- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Ed Chopin was out for an afternoon walk when the thick, handwritten scrawl across a worn brown photo album caught his attention from atop a neighborhood trash can.

The bold letters announced the contents were almost 100 years old - dating back to 1917. Chopin - a professor and historian who lives in Bethany, a community about 20 minutes from Shreveport - was intrigued by the title, “A Glimpse of Shreveport,” and opened the album to see what he would find.

The crumbling pages inside held more than 200 sepia-toned photographs showing a glimpse of life and working conditions from turn-of-the-20th century Shreveport.

“It was a piece of history that didn’t need to be thrown away,” he said. “In my opinion, you need an encyclopedia of words to describe these pictures. It gives you an appreciation for the people back then and how they kept the city going.”

Chopin said more than 90 percent of the images are “interior shots” - showing the inside of buildings that include the B.R.G. Bottle Company, W.K. Henderson and Oil City iron works facilities, Texas and Pacific Railroad, Allen Manufacturing, Thomas-Ogilvie Hardware Company and a number of other candy, ice cream, oil and railroad companies.

Many of those businesses have since changed, or even, in the case of the former Washington-Youree Hotel, been destroyed, according to Chopin. A member of the Shreveport Historic Preservation Society, Chopin hopes the photographs will encourage city residents to understand the importance of preserving and refurbishing historic buildings - rather than simply demolishing them.

“Once these buildings are gone, there is no way to replace them,” Chopin said. “I hope this generates a lot of interest from citizens.”

The photographs themselves are in varying conditions, but the detail and clarity of the actual photographs are stunning, Chopin said.

“The depth of field and focus was so good, it’s like you could be the photographer in the room and read the calendar or the clock on the wall,” he said.

The photographs show how the City of Shreveport has progressed in ensuring safety precautions for plant workers and enforcing labor laws for children - several of whom are portrayed working alongside adults in photographs, Chopin said.

Chopin’s wife, Michelle, was amazed by the photographs when she first saw them and intrigued by the stories they seemed to tell.

“I’m sure they didn’t have heat and air in some of these old buildings, and I also liked seeing the fashion and what the women were wearing,” she said. “Photographs create a memory that people will have forever. Each picture tells a separate story.”

Chopin doesn’t know the original purpose of the “Glimpse of Shreveport” book, but he said the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, whose name is listed in the book’s cover, may have assembled the images for marketing purposes.

The opening pages of the album declare, “Shreveport has many advantages for the manufacturer and wholesale merchant.” Those advantages, in 1917, included “eight railroad trunk lines, cheap fuel gas” and 67 miles of paved roads and with contracts out for 48 more miles of paving.

The report declared Shreveport had a population of 37,000 individuals and had brought in $85 million from its businesses. The city also boasted “excellent schools, churches, modern buildings and streets.”

Chopin has presented the images to small audiences twice. He loaned several images to the Shreveport library in the 1980s, and this past November he showed the collection to members of the Shreveport Historic Preservation Society. But he plans to make dozens of the images available for public viewing in the upcoming year.

Members of the preservation society helped him decide on 35 to 40 images, which he plans to arrange in an exhibit for Centenary College.

Lisa Nicoletti, a professor of art history at Centenary who has been in touch with Chopin about the photographs, said the dates for the exhibit aren’t nailed down but will most likely take place during 2018’s spring semester.

“They’re fantastic images that give a fascinating look at what Shreveport was like 101 years ago, revealing everything from child labor to working women,” Nicoletti wrote in an email.

In the brainstorming session with the preservation society, Chopin met Twin Blends’ twin brothers Mike and Mark Mangham- known in part for their combining, or “blending,” of historical photographs with modern photographs to produce a single image.

Chopin said he is open to sharing his images with the Manghams. Mike Mangham said he is excited about the collaboration and the “treasure” that Chopin found in the trash.

“There is so much history in those photographs. I think people in Shreveport would love to see it,” Mike Mangham said. “Thank goodness he was in the right place at the right time, or those almost 300 photographs would have ended up in the trash.”


Information from: The Times, https://www.shreveporttimes.com

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