In the sugarcane fields of New Orleans, innovation sparked a revolution
In the late 1700s, sugar wasn’t exactly a sweet crop in Louisiana, profit-wise. Instead, indigo was the region’s chief cash crop. Enter New Orleans planter Jean Etienne de Boré, who in 1795 worked with Antoine Morin of Santo Domingo to refine cane juice into granulated sugar. Just like that, everything changed, making sugarcane a profitable crop and giving rise to the state’s sugar industry.
De Boré’s process was nothing short of revolutionary for the economy of South Louisiana. More than 200 years later, sugarcane is still a key cog in the state’s agricultural economy — not to mention providing a key ingredient in everything from king cakes to Sazeracs.
- De Boré’s plantation, established on land inherited by his wife, occupied the site on which Audubon Park stands today.
De Boré sold that first crop of granulated sugar for about $12,000, which would be worth about $200,000 today.
- In December 1803, Gov. William C.C. Claiborne appointed de Boré New Orleans’ first mayor after the Louisiana Purchase. He resigned five months later, ostensibly to attend to private affairs.
- Though he is of French heritage — his grandfather having served as a councilor to King Louis XIV — De Boré is a Louisiana native. Kind of. He was born in 1740 in the Illinois Territory of Louisiana.
- De Boré is buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, where a historical marker notes his achievement in granulating sugar.
Sugarcane is a mainstay of Louisiana’s economy. According to the American Sugar Cane League, sugarcane’s overall annual economic impact is $3 billion. About 13 million tons of cane are produced regularly on more than 400,000 acres in 22 parishes, and about 17,000 people are employed to produce and process the crop.