New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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1851 Passenger List


Detail from the list of passengers aboard the Brig Pedraza from Nassau, New
Providence, May 16, 1851. The group of Irish immigrants recorded in this
document came to New Orleans from the Bahamas following the wreck of the ship
Cato which had carried them from Liverpool to America. The Pedraza was a 140 ton
square-sterned vessel with a single deck and two masts. It also sported a 'woman
bust head.' Built at Philadelphia in 1833, it was later 'condemned as being
unseaworthy at the port of Nassau.'

"The original diversity of the population probably helped shape our
cultural development. The French were never able to create a New France as the
English created a New England. Almost from the beginning, South Louisiana had a
diverse population of Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, Indians, Africans, and
Spaniards. It contained a mixed population well before Chicago, Boston, New York
or Cleveland. Even into the middle of the nineteenth century only New York had
drawn more European immigrants to its midst. The diversity of the population
amazed early travelers to New Orleans; they could find comparisons only in such
crossroads of the world as Venice and Vienna."

[Joseph Logsdon, "The Surprise of the Melting Pot: We Can All
Become New Orleanians" in John Cocke, ed. Perspectives on Ethnicity in New
(1979), p. 8]

And, of course, it was the Mississippi that brought most of the
immigrants to New Orleans. For sixteen of the years between 1836 and 1855, the
Crescent City admitted more foreign-born passengers than any other U.S. city
save New York. The original passenger list shown here documents but one group of
Irish immigrants who made their way to our shores after a hiatus in the Bahamas.
Thousands of such lists in the National Archives testify to the importance of
New Orleans as an immigrant port of entry. Our lack of an "Ellis Island",
however, has served to obscure that importance to some extent, but there is no
denying that the river has contributed greatly to the local culture through the
mix of peoples that it has introduced to it.

Of the 119,460 persons counted as New Orleanians in the 1850 census,
51,227--42.8%--were foreign born. New immigrant groups have come, and continue
to come, into the city by ship, train, car, bus, and plane. Though the 1990
census reports only 4.2% of the New Orleans Metropolitan Area as foreign born,
it is interesting to note that 14% of area residents claim German ancestry, 10%
Irish, and 7.5% Italian. Another 34.7% of the area population, of course, is
descended in large part from the thousands of involuntary immigrants who came to
New Orleans as slaves.