New Orleans: Gateway to the Americas

deLesseps S. Morrison, 1946

"Spiritually, I consider myself a Latin," wrote Mayor deLesseps S. "Chep" Morrison in Latin American Mission, and perhaps no other New Orleans mayor worked harder or more successfully to increase trade and good will between New Orleans and Latin America. Early in his administration he established a department of International Relations designed to work closely with foreign political leaders and business representatives and with the leaders of International House and the International Trade Mart. "I was forever selling Louisiana--and the United States--to my Latin American friends," he wrote, "and selling Latin America, its needs, its potentialities, to my own country." During his terms of office, he presided over a "golden age" of international trade promotion, which saw the establishment of the International Trade Mart, a dramatic increase in Latin American trade through the Port of New Orleans, and the inauguration of new commercial air passenger and freight routes between New Orleans and Latin American cities. During the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, New Orleans--and Chep Morrison himself--earned an international reputation for progressive trade promotion. Morrison's personal efforts were rewarded in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy appointed him U.S. ambassador to the Organization of American States.

This photograph was taken on January 13, 1946 (just nine days before Chep Morrison's upset victory over Mayor Robert S. Maestri) at a cocktail party given by International House on the occasion of the dedication of Moisant International Airport. Pictured (from left to right, seated) are Hector Chacon, Minister of Communications for Guatemala; Wilbur, L. Morrison, Vice-President in charge of Pan-American Airways' Latin American Division; Luis Garcia Cadena, Minister of Communications from Colombia; and Carlos Martinez Aparicio, publisher of La Prensa at Barranquilla (Colombia). The men on the back row are all New Orleanians who played critical roles in the Morrison effort to make the Crescent City the "gateway to the Americas": General Allison Owen, Philup H. Lamber [sic], deLesseps S. Morrison, William G. Zetzmann, Charles Nutter, and Mario Bermudez.

[Municipal Government Photograph Collection, deLesseps S. Morrison Series]

But I had the advantage of a unique experience in New Orleans, where for nearly fifteen years I had conducted a kind of private Latin American foreign service of my own. For New Orleans, commerce with Latin America was all-important. Our port competed directly with New York and Miami. During World War II, it had been second to New York. When I was elected mayor in 1946, a year after the end of World War II, I discovered we had dropped from second to seventeenth place. With the backing and stimulation of civic leaders in New Orleans, I determined to make the New Orleans port as busy in peacetime as it had been in wartime, and second again only to New York.

We launched an international-trade development program, in which I headed delegations of forty-five to eighty persons on sixty different trips to Latin America.

[deLesseps S. Morrison. Latin American Mission: An Adventure in Hemisphere Diplomacy. ed. Gerold Frank. (New York, 1965)]

Introduction | Aguardiente de caña, 1770 | Imports, 1822 | Price-Current, 1845 | Minatitlan, 1852 | Steamships, 1854
Cotton Exposition, 1884 | The Logical Point, 1885 | El Nopal, 1885 | Bananas, ca. 1919 | Mercurio, 1913
Cuyamel Fruit, 1917 | La Voz Latina, 1936 | Del Sud, 1938 | deLesseps S. Morrison, 1946
International House, 1950 | Garden of the Americas, 1957 | International Trade Mart, 1964
Coffee, 1965 | Victor H. Schiro, 1965