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Giving the Cajuns a Lift:
The Acadian Handicraft Project (1942 -1962)

Exhibition Dates: February 27 - June 30, 2000

LouLou, Marchand en BotĂȘ

Describing herself as similar to the Acadian "marchand en Mite" who peddled his merchandise in a box, LouLou began by traveling with craft samples from gift shops to libraries to the State Fair Grounds, advancing to the 1949 International Lions Club Convention in New York's Madison Square Garden. Augmenting major programs were craft demonstrators dressed in Acadian costume with weavers working at large Acadian hand-hewn looms and spinning wheels.

LouLou characterized her samples and the project's craft focus as evolving from three basic articles that were traditional to the Louisiana Acadians: the handwoven blanket, the palmetto braided hat, and the "old-fashioned child's brassiere" or undershirt. Blankets were customarily produced by Acadian weavers for their children's dowries. But, to compete in a modern marketplace, smaller items, such as place mats, napkins, finger tip towels, and pot holders, were added to her assortment. Likewise, accompanying the traditional man's palmetto field hat in LouLou's box were palmetto purses, shoe-shaped thread holders, tiny horse bookmarks, and miniature hats filled with gumbo file seasoning. The brassiere was translated into a diaper shirt that developed into 45 different versions by 1950 with 1,504 sold that year. Adaptations to the shirt also responded to market demand and more than 30 additional infant garments evolved. Stuffed sock monkey dolls, ceramic ashtrays in the shape of the state of Louisiana, and cocklebur lapel pins also became part of the project's product mix. A very significant shift, in not only craft focus but also target group, occurred when the Acadian Handicraft Project included the craft skills of the Coushatta Indians whose baskets were woven of native split cane and pine needles.


An astute business person, LouLou copyrighted a trademark, produced Acadian Handicraft Project labels with that image, and determined that three cents would be deducted from items received from craft workers to which the labels had not been attached. Full scale reproductions of the trademark image, a primitive Acadian house with mud chimney and front porch attic stairway, were then constructed to serve as craft shops at Louisiana Rice Festivals and on the grounds of the longfellow Evangeline Memorial State Park in St. Martinville. Recognizing the importance of networking in a business, LouLou established connections with other craft revivals and cultural movements in the country, such as the National Folk Festival. A lengthy and close relationship developed between Sarah Gertrude Knott, its director, and LouLou, following the participation of the Louisiana Acadians in the 1936 Dallas Festival that acquainted festival audiences with not only Acadian music but also Acadian crafts. LouLou promoted the project internationally as well by collecting infant items from project sewers for a friendship parcel sent to rural families in France following World War II.


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Early Acadians | The French Projects | LouLou, Marchand |Giving Cajuns a Lift | Credits | Past Exhibitions

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LSU Textile & Costume Museum
140 Human Ecology Building
Department of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising
College of Agriculture
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
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