Book’s images detail everyday life in Natchez

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Like a scrapbook bulging with history, the new book &uot;Natchez Images 1880-1960&uot; tells multi-generational stories about a community family.

With photographs, drawings, logos, signatures, maps, letterheads, receipts and other art forms, the book, a longtime project of the Natchez Historical Society, provides details of everyday life as well as the business, politics and architectural history of a town that treasures its heritage.

Taking a huge collection as a gift from Sallie Dix Abbott, heir to Natchez Printing and Stationery Co., Society members, with the assistance of Don Simonton, designer and editor, have put together a 194-page book chock full of information and entertainment.

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&uot;We look at it as a significant contribution to Natchez history, as it records the development of the town from agriculture to industry, including oil, the expansion of town into suburbs, the building of motels and the advent of tourism,&uot; said Mary Eidt, who chaired the committee responsible for the publication.

The project has been under consideration for almost 30 years, with the intensive work to produce the book coming in the last five years.

&uot;It has been a long time coming,&uot; Eidt said, adding that the Historical Society hopes the community will respond positively to the effort. &uot;We felt doing this was a service to the community.&uot;

Selling the book for a modest $15 also provides a service, making it affordable for more people. Eidt said the Society eventually will recoup expenses, but making money on the project was not the purpose.

Others working on the committee with Eidt were Jean Simonton, Willie Mae Dunn, Dorothy Sojourner, Barbara Gilbert Haigh, David Preziosi and Jeanie Wedgeworth.

Printing company materials donated to the Society included primarily the printing plates, originally used to reproduce photographs and other images. Using the old-fashioned printer plates to reproduce the images once again, the publishers have selected a cross-section of history that begins in the late 19th century and continues into the mid 20th century.

&uot;Natchez Printing, by virtue of its standing in the community as the central printery and stationer, had in its stores a veritable history of Natchez, all the words and images produced by and for the local people,&uot; Simonton writes in his brief opening narrative describing the history of the Natchez Printing building at 315 Main St.

&uot;This collection is Natchez in the act of depicting and describing itself,&uot; he said.

There are children posing at summer playgrounds, athletes in their uniforms, party-goers at social occasions and momentous historical gatherings.

&uot;The book focuses on people and many of their leisure activities,&uot; Eidt said.

Buildings, many no longer standing tell the architectural history of downtown and the surrounding area, with 25 pages devoted to photos and drawings of buildings and famous houses.

The book is divided into categories. Images include Mardi Gras celebrations, fairs and Natchez Little Theatre productions, for example. Pilgrimage and tourism are included in the mix, as are religion and education.

Many of the people included in photographs have been identified. Many have not, and that, publishers said, should be fun for Natchez people to do as they peruse the book and see people they recognize.

The book has an extensive index, which makes finding a family member, an organization or a building easy to accomplish.

Books are available for sale at the Historic Natchez Foundation offices, 108 S. Commerce St.

Books also are available by ordering them from the Historical Society at P.O. Box 49, Natchez, MS 39121, with an additional $3 charge for mailing.