New Orleans Birthday


Taken From Writer’s Almanac 25 August.

On this day in 1718, French immigrants founded the city of New Orleans. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville named the new settlement for Philippe II, the Duke of Orléans. The duke was the regent of France, ruling in place of King Louis XV, who was only a boy. The French had claimed the Louisiana Territory in 1682, and the location of New Orleans – at the mouth of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers – meant that it was prime real estate for anyone who wanted to control America’s large interior waterway. Though the city never lost its French character, it was blended with elements of Native American, African, and Spanish cultures.

To get things started, France sent a starter population of prisoners, slaves, and bonded servants. They arrived in New Orleans to find a mosquito-ridden swamp that was surrounded by hostile Native Americans, and prone to hurricanes. The new settlers threatened to revolt, so the French government sent 90 female convicts straight from the Paris jails. These ladies of questionable repute were chaperoned by a group of Ursuline nuns until they could be married off to the men who awaited them.

Two engineers laid out plans for a the original walled village, which later came to be known as the French Quarter or the Vieux Carré – the Old City. Though it’s called the French Quarter, the architecture of the area is mostly Spanish in influence, since fire destroyed most of the original buildings in the 18th century. By that time, the city was under the control of the Spanish, who rebuilt the quarter. New Orleans became an American city in 1803, when Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States government.

Tom Robbins wrote, in Jitterbug Perfume (1984): “Louisiana in September was like an obscene phone call from nature. The air – moist, sultry, secretive, and far from fresh – felt as if it were being exhaled into one’s face. Sometimes it even sounded like heavy breathing. Honeysuckle, swamp flowers, magnolia, and the mystery smell of the river scented the atmosphere, amplifying the intrusion of organic sleaze. It was aphrodisiac and repressive, soft and violent at the same time. In New Orleans, in the French Quarter, miles from the barking lungs of alligators, the air maintained this quality of breath, although here it acquired a tinge of metallic halitosis, due to fumes expelled by tourist buses, trucks delivering Dixie beer, and, on Decatur Street, a mass-transit motor coach named Desire.”


About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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9 Responses to New Orleans Birthday

  1. stutleytales says:

    Very interesting, Bruce. That is one state I’ve never been to or through. Just might have to pay them a visit… 🙂

  2. authorjim says:

    Informative. I don’t think I would have wanted to be there in those early days.

  3. fascinating Bruce….

  4. I love the description of the place Bruce. I’m sure the arrival of 90 women would have restored some sense of life to the colony. 😉

  5. I always enjoyed a visit. Loved staying in the French Quarter. Haven’t returned since Katrina.

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