Louisiana – The 18th State

louisiana-printed-poly_1On April 30, 1812, Louisiana became the 18th state in the United States. Louisiana was originally a French in 1731 but was relinquished to Spain after the French and Indian Wars. Louisiana was eventually returned back to France in about 1800. The famous French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte sold Louisiana to the United States just two years later in 1803 in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase.

Louisiana did not adopt a state flag until 100 years after it became a state in 1912. The background of the flag is blue which represents truth and placed in the center of the flag is the state bird, The Eastern Brown Pelican, feeding her three young chicks inside a nest. There is a legend saying that the mother pelican is tearing flesh from herself at the chest to feed her own young. And underneath the birds is a ribbon stating the state’s motto, Union, Justice, and Confidence.

Louisiana is home to New Orleans, famous for Mardi Gras, which is always celebrated 46 days before Easter. The city hosted its first Mardi Gras parade in 1837 and the floats did not start coming until twenty years later. The celebration generates a revenue of over $840 million annually thanks to tourists and regulars who come to celebrate.

How Louisiana Got Named: Louisiana was named after Louis XIV of France.

No Counties? Louisiana is one of two U.S. states that do not have counties. Instead, Louisiana is divided into 64 parishes. The only other state without counties is Alaska and they are divided by boroughs.

Flag of Louisiana

The flag of the State of Louisiana was originally adopted in 1912 and revised in 2006. This rectangular flag features a blue background with a “pelican in her piety” in the center: a mother pelican feeding three baby pelicans in their nest.  The mother pelican has three small drops of blood on her chest and is using the blood to feed her children.  This symbol is also used on the Louisiana state seal.  The state motto is included on a white ribbon below the pelican of piety and reads: “Union, Justice, and Confidence.”

The drops of blood on the pelican of piety on the Louisiana state flag might seem disturbing, and it is not surprising that their inclusion on the flag was inconsistent throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  It wasn’t until an eighth grade student at Vanderbilt Catholic High School in Houma, Louisiana brought the issue to the attention of the Louisiana State Legislature that it became a requirement that all versions of the Louisiana seal and flag include the three drops of blood on the pelican’s breast.

The pelican of piety has been a Christian symbol of charity since the Middle Ages.  Medieval Europeans thought that pelicans were particularly caring for their babies. Because of the way the pelican presses its bill into its chest when feeding, it was thought that a pelican mother would injure herself to feed her young her own blood in the absence of available food.  Other legends about pelicans hold that the pelican mother kills its young, only to resurrect the babies with her own blood, symbolic of the Passion of the Christ. Both versions of the pelican mother support self-sacrifice and generosity in the Christian faith.  In addition to its use on the Louisiana state flag and seal, the pelican image is featured in Great Britain on the emblems of the Corpus Christi College in both Cambridge and Oxford.