Oscar Chopin, the Buisnessman
NARRATOR: Some have raised questions about Oscar Chopin's business ability. During the early years of his marriage when living and working in New Orleans, he worked as a cotton factor, a middleman between planters and buyers. It was a risky business because cotton factors not only provided supplies for farmers, they also lent them money against their crops. Some farmers were still trying to recover losses they suffered during the Civil War. To add to that labor had become more difficult to find. Oscar's business started off doing very well. He moved to a bigger office on Carondalet Street, and he paid his people well. Cotton had kept the port of new Orleans very busy. But, things slowed down drastically. Oscar's business failed after two poor crops in 1878 and '79.
SOUNDBITE: E.F. Genovese/Emory University
It's not just that there would be a year in which they wouldn't make the profits they hoped for, but that they could be actively out of pocket. And, the 1870s saw a serious economic crisis in which the price of cotton dropped so that that meant that everyone who was dealing in cotton lost.
NARRATOR: After the Chopin's cotton factor business failed, they journeyed from New Orleans to Natchitoches where Oscar opened a general store. It was a wonderful gathering place for many in the small community to share stories. Kate helped in the store, relishing in the company and camaraderie. Oscar had a reputation for giving his best customers a little extra. But, he was perhaps best known for giving everyone credit, while putting little effort into collecting his money. At the time of Oscar's death, the store was more than 12-thousand dollars in debt. Kate had to pay off the debt before moving back to St. Louis.