November, 2012. Jennings, Louisiana. A Step Back in Time.

Posted on November 14, 2012


Walking into the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum is a giant step back into 1940’s rural Louisiana.

And the story of how this unique museum came to be is truly amazing.

Rural families in the early days of the 1900’s were a pretty isolated lot. Shopping for farm and family necessities meant a long, slow trip to Jennings – and a day wasted when often there was much work waiting at home.

W. H. Tupper thought area farmers might appreciate being able to shop closer to home, so he opened a small general merchandise store in a building on his farm. Later, even a post office was added with Mr. Tupper appointed postmaster.

His efforts were greatly appreciated by his neighbors, and the business prospered. After Mr. and Mrs. Tupper died – W. H. in 1936, his wife Mary in 1940 – two of their daughters ran the store until 1949.  By this time people could travel at will, and the business no longer served a need in the rural community.  So the daughters simply closed the doors, leaving the entire inventory right on the shelves.

Fast forward to 1971.

The Tupper family knew it was time to finally do something about the store and its contents – after all, it had been just standing there for 30+ years, and the building was getting in bad shape. However, family members couldn’t agree on just what to do, so they simply packed everything up in crates, barrels and boxes and stored it away in a building on the farm.

At some point in the 1980’s, the Tupper’s grandson, Realtor Joe Tupper, a donated the store’s contents to the City of Jennings for the creation of the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise Museum. It is located right downtown in a building renovated to look as original as possible.

Dresses from the 1940’s hang on a rack, pots and pans, dishes, bolts of fabrics, shopping bags promoting the sale of War Bonds, toys, shoes, horse harness, the post office boxes are all there – over 10,000 items, many in original packaging, many with their original price tags. Only two items were pointed out to us as being “on loan” for display – the rest is simply the original store’s original stock.

It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to view almost every facet of early twentieth century life in rural Louisiana.

Outside of downtown Jennings, near Interstate 10, people scurry through the malls and sprawls that now define our daily shopping experiences.

I guess that’s progress, but what I wouldn’t give for just once chance to experience the simple, uncomplicated pleasure of shopping in the W. H. Tupper General Merchandise store.

Posted in: Travel - Alabama