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The State of Louisiana

Origin of Name
Louisiana was named by Robert de LaSalle, an early French explorer, for Louis XIV, King of France.

Admitted to the Union
Louisiana was admitted to the Union on April 30, 1812 making it the 18th state.

State Nickname
The Pelican State and Sportsman's Paradise

State Motto
Union, Justice, Confidence

State Colors
Gold, White and Blue

State Fossil
Petrified Palmwood

State Gemstone
Cabochon cut gemstone

State Cuisine
Gumbo

State Drink
Milk

State Musical Instrument
Diatonic Accordion (commonly known as the "Cajun" accordion)

State Amphibian
Green Tree Frog

State Freshwater Fish
White Perch (also called sac-au-lait and white crappie)

State Songs
"Give Me Louisiana" by Doralice Fontane and "You Are My Sunshine" by former Louisiana Gov. Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell

Earliest Explorers
Spanish: Alvarez de Pineda (1519), Cabeza de Vaca (1528), Hernando DeSoto (1541); French: LaSalle (1682), Iberville and Bienville (1699)

History
The first inhabitants of what is now Louisiana were Native American tribes such as the Natchez, Bayougoula and Chitamacha. The Europeans appeared in 1682 when the French explorer LaSalle descended the Mississippi River and claimed the land for the French Monarch, Louis XIV. It was not until 1699 that D'Iberville was to establish a permanent French presence in the lower Mississippi Valley. Louis Juchereau de St. Denis founded the first permanent settlement in Louisiana in 1714 with the construction of Fort St. Jean Baptiste near present day Natchitoches. D'Iberville's brother, Bienville, solidified the French claim to Louisiana in 1718 with the founding of New Orleans. France controlled the Louisiana colony until 1762 when the colony was ceded to Spain under the Treaty of Fontainbleau. Britain acquired France's Louisiana holdings east of the Mississippi River the following year in the Treaty of Paris. Spain ruled the colony until 1800 when the lands west of the Mississippi River were returned to the French in the Treaty of San Idlefonso. The British maintained control of the territory east of the river.

The Mississippi River, which had defined so much of Louisiana's early history, was recognized by President Thomas Jefferson as being the key to the control of the North American interior. He dispatched Robert Livingston to Paris in 1803 to negotiate with the French the purchase of New Orleans, which Jefferson believed would guarantee the United States' free navigation of the river. Napoleon startled the American representatives by offering the entire Louisiana territory for a paltry $15 million. Thus began a new era in the already colorful history of Louisiana. Spain held on to its holdings east of the river until 1810 when residents of the West Florida Republic revolted against their rule. In 1812, Louisiana was admitted to the United States as the 18th state.

Louisiana's relationship with the Union was to be tested by the issues of slavery and states' rights. In January of 1861, the state's secessionist convention met at the statehouse in Baton Rouge and formally seceded from the Union. During the ensuing Civil War, numerous engagements were held in Louisiana, most notably at Port Hudson, where the longest siege campaign of the war took place. The state endured 12 years of reconstruction after the war, a period in which P.B.S. Pinchback served as the state's only black governor.

The 20th century saw Louisiana emerge as one of the nation's leading producers of oil, sulphur, sugar and cotton. The petrochemical industry also developed along the Mississippi River in the period following World War II. The past eight decades have also showcased Louisiana's passion for politics, beginning with the election of Gov. Huey P. Long in 1928. In September of 1935, Long was assassinated in the State Capitol, which was built under his direction. The post-Long era was to be dominated by three major political figures, the fiery Earl Long, Huey's brother; John McKeithen, the first 20th century governor to succeed himself and the driving force behind the Superdome; and the flamboyant Edwin Edwards, who served an unprecedented four terms as governor.

Climate
Louisiana has a mild sub-tropical climate. The Gulf of Mexico is an important factor in determining the weather as it helps moderate temperatures and serves as a primary source for the state's frequent rains.

The statewide average annual temperature is 66 degrees. Overnight low temperatures in the winter range from the upper 30s to the lower 40s. During the summer, the daytime high temperatures average in the mid 90s, and when combined with the Gulf Coast's humidity, the summertime Heat Index (what it "feels like") can top 100 degrees.

Annual rainfall averages 58" for the state as a whole. Snow is rare in southern Louisiana, but accumulations do occur occasionally over northern parishes. Tropical storms and hurricanes are a common threat during hurricane season (June 1-Nov. 30), with the state averaging roughly two landfalling storms every three years. (Source: Louisiana Office of State Climatology)

Geography
One of the South Central states, Louisiana is bound on the north by Arkansas and Mississippi; east, by Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico; south, by the Gulf of Mexico and west, by Texas. The Mississippi River flows along part of the eastern boundary, then enters the state and creates the rich delta region which is the center of fertile agricultural lands. Coastal marshes, alluvial plains and rolling pine hills are a part of the varied topography.

Agriculture
Louisiana is one of the nation's largest producers of cotton, sugar cane, rice, sweet potatoes and pecans. The state is also a major producer of soybeans and corn. The top land-based industry in the state is forestry, with an economic impact from papermaking and wood products greater than all other crops combined. Poultry is the largest livestock industry, followed by dairy and beef cattle. Louisiana is also the nation's largest producer of alligator hides and crawfish. (Source: Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry)

Industry and Employment
In 2007, Louisiana's 120,414 units employed 1,869,965 workers whose annual earnings totaled $71,490,767,577. Average weekly wages statewide increased by $31.21 between 2006 and 2007. (Source: Louisiana Workforce Commission)

Tourism
As Louisiana's second largest industry, tourism employs 120,000 people and generates $9 billion in revenue every year. The tourism industry takes immense pride in the state's historic places, unique arts and crafts, natural resources and rich heritage as part of its efforts to accommodate the 24.1 million visitors traveling to Louisiana last year alone. (Source: Lieutenant Governor's Office)

Mineral Production
Principal mineral products are petroleum, natural gas, salt, sulphur, carbon black and gravel. Louisiana ranks second in the nation in oil production.

Parishes
In Louisiana, local government units, known elsewhere as counties, are called parishes. Originally there were church units set up by the Spanish provisional governor of Louisiana in 1769, in conjunction with 11 administrative districts. As Louisiana developed, it was found that the districts were too large and the smaller religious divisions were more suitable. As a consequence, when Louisiana became a state, the term "parish" was accepted with the name of the region to which it had applied under the Church. Today Louisiana has 64 parishes.