Eli W. Mealy: Monroe’s Premiere Photographer

The following article appeared in the 1893 World’s Fair Edition of the Monroe Evening News.  The Evening News was one of the two predecessors of the modern News-Star, the other being the Daily Star. Eli was one of the earliest known photographers in Monroe, predating Griffin by decades.  When people came to Monroe from all over northeast Louisiana to have a “likeness” done, they came to Mealy’s studio.  Mealy married Henrietta [Vollman] Howe in Ouachita Parish October 15, 1868. They had no children.  Mealy died in 1908 and his wife in 1923.  Both are buried in Monroe’s Old City Cemetery under a tall obelisk.  The Evening News article, an old photograph, an obelisk in the cemetery and his faded name on the front of a Grand Street building are all that are left to mark the impact of a premiere photographer. 

Typography is well named “the art preservative” and photography might with equal justice be called “the art creative,” for how like creation is the evolution of a finished photograph?

            Photography is also one of the fine arts, still ALL photographers are not ARTISTS.  However, the citizens of Monroe can flatter themselves with the fact that in themselves with the fact that in E.W. Mealy they have a photographer who is also an artist.  His work speaks for him.

            Born in Richmond, Va., fifty-nine years ago, he spent some of the best years of his life fighting for the Lost Cause, as a member of the Sixteenth Mississippi Volunteers. [Note:  He was in Company A, Summit Rifles, raised in Pike County, MS.]

            Coming to Monroe in 1867 [Note:  His first ad appeared in the Ouachita Telegraph, June 13, 1867] he went into the photographic and fancy goods business.  His good work in his line soon won for him a fine trade, while “the perfect fitness” of the combination of the making of artistic work and the sale of fancy goods seemed like an inspiration.  As a matter of course business prospered with him, and in a few years he was able to build a business house suited to his wants, and one, by the way, an ornament to the city and that would be a credit to a city double the size of ours.  This property to-day is valued at $20,000, and his last year’s business represented a value of $8000.

            This is one of the institutions of Monroe which entitle her to the name of the Parlor City.

            The markets of the world are represented here, not only in the finished artistic products, but also in the tools and materials necessary in the several kinds of art work.  In the line of pictures the artistic chromo, the fine engraving and the more costly oil painting adorn the walls, and everything at prices suited alike to the purse of the banker or the common laborer.

            Mr. Mealy is always alive to the material interests of the town he calls home, and is ever ready to assist with his counsel or his money any enterprise looking to the building up of the Queen of the Ouachita valley.

            Prominent in business, he occupies a similar position in religious, fraternal and social circles.  A member of the Presbyterian church, he assists in its work in the character of deacon.  As an ex-Confederate soldier, with tender and thrilling memories of the days that “tried men’s souls,” he is a member of Henry W. Allen camp of United Confederate Veterans; and as a believer in world-wide fraternity, is a Knight of Pythias. 

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