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Louisiana is a state of the southern United States on the Gulf of Mexico. It was admitted as the 18th state in 1812. Part of the vast region claimed by La Salle for France in 1682, it was first successfully settled in 1718 with the foundation of New Orleans. Control of the area passed to the United States in 1803, and the Territory of Orleans was created in 1804 when the northern part was split off to form the District of Louisiana (later the Territory of Louisiana and the Missouri Territory). Baton Rouge is the capital and New Orleans the largest city. Population: 4,520,000.

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History

Louisiana bayou

Louisiana has a rich, colorful historical background. The state has been governed under 10 different flags beginning in 1541 with Hernando de Soto's claim of the region for Spain. La Salle later claimed it for Bourbon France and over the years Louisiana was at one time or another subject to the Union Jack of Great Britain, the Tricolor of Napoleon, the Lone Star flag of the Republic of West Florida and the fifteen stars and stripes of the United States. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Louisiana became an independent republic for six weeks before joining the Confederacy.

The Louisiana region was settled by Indians in prehistoric times, at least as early as 6,000 years ago. At the time of European exploration in the 16th century, there were more than 10,000 Indians in Louisiana. Tribes of the Muskhogean language family occupied the east-central and south-east region, Tunican tribes lived along the coast and in the northeast, and tribes of the Caddoan group inhabited the north and northwest.

In 1519 Alonso Alvarez de Pineda led an expedition along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico and discovered the mouth of a great river which may have been the Mississippi.

The Spanish adventurer Hernando de Soto died on the shores of the Mississippi River near present-day Memphis while exploring the southeastern United States. Each year the Mississippi, an Ojibwa Indian word meaning "big river" carries 400,000,000 tons of sediment into the Gulf of Mexico and discharges more water than all European rivers combined.

Authentic recorded history of this area doesn't actually begin until 1682. It was then that Sierra de La Salle, the French explorer, reached the mouth of the Mississippi, claimed all its drainage basin for France, and named the area Louisiana to honor Louis XIV.

Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded Fort St. Jean Baptiste in 1714, present-day Natchitoches, the first permanent settlement in Louisiana.

During the period from 1717 to 1731 Louisiana experienced a surge of growth and development as a colony of the Company of the West and, after 1719, its successor the Company of the Indies. The Company of the West was an elaborate colonization scheme of the Scotsman John Law, endorsed by the French government, which wreaked havoc on the entire economy of France.

Sieur de Bienville began building New Orleans as a company town for the Company of the West in 1718 . By 1721 New Orleans had a population of more than 370 people, including 147 male colonists, 65 female colonists, 38 children, 28 servants, 73 slaves and 21 Indians.

In 1792 France ceded to Spain the Louisiana region west of the Mississippi, along with the New Orleans area. The remaining land east of the river was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris (1763). In 1800 Spain was forced by Napoleon Bonaparte to give back to France the Louisiana territory, including New Orleans. The United States acquired the area from France in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase. In 1804 the region was divided into two sections- the District of Louisiana (later Missouri Territory), north of the 33rd parallel; and the Territory of Orleans, south of the parallel.

Earlier, in 1803, Louisiana had become a part of the United States because of the region's importance to the trade and security of the American mid-west. New Orleans and the surrounding territory controlled the mouth of the Mississippi River down which much of the produce of the mid-west travelled to reach market. To get the vital region in American hands, President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon.

Soon after Louisiana became a state on April 30, 1812, war broke out with Great Britain. In 1812 the Territory of Orleans and a small part of West Florida, still claimed by Spain, were admitted to the Union as Louisiana, the 18th state. Spain ceded West Florida in 1821. In January 1815, the British attacked New Orleans, unaware that a peace treaty to end the War of 1812 had been signed two weeks earlier. They were defeated by Unites States forces under Andrew Jackson. The victory unified the Spaniards, French, Americans, and others who made up the population of the State.

With the acquisition of Louisiana, Jefferson nearly doubled the size of the fledgling U.S. and made it a world power. Later, 13 states or parts of states were carved out of the Louisiana Purchase territory.

In 1849, Baton Rouge replaced New Orleans as the state capital. The capital was transferred in1850 to Baton Rouge from New Orleans where a new statehouse was waiting. Built at a cost of $100,000, the American gothic design of the building was very much in vogue. Mark Twain said about the building, "...this little sham castle ... this architectural falsehood ... this whitewashed castle with turrets and things would never been built in this otherwise honorable place had it not been for the medieval romances of Sir Walter Scott."

On Jan. 26, 1861, Louisiana seceded from the United States and joined the Confederacy a few months later. During the Civil War (1861-1865), over 56,000 soldiers fought in the Confederate Army from Louisiana.

For a year after the Civil War broke out Louisiana was undisturbed. Only three other states experienced more loss and destruction.In 1862, however, New Orleans was captured. In 1863 the longest siege in American military history took place at Port Hudson, the southernmost point of the Confederacy's hold on the Mississippi.

After the war Louisiana was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but forced to accept a new constitution giving rights to African-Americans."The Reconstruction Period" ended in 1877 in Louisiana when President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew United States Army units from the state after the longest occupation of any of the southern states.

Through much of its early history Louisiana was a trading and financial center, and the fertility of its land made it one of the richest regions in America as first indigo then sugar and cotton rose to prominence in world markets. Many Louisiana planters were among the wealthiest men in America.

The plantation economy was shattered by the Civil War although the state continued to be a powerful agricultural region. The discovery of sulphur in 1869 and oil in 1901, coupled with the rise of forestry sent the state on a new wave of economic growth. Eventually, Louisiana became a major American producer of oil and natural gas and a center of petroleum refining and petrochemicals manufacturing, which it remains to this day.

World War II (1939-1945) helped the economy by bringing new industries to Louisiana. Fuel, oil, and boats were required for the U.S. Navy. Shipbuilding, oil, and gas industries continued to grow during the 1950s. New factories were built and shipping increased greatly at the Port of New Orleans.

Racial problems escalated during the end of the 1950s and 1960s. The Louisiana State University became integrated in 1950. Segregation on buses in New Orleans ended in 1958. Soon afterward, all schools, restaurants, and state facilities were required to integrate. In 1977, Ernest N. Morial became the first black mayor of New Orleans.

Industry in Louisiana continued to grow until the mid-1980s. Oil prices fell, hurting both the oil and service industries. The aerospace industry also slowed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Thousands lost their jobs and unemployment in the state reached a national high.

Gambling was legalized in 1992, and new casinos have provided many Louisianans with jobs. The tourism industry has also increased.

Trivia

  • The world famous "Mardi Gras" is celebrated in New Orleans. Mardi Gras is an ancient custom that originated in southern Europe. It celebrates food and fun just before the 40 days of Lent: a Catholic time of prayer and sacrifice.
  • The Battle of New Orleans, which made Andrew Jackson a national hero, was fought two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended and more than a month before the news of the war's end had reached Louisiana.
  • Louisiana was named in honor of King Louis XIV.
  • Baton Rouge hosted the 1983 Special Olympics International Summer Games at LSU.
  • Louisiana has the tallest state capitol building in the United States; the building is 450 feet tall with 34 floors.
  • Louisiana is the only state in the union that does not have counties. Its political subdivisions are called parishes.
  • Louisiana is the only state with a large population of Cajuns, descendants of the Acadians who were driven out of Canada in the 1700s because they wouldn't pledge allegiance to the King of England.
  • The Superdome in New Orleans is the worlds largest steel-constructed room unobstructed by posts.
  • Height: 273 feet (82.3 meters), Diameter of Dome: 680 feet (210 meters), Area of Roof: 9.7 acres, Interior Space: 125,000,000 cubic feet, Total floor footage: 269,000 sq. ft. (82,342 sq. meters), Electrical Wiring: 400 miles (640 kilometers)
  • Metairie is home to the longest bridge over water in the world, the Lake Pontchartrain causeway. The causeway connects Metairie with St. Tammany Parish on the North Shore. The causeway is 24 miles long.
  • Louisiana is the only state that still refers to the Napoleonic Code in its state law.
  • Since 1835 the New Orleans & Carrolliton Line is the oldest street railway line still in operation.
  • Saint Martin Parish is home to the world's largest freshwater river basin, the Atchafalaya Basin; the basin provides nearly every type of outdoor recreational activity imaginable.
  • Breaux Bridge is known as the "Crawfish Capital of the World".
  • The first American army to have African American officers was the confederate Louisiana Native Guards. The Corps d'Afrique at Port Hudson was sworn into service on September 27, 1862.
  • In Louisiana, biting someone with your natural teeth is considered a simple assault, but biting someone with your false teeth is considered an aggravated assault.
  • The Saint Charles streetcar line in New Orleans and the San Francisco, California cable cars are the nation's only mobile national monuments
  • Jennings is called the "Garden Spot of Louisiana" for it's rich and productive farmland. Jennings sobriquet {nickname} became a "Northern Town on Southern Soil".
  • Baton Rouge's flag is a field of crimson representing the great Indian nations that once inhabited the area.
  • Money Magazine has rated Terrebonne Parish, in the heart of Cajun Country the best place to live in Louisiana for 3 years in a row.
  • In 1718 The French found New Orleans and marked "Cannes Brulee" on maps upriver in the area known today as the City of Kenner. French for "Burnt Canes", Cannes Brulee was a name given by explorers who observed natives burning cane to drive out wild game.
  • Between April 17,1862 and May 18, 1864 20 major Civil War battles and engagements were fought on Louisiana soil.
  • In 1803 the United States paid France $15 million for the Louisiana Territory. 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River. The lands acquired stretched from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. Thirteen states were carved from the Louisiana Territory. The Louisiana Purchase nearly doubled the size of the United States.
  • bayou: \BUY-you\ n. a French name for slow-moving "river"
  • Louisiana's first territorial governor, William C.C. Claiborne had great admiration for the awkward bird that inhabited the Gulf Coast region. The pelican, rather than let its young starve, would tear at its own flesh to feed them. The Governor's great respect for the Pelican led him to first use the Pelican symbol on official documents.
  • The Catahoula Leopard Dog, often called the Catahoula Hound, is the official state dog.
  • The City of Sulphur is the 13th largest city in Louisiana and is named for the chemical and mining industry that helped to establish Calcasieu Parish in the late 1800's.
  • The Town of Walker became a municipality under the State's Lawrason Act (136 of 1898) on July 9, 1909 as a village.
  • Saint Joseph's Cemetery, the only known United States cemetery facing north-south is in Rayne.
  • Incorporated in 1813 under the Lawrason Act, Saint Francisville is the second oldest town in Louisiana.
  • The Union Cottonseed Oil Mill of West Monroe was in the planning stages as early as 1883. By 1887, it provided the area with many jobs for the laborers of the area. The Union Oil Mill is the oldest industry in Ouachita Parish.
  • French speaking Acadians in the mid-1700s settled the Lafayette Parish region of south Louisiana. The Acadians were joined by another group of settlers called Creoles, descendants of African, West Indian, and European pioneers. At the time of the migration, Louisiana was under Spanish rule and authorities welcomed the new settlers.
  • The city of Kaplan is referred to as "The Most Cajun place on earth".
  • The town of Jean Lafitte was once a hideaway for pirates.
  • Winnsboro, the "Stars and Stripes Capital of Louisiana", is one of the most patriotic cities in America. On Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran's Day, Labor Day, and other special occasions, approximately 350 American flags fly proudly along highway 15.
  • The name "Bogalusa" is derived from the Indian named creek "Bogue Lusa", which flows through the city.
  • Frances Parkinson Keyes, one of America's best selling authors, lived in Crowley for more than ten years.
  • The golden spike, commemorating the completion of the east-west Vicksburg, Shreveport and Pacific Railroad, was driven at Bossier City on July 12, 1884, by Julia "Pansy" Rule. It was the first such spike driven by a woman.
  • Jim Bowie, the legendary adventurer and hero of the Battle of the Alamo, lived in Opelousas after moving there from Kentucky. Opelousas is the third oldest city in Louisiana.
  • The City of Ponchatoula is the oldest incorporated city in Tangipahoa Parish. Ponchatoula derives its name from the Choctaw Indian language meaning "hair to hang" because of the abundance of Spanish moss on the trees surrounding the area.
  • Le Musee de la Ville de Kaplan {The Kaplan Museum} is located in the center of downtown Kaplan. Le Musee at appropriate times has exhibits centered on the seasonal festivals. Mardi Gras, Easter, July 4, Bastille Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.
  • Rayne is known as the "The Frog Capital of the World".
  • Notations on the original plats of survey for the area that is now Ville Platte stated that surveyors had to use pirogues and flat boats to properly do their work.
  • Because Covington is in a region referred to as the Ozone Belt, it has long been known for its clean air and water.
  • Gueydan is known as the "Duck Capital of America" in recognition of its abundance of waterfowl.
  • Mamou bills itself as "The Cajun Music Capital of the World." Mamou musicians, in particular the musicians who have perform at Fred's Lounge have been a major force in expanding the audience for Cajun music far beyond Southwest Louisiana.
  • The Harvey Canal Locks near Westwego connect the Mississippi River to the Harvey Canal. Back in the 1800s the locks served as ferries to transport railroad cars from one side of the canal to the other. Workers would then reunite the railroad cars on land. This service may have sparked the name of the town. According to one local folk tale, trainmen would shout "West We Go" as the railroad cars were reconnected and pulled out of the station.
  • Church Point boasts the designation "The Buggy Capital of the World". A festival celebrates this designation annually on the first weekend in June.
  • The Creole House in French Settlement was built of cypress wood. It is typical of the dwellings built in the late 1800's because cypress was so plentiful in the surrounding swamps.
  • Fort Polk was established in 1941 and named in honor of the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana. On March 12, 1993, Fort Polk officially became the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center.
  • Pineville is home to a one of a kind museum called the Old Town Hall Museum. It is the only museum in the entire state of Louisiana dedicated to municipal government.

External links

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