Immigrant Entrepreneurship Panel at AHA: "Ethnic Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans"

Panel at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in New Orleans, Louisiana

Thursday, January 3 (3:30-5:30 pm at the Sheraton New Orleans, Napoleon Ballroom D3)

The panel seeks to explore the rich, multifaceted economic history of New Orleans and its entrepreneurial inhabitants from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the Civil War. New Orleans, founded in 1718, grew rapidly in size and importance after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Free blacks and European immigrants began pouring into the busy port seeking economic opportunities. They significantly altered the ethnic and cultural makeup of the city. New Orleans had the largest population of free people of color in the United States, and by the mid-nineteenth century, the only other urban center attracting more immigrants than New Orleans was New York. Foreign-born Germans and Irish made up the largest groups.

The papers mirror the overarching conference theme “Lives, Places, Stories” and investigate the lives of individual free black, Irish and German businesspeople; the places where they settled and worked in New Orleans; and the stories that their lives reveal about the larger concepts of capitalism and (social) entrepreneurialism. The first paper presents an overview of race and capitalism in the antebellum period, discussing selected case studies of free blacks who succeeded in accumulating large amounts of wealth in New Orleans’ business community and economic factors that contributed to the businesspeople’s rise and fall. The second paper looks at Irish immigrant Margaret Haughery, also known as “mother of the orphans,” who overcame poverty and hardship to become a highly respected and successful social entrepreneur. The third paper discusses how German immigrant businessmen used the Civil War as an opportunity to both increase profits and showcase their patriotism. Together, the three papers provide fascinating insights into the incredible diversity of actors and business ventures that contributed to New Orleans’ bustling marketplace in the early to mid-nineteenth century.

The panel is cosponsored by the Labor and Working-Class History Association and the Business History Conference.



  • Chair: Daniel Hammer, The Historic New Orleans Collection, New Orleans
  • Juliet E. K. Walker (University of Texas, Austin): Antebellum Race and Capitalism: The Rise and Fall of New Orleans. Laissez-Faire African American Un-“Expectant” Capitalists
  • Laura D. Kelley (Tulane University, New Orleans): Erin’s Enterprise: An Example of Social Entrepreneurship
  • Andrea Mehrländer (Checkpoint Charlie Foundation, Berlin): Feeding a People: The “Free Market” of New Orleans (Aug. to Dec. 1861) as a Social-Patriotic Playground for German-Confederate Entrepreneurs
  • Commentator: Richard Campanella, Tulane University, New Orleans

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Immigrant Entrepreneurship Panel at AHA: "Ethnic Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans"
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date June 14, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 16, 2018