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The showroom at ML Bath features many items from the company's history in Shreveport.
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Historic ledgers, documents and images of downtown Shreveport are on display at ML Bath.
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Old blueprints hang on the walls at ML Bath on Market Street in downtown Shreveport.
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Some of the original designs of ML Bath.
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ML Bath was chartered in 1905.
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The employees of ML Bath had this plaque make to honor the company's founder, Michaelis Lewis Bath.
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This banner hangs inside the front door of the ML Bath showroom on Market Street in downtown Shreveport.
In the closing years of the 19th Century, traveling rubber stamp salesman Michaelis Lewis Bath probably had no idea that his influence would, like Colossus, stand astride three centuries. Since his company, M. L. Bath, LTD, was chartered in 1905, it has been owned and operated exclusively by Shreveport residents and has provided substantial livings for tens of thousands of Ark-La-Tex citizens.
Here are some little-known facts abound about the institution that at its zenith employed several hundred workers in Shreveport, Lake Charles, and Longview, Texas. You may not be aware that Michaelis Bath invented the modern file folder with its expandable gusset, and the company actually manufactured them for 80 years along with its own brand of legal pads, ledger sheets, and accounting books. They also manufactured the items that started it all--the handy rubber stamps along with essential items like corporate and notary seals. Bath's legal forms became the standard for oil and gas leases, real estate transactions, and other legal matters. In fact, even today many legal forms still bear the original M. L. Bath stock number even though Bath suspended its printing and manufacturing operations near the end of the 20th century.
Current CEO and Shreveport native F. Keith Todaro has been responsible for the venerable company's march into the current technological atmosphere, but he retains an admiration for the impressive origins and history of the company.
Todaro has gathered historical documents and artifacts that chronicle the progress of the updated Bath Business Services and has put them on display on the floor that once housed more than 22,000 stock items of office products. There are even reproductions of the original architect's drawings and specifications for the building that has housed the Bath headquarters since 1922.
Shreveport residents always respond to the name M. L. Bath with "Oh, I remember when Joe Todaro--Keith's dad--(or Jim, Doc, Clark, Jay, Fred) called on us every week . . ." or "My cousin worked in the printing shop. . . ." My uncle, Orlando Osborne, worked there for four decades, and I myself "carried the bag" for more than 12 years.
Unlike Colossus, whose statue modern researchers have declared more myth than fact, M. L. Bath --Bath Business Services -- is, in fact, a thriving, modern purveyor of everything from staples and paper clips to today's complete office furnishings to everything that moves the wild wireless world of the cybersphere, standing with one foot in the 19th Century and one in the 21st.
Visitors are welcome to view Bath's museum of Shreveport business history at 610 Market Street. For a proudly guided tour, you probably want to call ahead at 221-7141, as Keith is usually out "taking care of customers" -- the Bath tradition for more than 108 years.
-- By Chuck Lambert