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New Orleans, Louisiana – Metairie Cemetery – Lucien Napoleon Brunswig

26 Jul

Entrance Brunswig Mausoleum

Metairie Cemetery, in New Orleans, is one of those fascinating places that will capture your imagination even if you don’t have one!  The tombs are very interesting and many are great examples of various types of architecture, which always provides for a great cemetery visit.  On the other hand the tombs hold individuals and many of those individuals led distinguished and productive lives. Their stories are sometimes lost amongst the grand views of the tombs.

One of the most visited and photographed places in Metairie Cemetery stands near the rear of the older part of the cemetery.  The outstanding Egyptian influences of the Brunswig Mausoleum are very worthy of attention. The pyramid mausoleum  has attracted visitors for over a century.   A woman and a sphinx figure stand on either side of bronze gates that seal the tomb and they have been photographed a million times. Those figures have become synonymous with the tomb , but  what about the man that lends his name to this well known tomb – that man was Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig was born in Montmedy, France, in 1854, and was educated at the  College of Etain. Apparently Brunswig thought his future lay in the United States and he came to the U.S. in 1871.  He found work as an apprentice to a U.S druggist. In 1875 Brunswig opened his own drug store in Atchison, Kansas. After a year of business he sold his drug store and moved to Fort Worth, Texas.

In Fort Worth Brunswig opened a new drug store that not only sold retail but also dealt with wholesale pharmaceuticals.  Within 5 years the business was producing $350,000 in annual sales.  Business took Lucien to many places and one of those places was Independence, Missouri.  There he met and married  Annie Mercer. The newly married couple made their home in Fort Worth and they soon added children.

In 1882, George Finlay, the owner of a well-established wholesale drug firm in New Orleans invited Brunswig to join him as a partner. Brunswig sold his Fort Worth business and joined Finlay in the firm of Finlay and Brunswig.  In 1885 Finlay died and Lucien Brunswig took over the entire wholesale drug firm which then became L. N. Brunswig and Company. In 1887 he took on a partner by the name of F.W. Braun.

Lucien and Annie had 5 children – 3 girls and 2 boys.  The year of 1892 became a pivotal year for Lucien N. Brunswig.  That year marked the death of one of his young sons – a son who also bore the name of Lucien N. Brunswig.  This death was a terrible blow to Annie Brunswig.  The child’s death was too much for her to handle.  She declined in health and within a month she too was dead.

Lucien Brunswig moved on with life. Prior to the death of his wife and child Brunswig had been looking toward the west.  In 1887 Braun was dispatched to Los Angeles, California, and within a year a prosperous business was established.  In 1890, while Brunswig was still in New Orleans, he sent Braun to San Diego to set up a branch office.  In short order another prosperous branch office was operating under the name of F.W. Braun.

Braun believed that the future of his company was in the west.  In 1903 Brunswig, and his family, which included his second wife and another child, moved to Los Angeles so he could preside over the company.  In 1907 Bruswig bought out Braun and the business was renamed Brunswig Drug Company.  At this time he also sold his company in New Orleans.

Established in Los Angeles the Brunswig Drug Company grew at a phenomenal rate.  The company became the leading pharmaceutical distributor in the western U.S.   The company also eventually expanded to many countries in the Pacific realm.  His company also took on new products such as cosmetics.  The business would boom during World War 1 due to its geographical location.

In 1917 Brunswig found himself too old for military service in World War 1 as he was 63.  Still he went to his native France and served 8 months for the “Friends of France.”  On his return from France he continued to be involved with helping those that had been impacted by the war.  This was just the tip of the iceberg in his service to his local community and to his country and to his homeland.  While in Los Angeles Brunswig served as Director,  Bureau of Americanization; Director of a number of Franco-American Relief Societies during World War 1; Chairman, Pacific Coast States American Field Ambulance Service; Chairman, Pacific Coast, Fatherless Children of France;  Chairman, American Committee for Devastated France; President, Alliance Francaise;  President, Lafayette Society of California; Delegated by the Minister of Public Instruction in France to co-operate in the scholarships for young French students to American Universities and Colleges; Director of the College des Etats Unis, in Paris; and he served as Chairman for the Sunshine Houses of France for the U.S.A.

While he lived in New Orleans he served as a Police Commissioner in New Orleans from 1895-1899; Vice-president, Anthenee Louisianais; Member, Louisiana Historical Society; President, French Society; and served as Vice-President for the Board of Trade.

While in Los Angeles he also co founded the Pharmacy Department at the University of Southern California.  He traveled extensively in Europe and to other places in the world.  While traveling he amassed a personal library of over 6,000 volumes.  Some of these were original transcripts obtained from monasteries in Europe and he even collected an original transcript from William Penn.  Brunswig donated over 1,000 volumes from his collection to the University of Southern California.

Lucien Napoleon Brunswig died in 1943 and his body was interred in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans. But what happened to his Drug Company?  In 1969 Brunswig Drug Company merged with Bergen Drug Company to form Bergen-Brunswig.  This company in turn merged with the AmeriSource Health Corporation in 2001 to from AmerisourceBergen.  Last year AmerisourceBergen ranked 24th on the Fortune 500 list and employed 10,000 employees.  Sales for the Corporation were $78 billion.  What a testament to Mr. Brunswig!

Today we marvel at the structure in which Lucien N. Brunswig is interred but very few of us know anything at all about his life.  Indeed the tomb now houses his body but no tomb could ever house his accomplishments in business nor his service to his fellow man.  The next time I am in Metairie Cemetery I will make a point to visit the tomb of Lucien Napoleon Brunswig.  This time I will not go to view his tomb but rather to pay my respects to his life.  What a man!

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New Orleans, Louisiana – Streetcars – St. Charles Line

1 Jul

St. Charles Line in the neutral ground between Audubon Park and Tulane

New Orleans is noted for its historic streetcars and streetcar lines.  I have heard them rumble by and there is even a historic roar on the tracks as they pass.  In many places the neutral ground is filled with people jogging or walking.  The green of the neutral ground and the people project a park like setting in which the streetcars rumble up and down St. Charles Avenue and out Carrollton.

Passengers Getting in Streetcar on St. Charles

One of the first family stories that I remember about the St. Charles line happened when I was a baby.  Somehow I managed to kick my shoes off and they sailed out the window of the streetcar. This was not funny to my mother.  In fact, 50 years later, I am compelled to look for those shoes every time I am in New Orleans.

Later I worked for a stint in New Orleans and took the St, Charles line in to work everyday.  It was something that I always enjoyed .  The people, the cars and the atmosphere associated with the whole thing.  It was a part of history.

Historical Marker on Carrollton

On Carrollton Street there is a historic marker that says that the Carrollton Street Car line in the oldest continuous streetcar line in the U.S.  That is true but the Cable Car in San Francisco and the Trolley in New York both predate the New Orleans system by a few years.  Still New Orleans can claim that it was the second city in the nation to have a street car system and that it has the oldest continuously operated line in the world with the St. Charles and Carrollton line.

Historic Streetcar with Mahogany Seats Carries 52 Passengers

The cars in use today are the still “Arch Roof” type designed by Mr. Perley A. Thomas and built by the Brill and Perley Thomas Car Companies in 1922-24.  These double trunk cars are 47’8″ in width, and 11’4″ in height.  The exteriors retain their traditional (since 1899) colors of olive green and cream trim and iron red window and door frames.  The interiors are fitted with wooden seats that seat 52 passengers.  The cars can be operated in either direction with controls in the vestibule at each end of the car.  The cars have been completely refurbished by New Orleans Public Service Incorporated (NOPSI) and presently in good condition.

The Bed of the Tracks is Underground Putting the Rails at Ground Level

There is a “roadbed” for the tracks but it is all underground.  Therefore the tracks and neutral ground traversed by cars that were pulled by mules and then powered by steam and then by electricity still appear very much like they did originally.  In the September 30, 1835 issue of the New Orleans Bee the 25 cent ride was described.

“The route passes through a level and beautiful country; Very high, (About six feet above Canal Street), dry and arable lands – and affording one of the most pleasant drives in the Southern States.  It passes through the limits of an ancient forest of Live Oaks; Peculiarly interesting as being one of the very few of its kind now remaining in the South.”

St. Charles Line Cars on Canal Before Canal Line Cars Started the Route After Hurricane Katrina

In 1866, General P.G.T. Beauregard, C.S.A., and Associates leased the N.O. & C. R.R. Co., and Beauregard served as an innovative president for almost 10 years.  The constant improvements and increased efficiency under his management were reflected in the value of the Company’s stock which rose from $7.50 per share in 1865 to $110.00 per share by the early 1870s.

Car 900 Heads Uptown on the Historic St. Charles Line

For a 125 years streetcars have been an integral part of travel in New Orleans.  Today the St. Charles Line is the oldest, continuously operated street car line in the world today.  Since 1835, street railway cars have rounded Lee Circle and headed up St. Charles Avenue to Carrollton.  It is one of the last surviving examples of an era in which street railways were one of the major forms of public transit contributing greatly to the development of Urban America.

New Orleans, Louisiana – Mississippi River

26 Jun

Crescent City Connection at Sundown. On the Mississippi River.

Years ago I visited Lake Itasca in Minnesota to see the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  As the water leaves the lake and flows toward the Gulf of Mexico it is a narrow and shallow stream – one can jump or wade across and only get his feet wet.  A short way down from the beginning is the first bridge.  It is a split log, which means it is pedestrian only. One hiker at a time.

A Heavy Laden Ship Passes Under the Crescent City Connection

The Mississippi River is a rich part of America’s history and wealth.  The delta region abounds in a history of wars and discovery and trade and new cultures coming to this country. Jazz, the Blues, Rock and Roll all came from this region.  Ships from around the world continuously head for docks from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. How rich a heritage!

Container Ship on the Move Down the Mississippi River

When looking at a map or reading a book it is easy to conjure up images in your mind about all these things.  However, how many of us have actually been out on the river around New Orleans?  I’m not talking about a ferry ride but in some type of boat or ship?

Loading and Unloading Containers

Last year a friend and I put in a boat above New Orleans and traveled down the river just past the city.  The reason was that he is an artist and wanted to photo some images to use as studies for future work. All the mind’s conjured images of river history and culture are soon lost as one starts to think about actually surviving while out on the river.

Grain Elevator Loading Ships on the River

We spent much of the first day getting familiar with things and snapping pictures and trying to find a good place for a sunset image. The light was not good that November day as a front was pushing its way through.  There was just not enough light in the right places. Any photographer knows what I mean.  We identified some good things to take in the morning light and traveled on to Algiers Point to spend the night and wait for daybreak.We tied up and it was near dark when a strange light was bearing down on New Orleans.  It appeared odd and neither one us knew quite what to think.  What was this sight?  It was a storm, and rain hit us from all sides and angles.  We had a covering on the boat but the wind was blowing sideways so much that it didn’t matter.  The temperature started dropping and we outfitted ourselves in warm winter gear and brought out the stuffed sleeping bags. To make a long story short all our gear did was absorb water and by morning we were two freezing boaters wrapped in wet everything.  I wish we would have measured the water we squeezed out of our gear just so I would know how much it was that made me so miserable.

Jackson Street Ferry

The morning brought a different world.  Ships, tugs barges and anything else that would float was on the river.  It is sobering to see a fully loaded tanker riding low in the water headed straight for you. Then a quick glance over the shoulder sees another one coming up from behind.  Thank goodness there is a wake zone through New Orleans or we would have been knocked out of the water as we scooted around trying to get out of the way and take pictures at the same time.  After a while though we settled down and things became manageable.

Large Ship Above New Orleans Headed Down River

We were impressed by the large ships, loaded so much that their hulls were sunk well down in the river.  The skill it took to steer one of those things and to go under the bridges and make the curves in the river is not appreciated by most of us.  It was magnificent to see those ships skillfully maneuver to position for a shot through the curves and then to straighten out and “Thread the Needle” under the Crescent City Connection and then to maneuver again to make the curve in the river below the city.  A ship did this every few minutes and ships continued coming up the river and tugs and barges and ferries were all active.  All of them seemed to be at home and doing his part.  However, each one had to have someone very responsible and very alert at the helm or disaster would have been inevitable. One has to be vigilant 24 hours a day and 7 days a week on the river.

Ship Passes Under the Boutee Bridge

For the first time I began to appreciate the river for the great economic engine that it is.  Those ships were carrying cargo containers, grain, oil, refined petroleum, sugar and no telling what else.  Ships were being built at Avondale and cargo was going in and out of ships all up and down the river.

We saw grain being loaded though elevators on a number of ships.  The loading capacity of the Port of South Louisiana is around 1 million bushels per hour.  Grain elevators were a common sight and every one of them was very busy.

Containers were being unloaded and loaded near New Orleans.  They were coming in on railroads and on trucks and were leaving by the same modes of transportation.  Large ships were being loaded with containers as well.

Moored Ships Waiting Their Turn to Load or Unload

A number of tankers were headed up river to various refineries.  Others were returning loaded with something that had been refined or made in Louisiana.
The Exxon refinery complex in Baton Rouge uses about 500,000 barrels of oil a day.  That is barrels and not gallons. Marathon, Shell, Texaco and others down river use tremendous amount of oil too on a daily bases.  A million barrels of oil used every day on the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is probably a low estimate.

Military Ships Being Built at Avondale Ship Yards

For years I have thought that most of the activity in New Orleans was on Canal Street or perhaps the French Quarter and Super Dome.  I was wrong. The pulse of New Orleans is on the Mississippi River.  It always has been that way and it will be that way always.

My mind was forever changed by the experience.  Skill and bravery are exhibited every day and it has been that way since the first ship of explorers sailed up the river.  New Orleans was created because of the Mississippi River. It is now my belief that New Orleans is the river and the river is New Orleans in this part of Louisiana.