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Josephine Louise Newcomb collection

Identifier: NA-144

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of ephemera, correspondence, and personal effects of Josephine Louise Newcomb, founder of Newcomb College. Included in the collection are cards and letters addressed to Newcomb from family and acquaintances, as well as a small collection of letters relating to Newcomb College. Also included in the collection are poems written by Josephine Louise Newcomb and by her daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb. Newcomb’s Bible includes marginal notes in her hand as well as a small amount of family genealogical information. Biographical information, tributes, and correspondence on the history of the college also forms a part of this collection.


  • 1878 - 1986


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

Josephine Louise Newcomb (1816-1901) is known as the founder of the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College of New Orleans, Louisiana. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Mary Sophia Waters and Alexander LeMonnier. In 1845, she married Warren Newcomb. Newcomb gave birth to a son who died in infancy, in 1853. Her daughter, Harriott Sophie Newcomb, was born in 1855. In 1865, Newcomb's husband, Warren, died, leaving her as the heir to his estate. Through careful management and financial acuity, Newcomb was able to preserve and greatly expand her husband's fortune. In his memoir, Brand V.B. Dixon remarks that, "From the time that Mrs. Newcomb came into control of this property, mostly in securities of various kinds, she personally directed the investments and sales of her holdings with such judgment and skill that at the time of her death in 1901, she had given away in numerous donations or left by will nine or ten times the amount received from her husband."

In 1870 at age sixteen, Newcomb’s daughter, Sophie, died of diphtheria. Greif-struck, Newcomb spent many years searching for a fitting way to memorialize her daughter’s life. She devoted her life to philanthropy, and gave generously to various causes. In 1886, Newcomb was approached by William Preston Johnston, Tulane University’s first president, about establishing a coordinate women’s college in New Orleans. Her initial donation of $100,000 established the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in 1886, “for the higher education of white girls and young women.” Although Newcomb was from New York, she was a Southern sympathizer. As her will and initial gift show, the establishment of Newcomb College was rooted in and supportive of the racially segregated politics and laws of the South during and after Reconstruction. This policy would remain in place at Newcomb College for the better part of a century, until the early 1960s, when Tulane University finally de-segregated after a lengthy court battle. Newcomb College admitted its first black student in the fall of 1963.

In the years following her initial donation, Newcomb continued to give regularly to support the growth of the college. Upon her death in 1901, Newcomb bequeathed her fortune to the College. Over the course of her life, Newcomb gave over three and a half million dollars to the College.

After her death, a suit was brought by Newcomb’s relatives contesting her will. Citing examples of Newcomb’s eccentric character, her relatives sought to overturn her bequest to the College on the grounds that she was mentally unstable. The suit lasted nearly eight years, but was finally ruled in favor of the College in support of Newcomb’s will.

Works Consulted


1.5 Linear Feet (1 half-size legal Hollinger box, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Transcriptions of Josephine Louise Newcomb's letters can be found in the McConnell Family papers, LaRC- 156, located at Tulane University Special Collections, in Box 15 and Box 40. Also see The Letters of Josephine Louise Newcomb by following the link: Newcomb Archives has published a digital collection of its holdings of Josephine Louise Newcomb's letters which can be accessed here: .

Josephine Louise Newcomb collection
Sam Stover
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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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