New Orleans and the Mississippi River

Premiered November 18, 2015

In the one-hour documentary NEW ORLEANS AND THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER we’ll explore the unique relationship that exists between our city and the body of water on which it was founded.

With a mandate to find land on high ground along the Mississippi and build a commercial port city, in 1718 Canadian-born explorer Jeanne Baptiste LeMoyne Sieur de Bienville staked a claim in the name of France. Situated on a sharp bend of the river, the city has been aptly referred to as the Crescent City through the years.

Quickly emerging as a vital location for the French, Spanish and eventually a young America, New Orleans’ commercial success included a confluence of cultures.

In the almost 300 year history of New Orleans, its river location has proven pivotal many times, including the hard-fought Battle of New Orleans and the surrender of the city to Union Admiral David Farragut, who arrived by river to claim a starving New Orleans.

The fury of nature was most evident during the 1927 Flood, when a decision was made to blow up levees to relieve overflow. It was done with dire consequences to part of the area’s population. Fortunately the river’s banks held in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina.

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We’ll reflect on the vitality of the present port and look back at its history, as well as its connection to Central America’s banana trade. In the last 30 years containerized cargo has transformed the shipping industry, with New Orleans becoming a leader. Through the years, cotton, sugar and coffee were prime movers of the city’s economy. Coffee and rubber continues to be a part of port activity.

In addition to commercial use, passenger river travel has also been very much a part of the New Orleans/Mississippi River connection. Steamboats carried passengers from Antebellum days. By the start of the 20th century vessels, such as those owned by the Streckfus Family, offered moonlight excursions featuring jazz bands at towns up and down the river. A young Louis Armstrong honed his musical skills with stints on the Streckfus Line. Still lingering are vivid memories of the steamer President, which docked at the foot of Canal Street and offered harbor tours as well as dance cruises. For many years the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival concerts were held on this beloved vessel. On their way to the boat passengers could smell coffee beans stored in nearby warehouses.

Starting earlier with Audubon Park’s Fly and later the Moon Walk in front of the French Quarter, views of the river greatly expanded during the 1984 World’s Fair and later Woldenberg Park along the French Quarter. With developers anticipating the Fair and the visitors it would bring, the Jax Brewery, a longtime brewer of the popular Jax Beer, was transformed into a festival marketplace.

THE S.S. PRESIDENT

SS. President

The program will utilize a combination of rare photos and films along with present-day footage. Among the most rare films are that of the SS. President and footage of the then not yet finished 1958 Mississippi River Bridge.

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Musician legend Allen Toussaint and producer/narrator Peggy Scott Labrode

Producer/narrator for is Peggy Scott Laborde. Larry Roussarie is the editor. Original music by Kevin George. Photographers are Paul Combel and Lenny Delbert and associate producers are Ashli Richard Morris and Kelsi Schreiber.

         NEW ORLEANS AND THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER is part of WYES-TV’s ongoing coverage of the city’s Tricentennial celebration which is being produced in association with The Historic New Orleans Collection and made possible by the Collection, the Meraux Foundation.

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NEW ORLEANS AND THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER would like to thank its sponsors:

Port Producers circle

Special thanks to:

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Interviewed in NEW ORLEANS AND THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER:

James Amoss, Jr.

Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes

John Barry

Angelo Brocato, III

Richard Campanella

Jacquelyn Clarkson

Clarke “Doc” Hawley

Dee Hurtt

Gary LaGrange

Judge Edwin Lombard

Keith Marshall

Ben Sandmel 

Nick Spitzer

Allen Toussaint

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