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John Kennedy Toole papers

Identifier: LaRC-740

Scope and Contents

The collection primarily consists of the personal and literary papers of John Kennedy Toole, including unbound manuscripts and typescripts, correspondence, pamphlets, drawings, photographs, music, and posters. There is a considerable amount of memorabilia that his mother, Thelma Ducoing Toole, kept concerning her son, including his baby cup and his undergraduate honors thesis. John Kennedy Toole's correspondence with Robert Gottlieb, his first editor as well as letters illustrating the process of getting A Confederacy of Dunces published are in this collection. There are also large numbers of reviews and articles about Toole and his works. The papers and personal belongings of his parents, John D. Toole and Thelma Ducoing Toole, can also be found in the collection.


  • 1930-1999


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Portions of the collection may not be duplicated.

Conditions Governing Use

Physical rights are retained by the Louisiana Research Collection.  Copyright is retained in accordance with U.S. copyright laws. The estate of Walker Percy retains all literary rights to his work, including the correspondence from him in this collection. The Louisiana Research Collection will not provide researchers with images of documents created by Walker Percy. Permission to use the restricted portions of this collection must be obtained from the estate of Walker Percy.

Biographical / Historical

John Kennedy Toole, posthumous winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981, was born in New Orleans on December 17, 1937. After skipping several grades, he finished high school at the age of sixteen. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with Honors in English at Tulane University in 1958. He received his master's degree in 1959 from Columbia University, and taught at Hunter College. He was drafted in 1962 and stationed with the Army in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he continued to teach English and wrote A Confederacy of Dunces. Upon returning to New Orleans, he unsuccessfully attempted to have his manuscript published; he taught at Dominican College and in 1968 enrolled in graduate school at Tulane University to work on his doctorate. In 1969, he asphyxiated himself in his car in Biloxi, Mississippi. The novel was ultimately published by Louisiana State University Press in 1980 after his mother, Thelma Ducoing Toole, approached novelist Walker Percy with the manuscript. A Confederacy of Dunces won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the Louisiana Literary Award. A musical production based on the novel premiered at LSU in 1984. Toole was also the author of The Neon Bible, which he wrote at age sixteen.


18 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Organized into seven series: (1) John Kennedy Toole, (2) A confederacy of dunces, (3) The neon Bible, (4) John D. Toole, Jr. (father), (5) Thelma Ducoing Toole, (6) Garvy/Ducoing family, (7) Walker Percy. Oversize boxes and folders contain miscellaneous framed photographs or large books. Most items in the oversized boxes are cross-referenced in another box. Arranged numerically, the collection consists of 22 boxes, 3 volumes, 2 oversize boxes, and a copy of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces, autographed by his mother Thelma Ducoing Toole.  It is 18 linear feet. Abbreviations used throughout the inventory: JKT: John Kennedy Toole TDT: Thelma Ducoing Toole COD: Confederacy of Dunces NB: Neon Bible LSUP: Louisiana State University Press CHMM: Curtis, Hyde, Mooney, McEachin (Attorneys)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by John Kennedy Toole's mother, Thelma Ducoing Toole, her estate, and heirs. Date acquired: 11/30/1979.

Accruals and Additions

Additional materials added between 1984 and 1998.

Processing Information

Collection processed between 1980 and 1990.

Archon Finding Aid Title
Eira Tansey
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Tulane University Special Collections Repository

Jones Hall Room 202
6801 Freret Street
New Orleans 70118 US