Louisiana Journalism, 1836-1922

General Overview

Journalism in Louisiana developed slowly and its establishment occurred after the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory. By 1820, newspapers appeared across Louisiana in English, French, and Spanish. During the years leading up to the Civil War, a Pro-Southern, pro-slavery Democratic newspapers far outnumbered Republican viewpoints among the Louisiana press. Many newspapers went out of business between 1861-1865 due to the Civil War, paper shortages, the occupation of New Orleans, and the eventual fall of the Confederacy. Republican newspapers emerged during this period and Democratic newspapers censored themselves for fear of the Union shutting them down. In 1877, Federal troops withdrew from Louisiana and the press witnessed a war of words that targeted both southern Republicans and African-Americans. By the 1880s, emotions waned and other topics such as sports, literature, health, and gossip made their appearance in the newspapers.

Louisiana newspapers drastically altered in layout and content during the first twenty years of the 20th century. The newspapers’ issues presented unique imagery in the form of photographs and cartoons and provided readers with a front row seat to the development of the advertising industry. The Louisiana press gave more attention to the exposure of corrupt politics and business practices and less attention to the social issues of segregation and suffrage. By the 1920s, Louisiana newspapers provided significant international reporting due to World War I as well as Louisiana businessmen venturing into Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Selection of Significant Events Reported

Antebellum Period (1830-1859)

    1831 - The Pontchartrain Railroad, Louisiana's first railroad and the first west of the Alleghenies, built
    1834 - Medical College of Louisiana (now Tulane University) founded
    1836 - New Basin Canal is completed
    1836 - Texans besieged at the Alamo
    1837 - New Orleans Picayuneis established
    1837 - Shreveport founded
    1838 - First Mardi Gras parade held in New Orleans
    1838 - St. Charles, a Jesuit institution, opens in Grand Cocteau
    1838 - Cherokees forced to walk the "Trail of Tears"
    1838 - Henry Miller Shreve removes the Great Raft, a 160-mile logjam that blocked navigation of the Red River
    1840 - Thanks to overwhelming steamboat traffic, New Orleans becomes the second largest port in the U.S.
    1840 - Theatre de la Renaissance opens in New Orleans with an all-black cast
    1845 - Louisiana Constitution is rewritten
    1846 - Mexican-American War begins; New Orleans becomes important staging ground for the U.S. troops
    1847 - Construction of the state capitol in Baton Rouge begins
    1847 - The Medical College of Louisiana (now Tulane University) becomes the University of Louisiana
    1847 - The Feliciana Female Collegiate Institute opens in Jackson
    1848 - Zachary Taylor, a Louisiana planter, elected U.S. President
    1849 - Baton Rouge becomes the capital city of Louisiana
    1850 - Compromise of 1850 passed; Fugitive Slave Act is strengthened
    1850 - John McDonogh bequeaths $750,000 to establish public schools in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish
    1851 - Jenny Lind performs in New Orleans under the management of P.T. Barnum
    1852 - Louisiana Constitution revised again
    1852 - Mansfield Female College founded; Silliman Collegiate Institute, a girls school, opens in Jackson
    1853 - Yellow fever epidemic kills 11,000 in New Orleans
    1854 - Republican party formed
    1856 - Hurricane strikes Last Island (Isle Dernière) killing more than 200
    1857 - First formal Mardis Gras carnival organizations established
    1857 - Emancipation of slaves is prohibited in the state
    1857 - Dred Scott Case ruled upon in the U.S. Supreme Court
    1858 - Know-Nothings riot in New Orleans

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Civil War and Reconstruction (1860-1877)

    1860 – Louisiana State Seminary (now Louisiana State University) opens
    1861 – Louisiana votes for secession
    1862 – New Orleans captured by Union navy; city subjected to military rule
    1862 – Confederate troops fail to recapture Baton Rouge
    1863 – Siege and surrender of Port Hudson
    1864 – Battles of Pleasant Hill and Mansfield
    1864 – Slavery abolished in Louisiana
    1865 – Confederate state capital briefly located in Shreveport
    1866 – Race riots following constitutional convention in New Orleans
    1868 – African-Americans granted social and civil rights; Louisiana readmitted to Union
    1870 – Steamboats Robert E. Lee and Natchez race from New Orleans to St. Louis
    1873 – Rail service from New Orleans to Chicago inaugurated
    1873 – Race riot in Colfax, Louisiana, leaves at least 63 African Americans dead
    1874 – The White League organized to drive carpetbaggers out of the state
    1877 – Federal troops withdrawn from Louisiana, ending Reconstruction

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Industrial Development (1878-1900)

    1878 – Yellow fever epidemic in New Orleans kills at least 3,800
    1879 – State Constitution amended, neutralizing black vote
    1879 – Thousands of African Americans leave Louisiana in the “Kansas Fever” exodus
    1879 – James Eads’ jetty system at mouth of Mississippi River improves navigation
    1880s – Opelousas receives 2,000 orphans from New York via the Orphan Trains
    1880 – Southern University, now the largest historically black university in the U.S., opens in New Orleans
    1882 – State Capital moves back to Baton Rouge from New Orleans
    1883 – Rail service from New Orleans to California inaugurated
    1884 – Louisiana State Normal College (now Northwestern State University) founded
    1884‐86 – World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition held in New Orleans
    1887 – Blue Laws passed, closing saloons on Sundays
    1890 – Prize fighting legalized
    1891 – First “Jim Crow” law passed
    1893 – Hurricane kills 2,000 people in Louisiana and Mississippi
    1894 – One of only two U.S. hospitals for treatment of leprosy opened in Carville, Louisiana
    1895 – Louisiana Lottery, the largest lottery in the United States, outlawed
    1896 – Fusion Populist‐Republican gubernatorial ticket, representing north Louisiana dirt farmers and south Louisiana sugar planters, defeated by Bourbons in fraudulent election
    1896 – U.S. Supreme Court rules “separate but equal” is constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson, a case that originated in Louisiana
    1897 – New Orleans’ red‐light district, Storyville, formally established
    1898 – Poll tax and illiteracy test enacted to disqualify black voters
    1898 – Louisiana troops, considered immune to yellow fever, sent to fight in Cuba

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Modern Development (1901-1922)

    1901 – Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now University of Louisiana at Lafayette) founded
    1901 – First oil well in the state is drilled in Jennings, Louisiana
    1901 – Fire destroys a large portion of Jennings, Louisiana
    1901 – Grambling College (precursor to Grambling State University) opened in Lincoln Parish
    1902 – Jelly Roll Morton claims to have invented jazz
    1902 – State mental hospital established at Pineville
    1904 – Loyola Academy (now Loyola University of New Orleans) founded
    1904 – Drainage of swamp around New Orleans begins
    1905 – Last yellow fever epidemic
    1909 – New locks on the Mississippi open the Atchafalaya Basin (Acadiana) to navigation
    1909 – Standard Oil Company builds facility in Baton Rouge
    1910 – International aviation tournament held in New Orleans
    1912 – Air mail route opened between New Orleans and Baton Rouge
    1914 – Southern University moves to Baton Rouge
    1915 – Hurricane hits New Orleans
    1916 – Natural gas discovered in north Louisiana; State Federation of Labor organized
    1919 – French Opera House in New Orleans, symbol of Creole culture, destroyed by fire
    1920 – Red Scare destroys Socialist Party in Louisiana

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