New Orleans History
While traveling down the Mississippi from Canada, Sieur de la Salle, discovered
and claimed the marshy lands now known as New Orleans for France
in 1682. Unfortunately, Sieur de la Salle was murdered while in
Texas and the location of the area was lost.
New Orleans Settlement
Almost 20 years later two brothers, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville
and Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, led an expedition
from France to rediscover the mouth of the Mississippi, which they
succeeded in doing in 1699. Bienville later setup a fort in what
is now Biloxi, though, he had dreams of returning to the mouth of
the Mississippi. The French Monarchy instructed Bienville to establish
a settlement that could easily be protected from British expansion.
He chose the area that he and his brother had been to nearly two
decades prior. In 1718 the settlement named New Orleans was founded
in honor of the duc d’ Orleans.
Once construction of the settlement was complete, the settlers were
eager to start families in this opportune location. The only problem
was that there were no women to speak of. The settlers sent word
to France requesting women to be sent to New Orleans. Much to the
disappointment of the male settlers, France responded by sending
shiploads of prisoners, prostitutes, and women of low morals. Again
the settlers sent word back to France this time being more specific
in their request. They asked for women of marrying age, with good
morals, appropriate for marriage to fine French gentlemen. The French
Monarchy heard the settlers’ pleas and sent a group of young
women called the les filles a la cassetter or “casket girls”.
These women arrived with government issued trunks containing all
their worldly possessions and were temporarily given housing with
the Contingent of Urluline nuns until they could be properly courted
In 1723 New Orleans replaced Biloxi as the capital of the Louisiana
territory. Rich crops turned into wealth, and large estates sprung
up along the Mississippi. It’s also important to note that
officials established very liberal laws regarding slavery. Furthermore,
there were many free people of color living in New Orleans.
A settlement of French Canadians known as the Arcadians were removed
from their homes in Nova Scotia and later found new homes in New
Orleans. They brought their unique brand of the French language
and were the predominant ingredient in the areas Cajun culture.
Treaty of Fontainebleau
The French monarchy imposed strict laws on New Orleans. The settlers
were only permitted to trade with France. This did much to stunt
the growth of the settlement. In 1764 Louis XV gave New Orleans
along with much of the Louisiana territory to his cousin Charles
III of Spain. The treaty was called the Treaty of Fontainebleau.
To say the least, the colonists were not happy with the change.
To make things worse, it took Spain two years to send a governor.
When the new governor, Don Antonia de Ulloa, finally arrived he
was met with much opposition. He was quickly removed from his office
and sent back to Spain. New Orleans remained almost entirely free
from European rule until Spain returned two years later with 3,000
soldiers, squashed the rebellion, and re-imposed Spanish rule of
In 1788 much of the city was destroyed by fire. Spanish style bricks
and plaster was used in the reconstruction, though, builders attempted
to re-create much of New Orleans’ French architecture. Spain
also imposed restrictions on trade. However, in support of the American
Revolution, some trade with revolutionaries was permitted.
France regained control of Louisiana in 1800. Two years later Napoleon
sold the area to the United States for $15 million under what was
called the Louisiana Purchase. Americans soon arrived in New Orleans.
However, the city remained divided with the French society on one
side of Canal Street and the Americans on the other. Though, the
wealth and commercial success that came with the Americans did help
to warm relations. During the War of 1812, the union between Andrew
Jackson and Jean Lafitte united the community like never before.
The combined forces fought off nearly 2,000 British troops. Ironically,
the treaty that ended the war was signed two weeks prior on December
24th 1814 without Jackson’s or the British’s knowledge.
The removal of trade restrictions along with the invention of the
riverboat gave New Orleans’ economy a boost. New Orleans again
entered into a period of prosperity. The booming cotton and sugar
trade made many fortunes in New Orleans.
The Civil War
The Civil War and Louisiana’s succession from the Union in
1861 put and end to New Orleans’ prosperity as federal troops
marched into the city and occupied it until 1977. The reconstruction
period was a difficult time in New Orleans’ history.
During the 20th century, prosperity was brought back to New Orleans
with the continued expansion the port. Ultimately, New Orleans’
port grew to become only second to Amsterdam in annual tonnage.
Gradually commercial banks, high rises office buildings, and so
on were attracted to the city. Today New Orleans is a major business