While all of Louisiana may be known for its crawfish, Breaux Bridge reigns as king of crustaceans. The city is called the “Crawfish Capital of the World” and has been proving it for over 50 years with its annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. The Crawfish Festival has also become one of the largest gatherings of world famous Cajun musicians. All weekend long you can hear the sound of authentic Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop music rising from the festival. Whether your musical taste is Cajun or Creole, you can witness over 30 bands perform over the three day event if you think you have the stamina. It’s a perfect opportunity to see our musical tradition passed from generation to generation. Watch the Cajun dance contests, and if you’re brave, join in. There’s no better way to learn. There are even Cajun music workshops held in the heritage tent.
2. The first bottler of Coca-Cola, Joseph Biedenharn, lived in Monroe, where he purchased a small bottling plant to produce the drink. The plant is now a museum and can be toured year round. Young and old can connect to the gracious life of his daughter Emy-Lou through guided tours of the house. The rooms are exhibited as they were lived in, reflecting the eclectic taste of a well-traveled woman. In the furnishings and accessories, one will see Emy-Lou’s love of music, nature and family. Guests will enjoy the beauty of rare furniture and antiques featured in the library, music, dining, breakfast and living rooms. The bedrooms display crystal chandeliers, high tester beds, and artistic accessories highlighting Emy-Lou’s European singing career.
3. Louisiana was named in honor of King Louis XIV, the King of France from 1643-1715.
4. Until about 1890, City Park in New Orleans was a favorite dueling spot for Creole people. They would gather at the “Dueling Oaks” with a pistol, saber or colichemarde (long sword) and fight with their opponents. New Orleans City Park lost approximately 2,000 trees after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, but the Dueling Oak still stands where Dueling Oaks Drive meets Dreyfous Drive between the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden and the New Orleans Museum of Art. At one point, there was a placard that explained the tree’s historical significance, but it’s no longer there. Originally, there were two “dueling oaks,” but one was lost in a hurricane in 1949. In the 1800s, men would defend their pride and honor by dueling each other under the oaks at what is now City Park but then was a normally quiet spot secluded from the rest of the city. Some of the city’s most notable figures who participated in duels in City Park include U.S. Congressman Emile LaSere and Bernard de Marigny, a nobleman and president of the Louisiana Senate in 1822-23. Many of the disputes between parties were either reconciled before the duel or after one party sustained a minor injury. Dueling deaths were reported, however. In 1805, Micajah Green Lewis, Gov. William C.C. Claiborne’s private secretary and brother-in-law, was killed by Robert Sterry, a Claiborne opponent. By 1890, dueling was outlawed.
5. In 1803, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million dollars, nearly doubling the size of the country. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 brought into the United States about 828,000,000 square miles of territory from France, thereby doubling the size of the young republic. What was known at the time as the Louisiana Territory stretched from the Mississippi River in the east to the Rocky Mountains in the west and from the Gulf of Mexico in the south to the Canadian border in the north. Part or all of 15 states were eventually created from the land deal, which is considered one of the most important achievements of Thomas Jefferson’s presidency.
6. Just because it’s called the “French Quarter” doesn’t mean that being in New Orleans’ famous neighborhood is like strolling through a Parisian city. Most of the buildings today were influenced by Spanish architecture after a fire in 1794 destroyed most of the French colonial architecture. The fire started on December 8, 1794. The fire area stretched across 212 buildings, including the royal jail. It spared the Mississippi River front buildings. Among the buildings spared were the Customs House, the tobacco warehouses, the Governor’s Building, the Royal Hospital, and the Ursulines Convent. Despite widespread fire damage, the St. Louis Cathedral was not destroyed but was dedicated just 2 weeks later, on December 23, 1794.
7. Louisiana is the only state that still acts under Napoleonic code, which derives from the original French emperor’s civil code. It was drafted by a commission of four eminent jurists and entered into force on 21 March 1804. The Code, with its stress on clearly written and accessible law, was a major step in replacing the previous patchwork of feudal laws. Historian Robert Holtman regards it as one of the few documents that have influenced the whole world. The Napoleonic Code was not the first legal code to be established in a European country with a civil legal system; it was preceded by the Codex Maximilianeus bavaricus civilis (Bavaria, 1756), the Allgemeines Landrecht (Prussia, 1794), and the West Galician Code (Galicia, then part of Austria, 1797). It was, however,the first modern legal code to be adopted with a pan-European scope, and it strongly influenced the law of many of the countries formed during and after the Napoleonic Wars. The Napoleonic Code influenced developing countries outside Europe, especially in the Middle East, attempting to modernize their countries through legal reforms.
8. The town of Jean Lafitte was once a hideaway for pirates. It was also named after the French-born Louisiana pirate of the same name. The Barataria region was originally home to Native Americans, whose shell middens and ceremonial mounds are still found along the bayous. Shortly after the founding of New Orleans in 1718, the French explored the area and established Barataria Bay as a harbor for large vessels on the Gulf Coast. By the 1730s, early colonists used the area’s virgin forests of cypress and oak trees for ship construction. Canals were dug between the Mississippi River and bayous to transport lumber, and logging persisted until the last sawmill closed in 1929. Meanwhile, plantation owners cultivated the land for sugar and rice production, and the area was an important supplier of fish, game and furs. The name “Barataria” first appeared on French maps in 1729 and means dishonesty at sea. In 1808, brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte organized a group of smugglers and privateers and set up headquarters in the barrier island of Grand Terre. They were known to use Indian shell middens for storehouses and sold merchandise to merchants and plantation owners. During the War of 1812, the brothers joined Andrew Jackson to defend the City of New Orleans and were given pardons for their service. The bayou communities grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as residents harvested shrimp, crabs, oysters and fish from the estuaries. Forests were logged, moss was harvested for filling mattresses and furniture, and mink, muskrats and alligators were trapped for skin and fur. The diverse cultures of the early French and Spanish settlers were later joined by Croatians, who were followed by Filipino and Chinese.
9. There are almost half as many alligators as there are people in Louisiana. Louisiana alligator hunters currently harvest more than 28,000 wild alligators, and farmers harvest more than 280,000 farm-raised alligators annually. Raw meat and hide values are estimated at more than $11 million for wild harvest and more than $46 million for farm harvest. (Note these values consist of raw meat and hides only and do not reflect hide values after tanning and product manufacturing, values associated with jobs, tourism, economy, etc. or egg values.)
10. The first opera in the United States was performed in New Orleans in 1796. The date of the very first staging of opera in the Crescent City cannot be firmly established and seems forever lost to music historians. But it can safely be stated that since 1796, in the final decade of the Spanish colonial era, New Orleans has had operatic performances on almost a yearly basis. What is also significant is that, with few exceptions throughout the nineteenth century, each year the city hosted a resident company which was engaged for its principal theatre and which could be depended upon for performances throughout an established operatic season. The Théâtre St. Pierre, on St. Peter street between Royal and Bourbon, opened in October 1792. Louis Alexandre Henry had purchased the land the previous year and built the theatre, which featured plays, comedies and vaudeville. It was there, on May 22,1796, that the first documented staging of an opera in New Orleans, André Ernest Grétry’s Sylvain, took place. The St. Pierre closed in 1803 and the Théâtre St. Philippe, at St. Philip and Royal streets, opened January 30, 1808 with the American premiere of Etienne Nicholas Méhul’s Une Folie. During the first third of the nineteenth century there was slow yearly growth as various theatres opened (and in some cases closed) and the repertoire was expanded to include, in addition to the popular light scores of Grétry, Méhul, Nicolo Isouard, Nicholas Dalayrac and François Boieldieu, works by Italian composers such as Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Luigi Cherubini’s Les Deux Journées.