A Brief History of Louisiana Flags 


1519  Alonso Alvarez de Pineda led an expedition along the northern shore of the Gulf of Mexico and discovered the mouth of a great river which may have been the Mississippi. 

Spanish Flag of Leone & Castile
1542  The Spanish adventurer Hernando de Soto died on the shores of the Mississippi River near present-day Memphis while exploring the southeastern United States. Each year the Mississippi, an Ojibwa Indian word meaning "big river" carries 400,000,000 tons of sediment into the Gulf of Mexico and discharges more water than all European rivers combined. 

French Fleur-de-Lis
1682  The French explorer Sieur de La Salle, the first to descend the Mississippi to its mouth, took possession "of the country known as Louisiana," and named it for the reigning monarch of France, Louis XIV. 

1714  Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded Fort St. Jean Baptiste, present-day Natchitoches, the first permanent settlement in Louisiana. 

1718  Sieur de Bienville began building New Orleans as a company town for the Company of the West. By 1721 New Orleans had a population of more than 370 people, including 147 male colonists, 65 female colonists, 38 children, 28 servants, 73 slaves and 21 Indians.

1762  By the secret Treaty of Fontainebleau, France ceded its unprofitable and remote territories west of the Mississippi and the Isle of Orleans to Spain. It was 23 months later before the colonists in Louisiana learned they were no longer French subjects.


British Grand Union [1763]
1763  By the Peace of Paris Great Britain acquired from France its Louisiana territory east of the Mississippi and north of the Isle of Orleans. Spain ceded to Britain its territories of East and West Florida. Baton Rouge was fortified by the British and called New Richmond.

Bourbon Spain [1769]  
1769   Spanish Governor Alejandro O'Reilly finally established firm control of Louisiana for Spain. O'Reilly divided the province into 12 administrative districts called posts and 22 ecclesiastical parishes. The system of posts died with the end of Spanish rule, but parishes ultimately persisted as the primary county-level administrative unit under territorial and state governments.

French Tri-Color [1803] 
1800  Spain officially returned the Louisiana territory West of the Mississippi to France by the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso to avoid the continued deficits the colony caused and the growing possibility that Spain might have to fight the restless Americans to retain control of the lands. (France did not actually take control until November 1803.)

U.S. Flag of 15 Stars [1803]
"The Star Spangled Banner" 
1803   The United States purchased from Napoleon the territory of Louisiana for $15,000,000. Upon concluding the purchase Robert Livingston, America's Minister to France, said of the transfer, "We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives ... From this day the United States will take their place among the powers of the first rank ... The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures."

1804   William Charles Cole Claiborne was appointed governor of the Territory of Orleans, which the area of present-day Louisiana was called. Before then he was governor of Mississippi Territory and the lone representative in Congress of Tennessee. Claiborne was selected as one of the commissioners to receive the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803. In 1812 Claiborne was elected the state's first governor, a position he held until 1816 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He died in 1817. 
1805   The first Protestant church in Louisiana, an Episcopal church, was established in New Orleans. 

West Florida Lone Star [1810] 
1810  The American citizens of Spain's West Florida territory, who had dramatically increased in number, took control of the Spanish government there and declared the territory a republic. The republic comprised the area of present-day Louisiana known as the Florida Parishes. 

1812   Louisiana formally became the 18th state to join the union. William Charles Cole Claiborne was elected its first governor. The New Orleans, the first steamboat to navigate the Mississippi, arrived at New Orleans from Pittsburgh beginning the golden era of the steamboat. 
1815   Andrew Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans and saved control of the lower Mississippi for the United States. The British troops numbered about 8,000 to Jackson's 4,000 defenders.

1850 The capital was transferred to Baton Rouge from New Orleans where a new statehouse was waiting. Built at a cost of $100,000, the American gothic design of the building was very much in vogue. Mark Twain said about the building, "...this little sham castle ... this architectural falsehood ... this whitewashed castle with turrets and things would never been built in this otherwise honorable place had it not been for the medieval romances of Sir Walter Scott." 

Independent Louisiana [1861] 
1861 For two months after seceding from the Union and before joining the Confederacy, Louisiana flew the flag of an independent nation. 

Confederate Flag [1861] 
1864  General Henry W. Allen was installed as governor of Confederate Louisiana and earned a reputation as the best administrator in the Confederacy. 

1873 Black Lieutenant Governor P.B.S. Pinchback served briefly as Louisiana's Chief Executive. 

Louisiana Flag [1912] 
1912 The Louisiana Legislature adopted an official state flag, which consists of a field of solid blue with the pelican group from the state seal in white and gold. This is the flag that is in use today. 

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Copyright © 1999-2003 by Greg English