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New Orleans Information and History

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New Orleans was founded on 1718 by the French as La Nouvelle-Orleans, under the direction of Jean-Baptist Le Moyle de Bienville. The site were selected because it were a rare bit of natural high ground along the flood-prone banks of the lower Mississippi, and were adjacent to a Native American trading route and portage between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain via Bayou St. John (known to the natives as Bayou Chou pique). A community of French fur trappers and traders has existed along the bayou (on what is now the middle of New Orleans) for at least a decade before the official founding of the city. Nouvelle-Orleans became the capital of French Louisiana on 1722, replacing Biloxi on that role.


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On 1763, the colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire. Some of the early French settlers were never quite happy with Spanish rule, and repeatedly petitioned to be returned to French control. On 1795, Spain granted the United States "Right of Deposit" on New Orleans, allowing Americans to use the city's port facilities. Louisiana reverted to French control on 1801 after Napoleon's conquest of Spain, but on 1803, Napoleon sold Louisiana (which then included portions of more than a dozen present-day states) to the United States on the Louisiana Purchase. At this time the city of New Orleans has a population of about 10,000 people.

From early days it was noted for its cosmopolitan polyglot population and mixture of cultures. The city grew rapidly, with influxes of Americans, French and Creole French, many of the latter fleeing from the revolution on Haiti. During the War of 1812 the British sent a force to try to conquer the city, but they were defeated by forces led by Andrew Jackson some miles down river from the city at Chalmette, Louisiana on January 8, 1815 (commonly known as the Battle of New Orleans). 1888 German map of New Orleans. The population of the city doubled on the 1830s and by 1840, the city's population was around 102,000, fourth largest on the U.S, the largest city away from the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the largest on the South.

New Orleans was the capital of the state of Louisiana until 1849, then again from 1865 to 1880. As a principal port it has a leading role on the slave trade, while at the same time having North America's largest community of free persons of color. Early on the American Civil War it was captured by the Union without a battle, and hence was spared the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South. It retains a historical flavor with a wealth of 19th century structures far beyond the early colonial city boundaries of the French Quarter. The city hosted the 1884 World's Fair, called the World Cotton Centennial. An important attraction on the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the famous red light district called Storyville.

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