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New Orleans.

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.

Casket Girls
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 and wed.

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 the territory.

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.

Louisiana Purchase
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 center.


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