The newest artist on the Uneeda Biscuit advertising signage, Artistic Shark Chris Opp, tells us even more revealing details about the painters who came before him.
Chris believes it has been painted or repainted four times over its life by T. Steve Mitchell, The O.J. Gude Co. N.Y., the Tuppins sign company and now, Opp.
It has been part of a mystery of the old building that has been fun trying to unravel. To see the beginning of the story, read on below…
Nov. 8, 2022
After many years of west- facing sun, the Uneeda Biscuit art on the side of the Vordenbauman-Eastham Company building (yes, that is the actual name of the building) at 711 Milam Street is being repainted! The company rehabbing the historic structure tapped Artistic Shark Chris Opp to do the work high in the sky.
Opp, obviously, is not the first to paint Uneeda Biscuit on the building, but we are trying to determine exactly when the first ‘Uneeda Biscuit’ ad appeared there. When we posted this photo on our Shreveport DDA Facebook page, Barbara Ann Burrow told us something interesting. Her father, T. Steve Mitchell, had painted the sign, too.
Prior to WWII, he had worked for a Mr. Duke who owned Duke’s Sign Shop, which was located downtown. After serving in the Pacific Theater in the war, Mitchell returned home to Shreveport and a job with contractor Paul Hanna painting homes and doing work for Mulkey Decorators. Barbara remembers vividly that one day when her brother- also named Steve- and her Dad were driving around downtown, the elder Mr. Mitchell told his son that he had painted the Uneeda sign.
Unfortunately, the elder Mitchell passed away in 1988, so the details went with him, but Barbara’s comment on Facebook sparked an interesting conversation. The ‘Uneeda’ Building was built in 1902, and our belief has always been that the Uneeda signage was painted far earlier than the 1940s/50s timeframe that Barbara says her Dad would have painted it. I asked Barbara if he was ‘re-painting it’ instead of doing the original work and she said he did not indicate so.
So when was Uneeda first painted?
I reached out to Robin Snyder who hosts the Shreveport and World History Facebook page, and she discovered an article in the Shreveport Times talking about the ‘Uneeda Biscuit’ campaign in 1908.
She also found a reference to the ad being painted in the 1920s in a book by historian Eric Brock. The information is still not definitive, and we would love to be able to find a story or photo with the actual date of painting, so we are still on the search!
We have no doubt that Mr. Mitchell was telling the truth- but did he paint the original Uneeda Biscuit much later than we assume it was painted or did he give the original Uneeda Biscuit a fresh coat of paint because of 20+ years of UV damage? It’s a great story and another of downtown’s history mysteries! (If you have any information about the Shreveport Uneeda Biscuit sign, please email us)!