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New Orleans at 300: The Crescent City’s Tricentennial

Since I’m from New Orleans, I have written posts related to my home town on Mardi Gras, the Battle of New Orleans, and the Louisiana Purchase.  But now there is something really exciting happening – 2018 marks the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.  To highlight this occasion, Science and Business staff are going to publish New Orleans-themed posts throughout 2018.

Map of New Orleans and vicinity, ca 1819. //www.loc.gov/item/2003623382/

We started with a teaser post back in September and asked for comments from readers, but it has been difficult deciding on the first post for 2018.  I could write a long post about all the things that make NOLA great, but I wanted to keep it somewhat brief.  I also wanted it to be business-oriented.

There were a few business ideas that initially jumped out. I thought about writing something about how the French colonies were supposed to be economically beneficial for their sponsors, or to write about the port and all of the trade activities involving sugar and coffee, or how the city had been a very big banking center.  However, I didn’t want to start out with posts on these topics but they may still make an appearance.   I think a post about the old French Market will be a good jumping off point for a business post but I think I may wait a bit on that.  Then there was the idea to write about New Orleans’ most well-known contribution to WWII – the Higgins boats – but that is something a co-worker is considering writing about.

Mississippi River at the French Quarter featuring the Natchez, 2017. Photo courtesy Ellen Terrell.

Since a post about the fires and the storm that shall not be named that nearly destroyed the city are not topics to write about when celebrating, I thought about researching how the previous big anniversaries were celebrated.   I didn’t find much about the centennial, and the bicentennial happened during WWI, so that made planning a challenge and limited activities. I did find, however, that the adoption of the current flag of New Orleans in 1918 commemorated the bicentennial.

Since this is business and science themed blog, I also discarded ideas about Streetcars, Edgar Degas’ time in the city, and the Ursuline’s contribution to the city’s education and religious history even though it is dear to my heart since I am a graduate.  I also discarded other non-business ideas related to the French Quarter (Vieux Carre ) even though the history behind the Cabildo, the Presbytere, and the buildings that line Jackson Square (Place d’Armes) built by the Baroness de Pontalba would be interesting.

Lower Pontalba Building. Corner of St. Anne and Charters, 2017. Photo courtesy of Ellen Terrell.

The cultural things were a direction to go but they weren’t Business either.  Since I have already written about Mardi Gras that was something I didn’t need to do (though one about the infamous 1873 Mystic Krewe of Comus parade that used Darwin’s Origin of Species as inspiration would be an interesting jumping off point for a science themed post).  Music always such an important part of the city, seemed like a rich treasure to pull from, but was out of my bailiwick.  Hopefully other blogs will do something about Jazz or the musicians – King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, and Louis Armstrong which would be an amazing post as would one that featured Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands, or second lines which are so important to the bigger picture of jazz in the city.

In New Orleans food is celebrated and is part of every celebration, but I think I may leave that for a Science librarian to write and anyway, I couldn’t do justice to looking all of the restaurants like Madame Begue╠ü, Antoine’s, Camelia Grill, and all the others.

It occurs to me that I did manage to cram some of the 300 years of the city’s history into a short-ish post.  And after all of that thinking and writing, I did manage to come up with a few ideas for a Business oriented posts so stay tuned!

Jackson Square, Detroit Publishing Co., publisher, ca 1900-1910. //www.loc.gov/item/det1994016516/PP/

Also, for those of you in the area, each month the Science & Business Reading Room is planning to have items from our collections on display. We have selected a few themes and plan to include business and science items to illustrate those themes.

  • January:  Introduction, General History, Battle of New Orleans, Storyville
  • February:  Mardi Gras, African American History Month
  • March:  Women’s History Month
  • April:  Louisiana Purchase, Food
  • May:  Jazz Fest
  • June:  Music Industry
  • July:  Higgins Boats
  • August:  Hurricane Katrina, Ironworks/Architecture
  • September:  Banking, Businesses
  • October: Trade, the Slave Trade
  • November:  Transportation
  • December:  1884 Cotton Exposition, Christmas/Mr. Bingle

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