History and Government

  • French explorer Robert de LaSalle named Louisiana in honor of King Louis XIV.
  • Louisiana is the only American state to enter the Union (1812) with a non-English speaking group as its popular majority.
  • The Louisiana Purchase (1803) eventually formed all or part of 15 U.S. states (Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming), plus small portions of land that would become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • The city of Natchitoches, formed in 1714, is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Local governmental units in Louisiana are called parishes, not counties. They were originally church units set up by the Spanish provisional governor of Louisiana in 1669. Louisiana has 64 parishes.
  • Louisiana’s government has operated from five different capital cities throughout its history: New Orleans, Donaldsonville, Opelousas, Shreveport and Baton Rouge.
  • Baton Rouge was the site of the only American Revolution battle fought outside the original 13 colonies.
  • Zachary Taylor, who served as U.S. President from 1849 to 1850, is the only American president to have ever resided in Louisiana.
  • P.B.S. Pinchback, Louisiana’s governor during Reconstruction, was America’s first black governor.
  • Governor Bobby Jindal is the first governor of Indian-American descent in U.S. history.
  • Anh “Joseph” Quang Cao of New Orleans was the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress (2009 – 2011).
  • The Old U.S. Mint building in New Orleans is the only American mint facility to have produced both Union and Confederate currency during its tenure.

Geography

  • Louisiana has more than 4,000 miles of navigable waterways and 3,260 square miles of river surfaces, land-locked bays and inland lakes.
  • Toledo Bend Reservoir is the largest man-made lake in the South and the fifth largest in the U.S.
  • The Mississippi River exits the U.S. below New Orleans into the Gulf of Mexico. It is 2,350 miles long and it drains 41 percent of the U.S and three Canadian provinces—1.2 million square miles. That drainage basin is the fourth largest in the world, exceeded only by the watersheds of the Amazon, Congo and Nile rivers.
  • The exit point of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River into the Gulf of Mexico is one of the world’s only actively-growing river delta ecosystems.
  • Louisiana’s highest elevation is Driskill Mountain in Bienville Parish, which peaks at 535 feet above sea level. Louisiana’s lowest elevation is in New Orleans, at 8 feet below sea level.

Architecture

  • The Louisiana State Capitol is the tallest state capitol in the U.S. at 450 feet in height.
  • The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, with a length of 23.87 miles, is the world’s longest bridge built entirely over water.
  • The majority of the New Orleans French Quarter is actually Spanish in architecture.
  • The Upper Pontalba Apartments opened in 1850 on New Orleans’ Jackson Square and are the oldest continuously occupied multi-family apartments in America.
  • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans is the largest fixed domed structure in the world.
  • The African House at Melrose Plantation near Natchitoches is said to be the only example of Congo architecture in North America.
  • Nottoway Plantation in White Castle is the largest surviving antebellum plantation in the South.
  • Upon completion in 1909, the Plaquemine Lock connecting the Mississippi River and Bayou Plaquemine in Iberville Parish had the highest fresh water lift (51 feet) in the U.S. Its designer, George Goethals, later gained international distinction as the chief engineer for the design and construction of the Panama Canal.

Business

  • Sarah Breedlove, a free woman of color and Delta native known professionally as Madam C.J. Walker, used an extremely popular line of hair products to become the first self-made American female millionaire.
  • Eliza Jane Nicholson, who became publisher of The Times-Picayune in 1876, was the first female publisher of a daily metropolitan newspaper.
  • Delta Airlines evolved from a crop dusting operation in Monroe.
  • Monroe native Joseph Biedenharn was the first bottler of Coca-Cola.
  • New Orleanian Louis J. Dulfilho Jr. was the first licensed pharmacist in the U.S.
  • The Domino Sugar refinery near Chalmette is the largest sugar processing facility in North America.
  • The Steen’s Syrup Mill in Vermilion Parish is the world’s largest syrup plant.
  • The world’s largest heliport is in St. Mary Parish.
  • Avery Island’s salt mine was discovered in 1862, making it the oldest in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia is the oldest rice mill in the U.S.
  • The LouAna Foods processing facility in Opelousas is America’s largest independent cooking oil refinery.
  • Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans is the oldest family-run restaurant in the U.S.

Education

  • Centenary College, formed in Jackson in 1825 and later moved to Shreveport, is the oldest chartered college west of the Mississippi River.
  • Southern University in Baton Rouge is the largest predominantly black university in the U.S.
  • Xavier University in New Orleans is the only predominantly black and Catholic university in the U.S.
  • The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is the only university in the U.S. with a swamp on its campus.

Religion

  • The first church in the Louisiana Purchase was built in 1699 near Bayou Goula by Jesuit Father Paul Du Ru during his travels with French explorer Iberville.
  • The Madonna Chapel in Bayou Goula, with dimensions of only eight by eight feet, is one of the smallest churches in the U.S.
  • St. Augustine Catholic Church in Natchitoches Parish is said to be the oldest Catholic church formed by people of color in the U.S.
  • Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Opelousas is said to have the largest Catholic congregation of African-Americans in the U.S.
  • A small chapel honoring St. John Berchmans at the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau is the only shrine at the exact location of a confirmed miracle in the U.S.
  • The Jesuit Spirituality Center at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau was the site of the first Jesuit college in the South (1837).

Arts and Culture

  • New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz. Southwest Louisiana’s “Cajun Prairie” is the indigenous home to Cajun and zydeco music.
  • The first opera performed in the U.S. was in New Orleans in 1796.
  • Former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis is better known for his popular recorded rendition of You Are My Sunshine, the second most recognized song in the world.
  • The ascension of Elvis Presley’s musical career began at The Louisiana Hayride, a recurring radio-broadcast concert series at Shreveport’s downtown Municipal Auditorium from the 1940s to the 1960s. Presley’s first Hayride performance was in 1954.
  • Other notable musicians who began their careers at The Louisiana Hayride include Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, George Jones, Faron Young, Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells.
  • Opelousas native Clifton Chenier, the “King of Zydeco,” was the first Creole to receive a Grammy on national television.
  • Cuisine that is indigenous to Louisiana includes crawfish (a freshwater shellfish resembling a miniature lobster), gumbo (a hearty soup thickened with a roux, a skillet-browned oil and flour) and jambalaya (a rice and meat dish similar to a Spanish paella).

Lagniappe

  • The site of one of the oldest and most archaeologically significant North American civilizations is Poverty Point in West Carroll Parish, near Monroe, where a village among earthen mounds existed 3,500 years ago.
  • St. Mary Parish resident Jimmie Wedell was the first aviator to break the 300 mph mark.
  • The crime spree of noted gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was ended by an ambush in Bienville Parish in 1934.
  • The Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo is the oldest fishing tournament in the U.S.
  • The Gillis W. Long Center in Carville, a former sugar cane plantation home, was one of only two Hansen’s disease facilities in the U.S. It operated from 1894 to 1996.
  • An eight-day 1953 bus boycott by black residents in Baton Rouge was the first of its type in the U.S., preceding by two years the more publicized Montgomery, Ala., boycott led by Rosa Parks.
  • The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, the site of at least 10 deaths due to murder or odd circumstances, is said to be one of the most haunted structures in the U.S.
  • A marble pole near Logansport near the Louisiana/Texas state line once marked the boundary between the U.S. and the Republic of Texas. This is the only known surviving international boundary marker in the continental U.S.