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Lena Richard papers

Identifier: NA-071

Scope and Contents

The Lena Richard papers consist of photographs, correspondence, notebooks and ephemera relating to Lena Richard’s long career as a chef and entrepreneur. The photographs are primarily publicity photographs depicting the locations of Richard’s restaurants, her cooking show, and family members. Notebooks contain recipes and notes from her time as a chef for the Travis House in Colonial Williamsburg. Among the materials relating to Richard’s time in Colonial Williamsburg is the Report on the Visit of the British High Command to Colonial Williamsburg, May 15th and 16th, 1943. Among the guests in the British High Command were Clementine Churchill and her daughter Mary Churchill. A copy of this report was given to Lena Richard by Gerald Horton Bath, expressing to her, “you made such an important contribution to the success of this occasion, Mr. Chorley would like you to have a copy of this report to keep as a memento of the event.” Also included in this collection is an original book jacket for her book, New Orleans Cookbook, and a notebook tracking sales of the cookbook.


  • Creation: 1939 - 1969


Conditions Governing Use

United States copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code) governs the making of photocopies and other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If a user makes a request for or later uses a reproduction for purposes in excess of fair use, the user may be liable for copyright infringement.

Biographical / Historical

Lena Richard was born in New Roads, Louisiana in 1892. At an early age, Richard moved to New Orleans, where her mother and aunt worked as domestic servants for Alice and Nugent Vairin at their home on Esplanade Avenue. Richard helped her mother and aunt in the kitchen after school, and upon her graduation, the Vairins hired her, and later sent her to cooking school in New Orleans and at the Fannie Farmer Cooking School in Boston. Richard graduated from the Fannie Farmer School in 1918, and returned to New Orleans.

In the early 1920s, Richard began a catering business, and later opened up the Sweet Shop at 1577 Derbigny Street. She also married Percival Richard. While still operating her catering business and the Sweet Shop, Richard cooked at the Orleans Club.

In 1937, Richard opened a cooking school, teaching classes three nights a week with the help of her daughter, Marie. In the preface of her later published cookbook, Richard wrote, "My purpose in opening a cooking school was to teach men and women the art of food preparation and serving in order that they would become capable of preparing and serving food for any occasion and also that they might be in a position to demand higher wages."

In 1940, she published New Orleans Cookbook through Houghton-Mifflin. At around the same time, Richard re-located to Garrison, New York to work as the head chef at the Bird and Bottle Inn. Richard shortly returned to New Orleans, however, and opened Lena’s Eatery at 2722 LaSalle Street. Although the city of New Orleans was still segregated at this time, Lena's Eatery served both white and black clientele side by side.

From 1943 to 1945, Richard worked as a chef at the Travis house in Colonial Williamsburg. In 1945, Richard returned to New Orleans to begin catering again.

From 1949 to 1950, Richard hosted a cooking show on WDSU-TV, which aired every Tuesday and Thursday 5:00-5:30 pm, making her one of the first African-American women to have her own television show.

Lena Richard died in 1950.


2.5 Linear Feet (Half-sized document box and 1 flat box)

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Repository Details

Part of the Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff Collection Repository

Newcomb Institute
43 Newcomb Place
Suite 341
New Orleans LA 70118 USA US