Spain ran its rule over this area, finding the mouth of the Mississippi in 1519 and exploring the area in the 1540s. Finding none of the riches discovered elsewhere in the Americas they did no more. In 1681-2 French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle travelled from Montréal across the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi to its mouth. He claimed the Mississippi basin for France and named it Louisiana in honour of the King Louis XIV. The end of the French & Indian War in 1763 saw France cede most of Louisiana to Spain and the rest to Britain. At the end of the revolutionary war, US territory extended to the east bank of the Mississippi, apart from the Spanish area at the mouth. Concern about this increased after France regained control in 1800. Under the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the US bought the entire territory for $15m. Modern Louisiana was carved of of this territory and gained statehood in 1812.
Riverboat 'President' at New Orleans
A side wheeler rather than the more traditional stern wheeler, the President was a magnificent sight moored at New Orleans in 1982. Originally called the Cincinnatti she was built in 1924 and operated in her early years between Louisville and Cincinnati. From 1941 to 1985 she was used for short cruises along the Mississippi from New Orleans. In 1990 she was moved to Iowa for conversion into a floating casino but retired form that role in 1999. She has now been bought by businessmen from landlocked St. Elmo in Illinois who wanted to turn it into an attraction on land in their city. They cut up the President to transport her to St. Elmo but have not found the money to reassemble her. Sadly, her future appears very uncertain. Click Tab 2 to see the stage on the President in her New Orleans days.
Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge
The original capital of the state of Louisiana was New Orleans but from 1846 to 1862 the capital moved to Baton Rouge. In January 1861 the decision was taken that Louisiana as a slave state should join the Confederate side in the Civil War. However the strategic importance of the Mississippi meant that it was an early target for Union forces and both New Orleans and Baton Rouge were captured in 1862. Statehood and the Civil War did not destroy Louisiana’s French culture, indeed the language was still widely spoken into the early 20th century when fears that it was a barrier to growth prompted the legislature to take steps to promote English as the main language. Baton Rouge became the permanent capital of Louisiana in 1879 and the current State Capitol was completed in 1932. It is the tallest Capitol in the USA, 137 metres (450 feet) high with an observation deck on the 27th floor that provides views across the city. The building of the capitol was directed by Governor Huey P. Long, who in 1935 as a Senator was shot in the Capitol by the son-in-law of a Judge who he was trying to oust. Long died two days after he was shot.
Bayou Teche, Franklin
A bayou is a slow moving or static body of water found in the low lying country of the Mississippi River region. Although bayou is thought to have been derived from the Choctaw Indian word bayuk (small stream), it is most associated with the culture of the French speaking Acadians (or Cajuns) who used the Bayous for transport and settled on their banks. Bayou Teche runs from Port Barre to Patterson where it joins the Lower Atchafalaya River.
Arna Bontemps Home, Alexandria
The Civil War may have given slaves their freedom, but Louisiana and other states passed ‘Jim Crow’ laws that imposed racial segregation and made blacks second class citizens. As a result, most blacks in Louisiana remained poor and uneducated. Black poet and author Arna Bontemps was lucky. He was born in Alexandria, Louisiana in 1902 but at the age of seven he and his family moved to California, beyond the reach of the ‘Jim Crow’ laws. He graduated from Pacific Union College in California in 1923 and then went on to teach at Harlem Academy in New York. He is credited with writing over 20 books, plays and anthologies, and when he died in Nashville in 1973 he was working on his autobiography. The house where he was born has been opened as an African American Museum.
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Alexandre Mouton House, Lafayette
Acadian Jean Mouton built the oldest part of this house around 1800 as a Sunday house. In 1821 he founded the town of St. Jean du Vermillionville, later shortened to Vermillionville. In 1884 the city changed its name to Lafayette after the Marquis of Lafayette. Jean Mouton’s son Alexandre was born in 1804, the year after Louisiana became part of the USA. Alexandre became Governor of Louisiana and served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, US Senator and president of the Louisiana Secession Convention. He lived in the house until his death in 1885. The house is now a museum with displaying period pieces and local artefacts. This picture has been modified to remove unsightly wires.
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Shreveport from Bossier City Boardwalk
Shreveport is in north east Louisiana, close to the border with Texas. It was established in the 1830s when Captain Henry Shreve made the Red River navigable to this point by removing a giant logjam that was blocking the river for nearly 300 kilometres (180 miles). With steamboats able to serve the town and it soon became a thriving commercial centre. On the opposite bank of the river was the village of Bennett’s Bluff, named after William Bennett who owned an adjacent plantation with business partner James Cane. After Bennett’s death the plantation and the area became known as Cane’s Landing. Later, the village was optimistically renamed Cane City and then Bossier City. During the Civil War, Shreveport became the capital of Louisiana after Baton Rouge and Opelousas both fell into Union hands. In 1884 the railroad arrived, linking Shreveport and Bossier City. Nowadays they have become a single metropolitan district. Louisiana legalised gambling on riverboats in 1991 and the proximity of Shreveport and Bossier City to big Texan cities such as Dallas helped them to developed as gambling centres. This picture shows the Eldorado & Sam's Town casinos in Shreveport from the Bossier City Boardwalk, a riverside shopping mall.