March 16, 1945
Baton Rougeans were being advised to keep their observations to themselves today
in 1945, as Major Albert Stowe, Assistant Chief of Military Intelligence at the
Pentagon spoke to civic clubs in Baton Rouge today in 1945. In the waning days of
World War II, Stowe warned that civilians must let down their guard just because the
news from the front was improving, warning, “Often it is more effective than a great
superiority of force. A puny opponent with good eyesight can usually defeat a blind
Samson.” He warned further that no bit of information of information was too “atomic”
to be of interest to the enemy.
March 17, 1699
In late 1698, Pierre LeMoyne, Sieur d’Iberville sailed from Brest in France, charged
with exploring the Mississippi River and scouting locations for a fort that would
enforce France’s claim to the river. He entered the river in early March 1699, and by
today in that year, he had reached the first high ground along the river, where a
small stream entered the river, he found a settlement of Native Americans that the
residents called Isse Trouma or Istrouma. In his journal, d’Iberville would translate
the word to “Baton Rouge” or red pole or red stick. The name stuck. French settlers
would return to the area approximately twenty years later.
March 18, 1967
Ánh Quang "Joseph" Cao was born in Saigon this week in 1967. His father had been
an officer in the South Vietnamese army, so his mother and four brothers and sisters
fled to the United States in 1975 and settled in New Orleans. After entering public life
as an adult, he ran unsuccessfully for Attorney General of Louisiana before being
elected to Congress in 2008. He is the first Vietnamese American to serve in
Congress, but he would serve only one term. In December 2015, he announced that
he would run unsuccessfully for the open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David
Vitter in 2016.
March 19, 1779
Some of the first of the five hundred Malaguenos (residents of Malaga) who had left
Spain to colonize the region around Bayou Teche arrived in the area this week in
1779. The expedition left from the Mississippi River on February 7th, and entered
Bayou Plaquemines, until they reached their destination, the Bayou Teche. Four
German families in very bad circumstances were already settled in the area and
invited to join in the settling of the new town. An appropriate site was selected and
construction began on a Spanish-style community built around a central plaza that
would be called Nueva Iberia, or New Iberia.
March 20, 1839
Shreveport was incorporated as Shreveport. Originally, the town consisted of 64 city
blocks, created by eight streets running west from the Red River and eight streets
running south from Cross Bayou, one of its tributaries. Shreveport had been
founded in 1836 by the Shreve Town Company, a development corporation
established to start a town on the Red River to connect with the Texas Trail. The city
is named for Henry Miller Shreve, who had been born in New Jersey in 1785 and had
been instrumental in clearing the Ohio, Mississippi and Red Rivers to navigation in
the early 1800’s.
March 21, 1818
This week in 1818, legislature "that any white person imported into the state as
redemptioners, it shall be the duty of the governor, or of the person exercising that
authority of the governor for the time being, to appoint two or more discreet and
suitable persons to be guardians of such redemptioners.” Redemptioners were
European immigrants who gained passage to American Colonies in the 18th and
19th centuries by selling themselves into indentured servitude to pay back the
shipping company which had advanced the cost of the transatlantic voyage. Most of
the redemptioners who were landed in Louisiana were of German origin.
March 22, 1936
Fashion icon Henri Bendel died in New York today in 1936. Henri Willis Bendel had
been born in Lafayette, when it was still called Vermillionville, in 1868. His first
business had been a millinery business in Houma. At the urging of his New York-
born wife, he moved to New York in 1899, and opened a small millinery shop on
Ninth Street which would eventually become Henri Bendel, Inc. In June 1923, gave
45 percent of his company's stock to his employees. In 1927, Bendel acquired 180
acres on the Vermilion River in Lafayette. Formerly the Walnut Grove Plantation, it is
known today as Bendel Garden.
March 23, 1927
F. M. Goodman and Fidelia Adams faced the music in Shreveport, tonight in 1927.
“Music he beguiled from the quivering vibrations of a handsaw accompanied the
banjo Mrs. Fidelia Adams played at the revivals she and her husband conducted
contributed to the mutual fascination which led to the(ir) elopement.” Alas, handsaw
beguiler Goodman had left a wife and four children in his hometown of Lufkin, Texas,
and Mrs. Adams was also Reverend Adams, a preacher at the Apostolic Church in
Lufkin. Their love, forged in the harmony of their banjo and handsaw, was doomed
as they were returned to Texas to face charges of deserting their families.
March 24, 1724
This week in March, 1724, the Louisiana Code noir, or slave code, based largely on
that compiled in 1685 for the French Caribbean colonies, was introduced and would
remain in force until the United States took possession of Louisiana in 1803. The
Code’s first eleven articles refer to religious matters in the colony, including the
expulsion of Jews, the recognition of Roman Catholicism as the only legitimate
religion, and the mandate against interracial marriages and other kinds of mixing
between blacks and whites. The next forty-four articles covered the obligations of
masters, illegal activities and forms of punishment, the lack of legal rights afforded
the enslaved, and rules for manumission.
March 25, 1822
Today in 1822, the legislature established Louisiana’s first state penitentiary in New
Orleans. The legislature appropriated $25,000 for the construction project, which
should be “within one league” of City Hall and on the same side of the river. The site
chosen was on the upriver side of Place d’Armes, now Jackson Square. The
penitentiary “on the reduced plan of one Robert Mills, of South Carolina,” would
remain in New Orleans for only ten years, as the legislators voted to remove the
institution to Baton Rouge in 1832. In the 1840’s, the Pontalba Apartment buildings
were built at the former site of the prison on St. Peter Street.
March 26, 1911
The South’s first Saenger Theater opened in Shreveport today in 1911. Julian Henri
Saenger had been born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1873, and moved to Shreveport with
his father in 1890. In the late 1890’s he and his brother opened the Saenger Drug
Company which became Shreveport’s first twenty-four-hour drugstore. In 1911, the
brothers organized the Saenger Amusement Company and operated movie and
vaudeville theatres in Shreveport, later opening the Strand Theater. In the 1920’s,
they moved the business to New Orleans and operated over three hundred theatres
throughout Louisiana, the South, and the Caribbean. The Saengers also owned or
operated theaters in Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Covington, Minden and Monroe.
March 27, 2002
Oops, I Did It Again propelled Kentwood native Britney Spears to the pop super-
stardom when it was released today in 2000. Britney Jean Spears was raised in
Kentwood, Louisiana, performing in stage and television shows as a child-most
notably The Mickey Mouse Club. Spears went on to become the best-selling teenage
artist of all time and a pop icon, credited with influencing the revival of teen pop
during the late 1990’s. She has sold out arenas across the world and garnered
honorific titles including the "Princess of Pop", and in 2009, Billboard Magazine
recognized her as the best-selling female artist of the 2000’s.
March 28, 1973
Marie Corinne “Lindy” Morrison Boggs became the first woman elected to the U. S.
House of Representatives from Louisiana today in 1973. Rep. Boggs was born in
Pointe Coupee Parish. She attended a convent school and then Tulane University.
At college, she met her future husband, Hale Boggs. In 1940, Hale Boggs won
election to the U.S. House of Representatives but failed to be reelected in 1942. He
was elected again in 1946, serving until October , 1972, when he was killed in an
airplane crash. Governor Edwin Edwards named Lindy as her husband’s successor,
and she would hold the seat in her own right until 1991.
March 29, 1976
Food as we know it got a little blacker this week in 1976 as Paul Prudhomme was
named the new executive chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. The
youngest of thirteen children, Prudhomme was raised on a farm near Opelousas. In
1957, he opened his first restaurant, a hamburger stand called Big Daddy O's Patio
in Opelouisas. Big Daddy would last only nine months, and in 1970, he became a
sous chef at Le Pavillon Hotel in New Orleans, later helping to open Clarence
Dupuy's restaurant Maison Dupuy. At Commander’s Palace, Prudhomme would
introduce the world to blackened seafood. He would open his own French Quarter
restaurant, K-Paul’s, in 1979.
March 30, 1871
The legislature created Vernon Parish today in 1871. The official story is that the
parish is named for Mount Vernon, the home of President George Washington, but
there are other possibilities. Some say the parish was named for a race horse owned
by Joe Moore, one of the members of the committee chosen to name the parish.
Another tale suggests that the committee had been arguing over the name while
drinking in a store. Trying to preserve his precious whiskey and profits, the host
suggested the committee stop a local man passing by on a mule-drawn cart and
name the parish whatever the man said was the mule's name.
March 31, 1943
The first “government rubber plant” for the manufacture of synthetic rubber,
sufficient for the manufacture of four million tires per year, went into operation in
North Baton Rouge today, just four-and-a-half months after the first earth was turned
in the first year of World War II. The plant was constructed by the H. K. Ferguson
Company, directed by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. It was financed by
the Defense Plant Corporation and would be operated by the Copolymer
Corporation. The plant was described as the “fastest job in the entire war
construction effort.” Not surprisingly, the entire output of the plant supplied the Army