Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


As the leading port for the export of the production of the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys in the antebellum years, the port of New Orleans occupied a pivotal position in the domestic and foreign trade of the United States. The influence of that trade on United States economic growth has been a major theme in economic history. This study is based on an analysis of coastal and foreign trade statistics from a random sample of vessel manifests for the years 1821, 1826, 1837, 1846, 1855, and 1860, years that were representative of distinct trend periods in U.S. economic development. In each of these years the trade of New Orleans in general conformed to the pattern described by the cotton-staple or export-based interpretation, as opposed to the eastern-demand model, of U.S. economic development. Foreign commerce was more important to the economy of the New Orleans region than domestic commerce. Cotton accounted for a larger share of exports overseas than any other commodity, finding its largest market in the British Isles. Coffee from the Caribbean and Brazil accounted for the largest share of foreign imports. Among the four regional markets in the coastal trade--the Gulf South, South Atlantic, Middle Atlantic, and New England--the value of trade with the Middle Atlantic exceeded the value of trade with any other coastal region. In 1821, sugar accounted for the highest proportion of coastal exports. In 1826, pork was the leading coastal export. After 1826, cotton became the dominant coastal export and New England its largest market. New England and the Middle Atlantic supplied New Orleans with most of its manufactured imports. This pattern of coastal and overseas commerce indicates that economic growth within an integrated national market, served by foreign and interregional trade, was more characteristic of United States economic development in the antebellum years than trade within local or regional markets.