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Louisiana State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1541—Hernando de Soto explores the lower Mississippi River

1682—Robert Cavelier claims the Mississippi River Valley for France

1714—Natchitoches, the first permanent settlement, is founded

1718—New Orleans is founded

1762—France gives Louisiana to England

1763—Acadians begin arriving from Canada

1803—The United States acquires Louisiana with the Louisiana Purchase

1812—Louisiana becomes the 18th state

1815—The Battle of New Orleans

1838—First Mardi Gras in New Orleans

1861—Louisiana secedes from the Union

1868—Louisiana is readmitted to the Union

1882—Baton Rouge becomes the state capital

1901—Oil is discovered near Jennings and White Castle

1916—Natural gas discovered near Monroe

1960—Public schools begin integration

1963—The Michoud Assembly Facility produces its first rocket

1963—The Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet opens

1977—Ernest Morial becomes New Orleans’ first mayor

1984—New Orleans hosts Louisiana World Exposition

1992—Hurricane Andrew causes extensive damage in Louisiana

Over 30 different Native American tribes lived in Louisiana when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto first visited the area in 1541.  In 1682, Robert Cavelier came down the Mississippi River and claimed the entire valley for France.  He named the area Louisiana, after King Louis XIV of France. 

In 1714 France established the first permanent settlement, Natchitoches, along the banks of the Red River.  New Orleans was founded in 1718.  Although Spain acquired Louisiana in 1762, French settlers continued to migrate to the region.  During the 1760s, Acadians forced from their homes by British troops came to Louisiana from eastern Canada.  Their descendents are now known as Cajuns. 

During the Revolutionary War, New Orleans was used as a base for Continental Congress to send supplies to the eastern colonies.  After the war, Spain gave Louisiana back to France.  In 1803, the United States bought the land from France in the Louisiana Purchase. 

The sugar industry grew quickly in Louisiana during the early 1800s.  A new method of growing sugar in large quantities, allowed plantations to grow sugar cane as a major crop.  A steamboat, the New Orleans, made its first trip down the Mississippi River in 1812.  This waterway soon made the city New Orleans an important trading center, as passengers and goods were transported to larger markets. 

Soon after Louisiana became a state on April 30, 1812, war broke out with Great Britain.  The British tried several times to capture New Orleans in 1815, but General Andrew Jackson and a little army of volunteers defeated the British. 

On Jan. 26, 1861, Louisiana seceded from the United States and joined the Confederacy a few months later.  During the Civil War (1861-1865), over 56,000 soldiers fought in the Confederate Army from Louisiana.  In 1862, Union soldiers captured New Orleans.  There was little fighting, but much property damage done throughout Louisiana.  Only three other states experienced more loss and destruction. 

After the war Louisiana was readmitted to the Union in 1868, but forced to accept a new constitution giving rights to African-Americans.  Reconstruction ended in Louisiana in 1877, later than any other southern state.  During the 1880s, new industries were developed.  The mouth of the Mississippi River was deepened allowing huge ships to enter New Orleans.  Railroads soon expanded from New Orleans to all major cities in the United States.  The lumber industry also expanded and rice became a major crop. 

During the early 1900s, discovery of oil and natural gas brought industrial growth to Louisiana.  Huey P. Long was governor of Louisiana during the Great Depression (1929-1939).  He provided thousands of jobs by expanding roads and highways in the state.  Education was improved with new school buildings and free children’s textbooks. 

World War II (1939-1945) helped the economy by bringing new industries to Louisiana.  Fuel, oil, and boats were required for the U.S. Navy.  Shipbuilding, oil, and gas industries continued to grow during the 1950s.  New factories were built and shipping increased greatly at the Port of New Orleans. 

Racial problems escalated during the end of the 1950s and 1960s.  The Louisiana State University became integrated in 1950.  Segregation on buses in New Orleans ended in 1958.  Soon afterward, all schools, restaurants, and state facilities were required to integrate.  In 1977, Ernest N. Morial became the first black mayor of New Orleans. 

Industry in Louisiana continued to grow until the mid-1980s.  Oil prices fell, hurting both the oil and service industries.  The aerospace industry also slowed when the space shuttle Challenger exploded.  Thousands lost their jobs and unemployment in the state reached a national high. 

Gambling was legalized in 1992, and new casinos have provided many Louisianans with jobs.  The tourism industry has also increased.