New Orleans has always been a place of mystery and intrigue and for those who call it home, it's never been anything but that - a place of lively music, good food, friends, and strong community. This city has had a long history before it and will continue to have a long history after, and it's one that has been immortalized in both literature and film. With roots in Creole culture and French influences, there's nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. That's the reason so many people flock to Louisiana to experience its creative and optimistic flavor and flair for life. It's also where the city's nicknames came from, along with a great many little-known facts about the great place we know as New Orleans.
The Crescent City And The Big Easy
The reason that New Orleans was once called the 'Crescent City' comes with a pretty simple explanation: Geography. Long before the French Quarter was known as what it was, it was known by the name of Vieux Carré. Upon close inspection of a map, it's clear that this town - the heart of the city - was actually built in a sharp curve around the Mississippi River. Therefore, the city was called the Crescent City, due to this river bend resembling a crescent moon. Although, with the city's somewhat mysterious nature, many think there's some type of spiritual or magical meaning behind this moon phase reference.
Interestingly enough, the origin for the name 'The Big Easy' is not nearly as clear or as obvious - so in a sense, there's still a bit of mystery surrounding New Orleans' nicknames. It's known that the city got its officially name of New Orleans from Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, who was also the founder of the city, after he named it for Philippe II, Duc D’Orléans. A sign of respect for the Royal Family of France at the time, this official city name came centuries prior to the days of the Big Easy.
The most accepted explanation for the nickname's origin occurred during the 1960s, when a gossip columnist by the name of Betty Guillaud populized the unusual name. Guillaud wrote for the Times-Picayune and often spoke of the contrast between New York City and New Orleans, arguably two of the most popular and premiere destinations of the time. Because of this, it's believed that contrast was drawn even further when the columnist described New Orleans as the Big 'Easy' as opposed to the Big 'Apple' of New York, driving home the point that life down south was easier and far more simple.
However, there is another theory as to why and how the city got this nickname.
The Origin And Evolution Of The Music Scene
It's no secret that music was, and still is, very much part of New Orleans culture and history. Therefore, it's surmised that musicians are partially responsible for the nickname of The Big Easy in reference to this diverse and creative scene. During the 20th century, music and New Orleans became one, with the city boasting the biggest and greatest reputation for all things jazz and blues. Just as aspiring actors made the journey to Los Angeles to pursue acting, New Orleans became a haven and a beacon of hope for aspiring musicians. Because of this, there were more music venues here than any other in the country, all with reputations that were known far outside of Louisiana.
Venues weren't the only place musicians and artists were singing and playing instruments, though - they were taking to the streets to perform, which is still a huge part of New Orleans' festival and parade culture today. The streets quickly became filled with the sounds of artists, with the city and the community being nothing but supportive. This open-arms policy is what's believed to have also secured the name 'The Big Easy,' as it was easy for new musicians and aspiring artist to integrate and gain a following in the city.
The 20th century was perhaps a golden time for music in the south, as artists were able to make a living while doing something they loved. This 'easy' attitude towards most things carried through the age of Prohibition, where it's also believed that the community's lax attitude toward alcohol consumption was yet another contributing factor to the nickname. Regardless of where it got its start, that laid-back nature still continues to be part of New Orleans culture to this day.