July 9, 2012

Louisiana – “The Pelican State”




 Just the Facts…

bird – Brown Pelican
flower – Magnolia
tree – Bald Cyprus
capital – Baton Rouge
union – 18th state on April 30, 1812
population – about 12 million




The Basics 

Louisiana is rich with both French and Spanish heritage, making it unique within America.  In fact, both Louisiana and New Orleans were named in honor of the French King, Louis XIV (“Orleans” is a region of France).  President Jefferson bought all the French land west of the Mississippi in 1803.  It was called the Louisiana Purchase and nearly doubled the size of America!

All of Louisiana is in the Gulf of Mexico Plain and as a result it is relatively flat with some rolling hills.  Louisiana has more wetlands than any other state, with its bayous, swamps, marshes and lagoons.  And some of the land in the southern part of Louisiana is actually below sea level!


Its Claim to Fame

Louisiana has a unique culture because of the diversity of people who have immigrated to its shores.  There were French, Spanish, and Acadian, in addition to Africans and people from the French West Indies.  The Acadians were from Nova Scotia, which was a territory of France until it was taken over by the British.  After the British took over, many Acadians left to avoid religious persecution (England’s official religion was Anglican and a majority of Acadians were Roman Catholic).  The combination of these diverse groups created the new cultures of Cajun and Creole which are so unique to Louisiana.

Louisiana’s French and Spanish heritage permeates much of its culture.  As an example, Louisiana does not have counties – rather, it has parishes.  In addition, the Louisiana legal system is different than any other state – it is a civil code based on French law (rather the English common law).  And, the French Quarter in New Orleans is structured like a French city, with its architecture being a combination of French and Spanish buildings.

The Mighty Mississippi River reaches the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana.  Once America purchased Louisiana, this became the main trade route for food and timber produced in the Midwest.  Transport by ship was cheaper and faster than transport by horse and wagon!  Goods from the Midwest would travel down the Mississippi to New Orleans and then be transferred to large ocean ships for transport to any other port in America.  And, New Orleans still is a major shipping port today – one of the largest in America!

What Makes it Tick

Louisiana is about shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp!   Shrimping has a long tradition in Louisiana.  Since the early settlements, shrimpers would use large nets and wade in the shallow lakes and bays along the coast.  Now, shrimp are caught both in those same shallow lakes but also out in the ocean.  How many ways can you cook a shrimp?  Just ask someone from Louisiana – from fried to boiled to steamed to baked – shrimp can be added to pretty much any creole or cajun dish!  Many shrimping communities in Louisiana have shrimp festivals, where the shrimp boat fleet is blessed for the upcoming season.

Louisiana has a huge about of oil and natural gas reserves and is a big player in the oil drilling and refinery business.  It was one of the first states to allow oil drilling in the middle of the ocean.   Now, many oil rigs are stationed offshore and pump oil from beneath the ocean’s floor.  Standard Oil Refinery began in Louisiana in 1909 and now it is one of the largest oil companies in the world (although now, because of various mergers, it is called Exxon).  Does your family fill your car with gas at an Exxon station?

Southern Louisiana produces much of the sugar that we eat in America.  The sugarcane plant was introduced to Louisiana in 1751 by a Jesuit priest, possibly from Santo Domingo.  Sugar cane plantations were a big part of Louisiana’s economy before the Civil War – and those plantations relied heavily on slave labor.  Around the time of the Civil War, the plantation owners of Louisiana were some of the wealthiest people in America.  The sugarcane industry had to change after the Civil War – it took some time but eventually automated machinery allowed for more efficiencies and the industry started growing again.  Now, Louisiana produces over one million tons of sugar annually.  I bet that the candy you had last week was made with sugar from Louisiana!


If You Lived There

If you visit Louisiana, you may tour the bayou on an airboat and look for alligators.  An airboat has a huge fan for a propeller.  The movement of air, rather than the movement of water, propels the boat forward.  Since there is no motor in the water, an airboat can be in shallow water without getting stuck.  It is this ability to navigate in shallow water that makes airboats so popular in swamps and bayous.  It doesn’t hurt that airboats can go fast – some even up to 35 miles per hour!

Or you may visit New Orleans – have a bowl of gumbo, listen to jazz music and take a ride on a streetcar.  New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz music and has an annual Jazz Festival.  The streetcar lines in New Orleans are some of the oldest in the country and are free to all who want to ride – you can even ride them over and over!

Want to Know More? 

Check our Louisiana state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Louisiana? Or, maybe you have visited Louisiana?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Louisiana?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Louisiana to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Louisiana.  Visit these websites to learn more: