Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Antoine Prudence Lalouette was born on January 29, in either 1775 or 1777, the son of Jean (born 1753) and Julie Yard Lalouette (1756-1779) in Luxembourg. Lalouette served as an infantry officer in the Grand Armée, Napoleon Bonaparte's French Imperial Army. His family appears to have been prominent in France and probably well off. On June 30, 1813, Lalouette married Alexandrine Marie Floride Parseval de Frileuse (1791-1849), who appears to have been referred to, largely, as Floride. They were the parents of Anne Delphine (1814-1891); Henriette Gabrielle (1816-1911); Marie Octave (1818-1883); Caroline Céleste (1820-1821); Maxime Adrien (1824-1894), a trader; and René Louis (1826-1895), an infantry officer and director of Florenc Gas Company. Over the years, the family lived in the Saôme et Loire region, in the cities of Saint Clément, Macôn, and La Chapelle de Guinchay.
In 1821, Antoine Prudence Lalouette left his home, his wife, and his three children, sailing from Le Havre, France and arriving in New Orleans in June 1821. He purchased 1483 acres located at the mouth of Mobile Bay and Fish River (Rivière Poissons) in what is now Baldwin County, Alabama. The land was completely unsettled, wooded with many species of trees, and populated by "wild" animals. Lalouette appears to have been highly optimistic with the intent of developing culture in these wild lands and creating a profitable business growing fruits and vegetables from his native country, with the help of enslaved people.
His two associates died soon after their arrival and he spent two years trying to clear the land, build a house, and essentially survive. His wife, Floride, appears to have been unwilling to leave France to join him, and in August of 1823, he returned to France, retaining his property, but leaving it in the care of administrators.
Following his return to France, he and Floride had two more children, Maxime and René. Maxime and Lalouette appear to have had a particularly close relationship, communicating extensively around the time of Floride's death in 1849. Following Lalouette's death in 1855, it appears that Maxime worked to ensure that his heirs retained ownership of the land in Alabama.
This collection consists of material (largely letters) from the time that Lalouette was working in Alabama, as well as material produced afterward, much of which may have been used in the 1884 efforts by Lalouette's heirs to prove ownership of the land.
Lalouette wrote mostly to his wife, Floride, but he also wrote single letters to his sister, Madame Rolland; to M. Gilbert, a medical doctor, with whom he appears to have maintained a close relationship (referring him as "mon frère"); and to an unidentified individual. In all cases, Lalouette was extremely observant and described his voyage (which included a brush with corsairs), New Orleans and the poverty in the city, Mobile, his land, his work towards building a profitable farm, and the difficulties he experienced. His letters to Floride are warm in nature and he happily anticipates her arrival in Alabama with detailed plans to ship their household in Rouen. In order to ensure his success, he frequently asks her for her help; in particular, he asks her to purchase and ship wine; collect vines and seeds for cultivation in Alabama; send tools, textiles, and furniture; and to ask his friend, Louis-Augustin Bosc d'Antic, a naturalist at the Paris Museum, to send plants and fruit trees from the King's Nursery. These letters include references to the cost of enslaved people.
When it became evident that Floride did not intend to leave France, Lalouette left his property and returned to France. Around that time, Adrien [almost certainly Delahante] wrote letters to Floride with information on Lalouette's return and business in Paris. Adrien Delahante (1788-1854), a banker, was married to Floride's cousin, Alexandrine Charlotte, Sophie Brossin de Fonteray (1788-1860). Delahante's letters are written from Paris, Lyon, and Macôn and are affectionate in nature, beginning with "ma chere Floride" and ending with a statement of love. Included is a copy of a letter Delahante wrote to Lalouette, possibly on Floride's behalf (the copy is in Floride's hand), asking him to return to France and offering him work on a piece of land to be cleared for a vineyard.
With the exception of letters from his son, Maxime Adrien, around the time of Floride's death in 1849, which focus on family and business; the bulk of this material relates to Lalouette's land in Alabama. In 1852, Lalouette created a report of his holdings in Alabama, possibly for a prospective buyer, in which he provides a wealth of information on the property and on settling in Alabama.
There are several legal documents, the marriage contract for Antoine and Floride Lalouette in 1813 and death certificates for both (dated 1849 for Floride and 1855 for Antoine). It is possible that these were used in the efforts by the family to prove ownership of the land in Alabama. The final item in the collection is a letter from Joseph I. Clemens, attorney-at-law in Mobile, Alabama, to Maxime Adrien Lalouette, et als., stating that "Thomas H. Price (of Gibbons and Price) was successful in the litigation for the heirs of A.P. Lalouette for the recovery of certain lands in Baldwin County Alabama that belonged the said A.P. Lalouette," and that the titles of the lands belonged to the heirs. Clemens requests that the heirs pay the widow of Thomas H. Price $750 for taxes and professional services in recovering the land. This letter is in English, but was translated into French.
This collection provides a glimpse into the experiences and hardships endured by ambitious and idealistic settlers of the United States. In addition to observations on early American culture and geography by the French, the collection documents agriculture in Alabama, families separated by the Atlantic Ocean, and the ultimate lack of success that many settlers met. Researchers interested in the culture of enslaving human beings for profit may find this collection to contain valuable evidence.
Sold by 19th Century Rare Books & Photograph Shop, 2021 April 20
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Holly Mengel
- Finding Aid Date
- 2021 December 6
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.