Newcomb Pottery

Newcomb College offered more than an art education

During the first years of the 20th century, progressives and reformers actively sought to better the lives and conditions of working-class Americans, and many were particularly inspired to aid the educational endeavors of young women. The Civil War had left its harsh imprint on many women when millions lost or had to support the survivors, many with ruinous injury. The lesson was that women, no less than men, needed to have a means of supporting themselves. Handicrafts, including pottery, were the logical avenues explored. Newcomb College in New Orleans was one such school. Drawing inspiration from the Arts & Crafts movement, students were trained in all aspects of the potter's art.

Pottery and Porcelain of the United States, 1901

Newcomb Vase with Trees

John Moran Auctioneers, Pasadena, CA.(2007)

A distinctly original art ware is now in course of development at Newcomb College, New Orleans, as a new departure in practical education. In the five years during which this experimental work has been in progress, a pottery has been evolved which already possesses a high degree of individuality and a positive art value. The ware is made by students of the Art Department, under the supervision of Professor Ellsworth Woodward, Director of Art Instruction, and his competent assistant Miss Mary G. Sheerer, from the Cincinnati Art Academy, who has personal charge of the instruction. The characteristics of this product are underglaze designs, suggested by the local flora and fauna of the South, in which the greatest freedom in treatment and conventional adaptation is encouraged. The pieces are of white body, simple in form and harmonious in combinations of color.

So successful has this experimental work proved that the output of the pottery is at times insufficient to meet the demands of purchasers, but commercial considerations have from the first been held subordinate to artistic requirements.

Newcomb Pottery Ad

Newcomb College Pottery

After a pupil has received the full course of instruction usually extending over about four years, and has become sufficiently qualified to originate and execute independently, she is free to continue her work in the pottery without the payment of further tuition. The only expense to her is the cost of the biscuit pieces which she uses, while the entire profits from sales of work accrue to the designer.

From the large number of excellent designs which have been produced by the students of Newcomb College, it is next to impossible to select examples which possess greater merit than others.

An exhibit of Newcomb pottery was made at the Paris Exposition of 1900 and received the award of a bronze medal. Among the latest developments are some exceedingly original and artistic lamps, with perforated shades.

Source: Barber, Edwin Atlee. The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States.1901.

1901 Encyclopedia of Ceramics

Newcomb Pottery, New Orleans. Founded 1895. This is under the direct management of the Art Department of the Newcomb College, and was started with a view to extend aesthetic culture and to create a demand for artistic work such as would justify the study of art as a means of earning a livelihood. The result has been most satisfactory, and a large number of young women have been educated for this work, for whom and artistic vocation would have been otherwise impossible. The flora of the South has very largely furnished the motif for the decoration, the prevailing and characteristic tone of which is a bluish green. Newcomb pottery has a distinction all its own, and there is no trace in it of any previous type, either foreign or otherwise. That the little pottery in so short a space of time should have achieved this distinction is most remarkable, and is a proof, if proof were wanted, that both from an artistic and a commercial sense, the primary idea should be to evolve a type, rather than to imitate or reproduce. Whilst the artists at the pottery are under the superintendence of Professor Ellsworth Woodward, assisted by Miss Mary J. Sheerer, they are allowed full freedom in their work, and it is thus happens that every piece shows the individuality of its creator, no matter whether it be incised, painted in slip on the clay or in mineral colors on the biscuit. Some of the colored glazes are triumphs of technical skill. One of the chief charms of Newcomb ware is its absolute restfulness It never tires the eye, and a few pieces scattered about a room give an air of repose altogether delightful. Professor Woodward and his clever pupils are to be warmly congratulated.

Source: Jervis, William Percival. The Encyclopedia of Ceramics.1902.

Newcomb Pottery Marks

Newcomb Pottery Makers Marks

Newcomb Pottery Signatures

Each piece is marked with the private design or monogram of the decorator.

1. Leoni Nicholson
2. Bessie A. Ficklen
3. Sarah Henderson
4. Hattie Joor
5. Gertrude R. Smith
6. Katherine Kopman
7. Frances H. Cocke
8. Roberta Kennon
9. Mary Sheerer
10. Mary W. Butler
11. Emily Huger
12. Amalie Roman
13. Mazie T. Ryan
14. Elizabeth G. Rogers
15. Frances Jones
16. Desiree Roman
17. Mary F. Baker
18. Marie Hoe-LeBlane
19. Irene B. Keep
20. Selina E. B. Gregory
21. Raymond A Scudder
22. Beverly Randolph
23. Esther Huger Elliott
24. Francis E. Lines
25. Mary W. Richardson
26. Olive W. Dodd
27. Joseph Meyers, the potter

The Letters R, U, Q, etc., indicate the clay mixtures. The letters and numbers, A1, A2, etc., are the registration marks. The Products of the Newcomb Pottery have taken such a prominent place in the art world that possessors of examples of this ware will be glad to be able to identify the work of the various artists who have placed their marks on them.

Source: Barber, Edwin Atlee. Marks of American Potters. 1904.


  • Newcomb Pottery History, Tulane University
  • Newcomb Pottery and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Louisiana
  • Books

    Newcomb Pottery: An Enterprise for Southern Women, 1885-1904
    Newcomb Pottery & Crafts: An Educational Enterprise for Women, 1895-1940
    Louisiana's Art Nouveau: The Crafts of the Newcomb Style

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