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about New Orleans

New Orleans is the largest city in the state of Louisiana, United States of America. By law and government, the city of New Orleans and the parish of Orleans Parish are one and the same .

New Orleans geography

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 907.0 km² (350.2 mi²). 467.6 km² (180.6 mi²) of it is land and 439.4 km² (169.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 48.45% water.

New Orleans history

Colonial Era

New Orleans was founded by the French (as Nouvelle-Orléans) under the direction of Jean Baptiste Lemoyne, Sieur de Bienville, in 1718. The site was selected as a rare bit of naturally higher ground along the flood-prone banks of the lower Mississippi, as well as being adjacent to a Native American trading route and portage between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain via the Bayou St. John (formerly known to the natives as Bayou Choupique). A community of French fur trappers and traders had existed along the bayou (in what is now Mid-City New Orleans) for at least a decade before the official founding of the city. Nouvelle Orleans became the capital of French Louisiana in 1722, replacing Biloxi in that role.

In 1763 the colony was ceded to the Spanish Empire as a secret provision of the Treaty of Fontainebleau, but no Spanish governor came to take control until 1766. Some of the early French settlers were never quite happy with Spanish rule, and repeatedly petitioned to be returned to French control. A fire destroyed 856 buildings in the city on March 21, 1788, and another destroyed 212 buildings in December of 1794; after this brick replaced wood as the main building material.

The population of New Orleans also suffered from epidemics of yellow fever, malaria, and smallpox, which would periodically return throughout the 19th century until the successful supression of the city's final outbreak of yellow fever in 1905. In 1795 Spain granted the United States "Right of Deposit" in New Orleans, allowing Americans to use the city's port facilities. Louisiana reverted to French control in 1801 after Napoleon's conquest of Spain, but in 1803 Napoleon sold Louisiana (which at the time also included the territory which are now several other states) to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. At this time the city of New Orleans had a population of about 10,000 people.

19th Century

From early days it was noted for its cosmopolitan polyglot population and mixture of cultures. The city grew rapidly, with influxes of Americans, French and Creole French, many of the latter fleeing from the revolution in Haiti. During the War of 1812 the British sent a force to try to conquer the city, but they were defeated by forces led by Andrew Jackson some miles down river from the city at Chalmette, Louisiana on January 8, 1815 (commonly known as the Battle of New Orleans).

The population of the city doubled in the 1830s and by 1840, the city's population was around 102,000, fourth largest in the U.S, the largest city away from the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the largest in the South.

The importance of New Orleans as a commercial center was reinforced when the Federal Government established a branch mint there in 1838, along with two other Southern branch mints at Charlotte, North Carolina and Dahlonega, Georgia. Such action was deemed necessary largely because in 1836 President Andrew Jackson had issued an executive order called a specie circular which demanded that all land transactions in the United States be conducted in cash, thus increasing the need for minted money. In contrast to the other two Southern branch mints, which only minted gold coinage, the New Orleans Mint produced both gold and silver coinage, which perhaps marked it as the most important branch mint in the country. The mint produced coins from 1838 until 1861, when Confederate forces occupied the building and used it briefly as their own coinage facility until it was recaptured by Union forces the following year. The mint machinery was evidently damaged during the war, but because of its importance, unlike the mints at Charlotte and Dahlonega, it was refurbished and put back into service in 1879, minting mainly silver coinage, including the famed Morgan silver dollar from 1879 to 1904. The New Orleans mint, whose coins can be identified by the "O" mintmark found primarily on the reverse of its coinage, earned a reputation for producing coins of a mediocre quality; their luster is usually not as brilliant as those of other mints, and center areas tend to be flattened and not sharply struck. As a result, today well-struck New Orleanian coinage is prized in the numismatic world. Despite its years of faithful service, in 1909 the mint was decommissioned and its machinery was transferred to the main U.S. Mint facility in Philadelphia, a sad event which stuck in the minds of Louisianans: twenty years later Governor Huey Long would rail against this loss when he ran for the office of U.S. Senator against incumbent Joseph Ransdell, who Long claimed had allowed this ignominious closing of the mint to occur. The building, constructed in the Neoclassical style like most 19th-century public buildings in the U.S. at the time, functions today at the north end of the French Quarter as a museum of both the minting activity and jazz music that has made New Orleans famous.

New Orleans was the capital of the state of Louisiana until 1849, then again from 1865 to 1880. As a principal port it had a leading role in the slave trade, while at the same time having North America's largest community of free persons of color. Early in the American Civil War it was captured by the Union without a battle, and hence was spared the destruction suffered by many other cities of the American South. It retains a historical flavor with a wealth of 19th century structures far beyond the early colonial city boundaries of the French Quarter. The city hosted the 1884 World's Fair, called the World Cotton Centennial. An important attraction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the famous red light district called Storyville.

20th Century

Much of the city is located below sea level and is bordered by the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, so the city is surrounded by levees. Until the early 20th century, construction was largely limited to the slightly higher ground along old natural river levees and bayous, since much of the rest of the land was swampy and subject to frequent flooding. This gave the 19th century city the shape of a crescent along a bend of the Mississippi, the origin of the nickname The Crescent City. In the 1910s engineer and inventor A. Baldwin Wood enacted his ambitious plan to drain the city, including large pumps of his own design which are still used when heavy rains hit the city. Wood's pumps and drainage allowed the city to expand greatly in area.

Canal Street, looking away from the river, 1920s

In the 1920s an effort to "modernize" the look of the city removed the old cast-iron balconies from Canal Street, the city's commercial hub. In the 1960s another "modernization" effort replaced the Canal Streetcar Line with busses. Both of these moves came to be regarded as mistakes long after the fact, and the streetcars returned to a portion of Canal Street at the end of the 1990s, and construction to restore the entire line was completed in April of 2004.

The suburb of Metairie, Louisiana saw great growth in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

While long one of the USA's most visited cities, tourism boomed in the last quarter of the 20th century, becoming a major force in the local economy. Areas of the French Quarter and Central Business District which were long oriented towards local residential and business uses switched to largely catering to the tourist industry.

A century after the Cotton Centennial Exhibition, New Orleans hosted another World's Fair, the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition.

A view across Uptown New Orleans, with the Central Business District in the background, 1990s

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "New Orleans, Louisiana".

This city is also known as: New Orleans.

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