George Francois Mugnier was born in France on January 1, 1855. He was in New Orleans by 1868. Originally a watchmaker, he turned to photography in 1884 with a studio on Exchange Alley. Mugnier gained some fame as a photographer of views and landscapes in New Orleans and the surrounding region. His photography was not, however, always profitable enough to support him and his family, and he held a variety of other jobs throughout his life. He always took pictures, though, and at least two of his employments--with the Photo-Electric Engraving Company and with the Times Democrat newspaper--allowed Mugnier to take them professionally. George Francois Mugnier died in New Orleans on April 12, 1936.
We are not certain that all of the photographs in NOPL's Mugnier Collection were actually taken by George Francois Mugnier. The collection was arranged by a previous Louisiana Division staff member. We have decided to retain that arrangement despite our uncertainties as to the origin of the photographs.
Another problem with NOPL's Mugnier Collection stems from the fact that the Louisiana State Museum purchased a large group of photographs from Mugnier in 1930, six years before his death. We have yet to conduct an item-by-item comparison of the NOPL and the LSM Mugnier collections to determine which, if any, exclusively ours. There is also the question of which Mugnier photographs are in the public domain by virtue of their publication prior to the year 1923.
Whoever "owns" the Mugnier photographs, they offer an invaluable view of what New Orleans looked like from the last decades of the nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth. Some of the highlights are:
- The Spanish Fort amusement park in Bayou St. John
- African American children and family groups in Blacks
- Demolition of the old St. Louis Hotel in Hotels
- A well spouting oil and the old State Capitol in Louisiana Description and Travel
- The 1907 Rex parade in Mardi Gras
- The aftermath of the great 1893 hurricane in Natural Disasters
- Views of the French Market and numerous other French Quarter structures in Vieux Carre