A Timeline of 

New Orleans History

  • facebook
  • twitter
  • linkedin

Your details were sent successfully!

37 million years ago - A variety of creatures including the American Alligator(A.Mississippiensis) inhabit the bayous and swamps of Louisiana


3,000 B.C. Sediment from the Mississippi River is deposited in Southeast Lousiana creating the

foundation of modern day New Orleans


Native Americans live and trade along the waterway we now call Bayou St. John.


1682 Rene-Robert Cavelier de La Salle claims the entire Mississippi River basin, including Louisiana, for France


1699 A 17 year old Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville deceives a group of British naval officers, telling them that a well establish regiment of French soldiers will attack if they attempt to explore further upriver.  He convinces them to abandon their exploration of the lower Mississippi River


Early 1700s - The “Mississippi Company”, a trading company from France, establishes a barter economy with Native Americans - pelts, lumbar, and tobacco are the focus


1717 A Scotsman, John Law, builds a scheme supported by Philippe Duke of Orleans to colonize the Louisiana territory and develop an agricultural economy.  He uses a credit scheme to lure investors and hires Bienville to develop the new colony


1718 Unable to find enough willing laborers to travel to New Orleans, Law and Phillipe settle on the forced immigration of criminals, soldiers, salt smugglers, and prostitutes -  the boats carrying these scoundrels are called “Pest flotillas”


1719 The French slave ship “Aurore” arrives from Senegambia with 201 slaves. The journey takes over six months and the slaves are shackled and forced to layon their sides. 


1721 After a destructive hurricane, Adrian de Pauger lays out formal plans for the city - the design becomes our modern “French Quarter”


1724 A legal system developed by the French in Saint-Domingue - the “Code Noir” - is instituted to regulate the behavior, rights, and interactions of slaves. It also forbade Jews from the new colony and banned Protestants from worship


1727 The Ursuline Nuns of Rouen,  under orders from the French King Louis XV,  arrive and build the Ursuline Convent. They work to provide early institutional structures for education and healthcare


1729 The Natchez Indian Massacre at Fort Rosalie leads to panic and conflict. The colony is transferred from company control back to the French government. Bienville returns to fight “Indian Wars”


1735 Jean Louis, a French sailor, dies and leaves money to establish Charity Hospital


1762 France cedes New Orleans to Spain after losing the French-Indian War


1762 Citizens of New Orleans reject Spanish rule, and the new governor - Don Antonio Ulloa - is forced to flee. “Bloody” Oreilly returns to enforce Spanish rule, executing LaFreniere and four others by firing squad


1755-1785 The first Acadian immigrants arrive after The French and Indian War is won by the British


1777 Bernardo de Galvez, Spanish Governor of Louisiana, supports the American Revolution and wins several battles against the British - “the glorious march” - driving them out of Florida and securing the Mississippi River


1777 Oliver Pollock becomes a major financier of the American Revolution. He funds the military campaigns of Galvez in the south and George Rogers Clark in Illinois. He provides supplies to US forces from the south. He also accidentally invents the dollar sign “$”


1777 Spain recruits residents from the Canary Islands, Granada, and Malaga to move to Nola. One of the immigrants, Marcelino Hernandez of the Canary Islands, is a master of ironwork and his balconies become a defining feature of French Quarter architecture


1780 Jean San Malo builds a community of escaped slaves in the swamps near Lake Borgne. He’s eventually caught and executed in front of St Louis Church (later known as St Louis Cathedelral)


1780 The city’s first food market is started. It evolves into the French Market in 1791


1788 On Good Friday, a lighted candle of Don Vincente Jose Nunez sets the curtains of his Chartres St home ablaze. The Great Fire destroys 856 buildings in five hours


1793 Eli Whitney develops the cotton gin allowing for the growth of an industry that will define the New Orleans economy for decades


1794 A second great fire develops on Royal St. 212 buildings on 40 city blocks are destroyed


1794 The St Louis Church is rebuilt and rededicated as a cathedral after burning down in 1788


1795 Etienne de Bore develops a technique for sugar granulation near modern day Audubon Park. This breakthrough, like the cotton gin, will define the New Orleans economy for generations to come


1796 New Orleans becomes the site of the first opera staged in America - “Sylvain”. The French Opera House opens in 1859 and New Orleans becomes known as the opera capital of the United States


1803 The Haitian Revolution succeeds against French forces led by Napoleon Bonaparte. Haitian immigrants flee to Cuba and then start to arrive in New Orleans in 1809. Their arrival doubles the population of the city 


1803 The Louisiana Purchase is negotiated between Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon Bonaparte. 828,000 square miles are purchased for 15 million dollars


1811 The largest slave revolt in US history starts in St Charles Parish with a push toward New Orleans. The slaves are massacred and their bodies publicly desecrated in the Place D’Armes (modern day Jackson Square) to discourage further revolt


1812 The steamboat “New Orleans”, captained by Nicholas Roosevelt, leaves Pittsburgh and arrives safely in New Orleans two and a half months later. The success of steamboats transforms the river trade and economy of the city


1812 Louisiana becomes the 18th state


1815 The Battle of New Orleans is won by forces commanded by Andrew Jackson and supported by the pirate Jean Lafitte. Jackson is  recognized as a hero and it propels him into the presidency.


1817 Congo Square is formally designated as an area for slaves to congregate on Sundays. It becomes a market place and a center of musical exchange.


1820 The painter John James Audubon lives in New Orleans and completes his seminal work Birds of America


1823 Spanish Fort becomes an entertainment area where Bayou St John connects to Lake Pontchartrain


1824 The first synagogue of New Orleans, Gates of Mercy, is founded


1825 The Erie Canal is developed, connecting New York to the West. This competes with the Mississippi River system as a trade route


1828-1831 Lincoln travels to New Orleans on a flatboat on three occasions. He observes the slave trade and is assaulted on one occasion


1830 Peychauds bitters are invented by Antoine Peychaud and becomes a primary component of the Sazerac, the original cocktail


1832 Construction of the New Basin Canal (modern day Pontchartrain Blvd) results in thousands of dead Irishmen from Yellow Fever


1834 Tulane University is founded initially as a medical college


1835 A streetcar system of horse drawn carriages is developed along Nayades St (later to become St Charles ave)


1836 The city is divided into three separate municipalities with three separate governments - French Quarter, Faubourg St Mary (modern day Central Business District), Faubourg Marigny. Canal St with it’s “neutral ground” divides the Creoles from the Anglo Saxon merchant class in Faubourg St Mary


1837 The Times Picayune is founded


1839 Ten duels are fought under the “Dueling Oaks” of modern day City Park. Don Jose “Pepe” Llulla is considered the greatest swordsman and duelist in New Orleans history.


1839 Henry Shreve clears the Red river in northern La, changing the flow of the Mississippi River; eventually this prompts the need for the Old River Control Center (constructed 1963)to ensure the flow of water toward New Orleans


1850 New Orleans is the fourth largest point of commerce in the world behind London, Liverpool, New York City


1840 Antoine's opens. Today it stands as the country’s oldest continuously operating restaurant


1849 A crevasse of the Mississippi River at Sauve’s plantation (in modern day River Ridge) floods the city and destroys 2000 structures, floods 220 blocks


1850 John McDonough bequeaths money for public schools in New Orleans and Baltimore for “free children of both sexes and all classes and castes of color”.


1851 52,011 immigrants arrive in New Orleans, 2nd only to New York City as a port of entry


1850s The “Cotton District” forms at Gravier/Carondelet becoming a major economic driver of the city, a “Wall Street of the south”


1851 The Pontalba buildings are completed on Jackson Square by the Baroness Pontalba


1853 Yellow Fever kills 11,000 people. An earlier epidemic in 1832 kills 5,000


1854 City Park is established on the old Allard plantation site


1856 The Mystic Krewe of Comus parades for the first time


1859 Samuel Clemens works the Mississippi river as a pilot, writes columns for a local New Orleans newspaper “The True Delta”, and adopts his pen name Mark Twain


1861 Louisiana secedes from the Union. PGT Beauregard, a New Orleans native, orders the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter


1862 Admiral Farragut completes a surprise naval attack on the city from the south and captures New Orleans for the Union


1862 General "Beast" Butler governs the city - his time is famous for General Order no 28, the hanging of Mumford, and major improvements in sanitation with a resultant decrease in yellow fever deaths


1862 Cafe du Monde opens. The coffee they serve is part chicory due to coffee shortages created by the Civil War.


1866 A post war economic decline occurs as the slave-based plantation economy collapses


1866 New Orleans Mechanics Institute Riot - 37 African Americans are murdered by ex-Confederate soldiers as they protest for voting rights. This hastens the start of the Reconstruction Period with oversight by the Federal government and the passage of the 14th Ammendment.


1867 Chinese immigrants are brought in as a replacement for slaves to work as sugar planters. They build a large Chinatown in the 1100 block of Tulane Ave that remains until WPA development in 1937


1868 At Enterprise and Delachaise St one of the nation’s first ice factories is built


1868 Charles Howard starts the Louisiana Lottery. It becomes the largest gambling operation in the country, feeding corruption that impacts the economic, political, and social life of New Orleans for 20 years


1871 Marie Laveau conducts enormous voodoo ceremonies on Bayou St. John near the lake.


1871 Oscar Dunn, a prominent African-American leader of the Reconstruction era, dies suddenly while eating, possibly poisoned with arsenic. 50,000 people come out for the funeral procession


1872 The Krewe of Rex parades for the first time. The organization is started in part to create a spectacle for the Russian Grand Duke Alexandrovitch who was touring the US in pursuit of the burlesque star Lydia Thompson 


1872 The first horse race is held at the Fairgrounds


1872 Charles Howard, founder of the Louisiana Lottery, buys the Metairie Race Course and transforms it into Metairie Cemetery. He does this because he was denied membership to the club at the course.


1872 Edgar Degas lives in New Orleans with his extended family on Esplanade Avenue


1874 The White League defeats the Metropolitan forces in the Battle of Liberty Place. This hastens the end of Reconstruction and the start of the Jim Crow era


1876 Eliza Jane Nicholson takes over as publisher of the Times Picayune and guides it to huge success


1877 Buddy Bolden is born. He goes on to create a style of music that becomes jazz


1877 James Eads installs jettys at the mouth of the Mississippi River which serves to deepen the river and allow for continued port activity


Mid to late 1800s Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs develop as charitable organizations to help impoverished African Americans with funeral costs. “Jazz Funerals” and “Second Lines” develop and evolve out of these clubs


1883 Emile Commander opens a saloon in the Garden District. A few years later he converts it into a restaurant “Commanders Palace” which is an instant success. In 1969 the restaurant is purchased by the Brennan family who make it a nationally renowned institution


1884 The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition is held on land that is now Audubon Park


1884 “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show plays for four months near the Cotton Exposition. The display of Native American costumes inspires the formation of the first Mardi Gras Indian tribe “Creole Wild West”


1890 The Police Chief David Hennessy is shot, and he blames a group of Italians on his deathbed. When the accused are acquitted by a jury, a mob of thousands lynches the 11 accused Italians outside the parish prison creating an international incident


1892 Homer Plessy challenges the laws of “separate but equal” by sitting in the white section of a train at Press and Royal St. The case goes to the Supreme Court and they rule against him. This solidifies Jim Crow laws of the south which remain valid until the 1954 Brown vs Board of Education case.


1896 The worlds first permanent movie theater “Vitascope Hall” is built on Canal St


1897 The Storyville district is formed. It’s designed by Sidney Story to mitigate the effects of prostitution


1899 An 18 year old Samuel Zemurray starts his banana import business, growing it into a dominant company Cuyamel Fruit. The business creates strong ties to Honduras where he eventually installs the deposed president Manuel Bonilla in a coup d’etat.


1900 An African-American man Robert Charles resists arrest Uptown and he kills 4 policeman. In response, a riot ensues with dozens of African Americans randomly lynched


1903 Isidore Newman, a German immigrant and the founder of Maison Blanche department store, creates the Isidore Newman school. The schools original mission is to educate children from a Jewish orphanage 


1904 Loyola University is founded


1906 The muffuletta sandwich is invented at Central Grocery by Salvatore Lupo


1909 The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club parades for first time


1913 A. Baldwin Wood designs the screw pump which drains huge swaths of land and enables the development of Mid-City, Gentilly, Lakeview


1915 An 11 year old Louis Armstrong is arrested for firing a pistol and is sent to the “Colored Waif’s Home” where he learns to play the trumpet. The rest is history


1916 The Audubon zoo is founded


1918 The Industrial Canal is excavated. It becomes a center of industry and port activity


1919 The French Opera House, a center of Creole culture and social life, burns down


1918-1919 The “Axeman” murders Italian grocers. 6 are dead, 12 are injured, and the identity of the Axeman is never revealed


1920s The Association of Commerce, Convention, and Tourism Bureau is formed to promote the city as a tourist destination


1925 Xavier university is founded as the nation’s only Roman Catholic college serving African Americans. Today it graduates more African American medical school acceptees than any other college


1927 The St Bernard levee is exploded during the Great Flood of 1927


1927 An effort is begun to fortify the Mississippi River levees after the Great Flood. Controlling the river leads to a loss of sediment deposition which in turn contributes to coastal erosion


1929 Legend has it that the “po-boy” sandwich is invented to help striking streetcar drivers


1931 Dr Michael Debakey invents the roller pump at Charity Hospital as a 23 year old Tulane medical student. The device allows for open heart surgery


1934 Governor Huey Long confronts Mayor Walmsley during election season by sending 3,000 Louisiana National Guardsmen to New Orleans to take over the Registrar of Voter’s Office and by imposing martial law on the city


1936 The Huey long bridge is completed


1937-43 The New Orleans Housing Authority clears historic neighborhoods to build subsidized, segregated housing projects


1941 Higgins boats are constructed in the Industrial Canal. New Orleans becomes a major hub for war preparations, ingress/egress of troops


1942 The Ochsner clinic opens


1945 An 18 year old Cosimo Mattassa opens his J&M Recording Studio on Rampart Street. He engineers records with Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, Dr John, and many more


1947 The first offshore drilling platform operates in the Gulf of Mexico. The offshore oil industry becomes a huge driver of the economy but has a negative impact on the wetlands and coastal erosion


1949 Fats Domino records the Fat Man, goes on to become one of the founders of rock n’roll


1954 The Old River Control station is built in central Louisiana to ensure the flow of the Mississippi River toward New Orleans rather than merging into the Atchafalaya River


1954 The Supreme Court’s decision “Brown vs Board of Education” reverses the “separate but equal” standard that was initially established by the “Plessy vs Ferguson” case


1955 Pontchartrain Park is developed as a middle class African American neighborhood


1956 The Causeway is completed, allows for further development of the north shore


1950-1960 Containerization technology transforms the port of New Orleans


1956 The University of New Orleans is founded. Initially it’s called “LSU in New Orleans”


1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act starts the process of building a national interstate highway system, leads to the I-10, I-610, I-12, I-55, I-59


1958 The first span of the Crescent City Connection is completed


1960 Population of New Orleans peaks at 627,525. It’s the 15th largest city in the country


1960 Oretha Castle Haley organizes “lunch counter sit-ins” and other protests to counter segregation. One of her arrests is disputed and eventually taken to the Supreme Court - they rule in her favor 9-0 


1960-1964 The Civil Rights Act hastens desegregation and leads to a huge middle class exodus. The city’s population goes into decline for decades while the suburbs boom


1960 The desegregation of public schools begins in earnest as a 6 year old Ruby Bridges is accompanied by Federal Marshalls on her way to William Frantz Elementary School.


1961 “Preservation Hall” is founded to preserve, perpetuate, and protect traditional New Orleans jazz


1963 Lee Harvey Oswald, a New Orleans native, is a Canal St pamphleteer just months before traveling to Dallas to assassinate John F Kennedy


1963 Pearlie Elloie becomes the first African American to be admitted to Tulane University


1965 MR-GO (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet) is completed to speed travel time for shipping. 40 years later the canal adds to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina


1965 Category 4 Hurricane Betsy devastates the city, particularly the Lower Ninth Ward


1965 High school sports begins to integrate with a secret basketball game between Jesuit and St Augustine High Schools


1966 New Orleans is awarded an NFL franchise, the Saints


1970 The first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, organized by Quint Davis, is held at Congo Square with a lineup including Mahalia Jackson and Duke Ellington


1973 An arsonist sets ablaze a gay night club in the French Quarter called the Upstairs Lounge. 32 men are killed.


1973 Mark Essex kills 9 people including 5 policeman at the Howard Johnson on Loyola Avenue


1975 The fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war leads to a surge of Vietnamese immigration to the New Orleans area


1975 The Superdome is completed


1980 The novel “Confederacy of Dunces” is published.  The author of the book, John Kennedy Toole, had committed suicide in part due to his inability to get the book published. It goes on to win the Pulitzer Prize


1980s The oil bust devastates the economy and housing prices plummet


1982 Pan Am 759 crashes in Kenner killing 145 passengers and 8 on the ground


1984 The Worlds Fair is a local hit but financial flop


1985 The New Orleans Convention Center is built along the riverfront. Today it stands as the 5th largest convention center in the country and is an economic engine of the tourist/conference industry


1991 Dorothy Mae Taylor passes legislation desegregating Mardi Gras Krewes. Comus and Momus decide to no longer parade


1991 David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK in Louisiana, almost becomes governor. He gains 32% of the vote (55% of the white vote) and is defeated by Edwin Edwards who is eventually imprisoned for corruption.


mid 1990s- Early 2000s The economy of New Orleans transitions from the oil industry to a tourism/service sector industry


1993 For the first time New Orleans is #1 in violent crime


2000 The population of New Orleans has dropped to 484,674, 31st largest in the USA


2005 Hurricane Katrina, along with a multitude of levee failures, floods 80% of the city


2007 The Road Home program is established and distributes 8 billion dollars to underinsured homeowners


2007 The Army Corps of Engineers spends 15 billion dollars rebuilding the levee system and pumping capacity


2007 Steve Gleason inspires a city with his blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons. Two years later the Saints win the Super Bowl


2009-2017 Univerity Medical Center(ie “Charity Hospital”) and the Veteran Affairs Hospital are rebuilt along Canal St


2010 The Deepwater Horizon explosion near the Mississippi River outlet releases 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The disaster impacts the seafood industry of New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana


2017 Mayor Landrieu leads the charge to remove monuments honoring Confederate Generals and the White League. Protests ensue as statues honoring Robert E Lee, Jefferson Davis, PGT Beauregard, and the Battle of Liberty Place are taken down


2017 The first female mayor of New Orleans - Latoya Cantrell - is elected


Today. The challenges of the city are enormous.  Modern New Orleanians worry about  coastal erosion, infrastructure breakdown, crime, economic inequality and racial reconciliation.