Today in New Orleans History

March 28

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First Liberty Ship -- William C. C. Claiborne
Launched at Delta Shipyard
March 28, 1942


On March 28, 1942, Delta Shipbuilding Co. in New Orleans launched its first Liberty ship, the SS William C.C. Claiborne, named after the first governor of Louisiana. Delta was one of the nine emergency shipyards established in 1941 by the United States Maritime Commission. Delta would launch a total of 187 Liberty ships (out of 2,710 produced overall) during the war.  The average time it took to build one of these massive ships was two months. By Curator Kimberly Guise of the National World War II Museum.  Image Courtesy of Earl and Elaine Buras

The shipyard was located on the west side of the Industrial Canal in New Orleans, between Gentilly Road and Florida Avenue. It was one of the first four yards planned by the Maritime Commission to build emergency cargo fleet of 10,000-ton "liberty ships" in January 1941. It was planned so it could build six of these ships at once. Work on the first ship began in September, less than three months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The S.S. William C. C. Claiborne was christened by Lucie Claiborne, a great-great granddaughter of the governor.  (From  NOTE: Plans for the keel to be laid were announced on September 11, 1941 -- the prediction was that it would be laid on October 1, 1941. However, the mold and pattern makers had been at work on the ship since June of 1941.

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Delta's 727 flight 357 from New Orleans to Dallas was hijacked to Cuba on March 28, 1984.  Approximately 20 minutes after departure from New Orleans, a male passenger stood up holding a whiskey bottle with brown liquid and demanded to be flown to Cuba. He threatened to pour the liquid on a flight attendant and ignite it if his demand was not met. The pilot diverted the aircraft to Cuba where the flight landed without further incident.  Cuban authorities boarded the aircraft in Havana and took the hijacker into custody.

Photo of the Fire Advisory Board, March 28, 1967. Seated (left to right) Elliott Conkling, Former Assistant Superintendent of Fire E. J. O'Brien, and Seymour Weiss. Standing (left to right) Retired Chief Gerald Sumners, Lawrence Hunsinger, J. O. Veale, Superintendent Arthur J. Heyd, Roy M. Barnett, and Charles H. Pecoul. (NOPL)

Photo of MacArthur Boulevard, March 28, 1962. [Photography by J.R. St. Julien]

Photo of Filmore Avenue from Elysian Fields to Pastuer Boulevard riverside "before" Paving Lien-3rd Phase; Drainage complete January 31, 1958, Paving complete March 28, 1958.  October 13, 1957. [Photography by Leon Trice] Photo includes "Mr. Wedding Cake". (NOPL)

Photo of Wisner Boulevard from Robert E. Lee Boulevard, March 28, 1953. [Photograph by Leon Trice] (NOPL)

In 1940, Fannie Levy Mayer bequeathed $250,000 to the New Orleans Public Library in memory of her husband Norman Mayer. Plans to spend the Mayer funds to erect two new branches were delayed by the onset of World War II, but Mrs. Mayer's gift eventually built the Gentilly Branch, which opened on March 28, 1949, and the Broadmoor Branch, dedicated on April 4, 1954.   Constructed with a portion of the bequest, the Gentilly branch building "represents functional planning for the needs of today and tomorrow. Unique for New Orleans are the patio reading room, the separate wings for adults and children, the meeting room with outside entrance, the planning for future expansion without structural change, the location--immediately adjacent to a major shopping center". [Annual Report, 1949, New Orleans Public Library]

Photo of the 2600 block of Pauger Street being hardsurfaced by the WPA as part of a city-wide program to improve streets in the vicinity of public schools, March 28, 1939.  The old Jefferson Davis School is shown on the right hand side of the photograph. In the 1950s this elementary school moved into a new building (since renamed for Ernest N. Morial). Rivers Frederick Junior High School occupied the old structure for many years thereafter. The building burned in 1995 and was demolished some time later.(NOPL)

Photo of Michael "Captain Mike" McSweeney, who was the owner of the steamer Grand Isle, which carried mail, supplies, and tourists to Grand Isle until 1911, when Captain Mike sold it and retired from a lifetime on the waters. When he died in 1912 at the age of 69, the Picayune said this about him: His face and figure and affable disposition were known to half the river travelers of the state. His death marks the passage from contemporary life of the old generation of river boatmen, for he was the last to die of the men who engaged in river trafficking after the Civil War and stayed with it. For many years . . . Captain Mike was practially without competitors, handling all of the traffic between New Orleans and Grand Isle. He was always ready with a joke. He had friends from Minneapolis to Port Eads, as well as east and west. [Daily Picayune, March 28, 1912] (NOPL)

Edward Heath (1819–1892) was mayor of New Orleans from March 28, 1867 to June 10, 1868. His tenure came during the Reconstruction of Louisiana, and required a stronger personality than he brought to the office. During his term, he faced budgetary and racial problems as well as the continued interference of the military authorities of the U. S. Federal government. Being identified with the extreme wing of the radical party, he undertook to introduce negro children in the schools for white children. This caused intense excitement and for the City Council to pass an ordinance appropriating a large sum of money for separate schools. (NOPL)

Henry E.Chambers, educator, historian. Born, New Orleans, March 28, 1860, son of Joseph Chambers and Maria Charles. Education: public and private schools, New Orleans; Tulane University; Johns Hopkins University, Ph. D. Married Ellen White Taylor of Crystal Springs, Miss., 1883. Children: John Taylor and Henry Edward, Jr. Teacher in rural schools of Arkansas, superintendent of Beaumont, Tex., schools; principal and teacher, New Orleans public schools; assistant professor of Science, Tulane University; principal and teacher, Monroe public schools, 1877-1901. Editor of Progressive Teacher; founder and editor, 1893-1894 Louisiana School Review. Head of Louisiana State Chautauqua; member State Teachers' Institute, and National Education Association. Founded Chambers Agency, Inc. (1905-1912); with LaVallière Company, 1914 until death. Author of Constitutional History of Hawaii (1896), West Florida (1898), Mississippi Valley Beginnings (1922), History of Louisiana, State and People (1925), and a history of the United States which was set in Braille. Member: New Orleans Chess Club, University Club, Louisiana Historical Society, Mississippi Valley Historical Association, and American Historical Association Died of stroke, New Orleans, March 8, 1929  Source:

An act of January 31, 1827 required that masters desiring to emancipate their slaves had to petition the parish judge, who in turn submitted the matter to the Police Jury. If three-quarters of the Jury, plus the judge, approved the petition, the master was allowed to go about meeting the existing civil requirements for emancipation. An act of March 28, 1840 separated the right bank of the river from the authority of the Jury, creating a new Police Jury of the Parish of Orleans on the right bank of the River Mississippi. The act of May 27, 1846 abolished the Police Jury for the left bank of the river and ordered all papers, property, and monies belonging to the Jury to be transferred to the General Council of the city of New Orleans. (NOPL)

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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