Downriver to New Orleans, 1820–1890
New Orleans was a seaport as well as a river port, and a vital connection between the American heartland and the rest of the world. By the 1820s, cotton, grain, pork, and other agricultural products floated down the Mississippi River to the city’s docks. The rise of the steamboat brought trade upriver and opened the Midwest to settlers and goods. By 1850, New Orleans was the second busiest port in the United States and the fourth largest in the world.
At various points in its history, France, Spain, and the United States had all claimed the city. Its residents and visitors created a rich mixture of languages, religions, foods, and traditions.