Archive for the ‘Digital Collections’ Category

Raising the Flag – Memorial Day Remembrance

Monday, May 26th, 2014


Flag raising ceremony in front of LSU president’s home. This image is from the University Archives, and can be viewed with other historical images on the Louisiana Digital Library here.

Love Is a Battlefield: Courtship and Marriage in the Civil War

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Marriage certificate of Nancy and Ceasar Coleman, Edward J. Gay and Family Papers, Mss. 1295.

Marriage certificate of Nancy and Ceasar Coleman, Edward J. Gay and Family Papers, Mss. 1295.

Confederate nurse Kate Cumming observed that the Civil War was “certainly ours as well as that of the men.” Though she undoubtedly meant to convey that women were not immune to the harshness and devastating effects of war, a less extreme arena in which women and men shared a common wartime experience was on the battlefield of love. As with many other social institutions, the Civil War affected traditional customs surrounding courtship and marriage. In honor of Valentine’s Day, this blog post highlights letters and other historical documents that reflect wartime wooing.

In addition to contributing to mobilization and the ongoing war effort by forming aid societies, sewing and knitting clothing and articles for soldiers, raising money, nursing, and visiting the wounded, women wielded another mobilizing weapon– affection. Popular songs and poems, peer pressure, and their own sense of patriotism led many unmarried women to favor soldiers over those who did not fight. As Louisianan Amelia Faulkner wrote a friend, “girls ought to have nothing but soldiers for their beaux and if all girls thought as we do, there would be more companies leave this state.” Further, she offered to find her a beau from among the men where where she lived, “all soldiers, too, for I your friend would offer you nothing else.”

Nineteenth-century antebellum America put a premium on the traditional roles of wife and mother. In the South, the expectation that white women would marry was even more acute; unmarried women were out of place in a societal hierarchy that supported slavery, and there were few acceptable options for southern women outside of the bonds of matrimony. When the Civil War broke out, many couples married quickly before a fiancé left for battle. The impending departure of a suitor for the scene of war might also heighten affection. For example, after Abigail Kent received an unexpected visit from her suitor she wrote, “Before he was dragged off into this war, I think I appeared sufficiently indifferent,” but, she further confided , “now I show him my true feelings for fear that each meeting will be our last.”

The influx of soldiers from across the South, as well as the North, brought young women into close contact with potential suitors about whom they knew little. But the threat of becoming an “old maid” trumped tradition, leading many to marry after making only a short acquaintance, and without familial blessings. The romance of Joanna Painter Fox and George Waddill provides an illustrative example of how the rules of courtship and interaction between the sexes became more lax. Fox, a Natchez native who served as a Confederate nurse, met George Waddill, a druggist from Baton Rouge, at the hospital in Lauderdale, Mississippi, where they both worked. The couple had known each other at most a year before they wed, and Fox’s mother had not met the prospective groom. She broke the news to her mother:

Mother, I have news to tell you which I hope you won’t blame me for. I was married last month on 26th to the one I have spoke to you so often about but then I did not think of marrying until this was was over but we both changed our minds and married while Billy was with us. The ceremony was read by W.C. Harris, an old friend from home and now a stationed Preacher at this place or near here. Ma the only thing that worries me is that you did not see us married.

Such haste could have disastrous consequences, as the story Frank Adams related to his sister illustrates. He wrote of a Confederate officer who, after his death, was found to have married several women in Louisiana as the army moved around the state. He adds, “I have heard of at least a dozen of the same kind.” These polygamist soldiers took advantage of the nomadic life the war fostered.

If the war brought greater acceptance of marriage after brief acquaintances, emancipation and Federal officials’ efforts to regulate the marriage of freedmen also provided an opportunity for slave couples to formalize existing relationships. For former slaves, participation in legal marriage was also an early assertion of freedom. Like many freed slaves, Nancy and Ceasar Coleman, who worked on Edward J. Gay’s Plaquemine, La., plantation, sought to legalize their relationship by officially marrying through the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. The certificate shown here is one of 55 such certificates in the collection, all dated June 7 or June 11, 1864.

The examples given here are just a sampling of the resources available in Special Collections on the subject of courtship and marriage during the Civil War. One, the rediscovered Civil War letters in the Gras-Lauzin Papers that are cited here, have recently been made available online through the Louisana Digital Library. Comprised of 71 letters written to Henrietta Lauzin of West Baton Rouge, principally from her friend Amelia Faulkner and Confederate soldiers Francis F. Palms and Frank Babin, they provide a very focused resource for relationships between men and women in wartime.

Sources of Quotes (in order in which they appear)

Amelia Faulkner to Henrietta Lauzin, April 14, 1862, Gras-Lauzin Family Papers, Mss.5.

Entry of August 29, 1862, Abigail Means Kent Diary, Obadiah Pearson Amacker Family Papers, Mss. 1604.

Joanna Painter Fox to her mother, October 14, 1864, Waddill Family Papers, Mss. 4578.

Frank Adams to one of his sisters, July 2, 1864, Israel Adams Family Papers, Mss. 3637.

Historical Louisiana Newspapers Recently Added to Chronicling America

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

The Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project (DLNP) is pleased to announce that an additional four historical Louisiana newspapers have recently been uploaded to the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America site.

The New Orleans Daily Democrat, The South-Western013014blogimage.fw , The Sugar Planter, and True American are now fully text-searchable and freely available online.  These are the last of the 20 historical newspapers added to Chronicling America by DLNP as part of the 2011-2013 grant from the National Digital Newspapers Program (NDNP).

Began in 2009, DLNP has contributed 78 historical Louisiana newspapers to Chronicling America‘s searchable database of newspapers from across the nation. In the next two years, an additional 50 historical Louisiana newspapers will be digitized and added to Chronicling America as part of a renewed grant for 2013-2015.  For a full list of currently available and upcoming titles please visiting the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers site.

Shake It Up and Read All About It!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013




Join us at Hill Memorial Library for a fascinating night of football and earthquake talk with two speakers! Sam King, longtime Baton Rouge sportswriter, and LSU Associate Professor of Geology and Geophysics Juan Lorenzo will come together to talk about LSU Football, seismology, and the legendary “Earthquake Game” of October, 1988.

Shake It Up and Read All About It! LSU Football and the “Earthquake” at Tiger Stadium will touch upon  the memorable 1988 “Earthquake Game”,  LSU Sports coverage in general through the eyes of legendary Baton Rouge sportswriter, Sam King, and a glimpse at seismology and athletic events with Dr. Lorenzo and his Seismeauxbile.

This event will take place on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 in LSU Libraries Special Collections in Hill Memorial Library.  The event is free and open to the public.

Held in conjunction with our exhibit, “Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium”, the exhibit, including our first ever touchscreen display, will be available to view. See the real seismogram from the 1988 Earthquake game. Copies of Sam King’s new book, Tiger Beat: Covering LSU Sports for 35 Years (Acadian House, 2013) will be available for purchase and signing. A reception and signing will follow the talks.  This event will surely have something for everyone! Also in attendance, the famed SEISMEAUXBILE, which will be parked in front of Hill Memorial Library just for this event!


Postcards and Other Archival Adventures

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013


In addition to holding and making available incredible physical collections, we are continuously adding to our digital collections as well.   One recent addition to the LSU Libraries Special Collections portion of the Louisiana Digital Library consists of two significant groups of postcards from our collections, which are now available to everyone online.

The Mississippi and Louisiana postcard collection, 1906-1939 contains 93 items and depict commercial buildings, residences, churches, monuments, hotels, schools, and streets mostly situated in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Among these buildings and structures are the Osoinach’s Opera House, Pass Marian lighthouse, and Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church, which was erected in 1850 and destroyed by fire in 1907. The collection also includes similar postcards of buildings and structures in several other Mississippi and Louisiana locations, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Others depict storm damage along an unidentified beach.

The Louisiana postcard collection, 1904-1951 is comprised of 517 items and depict subjects in towns and regions of Louisiana and some areas of Mississippi and Wyoming. Louisiana towns and regions best represented in the collection include Abita Springs, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Bogalusa, Convent, Covington, Donaldsonville, Franklin, Hammond, Houma, Jennings, Lake Charles, Mandeville, Monroe, Morgan City, New Orleans, Plaquemine, Saint Francisville, Shreveport, and Thibodaux.

In addition to the images on the postcards, the backs of the postcards have been digitized, giving insight into life in a different time and place.  What can we infer from this cryptic note on the back of this ostrich postcard?  And how did they spend that Sunday in 1915?


To browse the postcard collection you can  click here. You may also view the finding aid for the analog version of the collection here.

The actual postcards are in the Hill Memorial Library and are available to view and use.  And all the work done to make them available to the public, both physically and virtually, happens in LSU Libraries Special Collections.  One simple postcard just like this can serve as the start of a project — whether it be an art project, a poem, an essay, or a research paper, or a pathway to new discoveries.  Visit Special Collections, in person, or online, and start your own adventure!



Join Us for a Special Collections Open House!

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Open House graphic


On Tuesday October 1, 2013 from 2:30-5:30 pm, LSU Libraries Special Collections will host an Open House event.  This is an opportunity for students, faculty, staff, and the general public to stop by and visit the Hill Memorial Library, meet the faculty, staff and students who work here, and learn more about what we do and what our library holds.

The event will feature demonstrations of some of the work we do, including minor conservation work such as making enclosures; processing and cataloging; digitizing and microfilming; as well as information and the demonstration of projects and areas that fall under Special Collections, including the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History; the Civil War Book Review; and two important grant projects relating to digitizing newspapers, and the collaborative NEH grant to digitize materials relating to Louisiana’s Free People of Color.

As part of the Open House, we will also be showcasing some of our favorite things from the collections, allowing visitors to see rare and unique items, and to talk with curators and other staff about our holdings and how the materials at Hill can help further research and scholarship at every level.   The Open House is an opportunity to share some of the ‘special collections superlatives’ such as our oldest, smallest, largest, and most intriguing items.  This is just a small sampling of what is available to all at Hill, but it is a fun way to show off some select interesting rare and unique materials.

For example, did you know that the library has a photograph of Varina Davis (a daguerreotype) from the late 1840s –  just a few years after the invention of photography?

The Hill Memorial Library is home to over 5000 manuscript collections, including political papers of such notable Louisianans as Huey and Russell Long and John Breaux.  It also is home to rare documents that help illustrate the very beginnings of Louisiana statehood, such as the Claiborne Letter Book, as well as materials that document the Civil Rights struggle in Louisiana.  The library is also a place to learn about books, from “incunabula” (books printed before the year 1501 – in the era of Gutenberg and the invention of moveable type), to comic books, modern artists’ books, and works of science fiction and fantasy.  There are many, many surprises, including one of largest and most comprehensive collections on the game of poker held anywhere.

“Special Collections is open to all — all of the time.  This library is here for everyone, and we welcome everyone to come and take advantage of the infinite resources available in Hill. We thought that this Open House would be a good way to share some interesting things about the collections and the work that we do in a new way,”  said the newly appointed Head of Special Collections, Jessica Lacher-Feldman.  “I see this as a unique opportunity to engage users and potential users in a casual way.  I feel its important to know that you don’t always need a reason or need to see something specific to visit special collections.  Come in, look around, and talk to us.  I am looking forward to meeting new people from across campus during the Open House, and hope it will spark further interest in using the collections for research, projects, and in creative and new ways.  Come in to see what’s special about Special Collections.  The answer, in a nutshell, is everything!”

In addition to the collections, projects, and processes, there will be two exhibits going on in Hill’s gallery areas.  “Centuries of Style: A RETROspective of Dress” is a two part exhibit that features the photography of LSU alum Jane McCowan on the first floor.  The second floor features images from throughout our collections that reflect sartorial choices and fashions from throughout the world, from ancient times to the 20th century.  The second exhibit, which opens on September 23 is entitled “Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium” commemorates the 25th anniversary of the 1988 football game, now widely known as the Earthquake Game.  The original seismogram will be on display in the exhibit. It can also be viewed in the LOUISiana Digital Library at

The Open House is meant for all — come by for a few minutes, or stay as long as you like.  This event is held in conjunction with the celebration of American Archives Month, a national celebration of the power and significance of archives. For more information about the Open House, contact Jessica Lacher-Feldman at or at (225) 578-6544.


Traffic? What Traffic? A 1947 Aerial View

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


The LSU campus was still a relatively bucolic location in 1947, a little over a year after World War II ended. “Victory Gardens,” also known as “war gardens” and “food gardens for defense,” were still being maintained in the areas around campus. In this view the field across Dalrymple Drive from the Sigma Chi fraternity house appears to be still planted in corn. The Phi Delta Theta house had yet to be built inside East Fraternity Circle but the sidewalks were in place and the University Lab School did not exist across Dalrymple Drive.

Returning war veterans, taking advantage of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944—known more familiarly as the G.I. Bill—began to flood the campus south of downtown Baton Rouge. Housing for all the returning veterans was a major concern but it seems automobile ownership and the resulting traffic was not.

Much has changed on the LSU campus since 1947. The victory gardens are long gone, buried under the International Cultural Center and the United Methodist Church. A new street, West Lakeshore Drive, would open up the area on the western edge of University Lake to become known as Sorority Row and create a three-way intersection with Dalrymple and Isaac Cline. In the intervening fifty-five years the increase in motor traffic on campus has created a problem at that intersection.

Today the University is doing its best to reduce automotive congestion on campus. The installation of a new traffic circle at the intersection of Dalrymple Drive, West Lakeshore Drive, and Isaac Cline Drive, directly in front of the Sigma Chi house, is one example of that effort. The new traffic circle will allow continuous flow of traffic by removing the bottleneck created when drivers attempt to turn left from Dalrymple Drive onto West Lakeshore Drive or from West Lakeshore onto Dalrymple in either direction.

Fonville Winans Aerial Photographs of Baton Rouge, Fonville Winans Collection, Mss 46051205
View in the Louisiana Digital Library

About this collection
Baton Rouge experienced the onset of rapid growth in the post-World War II years: a number of housing developments were built, in one case as a result of modified war-era pre-fabricated building production facilities; businesses expanded on their exsting sites or built new sites; new public, private, and parochial schools rose, and; a new public hospital went up. New housing was also going in around the City Park, Erie, and University Lakes. Many of these homes were being built by Standard Oil Company (now ExxonMobil) management and other prominent businessmen.

Baton Rouge photographer Fonville Winans shot at least thirteen rolls of 35mm black & white film in 1947 between the months of February and June, inclusive, from his small private airplane. Information in his shot log indicates he intended to sell copies of the images to businesses documented in the images. Fonville Winans noted in the shot log which images sold and which did not, though we have no definitive proof if these notations are complete. For the most part, Winans flew along the most developed streets in Baton Rouge such as Plank Road, Scenic Highway, Choctaw Street, Florida Street, and Florida Boulevard. He occasionally flew over and photographed areas that were being developed in 1947, such as the Melrose Subdivision – just north of Florida Boulevard and east of North Foster Drive – and the area near the intersection of Florida Boulevard and Airline Highway, which, in 1947, was an “open” area on the verge of development.  One roll of film is entirely devoted to images of the current Louisiana State University campus and vicinity.  Post by Mark E. Martin

LSU Libraries Special Collections and Partners Win NEH Grant to Digitize History of Louisiana’s Free People of Color

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Maude Turnbull, a descendant of Baton Rouge free people of color Dudley and Aldometer Mather Turnbull.  The family's papers are included in the project.

Maude Turnbull, a descendant of Baton Rouge free people of color Dudley and Aldometer Mather Turnbull. The family’s papers are included in the project.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently awarded a grant of $194,152 to the LSU Libraries Special Collections to digitize, index, and provide free access to family papers, business records, and public documents pertaining to free people of color in Louisiana and the lower Mississippi Valley.

The project, entitled “Free People of Color in Louisiana: Revealing an Unknown Past,” will bring together collections held by LSU Special Collections, the primary grant recipient, and partners including the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, the New Orleans Public Library, The Historic New Orleans Collection, and Tulane University’s Louisiana Research Collection. The collection will be accessible through the Louisiana Digital Library.

Free people of color, creoles of color, gens de couleur libres—all are terms used to describe people of African descent who lived in colonial and antebellum America and were born free or escaped the bonds of slavery before it was abolished in 1865. They made significant contributions to the economies and cultures of the communities in which they lived but held an anomalous status in the racial hierarchy of the day. Inhabiting this place in between made them one of the most talked about “problems” of the first half of the nineteenth century, yet their story has been largely overshadowed by the more inhumane story of slavery.

“Relatively few collections of papers from free families of color survive in archives in Louisiana, nor are they numerous in archives elsewhere in the United States,” said Interim Head of Special Collections and Project Co-Director Tara Laver, who authored the grant. “The most extensive collections of family papers for free people of color held by Louisiana repositories are, in fact, split across institutions. Digitizing these records will allow us to bring together divided collections and scattered documents, making these materials accessible in one place for the use of historians, genealogists, students, teachers, and the general public.”

The digital resources created by the project will support new scholarship that explores and illuminates the complex history of free people of color and their significance in the ongoing story of race relations in the United States.

Free people of color enjoyed a relatively high level of acceptance and prosperity during Louisiana’s antebellum period, a legacy from the state’s French and Spanish antecedents, but their position and opportunities decreased as the Civil War approached. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, about 16% of the roughly 8000 people living in New Orleans were free people of color. The first official U.S. census of the Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, or about 10% of the total population. By 1840, their numbers had dropped to 7% of the state’s inhabitants. Free people of color were most heavily concentrated in New Orleans, where they worked primarily as artisans and craftsmen, but Baton Rouge, St. Landry Parish, and the Natchitoches area also had significant numbers. Some free people of color owned plantations and slaves.

The grant activities will take place between May 2013 and April 2015. The end product will include 25,000 plus digitized items, data sets, full finding aids for the selected collections, links to collections related to free people of color at other repositories and online exhibitions, bibliographies, contextual information about free people of color, and other scholarly resources.

For additional information about the grant contact Tara Laver at 225-578-6544 or

Housed in historic Hill Memorial Library, the LSU Libraries Special Collections collects, preserves, provides discovery and access to, and promotes and instructs in the use of a wealth of research materials in fields ranging from the humanities and social sciences to the natural sciences, agriculture, coastal studies, the fine arts, and design. For more information, visit the LSU
Libraries Special Collections website,, or call 225-578-6544.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this release do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

New Digital Collection of Historic Postcards

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

LSU Special Collections has digitized two collections of historical postcards: the Mississippi and Louisiana postcard collection, 1906-1939 and the Louisiana postcard collection, 1904-1951. Both of which contain a large number of images of Louisiana landmarks and handwritten messages.

Postcards sometimes called “souvenir cards” offered individuals a way to send quick notes via the mail. The 5.5in x 3.5in paper cards often depicted a place or event.

The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago marked the beginning of the popularity of postcards as souvenirs in the U.S. The period between 1893-1915 has been referred to as the “Golden Age of Postcards” because Americans sent millions of postcards through the postal service. Postcards remained popular for many decades. Now historical postcards offer a snapshot of an era where postal mail was a primary mode of communication and often show places that are long since gone.

Pickwick Hotel, Bay St. Louis, Miss., 1909. Hotel was burned in 1917.

Pickwick Hotel, Bay St. Louis, Miss., 1909. The hotel burned in 1917.

Visit the LSU Libraries Postcard Collections page to view all 608 postcard images.

Library of Congress Adds Four Louisiana Newspapers to Chronicling America’s Digital Collection

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

NewDLNPTitles.fwThe Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project (DLNP) is excited to announce that in addition to the 58 historical Louisiana newspapers currently available on the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America, The Donaldsonville Chief, The Meridional, The Lafayette Advertiser, and The Caucasian are also now available for browsing and searching.  These four new titles are only the first in a total of 20 titles that will be added over the remainder of this year.

DLNP is made possible by a grant from the National Digital Newspaper Program, which is a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities. LSU Libraries Special Collections first developed DLNP as part of the 2009-2011 grant cycle. This first grant ensured the digitization and long term preservation of 110,000 pages of historical Louisiana newspapers published between 1860 and 1922.  This current 2011-2013 grant will ensure the processing of 109,000 additional historical newspaper pages published between 1836 and 1922.  All  titles were selected  by an advisory board comprised of educators, historians, genealogists, archivists, journalists, and librarians.

For more information about this project please visit the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project homepage.

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