Monday, August 30, 2010

RELIC program - Perspectives on Rural Life in North Louisiana

For this Thursday's (September 2nd) RELIC meeting, we will be discussing Ann Rowe Seaman's Swaggart: The Unauthorized Biography of an American Evangelist, which offers opportunities to understand the relationship of religion and society in the region. The first half of the book examines class, race and religious fervor and posits an important question with regard to the extent that Swaggart's life story can be generalized to people with similar backgrounds. An examination of his life in the context of the rural North Louisiana framework can provide some insights into the culture of the region.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

RELIC program - The Sounds of North Louisiana

For our August 26th RELIC program meeting (6 p.m. - 8 p.m.), we will be discussing the Sounds of North Louisiana. Sections of Kip Lornell's and Tracey Laird's Shreveport Sounds in Black and White will be read.

In a state with unique musical traditions, Shreveport became a center for the breakthrough musical sounds of the 1950s, including the rise of such greats as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley.

In this way, the region of North Louisiana contributed to the development of rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. Shreveport's unique contributions to music history are not as well-known as that of other cities such as New Orleans or Memphis, but are nevertheless formative and significant.

Spots are still available, so please call the Historical Center at 318-746-7717 to reserve your place for our discussion. Refreshments will be served.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Spoonful of Snake-Oil

Our new exhibit about the patent medicine industry is available for viewing in two of the Historical Center's display cases. Stop in to learn about the questionable ingredients and advertising tricks used by patent medicine manufacturers. All of the advertisements on display were taken from the Bossier Banner newspaper. Also on display are antique medicine bottles.

There were numerous ads for medicines in the newspaper, so we weren't able to include them all in the exhibit. Below are two ads for Pe-ru-na from 1900. Pe-ru-na was a very popular remedy, chiefly because of its high alcohol content. Why did so many medicines contain so much alcohol? Manufacturers said it was necessary to preserve herbs, but this wasn't the whole truth. Stores didn't need a liquor license to sell medication and any liquor taxes did not apply to the patent remedies. The alcohol found in patent medication provided the public with an economical way to drink.

Pe-ru-na's widespread usage was also thanks to its claims to cure catarrh - and any pain or discomfort could be pinned on catarrh by the Pe-ru-na salesmen. Catarrh was the cause of stomach troubles, runny noses, earaches, and fevers. No matter where the catarrh was in your body, Pe-ru-na could cure it, ads boasted. These two ads for Pe-ru-na used "celebrity endorsements." Whether these men and women actually gave permission for the companies to use their likeness or received any compensation is unlikely.

Belva Ann Lockwood was a noted attorney in Washington D.C., and was apparently the "best known woman in America" thanks to her run for president of the United States in 1884 and 1888. Here, Pe-ru-na uses her face to appeal to women across the country. In a letter supposedly from Lockwood, we learn that it is an "invaluable remedy for cold, catarrh, hay fever, and kindred diseases."

This ad doesn't show a famous face, but rather a famous ship from the Spanish-American War. Ann Gridley touts the wonders of catarrh-curing Pe-ru-na, calling it a "grand tonic and a woman's friend." Ann was the mother of Captain Charles Gridley, the commander of the USS Olympia during the American victory at the Battle of Manila Bay. Gridley received the well-known order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley," from Admiral George Dewey. This ad mentions Dewey three times, implying an endorsement from the heroic admiral himself.

Come to the Historical Center to see more ads in this exhibit or ask to look through our back issues of the Bossier Banner newspaper.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hurricane Katrina Five-Year Anniversary

Cartoon by David Wright, courtesy of The Shreveport Times

It’s been five years, on August 29, since our neighbors on the Gulf Coast had to face the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (and soon after that, Hurricane Rita). Their lives were transformed and for a while, life here at the Bossier Parish Library was transformed, too. It never occurred to us the critical role a public library might play in disaster response, several hours away from the disaster, but we learned on our feet. Hundreds of evacuees poured into the Bossier Parish Library so they could use the computers to look at satellite photos of their homes, to try to contact friends and relatives whose whereabouts were unknown, to watch a New Orleans news channel via the Internet (we projected the streaming video onto a screen in the Historical Center meeting room) and to fill out their FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) applications. They also were here as a place to spend time outside of a crowded shelter or relative’s house and as a place to let their kids be kids in our cheerful Children’s Department. Our librarians did what librarians do – they provided lots of information, from local bus schedules to how to get food assistance - but they expanded their role well beyond that. They provided sympathetic ears and hugs and friendship, while hosting or trying to keep tabs on their own family members in affected areas.

Historical Center staff noticed that history was in the making under our very own noses, so we did a small oral history project, interviewing evacuees who visited the library and staff members who were on the front lines helping patrons and dealing with their own families’ situations. History and Outreach Specialist Pam Carlisle recently burned a CD of the transcripts of these interviews and sent them to the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans at the request of Greg Lambousie, Director of Collections. He will be adding them to the State Museum’s archive, where they can be accessed by researchers and they may be useful for exhibits. We are honored our stories will be preserved by the people so directly affected by the tragedy of five years ago.

“I learned a lot about myself during that period of time, how important it is to think that you are connected to about just anybody that walks in that door in some way. And, don’t let them ever go away empty handed…If you can’t give them what they need, send them some place where they can find it.”
-Reference Librarian Martha Matlock (now retired), Bossier Parish Library