Archive for the ‘Louisiana History’ Category

Storm Search: Historic Hurricanes at Hill Memorial Library

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Sen. Long inspects break in canal
LSU Libraries Special Collections features books (fiction and non-fiction), manuscript collections, newspapers, and oral history interviews that speak to the devastating power of hurricanes, as well as documentation of a variety of efforts to educate and protect the public.

Search manuscript collections, oral history interviews, books and reports through the online catalog here:

and “Search This Site” here:

View topic guide on digitized newspapers here:

Image: Senator Long inspects break in canal after Hurricane Betsy, c. 1965, Russell B. Long Papers, Mss. 3700.


Hill Documents Featured in New Book

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Louisianians (or Luisianeses) and Their Hill Documents Featured in Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012

A recent publication by the U.S. Government Printing Office offers further glimpses into how Louisiana and its citizens (Luisiana and Luisianeses in Spanish) have figured in the Hispanic contribution to American history. The third volume in a series on women and minorities who have served in the House and the Senate, Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012 was published by the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Historian and Office of the Clerk, toward the end of 2013. Deriving part of its vast amount of information from two collections housed at LSU Special Collections, the reference book presents biographical profiles of 91 Hispanic members of Congress in chronological order through 2012. Along with an introduction and appendices, four general essays set various periods of Congressional service in historical context: the era of U.S. continental expansion (1822-1898), the age of U.S. colonialism and global expansion (1898-1945), the Civil Rights era (1945-1977), and recent legislative trends and power sharing among Hispanic Americans in Congress (1977-2012).

Hispanic Americans in Congress

Among the 91 Hispanic members of Congress examined in the study, two hail from Louisiana: Ladislas “Doc” Lazaro (1872-1927) and Joachim Octave “Joe” Fernández (1896-1978). In compiling the essay on the former, editors drew heavily from LSU’s Ladislas Lazaro Papers (Mss. 1113, 1149). For the latter, they quoted from a Paul Maloney oral-history interview in the T. Harry Williams Papers (Mss. 2489, 2510), which is also in LSU’s Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections.

LazaroAs only the second Hispanic representative in Congress (after Californian Romualdo Pacheco, who served from 1879 to 1883), Lazaro was also only the second Hispanic member eligible to chair a committee. Born on the family plantation near Ville Platte, Lazaro descended on his mother’s side from the Ortegos, one of Ville Platte’s founding Hispanic families. After attending the forerunner of Holy Cross High School in New Orleans, he graduated from Louisville Medical College (Kentucky) in 1894. “Doc” Lazaro practiced medicine in Washington, Louisiana, and was chosen by his colleagues to serve as first vice president of the state medical society in 1907. A Democrat, he was propelled into national office in 1912 as a supporter of Woodrow Wilson’s Progressive platform. Serving as U.S. representative from 1913 to 1927, Lazaro tended to the agricultural interests of his Louisiana district, focusing on protective tariffs and improving farmers’ access to markets through waterway and railway projects. Lazaro advocated for the completion of the Intracoastal Waterway, voted against Prohibition, and opposed a string of measures granting women the right to vote on the grounds that states would be yielding too much power to the Federal Government in the process. By the early 1920s, he was the longest-serving Hispanic member of Congress to that point. Late in the 69th Congress (1925-1927), Lazaro died of complications from an abscess following abdominal surgery. Hispanic Americans in Congress draws considerable information for the Lazaro article from speeches, campaign pamphlets, and letters in LSU’s Ladislas Lazaro Papers.

FernándezNative New Orleanian “Joe” Fernández was the grandson of a Spanish immigrant merchant and son of Octave Gonzales Fernández, who served in the Louisiana State House of Representatives and died in office in 1921. Attending neither high school nor college, Fernández worked as an expert on shipping fees and storage tariffs. The same year as his father’s death, he was elected to the Louisiana State Constitutional Convention. He then won election to the Louisiana Legislature, serving for much of the 1920s. Endorsed initially by the New Orleans Democratic machine, Fernández switched his allegiance to Huey Long in 1930. He served as U.S. representative from 1931 to 1941, his workload centered on assisting individuals with issues such as pension adjustments, benefits, and military discharges. He also concentrated on acquiring land for local projects involving levees, bridges, streets, and public buildings. Throughout the 1930s, he introduced a series of bills to establish the Chalmette National Historical Park and sought to revive the Algiers Naval Station. His political career having become intertwined with that of Huey Long, it began to decline following the Kingfish’s assassination in 1935. After leaving Congress in January 1941, Fernández served in active duty as a U.S. Naval Reserve lieutenant commander until 1943. Following retirement from politics, Fernández worked as a tax consultant and passed away in New Orleans shortly before his eighty-second birthday.

Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822-2012 was launched as a web exhibition at that is current through the present Congress. The online exhibit includes the additional 11 Hispanic-American representatives and senators who reported to Capitol Hill for the 113th Congress, and it will be updated to reflect future changes. Hispanic Americans in Congress is available through the U.S. Government Printing Office, which will produce a free, downloadable e-book version from its site within the month.

Audubon Day May 3rd! Fly on By!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014


The LSU Libraries will host a special viewing of the famed double elephant folio edition of John James Audubon’s Birds of America (London, 1827-1838).  The viewing will be held in the McIlhenny Room of Hill Memorial Library on the LSU campus, on Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 10 am until 2 pm, and is free and open to the public with a reservation.

In addition to the viewing of Birds of America (and a few selected illustrated rare books), this year during Audubon Day, visitors will have the opportunity to view the new travelling exhibition which will be of interest to Audubon and bird enthusiasts. “I Remember: An Art Show of Environmental Significance,” produced by the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA) Task Force in partnership with LSU Libraries’ T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History. The exhibition features oral histories, photographs and original art depicting individuals who work, live, and play in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands.  Archival materials from LSU Libraries Special Collections complement “I Remember.”  A full description of the exhibition is available here:

A renowned masterpiece of natural history art, the Birds of America records the rich bird and plant life Audubon saw and drew first-hand when he lived in Louisiana in the 1820s. The edition is known as the “elephant” folio because of its large size, with each of its 435 pages measuring 39 by 27 inches. Publication took eleven years, from 1827 to 1838. LSU’s copy of the Birds was purchased with a grant from the Crown Zellerbach Foundation in 1964, and it has been shown in various venues over the years.

In 2007, it was determined that LSU’s copy could no longer be shown safely due to structural damage to the bindings caused by their large size and other problems with individual plates.  In 2008, the Coypu Foundation made a donation of $99,000 to enable conservation of this work by Etherington Conservation Services.  Over the course of more than a year, the work was painstakingly completed. The final volume returned to the library on December 28, 2009. Thanks to the Coypu Foundation, one of the Libraries’ greatest treasures is now restored to fine condition and can again be shared with our community.

As part of the Audubon Day festivities, participating artists Lane Lefort (photographer) and Marian Brister Martinez (painter) will be on hand in the exhibit gallery to discuss their work currently on display as part of the “I Remember” exhibition. A representative from Marsh Dog will be available to talk about the company’s nutria-based dog food products, and its founding as a creative economic solution to address coastal wetlands loss.

CWPPRA is federal legislation enacted in 1990 that is designed to identify, prepare, and fund construction of coastal wetlands restoration projects.  Since its inception, 151 coastal restoration or protection projects have been authorized, benefiting over 112,000 acres in Louisiana.

For more information on CWPPRA, visit

It is with pleasure that the Hill Memorial Library shares these remarkable volumes with the community. Audubon Day events are free and the public is welcome, but reservations are required and space is limited.  Viewings of the folio volumes are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 noon, and 1 p.m. Only 40 people can be admitted for each showing.  Parking is readily accessible in the Indian Mounds lot, directly behind Hill Memorial Library.   To request a reservation, visit the Libraries’ Special Collections website at or call 225-578-6544 during business hours.

As an additional related lagniappe, on Sunday, May 4th, the day after LSU Libraries Special Collections’ Audubon Day, Bike Baton Rouge will lead a Vélo des Oiseaux (bird ride) under the guidance of Professor Phil Strouffer, ornithologist and ecologist at the LSU School of Renewable Natural Resources.

The group will meet at 4th Street and Spanish Town Road (the State Museum) at 8.00 AM, Sunday, May 4th. They will ride to the Capitol lakes to see what birds are active on the little lake across from the Governor’s mansion then head to the lake on the north side of the Capitol to see what’s there. From the Capitol we’ll head to the Levee Path and LSU. They will stop along the way where bird life is acitve. They may continue all the way down to the eagle nest by Farr Park. From the Levee they will come back to town via the University/City Park Lakes. Expect at least two and a half to three hours for the ride, though not continuous riding. Anyone under the age of 12 is required by law to wear a helmet. Bring water and a snack to share with others. Binoculars are useful though there will be a spotting telescope on hand.


Collection Spotlight: The Papers of Civil Rights Leader Dr. Dupuy Anderson

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

WWII-portraitWorld War II veteran, dentist, civil rights activist. Dr. Dupuy Anderson’s biography reads like that of many African American civil rights leaders of the mid-20th century. That common history, however, does not diminish his extraordinary contributions and accomplishments, and his papers, now available for research in Hill Memorial Library, provide an important resource for the study of that chapter of Baton Rouge and indeed American history.

Anderson graduated from McKinley High School, Baton Rouge’s earliest African American high school and anchor of the city’s black community for much of the 20th-century. He received a B.S. degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and a D.D.S. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. Anderson enlisted in 1941 and served with the U.S. Army Air Force, rising to the rank of major. He participated in the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott, ran for mayor of Baton Rouge in 1960 (when African Americans did not run for such offices), and filed suit to desegregate the undergraduate division of Louisiana State University. As a result, his daughter Dr. Freya Anderson Rivers was one of six African-American undergraduates to integrate LSU in 1964. Dr. Anderson passed away in 1999.

campaign-letterThe papers, which were donated by Dr. Rivers last year, date from 1935-1996 and include personal photographs, speeches and printed items from his run for mayor-president and correspondence, printed items, and other documents related to his community service, professional activities, and involvement in education and social issues and desegregation of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and LSU. A full description of the collection is available online. Oral histories conducted with Anderson and Rivers in the 1990s under the auspices of the T. Harry William Center for Oral History are also housed in Hill Library.

Photography Into Print: Jewell’s Crescent City Illustrated of 1873

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014


4526_Crescent City Illustrated Prospectus_183
Join us at Hill Memorial Library on Tuesday, February 25th at 5:30 pm for a talk by Gary Van Zante on his work with Jewell’s Crescent City Illustrated of 1873.

The talk will offer a unique look at New Orleans and his exciting upcoming project with LSU Press using the manuscript of Jewell’s Crescent City Illustrated of 1873 from Hill Memorial Library.

Since its publication in 1873, Jewell’s Crescent City Illustrated has been a primary source for the architectural, urban and commercial history of New Orleans. Illustrated with wood engravings of buildings accompanying profiles of commercial firms, it is an outstanding example of the commercial booster book that became an important document of city building in nineteenth century America.

Jewell’s also offers valuable evidence of nineteenth century engraving practice and the printing trade, notably in the rare survival of the publisher’s prospectus now in the Hill Library collections. The prospectus provides the source for the illustrations by prominent New York engraver William Orr in over a hundred original (and in most cases unique) photographic prints by New Orleans photographer Theodore Lilienthal.

Van Zante’s talk explores the origins of Jewell’s, especially the relationship between the nearly century-old practice of wood engraving and the new technology of photography.

Gary Van Zante is Curator of Architecture, Design and Photography at the MIT Museum and Director of the Wolk Gallery at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At MIT since 2002, he has curated exhibitions ranging from sixteenth century architectural graphics to contemporary design practice and photography. These include exhibitions of the work of Joel Tettamanti, Margaret Morton, Gabrielle Basilico, Angus Boulton, Stanley Greenberg, Cervin Robinson, among other contemporary photographers. His exhibition Berenice Abbott: Photography and Science, An Essential Unity, opened last November at the Multimedia Museum Moscow. He has organized over 50 exhibitions in a nearly twenty five year curatorial career.

4526_Crescent City Illustrated Prospectus_213
From 1994 to 2002 he was head of the Southeastern Architectural Archive at Tulane University, where he also taught in the preservation program of the School of Architecture. He is the author of New Orleans 1867: Photographs by Theodore Lilienthal (Merrell Publishers, London) and recently collaborated with James O’Gorman on a catalogue of New Orleans architectural drawings, to be published by Pelican Press early next year. He is a director of the Society of Architectural Historians.



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.

Yankee Music Culture in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Our latest post is a guest post by Warren Kimball, an LSU graduate student, who writes about two exciting finds from our collections…

Frederick Müller letter

Hill Memorial Library houses many materals related to Louisiana history, including sources that document the musical culture of New Orleans during the nineteenth century. Some of these sources have even begun to change the way we think about the type of music making that went on in the city during this time.

Nineteenth-century New Orleans is recognized as having been one of America’s most musically vibrant cities. The Théâtre d’Orléans, opened in 1815, was the country’s leading opera house for over fifty years, and competing opera troupes gave American premieres of many now-standard French and Italian operas. In addition to a bustling opera scene, New Orleans audiences supported a rich concert life, hosting such internationally-known touring musicians as violinist Ole Bull and soprano Jenny Lind. Related to this musical diversity was the population’s division by class, language, and skin color. Musical life was largely defined by these divisions, and the city’s various and diverse cultures developed distinct, thriving musical traditions.

Most historical attention to date has been given to the music of the city’s French-speaking residents, and especially to this group’s cultivation of opera. Less attention has been given to the New England immigrants who settled in the city following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Drawn by economic, social, and religious opportunities, these northern-born, English-speaking, Protestant inhabitants made up only a fourth of New Orleans’ white population by midcentury, but they came to exercise economic hegemony over the city’s French-speaking residents. They helped shape antebellum culture in New Orleans by establishing institutions similar to those they left behind in New England, such as the city’s first Protestant churches, English-language newspapers, and public schools. Similarly, these residents established a thriving musical culture modeled upon those of northern cities, particularly Boston.

Frederick Müller letter

Among New Orleans’ most important English-speaking, Protestant musicians in the 1840s was Frederick Müller, a conductor and organist who moved to the city from Boston. In 1842 Müller wrote a letter to an acquaintance in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, describing the musical life of New Orleans and his own professional activities. This letter, housed in the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collection at Hill Memorial Library, provides invaluable insight into nineteenth-century music culture in New Orleans.

Müller described working as the director of music in an Episcopalian church and directing a concert society “similar to [Boston’s] Handel and Haydn Society,” which we know was called the New Orleans Sacred Music Society. Concert societies such as this, which were dedicated to the performance of works by well-known European composers, were very popular in New Orleans during this time, as evidenced by the diary of Luther Field Tower, a cotton clerk from New England who was living in New Orleans. Tower’s diary, which is also housed in Hill Memorial Library, mentions that he attended many concerts and public rehearsals, including those of the New Orleans Sacred Music Society.

Luther Field Tower diary

In his letter, Müller also described teaching music in public schools and establishing a singing school. Since we are able to tell that the letter was written in 1842 from a reference in its postscript to two theater fires, we know that Müller served as a music teacher in two public schools during the first year of their existence in New Orleans, as the music director of the city’s oldest Protestant church, and as the conductor of an ambitious professional orchestra and choir. Müller’s letter therefore establishes him as a leading musician in the city during the 1840s and 1850s, aligns his musical activities with those of prominent Boston musicians, and demonstrates how these immigrants sought to preserve their New England musical culture in their adopted city of New Orleans.

Warren Kimball is a PhD student in musicology at LSU.  His research deals with music making in nineteenth-century New Orleans and the music of Charles Ives. The two manuscripts discussed here formed the basis of a research paper that he presented at a recent conference in Florida.

Hill’s own Barry Cowan Shares New LSU Book 12/21

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Louisiana State University by Barry CowanJoin us on Saturday, December 21, 2013 from 10:30 am – noon for an exciting event celebrating the publication of Assistant University Archivist Barry Cowan’s new book, “Louisiana State University.” The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 10:30 am to noon in the Hill Memorial Library Lecture Hall.

During this special event, Cowan will offer a short talk about the book and share images and anecdotes. Copies of the book will be on sale and Barry will be signing copies for visitors. A reception will follow the talk. “I hope the book will provide not only entertainment, but also the opportunity for people to learn about LSU’s long and colorful history in an interesting and accessible way,” Cowan said. “The book is certainly meant to educate, but it is also my hope that the photographs herein will bring back fond memories and allow people to reminisce about their times at LSU.”

The newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Campus History Series, “Louisiana State University” features a foreword by former LSU System President and Chancellor William L. Jenkins. The 128-page, soft-cover book boasts more than 200 vintage images of the LSU campus throughout its history. For the book, Cowan selected images from the LSU Archives and the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley collections in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections at Hill Memorial Library.

Highlights of the book include, among others, displays of rarely seen before images, most of which came from the collections in the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections in Hill Memorial Library; highlights the four campuses since LSU’s inception in 1860; how the university had mandatory ROTC until 1969; how the baseball team – not the football team – was the first to wear the school’s signature purple and gold in 1893.

The book is a perfect holiday gift for any LSU fan or friend, young and old, and is an informative and interesting look at the long and fascinating history of Louisiana State University.  The event also marks the closing of our current Lecture Hall exhibition, which Cowan co-curated, Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium, which ends on December 23, 2013.

Ample parking is available behind Hill Memorial Library for the event.   For more information contact us at 225-578-6544 or via email at



Louisiana’s German Jewish History and One Family’s Probe into Its Past

Friday, November 15th, 2013

Special Collections provides numerous avenues and opportunities for historical research, with genealogy among them. Recently, a Louisiana native, whose family has a lengthy connection to LSU, discovered a part of his family history among our holdings.

Jay Silverberg, a Thibodaux native now living in Northern California, has been piecing together the lives of his ancestors who were among the many thousands of German Jewish immigrants to Louisiana in the mid-1800s escaping from the social and economic upheaval that was wracking their homeland. As Silverberg notes, “Emanuel Meyer’s story, and the story of numerous other ancestors, is coming to life for me and my family through precious records donated in the 1970s to Special Collections at Hill Memorial Library.”

Jay’s historical and genealogical journey began 50 years ago in his pre-teen years as he explored the attic of his grandparents’ Baton Rouge home only blocks from the LSU campus. He opened a trunk on one of those adventures and found letters that his father had written to his mother during World War II.

During the past year, he has written about those letters for his family. In his research, he found a separate batch of letters in Special Collections, those from his German progenitors writing to family members who were establishing roots in Louisiana that remain throughout the state. The newly found but much older letters are among 26 boxes of records from a general store Jay’s ancestors operated in the mid-1800s in the Clinton-Jackson-Bayou Sara area. The letters, which are written in old German, are a part of what Special Collections has accessioned as the Meyer Brothers Store Records (Mss. 2909).  They were discovered in an abandoned St. Francisville bank building and donated to LSU in 1975.

Letter addressed from Germany to relatives in "Amerika" and "Bayousaira"

Letter addressed from Germany to relatives in “Amerika” and “Bayousaira”

Both sets of letters have become key components of Jay’s lifelong interest: to learn and write about his family’s history. His parents’ letters are the central focus of the first part of his family’s story, titled “Letters from Momma and Daddy.” They are accompanied by genealogical and historical information that include Gumbo pictures and details about his parents’ lives when they attended LSU and lived in Baton Rouge during the 1930s. Numerous other citations gleaned from cemeteries and archival records in libraries across the United States, including LSU’s Middleton Library, are also presented.

During Jay’s initial research, he noticed a reference to the Special Collections letters in the footnotes of a book titled The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840 – 1875, which includes information about his family.

Jay tells us that the Special Collections letters, based on the handful of 170 pages translated thus far, “have been as revealing historically and genealogically as were my parents’ letters. The Meyer correspondence is written in what’s referred to as Sṻetterlin, referencing old German handwriting that is largely undecipherable to today’s Germans and requiring a knowledge of the distinctive characteristics of the letters that translate to modern-day letters. Other parts of the correspondence are written in what scholars refer to as Judeo German written in the Hebrew alphabet.”

Passages from Meyer correspondence written in Sṻetterlin and Yiddish

Passages from Meyer correspondence written in Sṻetterlin and Yiddish

As best as Jay can determine, the Meyer Brothers Store Records have been cited publicly only in academic research. The author of The Business of Jews has told Jay that he used only the business records and the few letters in the collection written in English for his research. The letters have never been translated, at least not for public use. Jay plans to use the contents as part of an article for a Southern Jewish historical volume, adding details from still more records and archived newspapers at Special Collections about The Felicianas during the period his ancestors were making a life that would one day lead him to his grandmother’s attic.

Jay Silverberg has resided in Petaluma, CA, for 27 years. He had a 20-year career as a newspaper editor and reporter and worked for 19 years for public affairs agencies in San Francisco and Washington, DC, supporting corporations and non-profits with their public policy and crisis management issues. He continues to work with a few clients on various public policy and crisis management projects while pursuing his family’s history.  




La Langue Mondiale: A New Exhibit at Hill

Monday, November 4th, 2013

LSU Libraries Special Collections, in association with the LSU School of Art, presents a collaborative exhibition titled: La langue mondiale: French as the Language of Art and Thought, November 4, 2013 – March 8, 2014 in Hill Memorial Library.

La langue mondiale is a multi-faceted exhibition exploring French contributions to and influence on art, culture, and science over the centuries from Europe to Louisiana. Art history students, under Professor of Art History, Darius Speith, curated materials in the first floor gallery, examining artistic life in nineteenth-century Paris from a literary perspective.

The second floor gallery, curated by Head of Special Collections Jessica Lacher-Feldman and Assistant Curator of Books, Michael Taylor, features major scientific works, such as volumes of Diderot’s Encyclopédie, Buffon’s Natural History, and Description de L’Egypte, a record of the scientific expedition that accompanied Napoleon in Egypt. Rare early French dictionaries and works by19th century Louisiana Creole authors will also be on display, as well as a glimpse at Lafcadio Hearn’s Gombo Zhebes, a rare and colorful 19th book of Creole proverbs, along with their French and English translations.

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the lecture by French historian and essayist, Marc Fumaroli, member of L’Académie française and author of numerous works, including When the World Spoke French. The lecture is sponsored by the LSU College of Art and Design and the LSU Department of French Studies and will be held in the Union Theatre on November 4 at 5 pm.  The reception for this talk, which will serve as the opening for this exhibit, will take place at Hill Memorial Library immediately following the talk. Click here for details.

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