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Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Fascinating Facts About Louisiana

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

From funeral parades to breakfast beignets, life in Louisiana is all about celebrating the good times. Below, a few things you might not know about the Bayou State. 

1.
The Louisiana Territory was
claimed by Robert Cavelier de La Salle in 1682 and named for King Louis XIV. In French, “La Louisiane” means “Land of Louis.”

2. Tasked with negotiating the purchase of French land on behalf of the U.S. government, James Monroe and Robert Livingston initially offered $5 million and then $10 million for New Orleans and what was then called West Florida. Napoleon countered by offering all of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million—$233 million when adjusted for inflation. Once the government had paid back the loans required to make the purchase, the 828,000-square-mile land mass had cost a total of $23 million—and doubled the size of the U.S. 

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3. At one time, the state of Louisiana was divided into counties. These units of local government were replaced in 1807 with 19 parishes, the borders of which generally corresponded to areas that had previously been administered by local churches. Today there are a total of 64 parishes in Louisiana.

4.
Louisiana has plenty to boast about: Breaux Bridge, a city in the St. Martin Parish, is known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World,” Dubach is called the “Dog Trot Capital of the World” for its many breezeway style houses, Rayne is the “Frog Capital of the World,” Mamou is the “Cajun Music Capital of the World,” Gueydan is the “Duck Capital of America,” and Crowley is the “Rice Capital of the World” (though Stuttgart, Arkansas would dispute those last two titles).

5. The town of Rayne, which one Depression-era report described as "the center of the Louisiana frog industry," celebrates with an annual Frog Festival. There's a pageant (for high schoolers), races and jumping competitions (for frogs), and lots and lots of frog legs on offer. The frogs, for their part, show up dressed to impress, in frog-sized tuxes and top hats. 

6. We have a Louisiana-bred chef to thank for the meat monstrosity (or masterpiece, depending on your perspective) known as the Turducken. Paul Prudhomme of Opelousas claims to have invented the three-bird rollup—although meat-stuffed meat dishes have had a place at holiday feasts dating back to at least the 16th century

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Phil Romans, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


7. The highest point in the state is located east of Shreveport at Driskill Mountain. It is only 535 feet above sea level. Louisiana’s lowest point (and the second-lowest point in the country) is the city of New Orleans, which is eight feet below sea level.

8. Because of the state’s low elevation, the dead are often laid to rest above ground instead of being buried. Mausoleums replace crypts and markers in cemeteries in New Orleans and other cities. Actor Nicolas Cage has already purchased his mausoleum in New Orleans. It's shaped like a pyramid.
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David Ohmer, Flickr // CC BY 2.0


9. The popular phrase “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is a word-for-word translation of “let the good times roll,” and thus not a grammatically correct French saying. (To get the party started in France, they'd tell you to Prenons du bons temps!)

10.
The world’s longest bridge over a body of water is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The bridge, which stretches nearly 24 miles, has two parallel spans, the first of which opened in 1956 and the other in 1969. It also has its own website, where drivers can check for traffic and weather updates, view live feeds, and learn what to do in case their car sinks into the lake.
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Kristin Brenemen, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


11. The state bird of Louisiana is the Brown Pelican, which was considered endangered from 1970 to 1990. The species had to be reintroduced to the so-called Pelican State from 1968 to 1980 because the pesticide DDT had caused reproductive failure. Recovery efforts have resulted in an estimated 40,000 brown pelicans currently living in Louisiana. The bird has been adopted as the mascot of both a minor league baseball team and a professional basketball team.

12. The first opera performance in the United States was held at the Théâtre de la Rue St. Pierre in New Orleans on May 22, 1796. The production was André Ernest Modeste Grétry’s Sylvain. The theater where the play was staged burned down in 1816, along with the Orléans Theater and other nearby buildings.

13. Louisiana has one of the highest alligator populations in the country, with an estimated two million in the wild and another 300,000 on alligator farms. The hide and raw meat industries collectively bring in around $57 million a year.
iStock_000022019358_Small.jpg

iStock


14. There are two historical references for the New Orleans nickname “The Big Easy.” The first is written into a 1987 Times-Picayune article, which reported that “The Big Easy” was the name of a music venue (or several venues) where musicians played. Going to play “The Big Easy” became synonymous with going to the city, and the name stuck. The other reference comes from a 1970s columnist named Betty Guillard, who used the phrase to describe the relaxed NOLA lifestyle.

15.
 Roughly 1.4 million people attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans every year. The population of New Orleans for the rest of the year is only slightly more than a quarter of that, at just over 384,000, according to the United States Census Bureau.

16. There are approximately half a million king cakes sold in New Orleans every year around Mardi Gras, with another 50,000 shipped out to customers in other states. The treats are a part of an Epiphany tradition that has been around since at least the 1300s. The official Mardi Gras colors on the cakes served today (purple, green, and gold) signify justice, faith, and power; the person who finds the plastic baby inside is said to have secured good luck for the coming year (but is also tasked with buying next year’s cake).
iStock_000017961259_Small.jpg

iStock

17. Canal Street, the iconic road where Mardi Gras revelers throw beads and enjoy the lack of open container laws, was named after a project that never happened. An actual canal was supposed to be dug, connecting the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain.

18. The town of Gibsland is home to a Bonnie and Clyde museum, managed by the son of one of the men who killed the infamous duo during a shootout. (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were killed about eight miles south of Gibsland.)

19. The official state bear of Louisiana, the Louisiana black bear, is endangered. There are about 600 of the bears left, and while some experts say that there is no danger that the bears will be extinct in the next century, most would like to see the population grow substantially.
1024px-BlackBear2.jpg

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


20. The capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge, supposedly got its name (which translates to "red stick") in 1699. French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville wrote that he saw a pole covered in animal blood along a Mississippi River bluff. The pole served as a marker signifying the division of land between the Bayougoula and Houmas Indian tribes.

21. The world records for “the most people twerking simultaneously” (406) and the “most volunteer hours worked” (77,019, by one Viola Cocran) were set in Louisiana. These honors were in no way related.

22. Several popular cocktails were invented in New Orleans, including the Sazerac and the Hurricane. The Sazerac’s claim to fame as the first cocktail ever made has been disputed in recent years, but that did not stop the Louisiana House of Representatives from making it the official cocktail of the city.
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23. Despite its boozy history, the official state drink of Louisiana is … milk

24. A Six Flags amusement park in Louisiana that was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina was used as one of the shooting locations for the blockbuster film Jurassic World (2015). The park was also used to shoot scenes for Killer Joe (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Stolen (2012), and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013).

25. Jazz was born in Louisiana, though the exact year is unknown. Some say it originated in the late 19th century, while others argue that the first jazz song recorded was “Livery Stable Blues” by Nick LaRocca and his Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

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euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
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geography
Mount Jackson Loses Spot as UK's Tallest Mountain After Satellite Reveals Measurement Error
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
euphro, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Geography textbook writers, take note: The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has just made a major correction to its old data. As Independent reports, satellite imagery reveals that Mount Hope in the British Atlantic Territory is 1236 feet taller than previously believed, unseating Mount Jackson as the UK’s tallest peak.

BAS realized the old height was incorrect after surveying mountains in Britain’s Antarctic territory using satellite technology. Inaccurate measurements pose a threat to planes flying over the mountains, and with the mapping project BAS intended to make the route safer for aircraft.

Prior to the survey, Mount Jackson was thought to be the tallest mountain in the British Atlantic Territory and the greater UK at 10,446 feet, the BBC reports. But after reviewing the new elevation data, BAS found that Mount Hope bests it by just 180 feet. Reaching 10,627 feet at its summit, Mount Hope is officially Britain’s tallest mountain.

Historically, mountains were measured on the ground using basic math equations. By measuring the distance between two points at the base of a mountain and calculating the angle between the top of the mountain and each point, researchers could estimate its height. But this method leaves a lot of room for error, and today surveyors use satellites circling the globe to come up with more precise numbers.

Because they’re both located in Antarctica, neither of the two tallest mountains in the UK is a popular climbing destination. British thrill-seekers usually choose Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, as their bucket-list mountain of choice—but at just 4413 at its highest point, climbing it would be a breeze compared to conquering Mount Hope.

[h/t Independent]

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Courtesy of Sotheby's
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History
Found: A Rare Map of Australia, Created During the 17th Century
Courtesy of Sotheby's
Courtesy of Sotheby's

More than 40 years before Captain James Cook landed on Australia’s eastern coast in 1770, renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu created an early map of the Land Down Under. Using geographical information gleaned from Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in the 1640s, it was the first map to include the island state of Tasmania and name New Zealand, and the only one to call Australia “Nova Hollandia.”

Very few copies—if any—of the 1659 map, titled Archipelagus Orientalis (Eastern Archipelago), were thought to have survived. But in 2010, a printing was discovered in a Swedish attic. After being restored, the artifact is newly on display at the National Library of Australia, in the capital city of Canberra, according to news.com.au.

The seller’s identity has been kept under wraps, but it’s thought that the map belonged to an antiquarian bookseller who closed his or her business in the 1950s. For decades, the map sat amidst other papers and books until it was unearthed in 2010 and put up for auction.

The National Library acquired the 17th century wall map in 2013 for approximately $460,000. After a lengthy restoration process, it recently went on display in its Treasures Gallery, where it will hang until mid-2018.

As for other surviving copies of the map: a second version was discovered in a private Italian home and announced in May 2017, according to Australian Geographic. It ended up selling for more than $320,000.

[h/t news.com.au]

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