New Orleans, Louisiana is known across the world for its unique history and diverse culture. When you think of New Orleans, the first thing that comes to mind is likely to be the lively festivities of Mardi Gras, the beautiful architecture and shotgun houses, or the sound of jazz music playing in the streets. There is so much to love about this extraordinary southern town, but you may be wondering, how did New Orleans become what it is today? Let’s take a look at the fascinating history of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded La Nouvelle-Orleans, later known as New Orleans, in 1718. It was named after the Regent of France, Phillip II, Duke of Orleans. From the very beginning, the French founders of New Orleans intended for it to be an essential colonial city. Bienville directed engineers to build streets in a grid pattern in an area known today as the city’s “French Quarter”.
To avoid Louisiana falling under British control, it was ceded to Spain by the French. Louisiana, a Spanish colony, acted as an integral trading partner with Mexico and Cuba. While under Spanish control, New Orleans gained an array of Spanish architecture that transformed the city. The above-ground graveyards, wrought-iron balconies, and courtyards are all aspects of Spanish architecture that can still be seen to this day. Louisiana was then retroceded back to the French, and in 1803, Napoleon sold it to the United States in an agreement known as the Louisiana Purchase.
The first recording of Mardi Gras can be dated back to March 1699 in the journal of Iberville and Bienville. They wrote about their time at Point du Mardi Gras where they took part in a midwinter feast. Mardi Gras was then celebrated in Mobile and New Orleans by French colonists as they held private costumed balls and public festivals. The krewes and floats that we see today became a part of Mardi Gras in 1857 when the Mistick Krewe of Comus was formed. The first krewes of New Orleans set the stage for how people from all over the south would celebrate Mardi Gras.
During the Victorian era of New Orleans, the city saw a rise in the art and music scene. Jazz emerged in the later parts of Victorian New Orleans, and it quickly became one of the city’s greatest contributions to the nation. During this era in the late 1800s, influential organizations were created such as Audubon Park, The Fairgrounds, and The New Orleans Museum of Art. The diverse racial and ethnic communities that are deeply rooted in the history of New Orleans are what make the city’s music, art, and literary contributions historically impactful. To this day, New Orleans is celebrated for its diversity and one-of-a-kind culture that dates back to its origin. People from all over the world continue to visit New Orleans for its historic architecture, art, and community.