Jean Laffite

 Jean Laffite
Print of Jean Laffite, from the Name Files Photographic Collection, Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas

Jean Laffite (sometimes spelled Lafitte) was a pirate and the subject of many stories of romance and adventure across the Gulf of Mexico during the early 19th century. During 1817-1820, he started a colony in Galveston and transformed the island into a hotbed of smuggling and privateering. The following guide contains resources about this iconic figure.

Manuscript Collections

  • Jean Laffite Letter, MS26-0392. Letter from Jean Laffite in Galveston to General James Long, dated July 7, 1819. In the letter, Laffite discusses the cooperative effort with General Long for Mexican emancipation.
  • Jean Laffite Letter to the President. 1815 December 27, MS26-0397. Photostat and typescript copies of a letter possibly written by Jean Laffite to U.S. President James Madison. In it, Laffite is seeking to vindicate his actions at Barataria, Louisiana at the time of the British attack on that state and is claiming restitution for losses suffered there.
  • Ebenezer Allen Correspondence, MS35-0001. Letter dated November 10, 1853 from Ebenezer Allen to Dr. Gideon Lincecum describing a "mesmeric seance" at the home of Mrs. Bradbury during which the site of Jean Laffite's buried treasure was reportedly disclosed.
  • Jean Laffite Diary, MS67-0002. Two copies of a diary most likely written by Laffite, narrating events from his life and details about his family.
  • John A. Laffite Papers, MS71-0235. Letters of John A. Laffite, a supposed descendant of Jean Laffite, addressed to John Hyatt and Robert C. Park of Rosenberg Library and Ann F. Crawford of Austin, regarding Laffite manuscripts in his possession and early maps of Galveston.
  • The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, MS22-0041. A copy of The United States Magazine and Democratic Review, Vol. VI, No. XIX, July 1839, which features an article titled "The Cruise of the Enterprise. A Day With La Fitte" on pp. 33-42, about a cruise that the authors took part in with Captain Jean Lafitte in Galveston Bay.
  • Randal Jones Papers, MS27-0041. Typescript titled "Visit to Galveston Island in 1818," by Randal Jones (spelled "J. Randall Jones" in the document), about Jean Laffite's camp on Galveston Island and the French colony at Champ d'Asile.
  • New-York Spectator. 1818 September 15, MS69-0239. Article published by the Orleans Gazette on August 11, 1818 and printed in the September 15, 1818 issue (Vol. XXI, No. 60) of the New-York Spectator, reporting the Laffite brothers' activities at Galveztown.
  • Jao de la Porta Papers, MS26-0395. An order of navigation, No. 46, issued by Jao de la Porta, Secretary of the Commune of Jean Laffite, Isle of Campeche, Bay of Galvez.
  • Jean Laffite collection, MS48-0098. Two scholarly journal articles that include reprinted correspondence regarding the removal of Jean Laffite and Charles Lallemand from the Galveston Bay area: Charles Gayarre's article "The Famous Lafittes at Galveston " (Southern Bivouac) and George Mason Graham's article "Political Occurrences on the Island of Galvezton in 1818" (Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine).
  • Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar Papers, MS29-0027. A photostat copy of a manuscript with information obtained by Lamar from James Campbell regarding Campbell's part in the War of 1812 and his close association with Jean Laffite.
  • Government Documents Collection, MS83-0063. A collection of United States, Confederate States, and Texas State government documents, including speeches, reports, and legislation. Box 1, File 26 contains a message from President James Madison, re: privateering activities by Jean Laffite on Galveston.
  • Felipe Fatio Papers, MS36-0002. Correspondence of Don Felipe Fatio, Spanish Consul at New Orleans, and Diego Morphy, Vice-Consul, with the Captain-General of the Island of Cuba concerning privateering and slave trading on and near Galveston Island ("Galvezton"), Louis Michel Aury, Francisco Xavier Mina, and the Lafitte brothers.
  • Champ D'Asile Article, MS47-0002. Transcript of an account of Champ D'Asile ("Camp Asylum"), the French colony in the Province of Texas, published in L'Abeille Americaine, July 9, 1818.
  • J. O. Dyer Papers, MS26-0368. A typewritten article about Jean Laffite written by Dr. J. O. Dyer. This article would later be published in the September 19, 1926 issue of the Galveston News.
  • Joseph O. Dyer Papers, MS79-0017. Dyer's manuscripts, some of which were published in the Galveston Daily News, reflecting his interest in early Texas and Galveston history, including articles on pirates, plagues, native tribes, and the Texas Republic.
  • George W. Grover Papers, MS51-0004. Correspondence, scrapbooks, field notes, historical narratives, and other printed materials produced or collected by George Grover. Box 1, Files 33 and 34 contain writings on Jean Laffite.
  • Jean Laffite Collection, MS76-0007. Photocopies of original documents, general research notes, bibliography, and articles regarding the pirate and privateer Jean Laffite.
  • Gonzales Family papers, MS87-0035. Papers of the Gonzales family, principally containing correspondence, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, and photographs of Galveston artist Boyer Gonzales, Sr. Box 1, File 4 contains Gonzales, Sr.’s writings about the Battle of New Orleans and Jean Laffite.
  • Jeanette, Common Law Wife of Jean LaFitte, MS22-0025. Typescript of Jeanette, Common Law Wife of Jean LaFitte: The Poignant Story of a Gentle Young Woman Born Into Social Ostracism, written by J. D. Claitor. The writing contains a biographical sketch on Catherine "Jeanette" Villars and her relationship with Lafitte.
  • J. D. Claitor Papers, MS22-0026. A notebook of writings by Claitor called The Flavor of Galveston: Short Stories and Articles, which includes newspaper articles on Jean Lafitte and Maison Rouge.
  • Margaret L. Watson Papers, MS22-0042. Two typed manuscripts of Mercedes, or the True Lafitte, by Margaret L. Watson, about Jean Lafitte's adventures throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Books

Vertical Files Collection

Files containing writings, newspaper clippings, and other printed materials relating to Jean Laffite and the Laffite Society. Subject index available online.

Photographic Collections

  • Name Files Photographic Collection. Collection of approximately 1,000 photographs of individuals, mostly from Galveston and Texas, obtained from various sources. Images of Jean Laffite are located in the "L" subgroup.
  • Street Files Photograph Collection. Photographic collection of Galveston streetscapes, buildings, and houses; arranged by street name, lettered streets followed by numbered streets and named streets. Photos of Maison Rouge, Laffite’s historical home, are located in the "Avenue A" series.

Newspapers/Periodicals

  • The Laffite Society Chronicles, Laffite Society. Issues for 1995-2002 and 2012-2018.
  • Laffite Study Group Newsletter, Laffite Study Group. Issues for 1980-1982 and 1984-1988.
  • Life and Times of Jean Laffite, Laffite Study Group. Issues for 1976-1980, 1982, 1989-1990, and 1992.
  • NewspaperArchive.com.
    • Searchable, digitized microfilm of Galveston newspapers.
    • Accessible online at www.rosenberg-library.org under E-Library / All Online Databases / Articles, News, & Magazines / Newspaper Archives. Accessible remotely with a library card.
    • Can be used to search for articles regarding Jean Laffite, Laffite Society, Maison Rouge, and other related topics.

Other Resources

Rosenberg Library Museum

The Rosenberg Library Museum maintains and exhibits artifacts that document the history of Galveston and the Republic of Texas, as well as the Library’s fine art collection throughout the Library. Below are links to catalog records of a sampling of the Museum’s artifacts documenting on Jean Laffite:

  • Jean Lafitte 20th Century Portrait: Copied in oil from an earlier engraving, by Alyce Martin (Museum Object 81.086).
  • Jean Lafitte 20th Century Portrait: Copied in oil from an earlier engraving, by Paul R. Schumann (Museum Object 76.021).
  • Jean Lafitte's Headquarters: 20th century artist’s rendering of what Lafitte’s settlement Campeche may have looked like, by Emil Bunjes (Museum Object 74.057).
  • Lafitte House (Watercolor on Paper): A watercolor rendering of the side of the multi-gabled house on 15th and Ave. A., enhanced by a line of washing, by Kenneth Harris (Museum Object 86.022.74).
  • Portrait of Jean Lafitte (?): 19th century portrait of a man said to be Jean Lafitte—please note that his clothing is not historically accurate for the period in which Lafitte lived. Artist unknown (Museum Object 79.200).

The Laffite Society

The Laffite Society is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the study of Jean and Pierre Laffite and their contemporaries. The Society meets on the second Tuesday of each month at The Meridian (2228 Seawall Blvd, Galveston, TX 77550) at 6:00pm.



Updated 10/6/2020 KK