New Orleans


Basin Street
Basin Street Circa 1910

New Orleans was established by real estate entrepreneur John Law, a Scotsman, and the French Regent Louis Phillipe, the duc d’Orleans.1 Land was sold to people in France, Spain, and Germany under the pretense that it was an area of immense beauty, rich in minerals, and full of monetary potential.2 What these unsuspecting people received in reality was a land of swamp, mosquitoes, and alligators. During its existence before finally being purchased by the United States in 1803, New Orleans found itself under both French and Spanish rule, changing hands three times in less than sixty years.

Prior to being owned by the United States, the cultural atmosphere of New Orleans could be described as tolerant. New social castes such as the Creoles and Mulattos evolved from the offspring of slaves and their owners. These fairer skinned children were often raised with the same stature as legitimate children; they were released from the bondage of slavery and given formal education. Many of the Creoles and Mulattos that pursued musical careers were trained in Europe and returned to New Orleans, bringing back the latest in musical tastes. At least two opera houses were in New Orleans during this time, and classical music enjoyed a popular status among the wealthy. This cultural acceptance and attitude towards music created an environment that was amicable to the arts. The cultural climate found here was considerably more tolerant than other cities North America at the time. It was this tolerance that led to the continuation of African traditions which were later important in the formation of jazz.

  1. Otto Werner, The Origin and Development of Jazz, (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1984) 67.
  2. Ibid.