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University acquires early issues of "Lafayette Gazette" newspaper

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Edith Garland Dupré Library has acquired the original editions of the Lafayette Gazette newspaper that were printed from 1893 to 1908.

The donation was made by Art Mouton and members of his family during a ceremony Friday at Dupré Library. Mouton’s great uncle, Homer Mouton, and a business partner, Charles Thomas, were the first owners and publishers of the weekly newspaper.

Although some issues are missing from the collection, it contains all that are known to exist, including the first published on March 11, 1893.

The papers had been entrusted to Art Mouton by his aunt, Jeanne Mouton Jeanmard.

“The directions to me were to protect them, and to find a good home. I consider these family treasures to keep and protect, but also to share,” said Mouton, who added that the decision to donate the originals was difficult. “I’ve always been hesitant to part with these papers, as they tie our family back to the beginning of Lafayette.”

Charles Triche, dean of the University libraries, said the donation of the newspapers represented “an important and significant addition” to Dupré Library’s special collections archives. The broadsheets, brittle with age, will be kept inside acid-free boxes and stored in the dark for preservation.

The pages of the Gazette are studded with local history, from the beginnings of the University, to the construction of the city’s first light plant, to early discoveries of oil in the region, Mouton said. “One of the more interesting articles related that the publisher of the Advertiser and the head of the Lafayette City Council had been in a duel. The report was that they met at dawn, each man fired one shot, and no one was hurt.”

News articles and colorful features ran side by side in several issues displayed during the donation ceremony. And, facts and commentary often were woven into the text of the same story, as illustrated by a front-page brief from the Saturday, Jan. 7, 1905 edition. Two area fishermen “were arrested and brought before a judge, charged with selling fish contrary to law,” it said.  The offenders were each fined $10 plus court costs, and “departed with heavier hearts if lighter purses.”

The newspapers recorded events of the day, but also played a role in the fledgling city’s development, Triche said.

Advertisements, which were published on the front page, offered all sorts of wares and services, from winter millinery, a term for women’s hats, to the latest “vehicles” available from the Denbo and Nicholson Co. — horse-drawn carriages.
“What the Gazette urged merchants to do was keep commerce flowing, and that kept Lafayette’s economy growing,” Triche said.

Microfilmed copies are housed in several locations, including the Library of Congress, UL Lafayette and online.