Division/City Archives || New Orleans Public
ENTER the Exhibit
Click on the small images below to see a larger
version and a translation of each of these documents which, in the physical exhibit at the Main
Library, comprise the title panels.
Don Manuel de Salcedo, . . . Commissioned by His Majesty to Deliver This Province to the French Republic
The Colonial Prefect of Louisiana to the Gentlemen Members of the Cabildo of the City of New Orleans
Procés Verbal of Reinstallation of the Municipal Body on the day of the taking into possession of the Colony by the United States
For a look at many more historical documents, maps, pamphlets,
and books from the Louisiana Purchase era (taken from collections at LSU and NOPL), visit LSU Libraries'
Special Collections' digital project celebrating the Purchase centennial.
"I now embrace a leisure moment to write you inofficially [sic] from this City; and to observe, that the high expectations I had formed of the value of our new acquisition to the United States, are fully confirmed by my personal observations. The country on the Mississippi is fertile, happily adapted to cultivation, its productions various and abundant, the people wealthy, and in the enjoyment of all the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of life. New-Orleans is a great, and growing City. The commerce of the Western Country concentrates at this place, and there appears to me a moral certainty, that in ten years, it will rival Philadelphia or New-York."
Governor William Charles Cole Claiborne penned these words in a letter to President Thomas Jefferson during January 1804, less than one month after he and General James Wilkinson had taken possession of Louisiana from the French. In it, he assured Jefferson that the Purchase was well worth its $15 million price tag, and that New Orleans was indeed a vital city with a promising future.
New Orleans was, of course, all that Jefferson had initially set out to acquire, and it proved to be the prize of the Purchase. While the vast reaches of trans-Mississippi Louisiana held great potential, the Crescent City was the real thing—an established metropolis and trade center with a diverse urban population of about eleven thousand. And, in the words of historian Gilbert Din,
"New Orleans also grew rapidly in the American era, outpacing the western towns founded in the late eighteenth century. For decades, New Orleans remained the only significant city in the deep South. Despite its location in a troublesome site, its presence at the base of the Mississippi Valley made it the natural emporium for a vast hinterland upriver. The growth that New Orleans experienced in the nineteenth century was set in the Spanish period in Louisiana." [The New Orleans Cabildo, Colonial Louisiana's First City Government, 1769-1803 (Baton Rouge, 1996), 36].
This exhibit, New Orleans Public Library's contribution to the Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial celebration, is designed to tell the story of New Orleans during the fifteen years between 1797 and 1812. The former year saw the beginning of a significant influx of American ships and citizens into the Crescent City as the Spanish lifted long-standing trade restrictions. The latter year, of course marked the culmination of the Americanization of New Orleans through Louisiana's admission to statehood.
"A Great and Growing City": New Orleans in the Era of the Louisiana Purchase uses original documents and maps from the New Orleans City Archives along with books from the general Louisiana Division collections to illustrate the social, economic, and political life of the Crescent City as it passed from Spanish to French and then to American control. It was designed and mounted by archivists Wayne Everard and Irene Wainwright and will remain on view on the third floor of the Main Library through the end of 2003 and here in NUTRIAS indefinitely.
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