Title   |   Images of the City   |   Images of the Family

Alexander Allison’s New Orleans was researched and written by Wayne Everard, retired Archivist of the Louisiana Division/City Archives, and designed by Maya Lopez, of the Louisiana Division staff. The online version was designed by Irene Wainwright, also of the Louisiana Division staff.

The exhibit will remain on view in the Louisiana Division (Main Library, 3rd floor) into 2011.

7/22/2010 -- iw

When Alexander Allison retired from the Sewerage and Water Board in 1959, his co-workers gave him a camera as a retirement present. They were no doubt well aware of his photographic avocation since he had been taking pictures during his entire fifty-nine year tenure with the agency.

Allison was born in New Orleans on November 8, 1874 and graduated from T. W. Dyer’s English and Classical School for Boys on Prytania Street. After high school in Memphis, Tennessee, he attended an engineering preparatory program at the Williston Academy in Easthampton, Massachusetts (just down the road from Northampton, where his uncle, George Washington Cable, had just relocated). In 1896 he graduated from Tulane University with a degree in civil engineering.

Allison started working at the newly-established Sewerage and Water Board in 1900. As one of the Board’s earliest and longest-serving employees, he played a key role in the development of the city’s water, sewerage, and drainage systems.

When Allison was not busy at work, he enjoyed life with his family at home in Uptown New Orleans, at his parents’ home in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, and on vacation trips all across the country. And, of course, he took photographs of everything all along the way. In 1953, while still working for the Sewerage and Water Board, Allison donated 323 4” x 5” prints of his work to New Orleans Public Library. Following his death on January 18, 1964, Mr. Allison's daughter, Elizabeth Law, gave additional prints and his entire collection of negatives to the Library’s Louisiana Division. In 2009, Division staff, with volunteer assistance, completed a multi-year project to scan all of Allison’s negatives. The entire collection can be viewed online at neworleanspubliclibrary.org/photos/allison/allison.htm.

This exhibit -- in some ways “The Best of Alexander Allison” -- comprises selections of his views of the city of New Orleans and his images of family-related activities at home, around Louisiana, and in Bay Saint Louis. For each caption, the text in RED is Allison’s original description of the photograph; the text in black gives added information.

Link to Images of the City   |   Images of the Family