There is no reason to doubt that it was the Citizens’ Bank that gave the name “Dixie” to the South. The origin of that word has never been positively determined, but the tradition that gives the credit to the Citizens’ Bank is certainly stronger than any of the other claims advanced. When the country was flooded with wild-cat money and counterfeiting was so common as to cast suspicion on nearly every species of paper money, the notes of this bank commanded respect throughout the great valley, and, in fact, everywhere in the country, and its ten-dollar notes were the standard of value. These notes in ante-bellum days were printed in the French language, and instead of bearing the numeral in English, they bore the French word “dix.” It became common when one was passing down the great river to trade at the Southern metropolis for him to say that he was going South to acquire some dixes. Thus it happened that the lower stretches of the river became known as the land of the dixies, or “Dixie land.”
“Citizens’ Bank & Trust of Louisiana”, New Orleans, 1916, p. 11
As the new project assistant in Special Collections & Archives here at Loyola, I have thoroughly enjoyed perusing the stacks as I better acquaint myself with the collection. Since my academic background is in printmaking and book arts, I naturally gravitate towards the rare books on our shelves, and I am continuously fascinated by the bindings and material qualities of these old books. Today I would like to share with you this small letterpress-printed pamphlet: “Citizens’ Bank & Trust Company of Louisiana,” New Orleans, 1916.
A modest book at first glance, “Citizens’ Bank..” is a lovely example of early twentieth century letterpress-printing. Although there is no press information on the title page of this pamphlet, there are clues in the tactile quality of the book that reveal how it was printed and what materials were used. It is sewn with a silky cord, and a knot tied on the spine of the book allows the pamphlet to close flat. It is composed of a high-quality mould-made paper, which is evident in the paper’s strong, visible fibers and deckled edge, as well as watermarks that are visible when certain pages are held up to bright light. If you were to lightly brush your finger along the text of this book, you’d notice a texture, an imprint, which occurs because of the amount of pressure applied in the printing process. At close inspection you’d see that some of the text is over-inked in places, which creates a small puddle around individual letters. I could go on and on about the letterpress process, but instead I’ll refer you to this resource if you’d like to learn more.
This book was letterpress printed on high quality paper because its materials were likely intended to reflect the history of a wealthy institution: the Citizens’ Bank & Trust Company of Louisiana. Its brief 31 pages outline the history of the bank, and the book serves as a well-crafted advertisement for the financial institution. You can view more images of this book (and many more) on our tumblr, or come in for a visit on the third floor of Monroe Library!