37 Fun Facts About New Orleans

by Janis on February 1, 2016

Although we have visited the New Orleans on multiple occasions, a recent weekend visit piqued our interest to do a little background research on this a port city that straddles the Mississippi River in southeastern Louisiana.

Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana37 Interesting Facts About New Orleans, Louisiana

1. Around 2200 B.C., silt deposited by the Mississippi River formed the land mass that later became the city of New Orleans.

2. Native Americans settled in the New Orleans area around 400 A.D., according to archaeological evidence.

3. Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded Nouvelle-Orléans (the city of New Orleans) on May 7, 1718, naming it after Philippe II, Duke of Orléans who was Regent of the Kingdom of France at the time.

4. Bienville chose the site of New Orleans due to its location along a sharp bend of the Mississippi River that created a natural levee against hurricanes and the flood-prone river.

5. The original city of New Orleans was built in a rectangle block that is today’s French Quarter; it was centered around the Place d’Armes (Jackson Square.)

6. In 1762, France’s Louis XV gave Louisiana to his Spanish cousin, King Charles III as a secret provision of the 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau, confirmed the following year in the Treaty of Paris.

7. Spanish rule of New Orleans lasted only 40 years until Spain ceded control of the city back to France under the 1801 Treaty of Aranjuez and a royal bill issued by King Charles IV in 1802.

8. In April 1803, New Orleans became a part of the United States when Napoleon sold all of the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. under the Louisiana Purchase. The sale included 828,000 square miles of land that today makes up parts of 15 different U.S. states and two Canadian provinces.

9. After the Louisiana Purchase, New Orleans grew rapidly with influxes of Americans, French, Creoles, and Africans. This growth was fueled by the global popularity of sugar and cotton, which were cultivated with slave labor on large plantations outside the city, and traded worldwide through the port and city of New Orleans.

The Battle of New Orleans.

The Battle of New Orleans.

10. During of the War of 1812, 11,000 British forces tried to capture New Orleans. General Andrew Jackson, with support from the U.S. Navy, cobbled together a motley military force to defeat the British troops in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

11. New Orleans continued as a destination for immigrants, with the city’s population doubling in the 1830s. By 1840, New Orleans had become the wealthiest and the third-most populous city in the United States.

Giant Steamboats at New Orleans, 1853.

Giant Steamboats at New Orleans, 1853.

12. Large numbers of German and Irish immigrants began arriving in the 1840s, working as laborers in the busy port which connected movement of goods by steamship up and down the Mississippi River to connect the Midwestern U.S. to Europe and other global ports. By 1860, the city had nearly 170,000 people.

13. During the American Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865, Union forces captured the city New Orleans on May 1, 1862 and occupied it during the rest of the war.

14. While the population of New Orleans continued to rise from the mid-19th century through 1960, more rapid economic growth shifted to other areas of the United States as construction of railways and highways replaced river traffic, decreasing New Orleans’ prominence.

15. Following World War II, many for black residents left New Orleans for better opportunities in West Coast destinations.

16. Today New Orleans has an estimated population of 384, 320 residents and is the most populated city in the state of Louisiana.

17. The City of New Orleans and Orleans Parish cover the same areas. (The state of Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes rather than counties.)

18. New Orleans is famous for Mardi Gras, not to be confused with Carnival. The Feast of the Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, is the beginning of Carnival. Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday,” is the last day of the Carnival season as it always falls the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

New Orleans Carnival Krewes: The History, Spirit & Secrets of Mardi Gras

19. Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans since the 1730’s but the first Mardi Gras parade of floats followed by a ball for the krewe and their guests occurred in New Orleans on February 24, 1857 by the Krewe of Comus.

20. The first Mardi Gras celebrated in the United States actually took place in Mobile, Alabama, in 1703, rather than in New Orleans.

21. The first opera in the United States, however, was performed in New Orleans in 1796.

22. New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz music, an “energetic or vigorous”mixture of African and Creole rhythms with European styles and instruments.

23. New Orleans barber Buddy Bolden is credited with inventing jazz music in 1891.

24. While Harrah’s New Orleans is the only land-based private casino with table games in the state by Louisiana law,  the city is considered to be the birthplace of both poker and craps.

25. New Orleans is home to Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the world’s longest continuous bridge.

26. Because of the high water table, tombs in New Orleans’ cemeteries are located above the ground.

An aerial view from a United States Navy helicopter showing floodwaters around the entire downtown New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Louisiana Superdome is in the center.

An aerial view from a United States Navy helicopter showing floodwaters around the entire downtown New Orleans area following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Louisiana Superdome is in the center.

27. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome (commonly called The Superdome) — located in New Orleans’ Central Business District — covers a 13-acre expanse and has a diameter of 680 feet, making it the largest fixed domed structure in the world.

28. Beignets are a popular sweet treat in New Orleans made from deep-fried dough sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar. Other popular foods include muffulettas, red beans and rice, po’boys or gumbo.

29. Oysters Rockefeller was invented at Antoine’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

30. Cajun is the nickname for the French-speaking Acadians who migrated to Western Louisiana from Nova Scotia starting in 1755.

31. There’s no West, East, North or South directions in New Orleans. Instead, locals head Uptown, Downtown, Riverside and Lakeside.

32. The city of New Orleans is pronounced “New or-lins” or “new or-lee-yuns” but not “naw-lins” or “new orl-eens.” Both the parish and the avenue are, however,
pronounced “orl-eens.

33. The people who follow a brass band on the street while waving handkerchiefs in a circle above their heads in New Orleans are called second line. These folks do a special shuffle-step when they are following a band that is called “secondlining.”

34. Drinking alcohol on the street is allowed in plastic cups in New Orleans, so bars frequently provide patrons with plastic to-go cups.

35. Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy’s assassin, was born in New Orleans in 1939.

Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz music.

Louis Armstrong, jazz trumpeter from New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz music.

36. New Orleans is the birthplace of singer Louis Armstrong, writers Truman Capote and Anne Rice, as well as TV personalities Reese Whiterspoon and Ellen DeGeneres.

37. Elisha Archibald “Archie” Manning III  played quarterback for New Orleans Saints from 1971 to 1982, and raised his two famous quarterback sons — Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Eli Manning of the New York Giants — in New Orleans.

Learn more about New Orleans with these resources:

Fear Dat New Orleans: A Guide to the Voodoo, Vampires, Graveyards & Ghosts of the Crescent City

Walking New Orleans: 30 Tours Exploring Historic Neighborhoods, Waterfront Districts, Culinary and Music Corridors, and Recreational Wonderlands

The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square

What ‘fun fact’ can you add about New Orleans?

Other posts on New Orleans:

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