My aunt used to tell me about the Lane Cotton Mill somewhere around Tchoupitoulas on the Mississippi River. Any info on who owned the mill and why it closed?
W. J. McDonald
Dear W. J.,
Lane Cotton Mill was at 434 Cadiz St., just a short distance from the river. Established by N. L. Lane in 1864, it became the first successful venture in manufacturing cotton cloth in New Orleans.
The operation began in a small building that cost less than $20,000, but gradually the business increased in size and had a workforce of about 1,400 employees when it closed in the 1950s. Workers at the mill spun, dyed, wove and finished the raw cotton.
In 1883 the mill received $375,000 in new capital and was incorporated. At that time,it had 2,160 spindles and 68 looms. By 1894, those numbers had increased to 17,000 spindles and 368 looms, and additions had been made to the original building. By the 1900s, the mill employed about 450 workers, some of them children.
The mill changed owners but always retained the name of its founder. In 1884, the owners were Lehman, Abraham & Co., which had a display at the New Orleans World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition.
One famous owner and manager of the mill was Sigmund Odenheimer. This philanthropist was a major donor to the Audubon Zoological Gardens. In 1924 he donated money to build an aquarium, and in 1928 gave more money to construct a pool for sea lions and a walkway leading to the aquarium.
Ever since the Civil War, efforts had been undertaken to make New Orleans a major cotton cloth center, and by 1894 there were four mills doing business. Cotton milling never became a major industry in Louisiana, however, and by the mid-1930s, the Lane Cotton Mill was the only large cotton manufacturer in the state. The mill closed in 1957 while it was owned by M. Lowenstein & Sons Inc. of New York.