July 29, 2017 - August 20, 2017
Monday - Thursday
7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
The new exhibit in the Jefferson Caffery Reading Room examines the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, which inundated 26,000 square miles in seven states, forced nearly 1 million people from their homes and caused more than $400 million in losses. In Louisiana alone, 10,000 square miles in 20 parishes were flooded. The extreme amount of damage was in part due to the levees-only system that had been instituted in the late 1800s. While the levees were able to control the river for a period of time, they were not high enough or strong enough to contain the large amounts of rain that fell throughout the Mississippi river basin in the Winter & Spring of 1926-27. To relieve pressure on the levees protecting New Orleans, authorities breached the levee downstream.
Smaller levees along the Atchafalaya River also failed at Melville and Bayou des Glaises. In Acadiana the flood inundated Arnaudville, Breaux Bridge, St. Martinville, New Iberia, Jeanerette, Franklin, and Morgan City. Thousands of cattle drowned and farm crops were wiped out as southern Louisiana turned into a lake 200 miles long and 50 to 100 miles wide. The Red Cross and local relief committees housed and fed refugees in camps set up in neighboring towns that did not flood. Lafayette alone housed 20,000 people on the campus of Southwestern Louisiana Institute (today’s UL Lafayette) and in camps in City Park and on the grounds of Paul Breaux School. It was not until June that the floodwaters began to recede.
The exhibit includes photographs, books, maps, and letters from our collections that relate to the flood and the damage that it caused. It will remain on display through August. Please, feel free to come in and take a look and let us know if you have any questions!