Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bossier Banner Name and Place Index

The History Center is happy to announce the return of its name and place index to the Bossier Banner newspaper. The index includes the years 1859-1985. You can now browse through the alphabetical listing of people, places, and organizations to find the corresponding citation for the Bossier Banner article you wish to view. To get a copy of the article, either call or email the history center, tell us the citation, and we will send you a copy or scan.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Letters to Santa

This 1967 photo shows the first-graders at Princeton School ready to write their letters to Santa Claus. Their teacher has written "Dear Santa Claus, I would like some toys and clothing for Christmas" on the chalkboard. This photo (2004.003.009) is from our Walter H. Martin collection. Mr. Martin was the principal at Princeton High School.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


“Extract from the Reconstructed Constitution of the State of Louisiana. With Portraits of the Distinguished Members of the Convention & Assembly. A.D. 1868” is a rare lithograph poster in our collection that once hung in thousands of homes of black Louisianans. Thumbnail portraits of the black delegates to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1868 surround a portrait of Louisiana’s first black Lieutenant Governor, O.J. Dunn. (Not pictured is John Pierce, representative of Bossier Parish.)

Delegates to this convention rewrote Louisiana’s Constitution during the period following the Civil War called Reconstruction. Black Louisianans were given the right to vote for delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1868. They enthusiastically voted for almost 60 percent black delegates. The resulting Constitution gave black males the right to vote. It took away the right to vote from those who had preached or published articles against the United States or who had voted for or signed an ordinance of secession. It integrated free schools and (on paper at least) any other public places.

In the election following ratification, many of the black delegates to the constitutional convention were elected to the legislature. It was the first time blacks held public office in Louisiana. These changes did not persist. Reconstruction was over by 1877. But black leaders of the Reconstruction period, who tended to be as educated as their white counterparts, had laid down a framework for black political, economic and educational gains. Reconstruction was Louisiana’s first civil rights campaign, and of course not its last.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Collections database feedback

We have some new features available on our PastPerfect online collections database (accessible here or through the link in the menu to the right). When you view an image in our database, you'll now be able to email the link to share your find with others and you'll also have the chance to provide us with feedback.

So if you recognize a person or location that we haven't identified yet - or maybe you notice that we mixed up your ancestors in a photo - please let us know!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Merry Messages and Memories

Visit the History Center during the month of December to see our holiday themed exhibit, "Merry Messages and Memories," located in two of our front display cases. You'll see photos of snowy Bossier Parish, handmade Christmas ornaments, and a selection of 1940s-era Christmas cards. We'll also be decorating our large tree, so be sure to drop by for the holidays!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photographs from the 1870s

This week we've been cataloging a large collection of carte-de-viste and cabinet card images. These photographs are mostly from the 1870s and were shot at local Shreveport studios like the Star Gallery and Olsen's Photograph Gallery on Texas Street. Unfortunately, we don't know the identities of many people in the photos, such as the brothers seen above (2002.035.393). They are likely relatives or friends of the Arnold, Tidwell, and Brownlee families of Bossier Parish.

The photos are valuable research tools even without names, since they allow us to see excellent examples of clothing and hairstyles from the later half of the 1800s. This carte-de-viste photograph (2002.035.364) was sent by 20-year-old Alcie Smisson to her brother Bernie in 1870. Her dress is relatively simple with an apron-like overskirt and a neckline embellishment of ribbon. Alcie wears her hair in a popular style of waves pulled back from her face in a center part.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two new exhibits!

The History Center has a new exhibit on display - "The Great Depression Era in Bossier Parish: A Collection of Images, Words, and Possessions from the Past." The exhibit focuses on Senator Huey P. Long's connections to Northwestern Louisiana, the early days of Barksdale Field, the 1933 Plain Dealing bank robbery, and the importance of family and community. You'll also see the lighter side of the 1930s in photos that capture moments of fun, like the Lions Club donkey baseball game played in Plain Dealing. Excerpts from oral histories are sprinkled throughout the display to highlight the experience of living through the Depression.

This exhibit was created in support of "Triumph Over Tragedy: The Great Depression/New Deal Era in North Louisiana,” the inaugural collaboration of the EYE-20 CREATIVE CORRIDOR, a unified effort to provide a long-term Regional Cultural Economy Initiative among Interstate-20 communities ensuring access to the highest quality programs and services offered by artists and arts organizations in North Louisiana.

The first group effort commemorates the 80th Anniversary of the Great Depression/New Deal Era in North Louisiana from October 2009 to the Spring of 2010. For a list of events in Triumph Over Tragedy go to

Another new exhibit is ready for viewing at the Plain Dealing Branch Library. "Bossier Parish Food 1910s - 1960s" can be seen as you enter the library, immediately to your right. This exhibit emphasizes how central food is to culture and celebrates our shared memories of food and family.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Homemade and Homeraised in Bossier Parish

World War II food rationing booklet from the Mary Wheeler Corley Collection, 2003.026.047B
Come see our exhibit on food in Bossier Parish, 1910's - 1960's at the Plain Dealing branch library

Bread - Mrs. Lillie Rose Roberson Matlock of the Plain Dealing area went through about three 50 lb. sacks of flour a week, making biscuits and bread for her large family. It seems all local food memories involve biscuits – biscuits and syrup for breakfast, biscuits and a slice of meat for lunch and giant “cat head” biscuits made an impression, too. Corn bread was also common. “Light bread” (typically store-bought bread such as Wonder Bread) was not. It was a treat, saved in Martha Southerland Humphrey’s household for company only. Coffee, sugar and flour were the universal staples you bought at the store, but maybe you could trade some eggs for some light bread, like the James F. Strayhan family did.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall Festival

This Thursday, October 29th, come to the library to celebrate the fall season at our Fall Festival! Children can take a candy tour through the library departments, read scary stories with Nigel, the therapy dog, play pumpkin guessing games, and make balloon animals. Don't forget to stop by the history center to see the Haunted Bossier exhibit!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Haunted Bossier

The history center is ready for Halloween! Come see our Haunted Bossier exhibit to discover whether there is any truth to ghost stories about frightening sites around the parish and to learn about fortune-telling games played in the 1890's on Halloween.

Be careful when you visit, though, because you never know what's lurking around the building... Beware of menacing black cats, spooky owls, glowing skulls, and creepy cobwebs!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Louisiana Archaeology Month

October is Louisiana Archaeology Month. The History Center will be setting up archaeology stations in the Children's Department of the central library. These stations will feature activities and displays for children ages 5 and up.

Stop by on Thursday afternoons (October 8, 15, and 22) from 3-5 pm to participate! For more information, please contact Pam Carlisle at 318-746-7717.

This little archaeologist-in-training uses her magnifying glass to find clues about projectile points.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Images from Our Archives

High water ahead in Plain Dealing! In this photograph from 1957, cars attempt to navigate a flooded Palmetto Street. You can see more images from this collection (1999.062) by looking through our online database.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Homemade and Homeraised in Bossier Parish

Dairy - Food that you could get at the source, such as your own milking cow, didn’t just afford the luxury of a fresher taste, it also meant having to store food for as short a time as possible in the days prior to modern refrigerators. Milk, often served as buttermilk, not “sweet milk” like we drink now, might be kept in a well. The first electric service came to Bossier Parish (Bossier City) in 1912, but some rural families were still without it in the 1940’s. They had ice box refrigerators, kept cold by the blocks of ice an “ice man” would deliver, sometimes with ‘kool aid’ for the children.
Photo: Unidentified children, most likely in Plain Dealing, enjoying ice cream cones. Do you you know these children? Please respond if you do! Photo by Dr. Scott Coyle, who was a Plain Dealing resident and physician, courtesy of Kitty Coyle.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rosenwald Schools

Rosenwald Schools are buildings across 14 South and Southwestern states that represent a cooperative, large-scale effort to educate black children from 1917 to the 1930’s, a time when there was no consistently available education for these students to speak of.

Julius Rosenwald was the son of Jewish immigrants in Chicago. He was a high school dropout who worked as an apprentice in his uncles’ clothing business. In 5 years he had his own business, and then earned enough capital that Richard Sears asked him to be a partner in the legendary Sears, Roebuck mail order company. In 1909 he became president/CEO. He also became one of the new ‘professional givers,’ or philanthropists (think Rockefeller or Carnegie).

Inspired by black educator and leader Booker T. Washington writing to him about schools as bad as stables (some in floorless shacks), he established the Julius Rosenwald fund in 1917 to improve education for black students by improving the physical plant in which it took place. To do so, he introduced the concept of matching funds. Black communities had to raise approximately a third of the money for their new school, local school boards, a third, and the Rosenwald Fund, a third.

Rosenwald Schools were named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2002. Bossier Parish had at least 13 Rosenwald buildings by 1932, according to a map from the Rosenwald Fund. There are a few possible Rosenwald Schools still standing in the Parish, most in very poor shape. One building that is holding
its own houses the North Bossier Civic Club on Highway 2 in Plain Dealing, pictured above. It follows the Rosenwald floor plan and is known locally as “The Rosenwald School”. However, we have not found any documentation to prove that it is one for historic preservation purposes, and the building may have been moved. If you have any information about this building, please contact us at the Historical Center. You could be saving a local treasure!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Latter Day Saints Affiliate Library Program

The Bossier Parish Library Historical Center is pleased to announce that we are a FamilySearch Affiliate Library. Our patrons now have access to over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm and 727,000 microfiche of microfilmed genealogical records spanning the globe.

The cost to borrow a reel of microfilm is $5.50 to cover the use of the microfilm for 30 days, and the mailing costs to our library and then back to FamilySearch. Microfiche can be borrowed at the rate of 15 cents per fiche card.

This is a great opportunity to search records that might solve your genealogical challenges.

Homemade and Homeraised in Bossier Parish

Photo of a community Christmas party in 1949 at Bossier High School.
Local residents have fond memories of local produce, but exotic oranges were special enough to be tempting Christmas presents.

1998.047.201 Photo by Bacon’s Studio; Bossier Chamber of Commerce Collection

Bossier Parish Food 1910's - 1960's

An exhibit coming soon to the Plain Dealing branch library

Eating across the food groups without going to the store, cont...

Fruits and Veggies - Some of the fondest food memories of people who grew up in the country in Bossier Parish are of fresh vegetables and fruit. If residents had a garden when they were growing up, they would point out how well they ate and that they always had enough to eat. They can yearningly list what came out of their gardens: Melons, turnip greens, cabbage, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn and peas. Their mothers would cook from the garden "whatever they had a mess of"and would also preserve food to last them through the year.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Homemade and Homeraised in Bossier Parish

An exhibit coming soon to the Plain Dealing branch library

Hardly a local memoir goes by without mention of food – how it was grown, processed and prepared at home, deliciously fresh and plentiful. The price of it was an entire family’s labor, supplemented by the efforts of a whole community. Bossier Parish residents could eat across the food groups without going to the store.

Meat – Bacon, sausage or ham was for breakfast, a slice of meat between biscuit halves was for lunch and for dinner it was ham, hamburger or chops. Since one cow could feed eight families, and the meat would go bad before consumed by a single family, neighbors formed “beef clubs”. Members took turns slaughtering a cow each week. People also raised their own hogs and chickens and supplemented these with fish, squirrel or hogs taken from the woods. Plain Dealing folks could bring their meat to the Food Preservation Center at Plain Dealing High School and get their meat canned and cured. The best cured meat could win a prize at the Bossier Parish Fair, usually held in Plain Dealing, from 1906 to the 1940’s. Next post: Fruits and Veggies

Photo: Unidentified squirrel hunters from the Beulah Findley Collection of Plain Dealing and North Bossier Parish photos by John Allen

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pioneer School

This is the Pioneer School in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. According to a 20 April 1944 Bossier Banner article by JT Manry, the school was built in the 1890s by SJ Zeigler. The article contains Miss Aletha Vaughn Montgomery's recollections of the school,
"I thought the building was quite beautiful. And it really was when compared with the other buildings in our section of the country, at a time when even homes were built for use, with little regard for beauty, comfort, or convenience."

We have the original Second Annual Catalogue of the Pioneer High School for the 1903 school year. School didn't start for those Plain Dealing children until September 2. The catalogue gives a brief history of the school. A sixty foot wing was added to the building in 1902, making the Pioneer School
"the finest school building in Bossier Parish and one of the finest buildings for a small town in Louisiana."

In our collections you can also find the Fourth Annual Catalogue, which is from the 1905 school year. Tuition was free to all children in Bossier Parish and enrollment grew to 157 students. The purpose of the school was
"to develop good, honest, intelligent citizens; to thoroughly cultivate those qualities of head and heart that make the true gentleman and the true lady."

To find out more about the Pioneer School, please search our online collections database. This image has an object identification number of 2003.004.012.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to School

School is just around the corner for Bossier Parish. We'll be including some images of school days past while our current students get back into their classroom routine.

This photo shows Haughton High School transfers (known today as school buses) loaded with students. About 200 children rode the transfers to school and back home again. The ride was probably a little bumpy!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Louisiana in Slices

In the spring and summer of 1860, J. W. Dorr, an editorial correspondent for the New Orleans Crescent, made a horse-and-buggy tour of a considerable part of Louisiana. The tour was an effort to acquire new subscribers to the paper and to secure advertisements from merchants in the country towns that he visited. Dorr recorded information about crops, weather, scenery, towns and villages, planters and merchants, hotel accommodations, politics, schools, churches, newspapers and much, much more. His observations were published in a series of twenty-seven letters in the Crescent under the heading “Louisiana in Slices” between April 30 and September 10, 1860. Each letter dealt with a particular parish or part of a parish. They were labeled “From Our Special Traveling Correspondent” and were signed “Tourist.”

Dorr was in Bossier Parish on July 14, 1860. From Bellevue, then the parish seat of Bossier, he wrote of Bellevue’s mayor, its one store, two bar-rooms and a church. He described the town as a “scrougin little corporation of about a hundred fifteen or sixteen inhabitants.”

His description went on to say “Those who visit the capital of Bossier should come prepared to ‘camp out’, for while this correspondent was partaking of his bacon and bread in the [dining room] of the ‘hotel’, he had to keep his feet in continual motion to defend himself against the pigs under the dining table. These cleanly and agreeable household pets run round the house more sociably than cats and dogs, and, conjointly with the bipeds, make a rush for the victualing apartment whenever the bell announces meal time. The fare at the hotel is bacon and bread for breakfast, bread and bacon for dinner, and some bacon and bread for supper. We have bacon on the table and bacon under the table—the latter very much alive and uncured, the former very salty and rusty.”

Dorr was critical in his remarks that “It is a great pity that the rural Anglo-American of Louisiana does not understand the mere rudiments of the science of living. In this climate and with this soil he might live in luxury. At few country stopping-places do I find milk, eggs, butter, fresh meat or vegetables. Occasionally one of the above articles may be had, seldom more than one at the same place, and ordinarily not any of them. The Creole population in their part of the State, invariably live well. Our Americans, generally, had rather raise fifty dollars’ worth of cotton than five hundred dollars’ worth of anything else.”

Less critical were Dorr’s observations that Bossier Parish is extensive, having many acres of fine cotton and corn lands. He pointed out that while some of the uplands did make good crops, the bottomlands were much richer. “Bossier is the most broken and uneven country I have yet visited in Louisiana, and some of the highlands look barren enough, but in the bottoms may be found bodies of lands of unsurpassed fertility.”

Dorr’s Bossier letter ends with his remarks about the weather, a scorching drought which had rendered the corn crop almost a total failure and the cotton crop badly injured.

The weather was “unprecedentedly hot and dry.” That certainly sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Photo Display!

We have just installed a new photo display, "Summertime in Bossier Parish," at the History Center. The display features images of picnics, swimming holes, summer camps, and family vacations. We have also located several wonderful photos of men and women in stylish bathing suits and dresses, like the one seen here on Fannie Swindle Gatlin. Even though she's covered from head to toe, Fannie is ready for a swim during her honeymoon in this image from 1916.
So as you sweat through another Bossier summer, stop by and see how your ancestors enjoyed summers past.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Images from our Archives

Following the gardening theme, here is a photo from 1954 of Joe Knowles with Terry Joe Skaggs working hard in their backyard garden.

Old Gardens and Gardening

The rich soils of Bossier Parish have always produced memorable abundances of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Many letters archived at the Historical Center contain references to foods and flowers grown in local gardens.

In September of 1900 a letter from Mary Peabody to friends in this area related the following:

"The wind blew cool this morning, but it is hot now. It is so very dusty. We have some sweet potatoes in the garden but it is so dry that it is hard work to get any. We had a nice garden this year, more vegetables than we could use. Mamma gave some away nearly everyday. She put up some kraut and made some chili sauce and chow-chow. We put up some peaches and pears. We haven't had any turnip greens yet, nor I haven't seen any. Yes, I will give you some violets. Will send them when I have a chance ... We had some very pretty morning glories and some roses."

A wide variety of flowers grew in Bossier gardens. In a May 1934 issue of The Bossier Banner, a local poet known as "Ladye Bird" recalled an old-fashioned garden containing boxwood hedges, beautiful pure-white lilies, violets, bridal wreath, yellow jasmine, heartsease, pansies, and thyme.

In Bossier's early days, as now, gardens were a great source of pride. Gardener's efforts might be rewarded at the Bossier Parish Fair with prizes for the best pecans, peanuts, pears, apples, pomegranates, figs, pumpkins, cushaws, beets, or radishes. Prizes in the floral division might be awarded to those who grew the finest chrysanthemums, roses, cacti, or ferns.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Amazing Travels of Archival Boxes

We have recently embarked on a full inventory of our archives. This is the first inventory of the Historical Center’s collections since our opening ten years ago.

So what is an inventory and why is it important?

Every item in our collection has its own unique number that is tied to our records and our database. This number corresponds to the year in which we received the item and groups items from a particular collection together. Initially, each box and folder was assigned to a specific location in our archives, but things have traveled over the past decade.

Some boxes have made intrepid building-wide journeys, while others have seemingly leapt across aisles, and a few simply shuffled over to the next shelf. Finding a photo or letter in our collection can be a challenge. This is why we need to complete a thorough inventory. We need to pinpoint where everything is right now, so we can find items quickly when patrons request them or when we are creating a new exhibit.

During our inventory process, we are basically going through every photo, map, and document in our collection and checking its number and location. Moving shelf by shelf, we open every box and record the items that we find. Then this list is compared to our collections database and we note changes in location and fix any discrepancies. When we finish the inventory process, our archives will be well-organized and we will be able to locate individual items with ease.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Welcome to our blog!

For decades, many people in Bossier Parish dreamed of having a repository in which to preserve and exhibit documents and artifacts relating to the history of the parish. This dream became a reality on November 18, 1995, when citizens approved the renewal of the library tax. The Historical Center opened on January 24, 1999.

Here are some ways in which we fulfill our mission:

We participate with other area cultural organizations to present interesting programs and exhibits to the community.

We provide research and reference services.

Archaeology Week is celebrated annually with a public program.

Our collection includes genealogical and historical information, thousands of photographs and objects, all with ties to Bossier Parish.

I am Ann Middleton. As director of the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center, I extend to you a special invitation to visit the center, enjoy the exhibits, peruse the archives, search our database and take pride in what is uniquely Bossier.