We've had a few people ask us about the source of our name in the short time we've been open. While there is some explanation on our FAQs and our About page, the question recently came up over Twitter about the specific spelling of our name. In particular, the spelling of "Laffite."
That to the right there is, at least it's presumed to be, a portrait of Jean Lafitte.
Who was he? A smuggler, a pirate, a privateer in the early 19th century, and most appropriately for our lesson here, a combatant, for the United States, in the Battle of New Orleans, the final battle of the War of 1812.
Lafitte, it is believed, was likely born either in French Basque country, or in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Regardless, by the first decade of the 1800s, he found himself running a warehouse in Louisiana, storing and selling goods smuggled in by his brother Pierre. Lafitte himself would engage in smuggling and piracy until 1814, when an American naval force successfully invaded his stronghold in Barataria Bay.
In exchange for a pardon, Lafitte and his men fought alongside Major General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, the final battle of the War of 1812, which Jackson and his men decisively won.
Which is what brings us here today. New Orleans. When Walt Disney began envisioning New Orleans Square, and setting its time period in the 19th century, the Battle of New Orleans and the greater War of 1812 became an obvious focal point.
It's said, in fact, that the unifying element of New Orleans Square and the surrounding parts of Frontierland may be Jean Lafitte. There is a plaque outside of Pirates of the Caribbean detailing his fight for New Orleans. Is the Sailing Ship Columbia really Lafitte's pirate ship? Supposedly, he was close friends with Master Gracey, who may have let him stay at, and hide beneath, his infamous Mansion. The (original) Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island... is that Lafitte's hideout? The restaurant on Tom Sawyer Island is Lafitte's Tavern, and since Opening Day in 1955, Lafitte's Anchor has been in Frontierland or New Orleans Square, continuously.
So why are we Henry & Laffite then? With two "f"s and one "t"? Because of Laffite's Landing, the first place I ever remember seeing the name at Disneyland, and what sparked my interest in the history of the man and his name's appearance throughout Disneyland. And, I believe the only place in Disneyland that doesn't use the canonical spelling "Lafitte."
For more on the Jean Lafitte "Mega-Theme" I highly recommend this post on Long-Forgotten Haunted Mansion. Well worth the read!
What happened on the day that launched The Happiest Place On Earth? Think you know the whole story? Hold on to your Mickey ears, as we take a closer look at that monumental day.
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The shop is fully operational, and the designs available here represent a small fraction of what we have planned for the coming months.