Nostalgia: Business of Death

The Leitz-Eagan Company’s six-generation story.
A receipt for the burial of a child, dated June 30, 1914. A price of $25.75 included a white coffin and two carriages, as well as fees for legal recording of the death.

 

Ambrose Leitz immigrated to New Orleans from Germany and opened a cabinet shop in 1854. Rudimentary medical care and yellow fever led to high mortality rates in the 19th century, so Leitz soon turned to making coffins. Success in this business set the family on a path to becoming the oldest and largest family-managed funeral home company in New Orleans.

When Leitz died in 1879, his wife Louise took over the business located at 2409 Tchoupitoulas St. Known as “Widow Leitz,” this pioneer female undertaker was a very successful manager of the family business, growing it to great success and reputation as one of the finest in the city, with distinguished carriages and stables. She was also greatly admired by those who knew her – a comforting source for customers during their hardest moments, a generous employer and a charitable donor to various needy organizations around New Orleans.

The business was taken over by their son, Fred, who moved it to a larger property at 442-446 Jackson Ave. in the Irish Channel, adding embalming and parlor services. He also established an Algiers Point parlor at 705 Pelican Ave., and soon after also offered ambulance services.

When Fred died in 1926, his daughter Agatha and her husband Charles Eagan took over the business, eventually creating the Leitz-Eagan Company, whose parlor was located on Magazine Street at Phillip Street. That location closed six decades later in 1992, but the family legacy continues six generations later through Joe Eagan, who serves as funeral director and general manager for three funeral and cemetery facilities, located in Covington, Marrero and Metairie.