Louisiana entered the Union on April 30, 1812,as the 18th state. In 1861 it became a founding member of the Confederate States of America. The state economy was long dominated by agriculture. By the 1990s, however, exploitation of the state's vast petroleum and natural-gas deposits had made Louisiana the second most important mineral-producing state in the U.S. Tourism was a rapidly growing sector of the economy, and manufacturing was also important. The state's name derives from the former French territory lying west of the Mississippi River, which was named Louisiane by the French explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, in honor of King Louis XIV. Louisiana is called the Pelican State.
Louisiana is made up of three lowland regions. The West Gulf Coastal Plain occupies almost the entire western half of the state. The plains slope gently downward from north to south. The coast is characterized by ridges of sand known as barrier beaches. Inland from the beaches lies a zone of marshes containing numerous salt domes (large underground masses of salt). The remainder of the region is a gently rolling prairie land, underlain by clay-loam soils. The Mississippi Alluvial Plain in part straddles the Mississippi River. Paralleling the river is a series of low ridges known as front lands. As these ridges slope away from the river, they form a flat terrain called backlands. The Mississippi delta, an enormous geographic feature covering some 38,850 sq km (about 15,000 sq mi), has been formed and is continually expanded by the accumulation of silt from the river. The Alluvial Plain is underlain by thick deposits of fertile alluvial soil. The East Gulf Coastal Plain covers a small area north of Lake Pontchartrain. Marshes characterize its southern extremity, gradually giving way in the north to rolling prairies.
Rivers and Lakes
Louisiana has a markedly riverine environment. The Mississippi River and its major tributaries, which include the Red, Ouachita, and Atchafalaya rivers, have deposited so much material that their beds are now higher than much of the surrounding land. That land must be protected by nearly 3220 km (nearly 2000 mi) of levees and other flood-control devices. Natural flood-control drainage takes place within a series of bayous (swampy outlets of rivers.) The Black, Pearl, and Sabine rivers are also important to the state's drainage system. The brackish Lake Pontchartrain is the state's largest inland water body. Oxbow lakes (freshwater lakes occupying old river channels) are found along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
Louisiana has a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Average annual temperatures range from about 20.6° C (about 69° F) in the south to about 18.3° C (about 65° F) in the west and north. The high summer temperatures, generally throughout the state, are usually accompanied by high humidity and frequent rainfall. The recorded temperature in the state has ranged from -26.7° C (-16° F) in 1899 to 45.6° C (114° F) in 1936.
Louisiana receives ample rainfall throughout the year. Annual precipitation ranges from about 1270 mm (about 50 in) in the north to more than 1525 mm (more than 60 in) in the south. Rainfall totals are often increased as a result of hurricanes that may strike the coast of Louisiana in late summer and early autumn.
Plants and Animals
Louisiana has an abundance and diversity of plant and animal life. Commercial forests cover nearly half of the state's total area. Hardwoods, particularly oak, are mixed with shortleaf pine throughout the northwest. Cyprus and oak forests, frequently covered by Spanish moss, thrive throughout the lowland south. Flowering plants, including azalea, magnolia, camellia, lily, and orchid, are also common. Small mammals such as mink, raccoon, opossum, and skunk occupy the woodlands. Deer and wildcat are found in the wooded swamp country. Alligators are confined to the bayous and marshes. Birdlife is especially diverse; wild ducks and geese winter in southern Louisiana, where the brown pelican is also found. Fish life abounds, with bass, sunfish, and catfish the most common freshwater varieties. The Gulf of Mexico provides commercial fishers with tarpon, pompano, and menhaden.
Louisiana is extremely rich in mineral resources, of which petroleum and natural gas are by far the most important. The major oil fields are located in the southern portions of the state, offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the northwest. Significant salt and sulfur
deposits are found throughout the coastal marsh region, as are commercial quantities of sand, stone, and clay.
New Orleans, with its cosmopolitan style and Creole architecture and cuisine, is a cradle of jazz and the cultural heart of Louisiana. The city has more than ten museums, including
the Louisiana State Museum, with historical exhibits; the New Orleans Museum of Art, containing European, pre-Columbian, and African painting and sculptures; a jazz museum;
and the Mardi Gras museum. Other museums are in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Shreveport. Louisiana's largest libraries are the Louisiana State Library and the library of Louisiana State University, both in Baton Rouge. New Orleans Preservation Hall jazz concerts are nationally famous. New Orleans also has a theater company and symphony orchestra. Other symphony orchestras are in Shreveport and Baton Rouge.
Historical landmarks reflect the colorful past of the state, which was a territory of both France and Spain before becoming a United States territory in 1803. The Vieux Carré Historic District (French Quarter) in New Orleans is noted for 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including the huge Saint Louis Cathedral (1794). Jean Laffite National Historical Park and Preserve includes the site of the Battle of New Orleans (1815).
Sports and Recreation
Hunting, fishing, and water sports are the main recreational activities. The annual Sugar Bowl postseason college football game attracts thousands of spectators. New Orleans supports a major league football team. The leading attraction of Louisiana, however, is the Mardi Gras festival in New Orleans each spring. This celebration includes parades, street dancing, and costume balls.
The forestlands of Louisiana contain a rich variety of both softwoods and hardwoods. Among the important commercial species are southern pine, oak, ash, cypress, gum, cottonwood, and willow. Louisiana ranks among the leading states in yearly plywood production.
Louisiana has rich coastal and inland fishing waters, and although fishing accounts for less than 1% of the annual gross state product, the annual catch (by weight) landed in Louisiana is greater than that of any other state, except Alaska. More than three-quarters of the catch is menhaden. Shrimp is the second largest catch by volume but is first in value. Oysters and blue crabs are also significant. Pisciculture (fish farming) is important in the production of crayfish and catfish.
Louisiana usually is the second-ranking state (behind Texas) in annual mineral output. Mining accounts for about 12% of the annual gross state product. About 15% of the petroleum and about 28% of the natural gas produced in the U.S. come from Louisiana. The state is the nation's largest producer of salt and is second in the production of sulfur. Other significant minerals include lime, high-silica glass sands, clay, and gravel.
Each year more than 24 million visitors produce more than $4.7 billion for the Louisiana economy. The hub of this tourism industry is New Orleans. The quiet old-world charm of the French Quarter is periodically disturbed by celebrations at the time of Mardi Gras, the Sugar Bowl football game, and major events at the Superdome. The state is also noted for its Gulf and freshwater fishing and for its excellent hunting opportunities, as well as Thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing. Louisiana maintains a system of 26 parks and recreation areas.
The authentic history of Louisiana begins with the year 1682, when Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, descended the Mississippi River and took possession of the entire valley in the name of Louis XIV, king of France, in whose honor he named it Louisiana.
La Salle's attempt to establish a colony in Louisiana in 1687 ended in his death. In 1698 a second venture was made by Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d'Iberville, who built a fort at Biloxi and another on the Mississippi about 65 km (about 40 mi) north of its mouth. Under Iberville, the colony experienced slow growth because of the heat, the fever-producing swamps, and shortage of food. In 1711 Louisiana was made an independent French colony, and in 1712 Louis XIV granted to Antoine Crozat, a Paris merchant, the exclusive privilege of trade and mining in Louisiana for a period of 15 years. After investing a large fortune in fruitless attempts to develop the country, Crozat surrendered his charter in 1717. The region passed into the hands of the Company of the West, headed by the financier John Law, who proceeded to engineer his unsuccessful Mississippi Scheme. Colonization was actively carried on. New Orleans, which had been founded in 1718, was made the capital in 1722. The growth of the colony was hampered by the restrictive commercial policy of the company and incessant quarrels among its officials. In retaliation for the massacre of the French inhabitants at Fort Rosalie in 1729, warfare was carried on with the Natchez people until they were subdued; in operations against the Chickasaw the French were less successful.
In 1733 Louisiana came directly under the French crown, and for 30 years its status remained unchanged. In 1763, as a result of European wars, France ceded Louisiana east of the Mississippi (with the exception of the island of Orleans) to Great Britain, the region
west of the river with the city of New Orleans having been ceded to Spain by a secret treaty in the preceding year. With the development of the Kentucky and Tennessee regions, the inhabitants of which required an outlet for their produce, the free navigation of the Mississippi River became a matter of concern to the U.S., which had won its independence in 1783. When the Spanish denied the Americans free access to the Gulf of Mexico, a situation arose that might have led to war, but it resulted instead in the United States purchase of Louisiana (see LOUISIANA PURCHASE) from the French in 1803. In 1804 the region south of latitude 33° was organized as the territory of Orleans, and the country to the north became the territory of Louisiana in 1805 and the territory of Missouri in 1812.
Louisiana was admitted to the Union on April 30, 1812. On January 8, 1815, an important American victory in the War of 1812 was achieved at New Orleans. Following the war, river trade, heightened by the invention and use of the steamboat, made New Orleans a major port; by 1840 the city was second only to New York City in tonnage handled. The economic development of the state was rapid and accompanied by constitutional changes that harmonized the old civil law with principles of the common law and republican institutions. In 1845 the choice of governor was given directly to the people, and in 1852 many judicial offices were made elective. In 1849 Baton Rouge became the capital.
Civil War and Reconstruction
On January 26, 1861, a convention passed an ordinance of secession from the Union without submitting it to a popular vote. With the outbreak of the American Civil War the commerce of New Orleans disappeared almost entirely, and great want ensued throughout the state. In May 1862, New Orleans was occupied by Union troops, a military government was established, and the courts were reorganized. In 1864 a convention elected by the Union element in the state framed a new constitution emancipating black slaves immediately and unconditionally. In 1866, however, the state government legislated
against the freed slaves; an attempt made by the Unionists to reconvene the convention of 1864 in order to revise the suffrage requirements led to a riot in New Orleans in which
nearly 200 blacks were killed, and throughout the state blacks and white Republicans were terrorized. Following the war, on March 2, 1867, Louisiana became a part of the Fifth Military
District under General Philip Henry Sheridan. In 1868 a new constitution enfranchising the blacks was adopted, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, and military occupation came to an end in July. The majority of white residents were slow in accepting the new conditions, and bitter feeling and turbulence marked the political scene. This strife continued.
In 1928 Huey Pierce Long was elected governor of the state. His program for vast public expenditures so antagonized His political opponents that they began impeachment proceedings in 1929. The failure of these proceedings strengthened Long's position, and he assumed virtual dictatorial powers. In 1935 Long, then a U.S. senator but still dominating Louisiana politics, was assassinated. The Long political machine, however, continued to function. With the rapid expansion of Louisiana's shipbuilding and petrochemical industries during World War II and a sharp increase in oil and gas production, the port of New Orleans assumed major importance. Shipping gained redoubled momentum with the 1963 opening of a 122-km (76-mi) canal, a shortcut between New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico. New Orleans also became a rocket-production site for the National Aeronautics and Space
Union, Justice, and Confidence.
Louisianna state motto.