,000,000, with interest at five per cent, predicated upon the earnings of the road and amply secured by the City of New Orleans. The road is not yet completely built. It began operation on August 18, 1908.

The public belt road is a terminal switching railroad, the purpose of which is to supply an adequate, ')" onMouseOut="nd();">economical, and non-discriminatory switching service to all who require and can use that service. It transfers car from railroad to railroad, from railroads to wharves, from railroads to industries and public delivery tracks; from industries to all transportation p626outlets to the city; and finally, it makes available to all railroads desiring an entrance into the city, all of the necessary wharf and individual switch connections at a low and uniform charge. The belt receives cars from the several railroad companies at different points, and handles them with its own equipment up to the several points of delivery. The operation of any railroad over its tracks is prohibited by law. It is the policy of the commissioners of the port of New Orleans, who have jurisdiction over the public wharves, that all of their properties shall be served exclusively by the public belt road. When completed, the double track of the belt will extend from the line dividing New Orleans from Jefferson Parish, down the river front a distance of •approximately eleven miles to the Inner Harbor (Navigation Canal). Both sides of the canal are to be served. Beyond the Inner Harbor lock a branch extends through the rear of the city to the upper protection levee, and from there to the point of commencement. At present the operation of the road is confined to the active commercial front of the city, and to industries in contiguous territory. Ultimately, the entire city will be belted, and the line extended to the west bank of the Mississippi for which purpose a bridge across the river is now under consideration (1921). At this time the belt owns •24.05 miles of main line and •46.77 miles of switches, including connections with all public wharves, etc., a total of •70.82 miles. It has thirteen locomotives, a roundhouse, and machine shops. The belt assumes the obligations of a common carrier, operating under appropriate traffic rules and regulations. It is an associate member of the American Railway Association, and a member of the Per Diem Rules Agreement, Master Car Builders' Association and Freight Claim Agents' Association. On car-load competitive traffic received or forwarded for or from industries, switches and warehouses located on the tracks of the public belt the switching charges are absorbed by the connecting lines. The belt has a storage track capacity for 956 cars on the river front and a total storage track capacity of 2,429 cars. During the year 1920 it handled 243,674 cars.

Two other important enterprises which will, when completed, have a beneficial effect upon the commerce of the city, remain to be noticed. Upon the heels of the construction of its other public facilities, the board of commissioners of the port began the construction of a coal tipple at a cost of $600,000, and an industrial canal, the cost of which will be approximately $20,000,000. The coal tipple is nearly completed. It is on the river between Alonzo and Joseph streets. It is of the conveyor belt type and will be used for cargo and bunker coal. The plant consists of a hopper house into which cars are unloaded, a storage pile of 25,000 tons capacity over two re-inforced concrete reclaiming tunnels, upon which the coal is dumped through a series of gates in the roof of the tunnel, to be carried on belts to the loading towers; a "T" dock with barge loading docks at both ends. The estimated loading capacity aboard ship is 600 tons an hour from the storage pile, 225 tons an hour from cars and 250 tons an hour from barges. Automatic scales weigh the continuous stream of coal ')" onMouseOut="nd();">as it is carried along by belts, and a recording ')" onMouseOut="nd();">device furnishes direct readings constantly. With the exception of the steam unloading tower, the entire plant is operated electrically.

p627 The river front and wharves of the port are publicly owned, and while this is considered of great advantage to the public, the idea was conceived some years ago of building an inner harbor or canal on which industrial plants could be built by private capital, with the advantage of its own water-front control, giving access both to the railroads of the country through the public belt, and to the ocean through the Mississippi River. It seems that as far as back as 1845, some New Orleans merchants petitioned the State Legislature to grant them permission to construct a shed on the river front so that flour shipments brought down by boat from Cincinnati might be protected from the weather while awaiting sailing ships to the New England states. The Legislature refused this request on the grounds that the river front was public property and could not be leased to any private interests or turned over to anyone for development. Interest soon waned and the project was dropped. It was revived fifty-six years later — in 1902. A new arrival in New Orleans picked up a volume of DeBow's Review published in 1846 and read the story of the unsuccessful attempt of New Orleans merchants to build a shed on the river front to protect Cincinnati flour cargoes. He saw the need of better port facilities for New Orleans, and then and there was born the idea of the Industrial Canal and Inner Harbor.7

In July, 1914, after twelve years of propaganda, an amendment to the state constitution was adopted authorizing the Dock Board to build a canal, but the amendment provided no money to do the work. Neither did it authorize the Dock Board to sell any of the lands along the canal, though it might lease them. It did, however, authorize the Dock Board and the Levee Board the contract with each other to build the canal.8

On February 10, 1918, some of New Orleans' leading men met in the board room of the Hibernia Bank at which the need for the canal was discussed and fully recognized. City and state officials, as well as commercial exchange and bank products, newspaper editors and others present expressed a desire that the canal be built without further delay. The development of a financial plan was entrusted to one of the bank products. He suggested that the Levee Board (which was charged with the responsibility of the maintenance of levee lines along the canal, and which possessed taxing powers) make a contract with the Dock Board under which the Dock Board would build and maintain the levees along the canal, and the Levee Board would supply the money needed to pay the interest on the bonds to be issued for the building of the canal. The municipal belt railroad, in exchange for monopolistic rights along the canal, was to supply $50,000 a year during the life of the bonds.

In this way the canal was financed after some additional enabling legislation had been obtained from the State Legislature. Later on the arrangement was confirmed by an amendment to the state constitution.9

Work actually began on June 6, 1918. The dedicatory ceremonies were held on May 2, 1921. One of the greatest enterprises undertaken by the city in its entire history, the rapidity of the development of New Orleans may be judged from the fact that, while the work was in its initial stages, it was determined to enlarge the capacity of the canal some seventy per cent, to give a 30-foot depth instead of sixteen feet, as originally p628projected, in order that the largest vessels which came to New Orleans might be comfortably handled. The canal is five and a half miles in length, and when completed, will be 300 feet wide on the surface, and 150 feet wide on the bottom. At present it is 150 feet wide and 26 feet deep. A little over one mile back from the river will be a turning basin 850 feet wide and 1,000 feet long for the use of ships leaving the Inner Harbor, via the river, after discharging or receiving freight. Thence a canal extends straight to Lake Pontchartrain, while at right angles branches off another waterway which runs in a generally eastern direction, ending in a barge canal by which communication is had with Lake Borgne. On either side of the canal the Dock Board owns lands, 597 acres in all, which are ')" onMouseOut="nd();">available for the location of industrial enterprises; and when these shall have been exhausted, additional areas, estimated at 50,000 acres in all, can be made accessible by the construction of laterals and basins.

The construction of the canal was undertaken by a company headed by Col. George Goethals, builder of the Panama Canal. The work was not without its own peculiar difficulties, comparable in many ways with those at the Isthmus. The lock which connects the canal with the Mississippi is a remarkable piece of engineering work. The soil in which it is located, formed by the silt of the Mississippi, proved exceedingly soft; filled with strata of quicksands, with an upward pressure of marsh-gas and a lateral pressure from the water of the gulf and the river. It was necessary to carry the foundations down 50 feet below the surface of the ground. The test borings failed to reveal the subterranean pressures. The engineers proposed an excavation 350 feet wide by 1,500 feet long, with sides gently inclined to avoid earth-slides, down to the center, where the lock, 150 by 1,020 feet, was to be built. It was necessary to place two coffer-dams to wall off the quicksands which had to be penetrated. As long as the lock-site remained full of water, no difficulty was encountered with the pressure, but as soon as the process of unwatering was begun, preliminary to driving the foundation piles and laying the concrete, the effects of earth-, gulf- and gas-pressures on the quicksands was such ')" onMouseOut="nd();">that they ran through all defenses as through so many sieves; slides began, and the bottom began to "blow" up. Only by turning in a great volume of water to restore the balance, could the situation be ')" onMouseOut="nd();">corrected. Then 186 artesian wells were sunk, which had the effect of relieving the quicksands and the gas pressures. A third coffer-dam — this time of steel — one of the largest of the type ever constructed — was put in position, heavily braced with large timbers. On November 18, 1919, the task of emptying the lock excavation of water was warily resumed. Only a foot of water was removed at a time, and that only every other day. This method gave entire satisfaction. With the exception of one section of the wooden cofferdams, which moved forward a few inches, over a distance of about 300 feet, until engaged and arrested by the bracing, everything held.

The foundations of the lock rest upon 24,000 piles driven to a depth of 100 feet below the surface of the ground. The lock itself is a solid mass of steel and concrete 1,020 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 68 feet deep, weighing 225 tons empty, and 350,000 tons when filled with water. The ')" onMouseOut="nd();">usable dimensions of the lock are 75 by 600 feet, with a depth of 30 feet at minimum low water. The top stands 6 feet above the highest level ever recorded in the Mississippi. There are five sets of gates and p629an emergency dam, the latter designed to be used only in the remote case that the lock-gates fail to work, and the city be threatened with inundation from that cause. Four pairs of the gates are of 55-foot size; the fifth is of 42-foot size. These gates are 4½ feet thick and weigh 200 tons each. When open they fit flush into the lock walls. Each gate is operated by a 52-horsepower electric motor. Ships entering or leaving the lock will not proceed under their own power, but be worked through by capstans, of which there are six, two at each end of the lock, and two in the middle, each actuated by a 52-horsepower motor capable of developing a pull of 35,000 pounds.

A notable feature of the engineering work at this point is the enormous concrete syphon, the largest of its kind in the United States, which will carry the entire drainage of the city under the industrial canal and empty it into Bayou Bienvenu. This syphon is 378 feet long, and divided into two storm chambers each measuring 10 by 13 feet, one normal weather chamber measuring 4 by 10 feet, and a public utilities duct, in which will be laid gas and water mains, electric cables, etc. In ordinary weather the drainage will be sent through the smaller chamber. The larger channels will be employed as required. The syphon has a capacity of 2,000 feet per second. The floor of this great tube is located 46 feet below the surface of the ground. Its construction involved some of the same problems of quicksand and gas-pressures that the building of the lock involved, though, of course, on a smaller scale.

Four bascule steel bridges cross the Industrial Canal. Their extreme length is 160 feet; the moving leaf has a span of 117 feet. Three of them weigh 1,600,000 pounds each — superstructure only; the fourth, at the lock, 1,000,000 pounds; they are balanced by 800-ton concrete blocks. With a 30-foot right of way for railroad tracks, 11 feet for vehicles and trolley cars, and four feet for pedestrians, they are designed to meet traffic conditions of a great and growing city. They will support 50-ton street cars or 15-ton road rollers and trains a great deal heavier than any now coming to the South. Their tensile strength is from 55,000 to 85,000 pounds to the square inch, and they will bear a wind load of twenty pounds to the square inch of exposed surface of moving leaf. They are operated by two 75-horsepower electric motors; in addition, there is a 36-horsepower gasoline motor, to be used if the electrical equipment is out of order. To open or close the bridges will require a minute and a half.

Seventeen and a half million dollars in bonds have to date been issued to build the Industrial Canal. Almost this entire amount has been spent, and it will soon be necessary to draw against the $2,500,000 for which provision was made when the last issue was floated. At the meeting of October 17, 1919, called by the Dock Board to consult with the business interests of the city it became apparent that from five to seven and a half million dollars more would be needed. This was promptly guaranteed.

The advantages of the canal are, that it affords navigable water-front industrial sites, closely served by the public belt railroad, to which long-time leases may be acquired by private enterprises; the fixed-level navigable water, necessary to some enterprises which cannot readily use the frontage on the Mississippi, where there is a difference between the high and the low water level of as much as 21 feet; and a shorter route from New Orleans to the sea — about one-half of the one by the Mississippi. p630The banks of the canal have been already offered for the development of private industrial undertakings, and already two large ship-building plants, those of the Foundations Company, and of Doullut & Williams, have been established and are in operation there. But the benefits from the canal will begin to be most definitely felt when the National Government shall have adopted the free port system, by which other countries have pushed their foreign trade to such heights. Free ports are zones established in which imports may be stored, repacked, manufactured and then exported without the payment of duties. The present law makes provision for the refund of duties so paid, but only after vexatious delays and expensive red tape. In the preliminary investigations and recommendations by the department of commerce, New York, San Francisco and New Orleans have been designated as the first free ports that should be established. With the ample space that it offers for expansion, the Industrial Canal is the logical location for the free zone. It is only a question of time when the Government will open a new ship-route to the sea, by dredging a channel, from the Industrial Canal through Lake Pontchartrain or Lake Borgne. This would put New Orleans fifty miles nearer to deep water, and would have other commercial advantages. The United States engineers have for some months been studying the routes. Not only are both of these routes feasible, but because of the hard bottom and the slight action of cross-currents, the maintenance cost would be cheaper than any of the artificially dredged channels leading into the gulf at Mobile Bay, Gulfport, Atchafalaya, or Houston. It is estimated that the annual fill would be about 112,000 cubic yards a mile. The nearest second to that is the outer end of the Gulfport channel, where the shoaling is at the rate of 200,000 cubic yards. The cost of dredging the channel is estimated by engineers at $10,000,000.10

In connection with the Industrial Canal important benefits will accrue to the city from the army supply base erected by the United States Government in 1917. This enormous plant was intended for the use of the army quartermaster corps, and cost $13,548,000. There are three re-enforced concrete six-story warehouses, each measuring 600 by 140 feet, all equipped with the latest modern freight handling devices. These buildings furnish over 1,500,000 square feet of storage, not taking into account an additional area of 564,000 square feet, provided by a double-decked wharf and wharf-house in front of the warehouses.

The two decades immediately following the Civil war saw the rise of the Mississippi River steamboat traffic to its height, and its decline. At the beginning of the present century the river-business, which at one time constituted the backbone of New Orleans commerce, was practically extinct, the railroads having usurped the functions previously exercised by the river craft. An attempt with Government aid is now under way to revive the river trade by the utilization of large barges, and it is believed that the river will soon again become the important highway of commerce it was in the half-century 1830-1880.

In April, 1918, the Committee on Inland Waterways submitted to Congress a report recommending the utilization of the New York Barge Canal and the Lower Mississippi River. For the Lower Mississippi River it p631recommended a fleet to cost $8,200,000. On the Mississippi twenty steel flat-deck barges belonging to the United States engineers were chartered and temporary cargo houses erected on them, capable of carrying about 450 tons of freight each. A part of the fleet of the Kansas City-Missouri River line, consisting of two 1,000-ton barges, three 600-ton barges and two small towboats were purchased. Three other towboats were leased. The design of the committee in April, 1918, was a fleet capacity of 100,000 tons, to carry annually 1,080,000 tons. The result during the first year of operation was a fleet capacity of scant 10,000 tons, which carried 100,594 tons — about one-tenth of the designed traffic.

A classified statement of the tonnage and revenue handled on this Mississippi Barge Line from January 1, 1919 to December, 1920, showed these totals: Total tons, south and north bound, 104,769; total revenue, $400,643.30; average revenue per ton, $3.83.º Virtually every shipper in the broad watershed between the Alleghany and Rocky mountains can take advantage of the barge line, which is designed not only to lower the freight charges in that vast territory, but primarily in time of lack of transportation facilities, to release that much rail equipment and service, and make it available to himself and all other shippers to be used in some other direction. In the first year of operation the barge line, with a small temporary fleet, supplied 75,000,000 ton-miles of transport service. With the fleet now under construction, when completed, it will be able to furnish 1,000,000,000 ton-miles annually.

A branch of the commerce of New Orleans the importance of which is underestimated even in the city itself is that on the New and Old Basins and their canals. The imports over these routes are valued at about $1,500,000 per annum. The Old Basin and Canal, more properly called the Carondelet Canal, was perhaps the first artificial waterway constructed in the great territory of Louisiana. It was built to connect New Orleans with Lake Pontchartrain through Bayou St. John. History tells us that Bienville established the capital of the province on the Mississippi River, but that empire builder probably had his eye on the Bayou as much as on the river. The bayou was the point of entrance to the new town site and in direct communication with the settlements on Mississippi Sound, whereas the route by the river was long and at times dangerous. Between the bayou and the little settlement was a swamp, traversed by an Indian trail, which later became Bayou Road Street. The portage from bayou to town was difficult and laborious and the earliest settlers must have seen the necessity for an extension of the bayou to the walls of the city. Nothing was done, however, until Carondelet became governor of the Spanish province.11

Bayou St. John was a narrow and shallow stream, without current, except during flood. It ran from a point in the rear of the spot where the town was located into Lake Pontchartrain, its source being about a mile and a half from the river. It broke through the Metairie Ridge, which runs from the river to a considerable distance beyond the point where the bayou cuts through it. The main French settlements were on the coast of the Mississippi Sound, at Biloxi, Dauphin Island, p632Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis and Mobile, and communication existed between these posts and the French posts in Illinois and Canada by means of canoes and pirogues. The main route was through Mississippi Sound, Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain and Bayou St. John, and up the Mississippi River. After Bienville moved his headquarters from Mobile to New Orleans no attempt was made to improve the little bayou, which had a bar across the mouth, passable by even small schooners only at high water. The Spanish built a fort at the mouth of the bayou, because it offered access to New Orleans. This old fort still stands. During the French and Spanish dominations the bayou was navigable as far up as the settlement at the bayou, where the portage trail struck the stream, and where a rude bridge was built, but this navigation was confined to canoes, pirogues and "chalans" or bateaux.

Seventy-six years after the founding of the city, in 1794, Louisiana then being a Spanish colony, Baron de Carondelet, the royal governor, laid off a strip of land extending from Bayou St. John to a point adjacent to the ramparts of the city for the purpose of digging a canal to connect the city through the bayou with the lake. This strip was 150 feet wide. Through the center of this strip there was dug by slave labor, donated by the king's liege subjects, a ditch fifteen feet wide for the double purpose of navigation and drainage. It was intended that the strips on either side the ditch should be embellished with an avenue of trees, affording an esplanade for the recreation of the inhabitants. But "mañana" is no new word for in the Spanish language and the esplanade was never built. The canal was allowed to fill up with the sediment carried in the drainage from the town, and when the Americans took charge of the colony the ditch was practically useless for purposes of navigation. Pierre Baam testified that "this canal and basin did not last long; the canal got filled up by cattle passing through it." The territorial council of Orleans in 1805 vested the canal and bayou in the Orleans Navigation Company for the purpose of improvement and permitted the collection of tolls for its use. Up to November 15, 1821, the company expended $143,490.39 upon work in the bayou and canal, and $28,633.08 in the purchase of land. Ultimately $375,000 was expended in the digging of the canal, its basin, and deepening the bayou. In 1821 the state brought suit to forfeit the charter of the navigation company but was unsuccessful. The company continued to operate until 1852 when it became insolvent, and its charter was judicially forfeited. The property was purchased by Currie and others, who organized the New Orleans Canal and Navigation Company and transferred the property to that corporation. The company was to have corporate existence for fifty years from March 10, 1858, after which it was to revert to the state under certain conditions. After the expiry of this half century the state entered claim to the property, which claim has been contested in the courts since that date and is still before the Supreme Court of the United States, where it promises to remain for some years.

The canal served for over a century to supply the needs of the city in the commodities of the parishes across Lake Pontchartrain, the principal entries being schooners loaded with charcoal, firewood, lumber, sea food from the lakes and sound and various other articles. Until a new canal was dug in 1835 it was practically the only means of traffic with that territory. A proposition is now being urged to have p633the State of Louisiana purchase this property and operate it for the public benefit.12

The history of the New Basin Canal and Shell Road is not less interesting than that of its rival. In 1831, when the capital of Louisiana was at Donaldsonville, an act was passed by the Legislature to incorporate the New Orleans Canal and Banking Company. There was to be a capital of $4,000,000 to be raised by seven commissioners to be appointed by the governor. It was provided the charter was to run until 1871 and that the company should build a canal at a point above Gravier Street to Lake Pontchartrain. There were to be one or more basins and a breakwater extending into the lake. The work was to be accomplished within four years or the charter was to be forfeited. The company was given absolute right to enter upon the lands of anyone, and in case of disagreement as to value the judge of the parish was to appoint appraisers.

Incidental to building the canal the bank was to carry on a banking business at New Orleans and other points in the State. In March, 1831, the commissioners announced they would receive subscriptions and a month later the subscribers met to select thirteen directors for the corporation. The company purchased valuable properties for the location of the canal — city lands for $90,024.12, four thousand acres of the McCarty plantation for $130,000, the Redon plantation for $29,000 and part of the Augusta plantation for $4,800.

It is not generally known, but the record shows that Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, later great senator from that state and member of the president's cabinet, was selected by the Canal Bank to manage its canal property, and it was under his direction that the canal was dug. The entire excavation of the canal and basins to Metairie Ridge, a distance of •over three miles, was completed in August, 1834. The second division to the Lake, •considerably over two miles, was finished in July, 1835. The entire cost of the work, which was hampered greatly by outbreaks of cholera and yellow fever, was $1,226,070.

In 1848 the Legislature provided that a levee should be constructed along the upper side of the canal to protect the city from breaks in the river levees up stream, and it provided also for the construction of a road not less than 25 feet wide along the whole length of the canal, which was to be surfaced with shells or other hard substance. This became the shell road which was famous throughout the United States, and was the locus of the expression "2:40 on the shell road," when that was the limit of speed of trotting horses. It was also required by this act that the canal should be utilized for draining the contiguous swamps by the establishment of culverts.

The completion of this new waterway contributed largely to the trade of the city by opening another route to points across Lake Pontchartrain, and it aided greatly in the upbuilding of the upper (or new) part of New Orleans, building material in large quantities coming by lake schooners into the heart of the municipality. Soon after the canal was opened it did a larger business than the old canal, and it still does the bulk of the lake trade.

After the expiration of the charter of the bank, which has become one of the greatest of the city's financial institutions under a renewal p634of its life, the canal passed into the possession of the state and has since been operated as a state institution.

One of the most important features of New Orleans as a port is the fact that it is a "commodity port," where every kind of cargo may be obtained or delivered. Vessels calling for cotton have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary deadweight in iron and steel articles, spelter, or other metals. "An abundance of profitable freight is offered at all periods of the year. Rail and motor equipment, agricultural implements, cereals, canned goods of every kind, chemicals, confectionery, laces, piece goods, threads, ceramics, clothing, shoes, electrical goods, explosives, dried fruit, glassware, rubber goods, stationery, cutlery, enameled ware, hardware, machinery of all kinds, packing house products, condensed milk, dairy products, carbon black, paints, oils, papers, perfumes, silverware, silks and vegetables are some of the commodities which move in quantity and give the port its industrial standing."13 On the other hand New Orleans readily absorbs large quantities of fertilizers, crude rubber, raw cocoa, burlaps, hides, skins, hardwoods, notions, chicory, ferromanganese, clay, jute bags, toys and other goods in bewildering variety.

Still another advantage arises from the fact that the city itself is a great business center. The bank clearings of New Orleans increased from $972,165,000 in 1915 to $3,315,319,000 in 1920. The debits to individual accounts, which are the real index of business transactions, or purchasing power, were $4,178,562,000 in 1920 — more than the combined total of the next two cities in the Sixth Federal Reserve District. Thehas '+BadF+'the'+CloseF+' uncapitalized —

a piece of sentence may be missing.',WIDTH,120)" onMouseOut="nd();">º total banking resources in 1920 averaged over $300,000,000. There are over forty banks and branches in the city, with a capital surplus and undivided profits of $24,300,000. While not primarily a manufacturing city, New Orleans possesses many such enterprises of importance. The value of manufactured products per annum is estimated at $150,000,000, the principal lines being boxes, boxcars, burlap bags, canned products, candy, cigars and tobacco, clothing, cooperage and staves, food products, furniture, cotton goods, cotton seed products, ice, lumber, machine shop and foundry products, naval stores, sugar, rice, saddlery and harness, ships and boats. In all there are in New Orleans at the present time between 1,500 and 2,000 factories and industries, including the largest mahogany manufacturing plant in the world. The retail trade zone of New Orleans is large and constantly growing. It is estimated to contain a population of 2,000,000. The domestic wholesale zone is, of course, much wider. The estimated annual distribution is $1,000,000. The city is a recognized jobbing center for groceries, dry goods, drugs, and hardware for five states and for Central and South ')" onMouseOut="nd();">America. It is an active agent in promoting not only the interests of the city but of the Mississippi Valley which, it recognizes, are intimately connected with the future growth of New Orleans.

A few figures may be appropriately appended here to illustrate the vast scale on which the commercial and mercantile development of the p635city has gone forward in the last twenty years. During that time the United States Government has spent $20,253,006.00 in the city, $13,548,006 on the army supply base, and $6,705,000 on the naval station. The dock board has expended $34,989,944.11, of which the largest single item has been for the Inner Harbor. The Orleans Levee Board's expenditures total $10,092,943.02. The Belt Railroad has involved an outlay of $1,970,000. The railroads have built river terminals which cost $15,954,000. If we add the amounts spent by the federal, state and city authorities and the property owners in various works of sanitation, amounting, in all, to over $41,000,000, we have a total expenditure at the port of New Orleans since 1900 of $124,758,510.24. The United States Government has spent $440,402,793.78 on the Mississippi River and its tributaries and upon the new barge line, which sum may justly be added to the foregoing total, giving a grand total of $565,161,304.02 expended in the city for its direct benefit — an average of over $24,000,000 per annum.14

The Author's Notes:

1 The preliminary figures for 1921 show that the total volume of exports and imports at New Orleans exceed that of both Philadelphia and San Francisco combined, as follows: New Orleans, $534,042,464; Philadelphia, $252,970,770; San Francisco, $226,224,655. The percentage of loss in 1921 for these three ports was: New Orleans, 45.8 per cent; Philadelphia, 65 per cent; San Francisco, 48.3 per cent. The average loss for the United States in this period was 48.2 per cent.

2 Table supplied by the Research Department, Association of Commerce.

3 New Orleans Item, May 1, 1921.

4 The foregoing tables are furnished by the Research Bureau of the Association of Commerce, William Dinwiddie, statistician.

5 Ordinance No. 147, N. C. S.

6 No. 2683, N. C. S., approved October 4, 1904.

7 Daily States, May 1, 1921.

8 Act 244 of 1914.

9 Daily States, May 1, 1921. See Ordinance No. 5098, C. C. S., which establishes the boundaries of the canal reservation.

10 T. E. Dabney, in Item, May 1, 1921.

11 Benjamin T. Waldo, of New Orleans, who has been engaged for years in the suit before the U. S. Supreme Court concerning the ownership thereof, has investigated the history of the canal, and the narrative here given is based on papers in his possession.

12 Times-Picayune, April 3, 1921.

13 Gulf Ports Magazine, July, 1920, p29.

14 I am indebted to Dr. William Dinwiddie, statistician of the Department of Research of the Association of Commerce, for the revision of this chapter, which he has, at my request, courteously and efficiently made.


  1. Capuchin A Catholic friar.

Text prepared by:


Smith, Kendall J. History of New Orleans. Vol. 1 an 2. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1922. Archive.Org. Chicago New York, The Lewis Publishing Company. Web. Apr.-May 2015. https://archive.org/details/historyofneworle02kend.

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