A rare and important plan of New Orleans by Henry Moellhausen

Henry Moellhausen, Civil Engineer / Engr[ave]d by Shields & Hammond, NORMAN’S PLAN OF NEW ORLEANS & ENVIRONS, 1845. New Orleans: B[enjamin] M[oore] Norman, 1845.
Engraving, 18”h x 24 ¼”w at neatline, outline and wash color.
$6,500

A rare and interesting plan of New Orleans, Louisiana, one of only a handful issued in the first half of the 19th century.

The plan depicts New Orleans in considerable detail, including the boundaries of the municipalities and wards, the street plan and block numbers, canals and rail lines, and the footprints of dozens of major edifices. A numeric legend at the base identifies no fewer than 80 public buildings, hotels, banks, churches, schools, cotton factories, &c. Arguably the most interesting feature is the division of the city into three “municipalities,” which took place in 1836 in response to tension between the Anglo and French-Creole communities. Though New Orleans retained a single mayor, each municipality had its own council, police force, right to levy taxes &c. In 1852 a new charter reunited the city and at the same time formalized the annexation of the upriver City of Lafayette.

The plan was based on surveys by Henry Moellhausen a European-born architect, surveyor and civil engineer.

“The Prussian Henry Moellhausen worked in New Orleans from 1841-49 conducting surveys and producing architectural renderings. His topographical maps accompanied an 1840 report in which George Dunbar, engineer of the state of Louisiana, recommended an underground drainage system for the New Orleans area. Two brick cottages in the downtown Treme Faubourg and two brick stores in the St. Mary Faubourg are the only extant buildings that have been attributed to Moellhausen but his renderings show his remarkable skills as a draftsman. Yet he… did not make any distinctive contribution to the architectural development of New Orleans, though something of his influence lived on in students.” (Irvin, Hilary S. “The Impact of German Immigration on New Orleans Architecture.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 375-406.)[1]

Moellhausen’s influence must indeed have been modest, for the first mention we have found of him in the New Orleans press is at the late date of 1849, and then only in connection with a number of property surveys.

As suggested by the old folds, the map was issued in pocket-map format and as a folding frontis to Norman’s New Orleans and Environs Containing a Brief Historical Sketch of the Territory and State of Louisiana, and the City of New Orleans. In 1854 Norman issued a second edition of the map, lacking Moellhausen’s name, on a significantly smaller scale, and with the city divided into four districts and nine wards. In 1858 Norman also published the monumental Chart of the Lower Mississippi (1858), an example of which sold for an eye-popping sum of $316,000 at Neal Auctions a few years back.

References
Lemonn, Magill and Wiese, Charting Louisiana, #180. OCLC #54648512, giving holdings at Penn State and Yale (OCLC #7375503 gives an 1849 map of the same name, apparently the variant lacking the Moellhausen name.) Phillips, Maps of America, p. 496. Rumsey #3413.002. Not in Jumonville, Bibliography of New Orleans Imprints, which does however list Norman’s New Orleans and Environs (without mentioning the map frontis).

Condition

Mends to minor separations and to short binding tear at left, small area of upper-right corner expertly reattached. Lower right edge trimmed close, with slight loss to last four letters of copyright. Some show-through of old hinges. Withal, about very good.