New Orleans, LA

Back

City, seat of justice of Orleans parish, and commercial metropolis of Louisiana, situated on the north bank of the Mississippi river, 100 miles from its entrance into the Gulf of Mexico, 1,185 miles below the mouth of the Missouri, and 1,172 miles from Washington.  It position and appearance are both singularly different from those of other American cities.  The ground, as it recedes from the river, descends by a gentle inclination, causing the houses, when viewed from point not much above the level of high water to seem to rise immediately from it.  A "levee" or dike, forms a margin between the city and the river, and protects the former from inundation by the latter.   It is built of wood, 200 feet wide, and extends for four miles, presenting a most animated scene of commercial prosperity.  Within, not only the houses, but the inhabitants, are of many descriptions.  Except New York, no city includes Americans from so many different states, while the number of blacks, with the French and Spanish Creoles, and the foreigners, is still greater.  These representatives of many nations are drawn to New Orleans by its geographical and commercial relations to the West Indies, South America, Mexico and the southern parts of North America.  The Creole citizens are descendants of the French, Spanish and Germans, who originally founded and peopled the city, and constitute a large portion of the population.  The position of New Orleans, with regard to the interior of the United States, is still more important.  Situated near the mouth of the great river of the American continent, the Mississippi, with its immense confluents of the Ohio and the Missouri, almost the whole trade of those streams and of their thousand tributaries, flows toward this point, as to a vast receiving and distributing reservoir.  Hence the exports of New Orleans are exceeded by those of no other American City, New York excepted.  The great staples of the southern and western states, sugar, cotton, tobacco, wheat, flour and corn, are the articles chiefly shipped from this port.    The harbor is excellent, deep and spacious.  Ships and vessels of every description, from flatboats of the Mississippi to the magnificent ocean steamer, here congregate or enliven the scene, as they move from point to point.  From the city to the bar, near the gulf 100 miles below, the river has an average depth of 100 feet, affording anchorage for several miles along the wharves.  The bed of the river, and its banks toward the mouth are gradually rising.  In 1722 there were 14 feet of water on the bar.  In 1767 there were but 20, and now there are but 9 feet.  The present mouth of the river is three miles beyond the mouth of 1724.

The city is gradually extending toward Lake Ponchartrain on the north, which communicates with the Mississippi by canal, the Bayou St John, and a railroad, 6 miles long, and with the Gulf of Mexico by Lake Borgne and intermediate passages.  The Mexican Gulf railroad communicates with Proctorville, 27 miles distance.  From the nature of commercial advantages which New Orleans possesses, it is apparent that its prosperity is almost unlimited, and is the necessary result of the settlement of the vast region of the valley of the Mississippi.  It is now the sixth city in population, and the third in commerce in the Union, and perhaps would already have held a higher rank, but from the check it receives from the prevalence of yellow fever, and other maladies, consequent upon its situation.  There were formerly three municipalities and the city of Lafayette, with district councils for the management of internal affairs in the geographical limits of the city; there were consolidated in 1852 under one municipal government.  This city was also the capital of Louisiana until 1849, when the seat was removed to Baton Rouge.  It contains churches of various ages and styles of architecture, hospitals, charitable institutions, theatres, banks, warehouses, hotels and the United States branch mint, a large building 108 feet deep, 282 feet long and three stories high; also the University of Louisiana, and many excellent schools.  The city is supplied with water, elevated by steam from the Mississippi into a reservoir, and thence distributed through iron pipes. 

Population: in 1763 was 3,190; in 1785 was 4,980; in 1810 was 17,242; in 1820 was 27,176; in 1830 was 46,310; in 1840 was 102,193 and in 1850 was 115,625.