NATCHITOCHES – A collection of photographs that depict commerce in Shreveport 100 years ago is on exhibit at Centenary College’s Meadows Museum. The century-old photographs were rescued from the trash by Edward Chopin of Shreveport, a retired educator, Northwestern State University alumnus and history buff. The collection, “A Glimpse of Shreveport from 1918,” will be on exhibit through April 27.
Chopin was helping friends to pack to move out of state, cleaning out their attic and discarding unwanted items when he noticed a burlap-covered scrapbook on the trash pile.
“It was a photo album prepared by the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce in 1918,” he said. Until the exhibit opening Jan. 25, they had not been viewed by the public.
“It’s a glimpse of Shreveport in 1918 and was some sort of mechanism to promote the city,” Chopin concluded. The pictures show working and environmental conditions and includes information on the city’s population and infrastructure in hand calligraphy.
“I do not know who the photographer was but he was extremely talented,” Chopin said. “The depth of field is phenomenal. Some pictures were taken in offices and you can look through the windows and get an idea of which building the photo was taken from.”
Many details reveal themselves after a first glance at a picture, he said.
“You might see workers in an industrial environment, but you can also see tools, the lack of safety equipment, children and women working and black and whites working side by side.”
Chopin has always had an interest in history, photography and journalism. His mother, Ann Chopin, worked for the Natchitoches Enterprise, the rival paper of the Natchitoches Times, and he worked there after school. One memorable event they covered was the Tennessee Gas Pipeline explosion in Natchitoches in 1965 that killed 17 people. The Chopins photographed the fireball that soared approximately 400 feet before the flow of gas was cut. The Natchitoches Times later bought the Enterprise and his mother wrote feature stories for other publications.
Chopin earned a degree in industrial education with a minor in journalism at Northwestern State in 1971 and a master’s in industrial technology in 1978. He retired after teaching 46 years in public schools and at Bossier Parish Community College.
The collection at the Meadows, Chopin said, provides a glimpse at a time in history that would quickly change with industrialism.
“The unique thing about the photos is that 99 percent are interior of people working. Every photo is labeled by the photographer. For instance, the labels in a wood manufacturing company indicate it was the millworks or the accounting office. A picture of the Southern Pacific Railroad shows the ticket office. You can see dates on the calendars and read the clock as to what time of day and what month it was,” Chopin said.
“A Glimpse of Shreveport” was created in conjunction with the Shreveport Historic Preservation Society and is partially underwritten by the Attaway Professorships in Civic Culture Program and the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
Admission to the Meadows Museum of Art is free and open to the public. Hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Tuesday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The Museum is closed Sundays and during all school holidays. Information is available at centenary.edu/meadows or by calling (318) 869-5040.