THE ICON: James Buchanan Eads
THE LEGACY: When you get down to it, there was only one good reason to locate New Orleans in such an inhospitable place in the first place: the Mississippi River. Control the river, and you control a sizeable chunk of the North American continent. And so, in 1875, with the river silting over between its mouth and New Orleans — thus restricting large vessels from using it — the city faced an existential crisis. That’s when engineer James Buchanan Eads came up with a brilliant idea: Erect a series of jetties along the river’s banks, essentially narrowing the river. In so doing, the force of its flow would increase, and the river’s own power would scour a deeper channel. It worked beautifully. Within a year of the project’s completion, the port of New Orleans had gone from the ninth-largest in the nation to second-largest — and James Eads was a hero.
THE ARTIST: Michael McManus, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “That Capt. James B. Eads was a man of extraordinary force of character has been attested by his life journey. … New Orleans owes Capt. Eads a debt of gratitude.” — The Daily Picayune, upon Eads’ death in 1887