The City Of New Orleans - History


Read the
New Orleans City Guide 1938 (opens in a new window)

The Official Flag of the City of New Orleans was adopted by the Commission Council February 5, 1918 in honor of the City's Bi-Centennial. The white field is the symbol of purity in government; the blue stripe is liberty and the red is fraternity. The white field is five times as wide as the stripes of liberty and fraternity (or Union) because it is the mother of both; the combination of these three fundamental principles of good government constitutes DEMOCRACY (at least theorietically).

The three fleurs-de-lis grouped in triangular form represent the birth of New Orleans under the banner of the three fleurs-de-lis, the symbol representing the Bourbon throne; but these having since been snatched from the blue field of the banner of autocracy, now rest upon the field of purity and equality and symbolize democracy triumphant over autocracy.

The red, white and blue are the colors of the United States but are also the colors of France, and as New Orleans is the daughter of both, they are so grouped as to constitute a new and separate entity, which is now the flag of New Orleans.

(Condensed from "Raising of the Official flag of the City of New Orleans on the City Hall, February 9, 1918") Source:

The MARDI GRAS colors also hold a very important significance in New Orleans' culture.

PURPLE (Justice)...GREEN (Faith)...and GOLD (Power).

These colors, in format mimicking the flag of France with a twist that started when nouveau riche settlers in New Orleans decided to capitalize on the original heritage as a way to protect themselves and blend in to older established attributes of city culture...this is the age that truly represents what the losses due to Katrina are...the old theatres, restaurants, the old homes, much of the rest of what was left from the Age of Immigrants, alluding to the cultural heritage introduced by our founders...New Orleanians swear by these colors much more than the official city colors...these colors are our true unifying factor...the crown signifies that Carnival is KING!!!

New Orleans, Louisiana is located on the Mississippi River about 110 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico on the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

La Nouvelle-Orléans (New Orleans) was founded May 7, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company, under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville on land inhabited by the Chitimacha. It was named for Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, who was Regent of France at the time; his title came from the French city of Orléans. The French colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire in the Treaty of Paris (1763) and remained under Spanish control until 1801, when it reverted to French control. Most of the surviving architecture of the Vieux Carré (French Quarter) dates from this Spanish period. Napoleon sold the territory to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The city grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, and Creole French. Major commodity crops of sugar and cotton were cultivated with slave labor on large plantations outside the city.

The Haitian Revolution of 1804 established the second republic in the Western Hemisphere and the first led by blacks. Haitian refugees both white and free people of color (affranchis) arrived in New Orleans, often bringing slaves with them. While Governor Claiborne and other officials wanted to keep out more free black men, French Creoles wanted to increase the French-speaking population. As more refugees were allowed in Louisiana, Haitian émigrés who had gone to Cuba also arrived. Nearly 90 percent of the new immigrants settled in New Orleans. The 1809 migration brought 2,731 whites; 3,102 free persons of African descent; and 3,226 enslaved refugees to the city, doubling its French-speaking population.

During the War of 1812, the British sent a force to conquer the city. The Americans decisively defeated the British troops, led by Sir Edward Pakenham, in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

Read the New Orleans City Guide 1938 (opens in a new window)

Brief Timeline

  • 1718 Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and John Law founded the City of New Orleans and named it. The French Quarter street plan was made by Adrien de Pauger.
  • 1721 Population 470.
  • 1722 New Orleans becomes the Capital of the Louisiana Colony.
  • 1727 Ursuline Nuns arrive in New Orleans.
  • 1729 Indian massacre of the French at Natchez.
  • 1755 French Acadians (from what are now Nova Scotia & New Brunswick, Canada) began to arrive in New Orleans.
  • 1763 New Orleans becomes a Spanish colony by the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
  • 1767 New Orleans becomes Capital of Spanish Louisiana.
  • 1769 First Spanish Governor, Alexander (Bloody) O'Reilly takes control of Louisiana Colony, imposing what would now be referred to as martial law. French rebellion results in execution of five French leaders.
  • 1788 In the French Quarter, over 850 structures are destroyed by fire including the cathedral.
  • 1794 St. Louis Cathedral reconstruction is completed, including the usage of bricks from the St. Peter St. cemetery. Another large fire destroys buildings in the French Quarter. This was under the governorship of Don Almanester e'Roxas.
  • 1800 Louisiana secretly returned to France.
  • 1803 Louisiana Purchase, Napoleon I sells Louisiana to the United States. Population about 8,000.
  • 1812 Louisiana admitted to the Union as the 18th state. Population about 17,242.
  • First steamboat reached New Orleans.
  • 1814 -1815 General Andrew Jackson defeats the British ending the War of 1812. This battle took place several weeks after the war's official ending, signified by the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. American troops are supported by pirates provided by Jean & Pierre Lafitte - the pirates are later pardoned of any previous offenses.
  • 1827 The first officially recognized Mardi Gras celebration is held in New Orleans.
  • 1835 The United States Mint is built in New Orleans.
  • 1837 The first documented Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans.
  • 1840 Port of New Orleans ranked fourth in the World.
  • 1850 Place d'Armes officially renamed Jackson Square by the efforts of the Baroness Pontalba. It is rumored that she had a crush on Gen. Jackson and that is why his statue faces her bedroom window. Population 116,375.
  • 1852 New Orleans third largest city in the United States
  • 1853 Yellow Fever Epidemic (more than 7,000 died).
  • 1857 First modern Mardi Gras parade sponsored by a Krewe (Mardi Gras club).
  • 1861 Louisiana secedes from the Union.
  • 1862 New Orleans captured by Federal Troops under Admiral David Farragut, placed under the command of Gen. Benjamin (Beast or Spoon) Butler, so-called "The Beast" because of his imposition of "The Woman Order", a response to the disrespect of the Union troops by genteel Creole ladies who would often dump wash water (or worse) onto patrolling troops in the French Quarter. In effect the order mandated that "....women of New Orleans, who fashion themselves ladies, in their acts of contempt towards the soldiers of the United States herewith upon further infractions would be considered under the law as no better the the ladies of the streets (prostitutes) plying their trade". The outrage went across the Atlantic and ultimately resulted in his removal. He was also called "Spoon" because of his penchant for stealing silverware.
  • 1865 Louisiana returns to the Union.
  • 1872 Krewe of Rex organized
  • 1884 World Cotton Exposition
  • 1894 Krewe of Zulu organized
  • 1900 Population 287,104
  • 1909 The last coins are minted in New Orleans and the Mint is closed.
  • 1911 Loyola University is established.
  • 1916 Xavier College established.
  • 1921 The Vieux Carré (French Quarter) Commission is created.
  • 1958 City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street opened
  • 1960 Population peaks at 627,525
  • 1967 The New Orleans Saints franchise awarded
  • 1975 The Superdome is completed
  • 1984 Louisiana World Exposition
  • 1988 New Orleans hosts the Republican National Convention
  • 1997 (June 5) The Lafayette Cemetery Research Project founded by Sean M. Perry and the Friends of Lafayette Cemetery
  • 2005 The "Twisted Sisters" (Hurricanes Katrina and Rita - also referred to as "The Bush Twins) visit New Orleans...noted as one of the worst both man-made and natural (combined) disasters in the history of the US. Over 1,700 people died in Louisiana and some are still unaccounted for. The fact that the old levee system was inadaquate and antiquated had been in debate for decades.
  • 2006 Population under 150,000...reconstruction efforts underway. Attitude abounds...
  • 2007 Regrowth is slow, many are homeless -or own properties that are uninhabitable. Population estimated at 274,000 - 80% of it's pre-Katrina size.
  • 2008 While much of the city still suffers the after effects of Katrina & Rita, Hurricane Gustav comes inland from the Gulf. Though not as severe in New Orleans as Katrina & Rita, it makes the population both nervous and determined to rise above it - which they do.
  • 2009 We are New Orleans...we survive, thrive, rebuild and restore...we LOVE this city, it's culture, it's people, it's SOUL and the world needs to know it's beauty! We're staying...where y'at?