Delgado: Benevolent Businessman (1909 - 1921)

By: Bob Monie
The story of the Girod Asylum must have reached Mr. Isaac Delgado either at his riverfront offices in the 200 block of N. Peters Street near the New Orleans Sugar Exchange, or in his Garden District home on Philip Street. A charter member of the exchange, a banker, sugar and rice trader, owner of the Albania Sugar Plantation and Refinery, and a conservative investor in debentures and annuities, Delgado would have been appalled by the way the Girod Asylum project had been handled. Certainly, he didn't do business that way.  Having wisely invested nearly every dollar he had earned since moving from his native country Jamaica to the United States in 1854 at the age of 14, Delgado could not conceive that contested funds would be allocated for a charitable project.

Isaac Delgado, New Orleans Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Left: Isaac Delgado and his Uncle Samuel outside the main office of Delgado and Co. in the 200 block of N. Peters St., around 1890. Right: The same building today.
New Orleans Sugar Exchange at the Corner of N. Front and Bienville, around 1910
Delgado's Garden District home at 1220 Philip St.
 In 1908, just a year before the Girod Asylum buildings were finally reopened as the Colored Waif's Home, Delgado had seen his own “gift to the city of New Orleans,” the Delgado Memorial, a state-of-the-art surgical building dedicated to the memory of his deceased aunt and uncle, quickly and efficiently added to the grounds of Charity Hospital.  He specified that this memorial be constructed of “fireproof” material on high ground far away from malarial swamps, and provide for the relief “of the suffering of both sexes,” regardless of religious affiliation. He funded the memorial with money that could not be claimed by other parties or diverted to other projects. This was during a time when nationally-known business tycoons bristled under the journalistic attacks of muckrakers like Ida Tarbell, who cast a lurid spotlight on John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil, and Upton Sinclair, who called Theodore Roosevelt's attention to dangerous and unsanitary working conditions at the Armour meat processing plant in Chicago.  In stark contrast stood Delgado's Albania Sugar Plantation and Refinery in Jeanerette, Louisiana. Staffed by expert technicians paid to maintain high sanitary standards and promote safe work habits, Albania produced 12,000 tons of sugar cane annually on 400 acres and, in 1897, had been called “one of the best-managed places in the state of Louisiana.”  A visitor in 1902 from the Louisiana Sugar Manufacturer's Association described  the operation at Albania as “magnificent” and “second to none.”

The Delgado Memorial Building at Charity Hospital, 1908, shown on the cover of its dedication program.
The Albania Plantation
Works Consulted 

“Albania Plantation (Special Correspondence).”  The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer (1902) 23: 303.

Campanella, Richard.  Time and Place in New Orleans.  New Orleans: Pelican, 2002.

Dodge, Louis.  Isaac Delgado Central Trades School.  New Orleans: Delgado, 1928.

Garthwaite, Elloyse and Tom Ireland.  Isaac Delgado: His Life and Impact on New Orleans and the State of Louisiana.  New Orleans: Delgado, 1980.

Malone, Lee and Paul Malone.  The Majesty of the Garden District. New Orleans: Pelican, 1998.

“One of the Best-Managed Places in the State of Louisiana is the Albania Plantation of Messers. Delgado.” The Louisiana Planter and Sugar Manufacturer (1897) 18:237.

Program.  Dedication of the Delgado Memorial: Saturday, December 19th, 2:00 P.M. New Orleans, 1908.

Starr, S. Frederick.  Southern Comfort: The Garden District of New Orleans.  New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

Wilson, Harold S. McClure Magazine and the Muckrakers.  New Jersey: Princeton UP, 1970.

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