Louisiana began its life as a giant territory purchased from France that extended all the way from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. So how did this giant territory become an average sized state shaped like a boot?
It was Thomas Jefferson who pushed the concept of dividing states into smaller, but fairly equally portioned entities. He believed that if individual states were too large they would collapse under the weight of the difficulty of governing a large land mass. I’ll talk about some obvious exceptions to this in a later post.
Jefferson also saw a value in keeping a state small enough to maintain a certain homogeneity. Much of the area that became Louisiana had been settled by the French, and when the time came to define its boundaries, keeping those French settlements within the same state was an important factor.
The Mississippi River defined the eastern part of Louisiana, but oddly, it only follows the river to a certain point and then turns straight east. That was because Spain still owned a long panhandle of territory stretching west from Florida all the way to the Red River. It wasn’t until America seized from Spain the land between the Mississippi River to the Pearl River that Louisiana acquired the part of its land that is shaped like the toe of a boot.