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extracted from New York Times, September 14, 1853, submitted by Harry Dodsworth | 1852 image courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, used to illustrate, but not original to the New York Times item

Impressions of New Orleans, 1853

To mark the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, here is part of a column about New Orleans from the New York Times, September 14, 1853. The second part of the column (as long again as this) concerned the beauty of the "free women of slight African blood" and the details of taking them as mistresses!
While I think of New Orleans as a blend of English and French, I was surprised to read of the Irish and German influences. According to the Cabildo website, New Orleans was the second biggest immigration port in the United States, after New York, before the Civil War.

Cabildo Online Project

I have copied this as accurately as I can but there were some errors in the printed text.
Harry Dodsworth

    New York Times, September 14, 1853, page 2
Letters on the Production, Industry and Resources of the Slave States.
First impression of New Orleans...Curious variety of the population..
The free people of slight African blood...Prostitution, &c.
       I was awakened by the loud ringing of a hand-bell, and turning out of my berth, dressed by dim lamp-light. The waiters were serving coffee and collecting baggage in the cabin; and upon stepping outside, I found that the boat was made fast to a long wharf, or wooden jetty, and the passengers were going ashore.
     New Orleans 1852A ticket for New Orleans was handed me as I crossed the gang-plank. There was a rail-track and a train of cars upon the wharf, but no locomotive; and I got my baggage checked and walked toward the shore. It was early day-light, but a fog rested on the waters of Lake Pontchartrain, and only the nearest point of land could be discerned. There were many small buildings erected on piles over the water, bathing-houses, bowling-alleys, and billiard rooms, with other indications of a place of holiday resort, and on reaching the shore, I found a village quietly slumbering. The first house had a garden about it made of complex alleys, and plats, and tables, and arbors, and rustic seats, and cut shrubs, and shells, and statues, and vases; and a lamp was still feebly burning in a large lantern over the entrance gate.
     I was thinking how like it was to a rural restaurant in France or Germany, when the locomotive backed, screaming hoarsely, down the jetty, and I returned to get my seat. Off we puffed, past the restaurant, through the village; - the name of which I did not inquire, everybody near me seemed so cold and cross, and I have not learned in since - and through the little village whatever it was, of white houses, we rushed, and from among them into the midst of a dense gray cypress swamp. For three or four rods each side of the track, the trees had all been felled and removed, leaving a dreary strip of swamp covered with stumps. This was bounded and intersected by broad ditches or narrow and shallow canals, with a great number of small punts in them, which I supposed were used for shrimp catching.
     So it continued for two or three miles; then the ground became drier, there was an abrupt termination of the gray barrier of wood, and I looked far over a flat country, skirted still, and finally bounded in the back-ground with the swamp forest. There were scattered irregularly over it a few low houses, one story high, and all with verandahs before them. At length a broad road struck in by the side of the track; houses of the same description became more frequent, fronting upon it. Soon it was a village, smoke ascending from breakfast fires, windows and doors opening, steps swept off, a baker's wagon passing, broad streets little built upon breaking off at right angles, and with, what was strange, tall poles at the corners from the tops of which, connecting them, were ropes with blocks and halyards to swing great square lanterns over the middle of the street. Just as in France, I said to myself; and turning to one of my cold and cross companions, a man wrapped in a loose coat with a cowl over his head, I asked the name of the village for my geography was all at fault. I had expected to be landed at New Orleans by the boat, and had not been informed of the railroad arrangement, and had no idea in what part of Louisiana we might be. "Ner Anglishe" was the gruff reply. There was a sign, "Cafe du Faubourg;" putting my head out and looking forward, I saw that it was indeed a Faubourg, and we were thundering into New Orleans. We reached the terminus, which was surrounded with fiacres in exactly the style of Paris.
     "To the hotel St. Charles" I said to a driver, confused with the loud French and quiet English of the crowd about me; "Oui, yer 'onor, " was the equally cosmopolitan reply of my evidently Irish young fellow-citizen. He obtained another "fare" and away we rattled, through narrow, dirty streets, grimy, old, stucco walls, high round arched windows and doors with entrecols between the first and second stories; balconies and French signs ten to one of English, and with occasional odd bits of other tongues, "Vins et liqueurs;" "Vins tres vieux," "Kossuth Coffee House," "A la fee aux roses;" "Depot de graines pour les oiseux," "Chambres a louer;" "Gasthaus zur Rhein platz," "Vin, Biere en detail," "To LOYANTE Intelligence office only for the girls and women answering ho, On demande 50 homes pour le Chemin de Fer," etc.
     The other fare, whom I had not ventured to speak to, was set down at a salle pour le vente des somethings, and soon after the fiacre turned out upon the river bank, a broad place covered with bales of cotton, and casks of sugar, and weighing scales, and disclosing an astonishing number of steamboats lying all close together, with their heads in the same direction, run diagonally upon the bank, in a line, the other end of which was lost in the mist, which still hung upon the river. Now the signs became English, and the new brick buildings American. We turned into a broad street, in which shutters were being taken from great glass store-fronts, and clerks were exercising their ingenuity in the display of dry goods.
     In the middle of the broad street there was an open space, equal perhaps to one-third its width, of waste ground, looking as if the corporation had not been able to pave the whole of it at once, and had left this interval to be attended to when the treasury was better filled; whatever the purpose, it had a most shabby and poverty-stricken appearance.
     Crossing through a gap in this waste, we entered a narrow street of high buildings, French, Spanish, and English signs, the latter predominating and at the second block I was landed before the great, white, stuccoed, Grecian portico of the stupendous, tasteless, ill-contrived and inconvenient St. Charles Hotel.
     After a bath and breakfast I went out to look at the town. There is no city in America so interesting to the traveler, or in which one can stroll with more pleasure and with so long-coming weariness as New Orleans. I doubt if there is a city in the world where the resident population has been so divided in its origin, or where there is such a variety in the tastes, habits, manners, and moral codes of the citizens, Although this hinders civic enterprise and prevents the esprit d'corps, and public spirit, which the peculiar situation of the city greatly demands to be directed to the means of cleanliness, convenience, comfort, and health; it also gives a greater scope to the working of individual enterprise, taste, genius, and conscience, so that nowhere are the higher qualities of man, as displayed in generosity, hospitality, benevolence, and courage, better developed, or the lower qualities, likening him to a beast, less interfered with by law or the action of public opinion.
     There is no place where a stranger, no matter what his predilections, could be so sure of finding society to suit him as in New Orleans. You meet in succession Englishmen, staid, awkward, but reliable and true good fellows; Frenchmen, graceful, impulsive, whimsical; every variety of European grim, melancholy refugees; startling, wild, eccentric professors, teachers and artists; severe, animated, smoothly-dressed commercial men; uneasy questioning, impatient sea-faring men; energetic suspicious, and self-conscious New Englanders; proud and arrogant, showy and swaggering, but true, open-hearted, genial and hospitable Southerners; rough, rash, strong and manly Western men; Irish emigrants, hasty, uncertain, and ready for anything; German emigrants, moving on with steady, well-considered purpose; languid, proud, eccentric, wealthy, handsome and courtly, old French and Spanish creoles; little, graceful, chatty, happy, good-for-nothing, poor old French habitans; Indians, half-breeds, frontier, white demi-savages; negroes, mulattos, quadroons, of every possible condition and character; and all mingling and mixing and working together, without in the least loosing unwholesomely, but rather intensifying and developing all their individuality of character. Whether virtue or vice gains the most under this order of things I am not prepared to answer.........[text about mistresses, not included here]
  see also Germans To New Orleans, recommended tools and household goods ca. 1830-1840


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