The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875

The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875

The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875

The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875

Synopsis

This study of Jewish settlement in Louisiana goes beyond institutional history to concentrate on commercial and social matters. The author's findings imply that Jewish immigrants to the South in the first half of the 19th century came from particular locales with similar social, economic, and religious backgrounds, and they chose to live in the South because of those traditions. The experience of Jews with commercial capitalism, rather than landowning, in agricultural societies, gave the Jews of Louisiana a comparable niche in America, and they participated in the commercial aspects of a regional economy based on agricultural production. Commercial and family connections with other Jewish groups facilitated their development into a settled community. In growth and decline, Jewish communities in Louisiana and elsewhere became permanent features of the landscape and influenced, and were influenced, by the areas in which they lived.

Excerpt

In this study, I have attempted to place Jewish business activity in Louisiana between 1840 and 1875 within the broader framework of the state's economy, consisting of a large agricultural sector producing cash crops and a dynamic commercial center in New Orleans. I further sought to provide, primarily through the use of business records and correspondence, some insights into the development of a Jewish community in Louisiana during this period. I have not attempted to discuss all the Jews who did business in Louisiana during the period, although the records of the credit reporters R. G. Dun & Co., a major source for nineteenth-century business history in America, would seemingly make such a presentation attractive from a statistical point of view. Instead I have developed a narrative relating to particular locales and personalities that I expect will hold true for the many Jews who go unmentioned.

My survey of the secondary literature concerning Jewish life in nineteenth-century Louisiana--and in most of the South--showed that the commercial activities of southern Jews have received little careful attention. Archivists have unearthed scores of relevant and important documents but have only rarely analyzed these documents and placed them in meaningful contexts. Local repositories in Louisiana, at universities and public records offices throughout the state, proved to contain untapped material on the business practices of Jews in the state. Similar sources of information are available, and now being uncovered, for the history of Jews in other southern locations. Records relating to business matters shed a great deal of light on . . .

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