New Orleans History and Culture

It's no mystery that New Orleans has quite a colorful past.
New Orleans History and Culture
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is famous for great food, great music, lively and colorful nightlife and, of course, the bawdy good times of Mardi Gras. It's no mystery that America's most European city has quite a colorful past.

It was 1718 when Sieur de Bienville, a Frenchmen, chose to settle in The French Quarter of New Orleans. The Sun King, Louis XIV, had fallen, and the French Crown was passed to his great grandson, Louis XV, who was only a child. It was during this time that a savvy, but unscrupulous Scotsman, John Law, manipulated his way into the French court and befriended Philippe, a regent in the Court.

In 1717, Law was awarded a 25 year charter to exploit the New World territory called Louisiana. Law sent Bienville to the territory with orders to establish a new settlement and name it after the duke, La Nouvelle Orleans.

Law operated a huge land scam and sold property in New Orleans to Europeans for a pretty penny.

The settlers, upon arriving in this foreign land, found no gold, silver or riches as promised by Law... rather, a rugged wilderness of swampland, palmetto huts and mosquitos.

Life was difficult, to say the least, but the heartiest survived, and multiplied (Note: In 1727, 88 women were released from Parisian prisons to become the brides of these early settlers.) Hurricanes, floods and Indian attacks plagued the settlers, but by 1737, New Orleans had become a crown colony.

In 1762, the Treaty of Fountainbleu and the Treaty of Paris gave Louisiana to the Spanish, and, in 1769, New Orleans a Spanish Governor, Don Alexandro O'Reilly, took command. New Orleans was a flourishing seaport and the population grew tremendously under Spanish rule. European ships and Yankee flatboats poured down the Mississippi River on a regular basis.

The 1800's brought the retro ceding of the Louisiana Territory to France once again. The secret Treaty of Il defonso accomplished this important step on Oct. 1, 1800. Napoleon Bonaparte, first consul of France, planned to take control of the territory, and that greatly disturbed President Thomas Jefferson.

So, he sent Robert Livingston to Paris to purchase New Orleans. He succeeded in getting the entire Louisiana Territory for the sum of $15 million. This became known as the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1805, New Orleans was incorporated as a city and in 1812, Louisiana was admitted into the Union. Americans poured down river and began to build beautiful homes west of the French Quarter. Fights between the French and the rich, new American arrivals were common and the land separating them became known as the "neutral ground."

Later, this strip of land, originally planned as a canal connecting the Mississippi to Lake Ponchartrain, was named Canal Street. It remains one of the widest avenues in the world and the median down the center of the street is still referred to as "Neutral Ground."

Congo Square was the location of the only legal gathering place for African slaves and free people of color. It was through the culture established by frequent gatherings in Congo Square that much of the African American music and culture was preserved and the American version of voodoo was born.

The last battle of the last war between the U.S. and Great Britain was fought in New Orleans. The Mississippi River was the cause of the war and Jackson brought Tennessee Volunteers to New Orleans to fight side-by-side with pirates, free blacks, Creoles, Choctaw Indians and Kaintucks. Great Britain was defeated and New Orleans went on to become a boomtown.

New Orleans is one of the largest ports in the U.S. and the world. Despite the money spent yearly on renovations, New Orleans retains its Old World aura, carefully preserving its history, music and famous creole cuisine.

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