Newcomb College Pottery

Newcomb College Pottery in New Orleans operated for almost fifty years and was one of the most successful and admired potteries in the American Arts and Crafts movement. Founded in 1886 by wealthy widow Josephine Louise Newcomb (pictured), Newcomb College was, in essence, the women’s branch of nearby men’s-only Tulane University. The pottery itself developed in stages and grew out of the omnipresent belief that crafts were an appropriate, and acceptable, career choice for women.

Art classes at Newcomb were first guided by the brothers William and Ellsworth Woodward, New England transplants with design training who were heavily influenced by the incredible display of ingenuity at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. They taught art classes at Newcomb through the late 1880s, all the while hiring staff that would help build the foundations of the pottery. Joseph Fortune Meyer, a local potter, was hired to build the kiln and throw pots, and even George Ohr worked there for a brief stint as Meyer’s assistant. Mary Given Sheerer, a Cincinnati-trained ceramist, was hired in 1894 to teach pottery and china decoration, unofficially launching Newcomb College Pottery. The enterprise blossomed quickly from there. In 1896 the college held its first exhibition and sale of pottery produced by Sheerer and her students, and in 1900 Newcomb pottery won a bronze medal at the Paris International Exposition. By 1901, demand was outpacing supply and the University provided the financial and official recognition needed to turn the Newcomb College Pottery into a long-term commercial enterprise.

Newcomb College Pottery was influenced primarily by traditional English Arts and Crafts principles, in large part due to the Woodwards, who had been trained by English instructors at American schools. One of the main concerns of the movement was the interrelationship between art, industry, and design, and the importance of every artisan involved in the process of creation. This led to Newcomb’s complex system of marks, which were created with the express purpose of recognizing each craftsperson involved, from the thrower (often Joseph Fortune Meter, denoted with a ‘JM’) to the decorator (one of the ninety young women who attended the school over the course of its existence). Also in keeping with Arts and Crafts tenets, each piece was unique, though some designs were repeated with small variations. Flora and, occasionally, fauna were the primary subjects, with special emphasis placed on Southern species.

Auction Results Newcomb College Pottery

HARRIET JOOR FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Exceptional large early vase | ragoarts.com

Harriet Joor for Newcomb College Pottery

Exceptional large early vase
estimate: $15,000–20,000
result: $21,250

ANNA FRANCES SIMPSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early vase with irises | ragoarts.com

Anna Frances Simpson for Newcomb College Pottery

early vase with irises
estimate: $7,000–9,000
result: $12,500

MARIE ROSS FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early vase with cactus blossoms | ragoarts.com

Marie Ross for Newcomb College Pottery

Early vase with cactus blossoms
estimate: $4,500–6,500
result: $10,000

SADIE IRVINE FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, vase with tall pines and full moon | ragoarts.com

Sadie Irvine for Newcomb College Pottery

vase with tall pines and full moon
estimate: $3,000–4,000
result: $9,375

SABINA E. WELLS FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, large vase with female lions under palm trees | ragoarts.com

Sabina E. Wells for Newcomb College Pottery

large vase with female lions under palm trees
estimate: $5,000–7,000
result: $8,125

ANNA FRANCES SIMPSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Willows Transitional plaque | ragoarts.com

Anna Frances Simpson for Newcomb College Pottery

Willows Transitional plaque
estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $7,680

ANNA FRANCES SIMPSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, large vase with live oaks and Spanish moss | ragoarts.com

Anna Frances Simpson for Newcomb College Pottery

large vase with live oaks and Spanish moss
estimate: $4,500–6,500
result: $7,500

HARRIET JOOR FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early vase with tulips | ragoarts.com

Harriet Joor for Newcomb College Pottery

Early vase with tulips
estimate: $5,000–7,000
result: $7,150

MARY SHEERER FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Palms Transitional plaque | ragoarts.com

Mary Sheerer for Newcomb College Pottery

Palms Transitional plaque
estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $7,040

MARIE ROSS FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early vase with ladyslipper orchids | ragoarts.com

Marie Ross for Newcomb College Pottery

early vase with ladyslipper orchids
estimate: $3,000–4,000
result: $6,875

HENRIETTA BAILEY FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early wall-hanging charger with live oaks | ragoarts.com

Henrietta Bailey for Newcomb College Pottery

early wall-hanging charger with live oaks
estimate: $6,000–8,000
result: $6,250

DESIREE ROMAN FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early vase with stylized arrowroot | ragoarts.com

Desiree Roman for Newcomb College Pottery

early vase with stylized arrowroot
estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $6,250

ANNA FRANCES SIMPSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Fine large scenic vase | ragoarts.com

Anna Frances Simpson for Newcomb College Pottery

Fine large scenic vase
estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $6,250

MARY SHEERER FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early vase with thistle | ragoarts.com

Mary Sheerer for Newcomb College Pottery

early vase with thistle
estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $5,625

HARRIET JOOR FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early vase with stylized buds | ragoarts.com

Harriet Joor for Newcomb College Pottery

early vase with stylized buds
estimate: $3,000–4,000
result: $5,313

EMMA URQUHART FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, rare vase with lemons | ragoarts.com

Emma Urquhart for Newcomb College Pottery

rare vase with lemons
estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $5,000

SARA BLOOM LEVY FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, early trivet with salamanders | ragoarts.com

Sara Bloom Levy for Newcomb College Pottery

early trivet with salamanders
estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $5,000

LEONA NICHOLSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early bud vase | ragoarts.com

Leona Nicholson for Newcomb College Pottery

Early bud vase
estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $5,000

HENRIETTA BAILEY FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, plaque (Sailboat and Live Oaks) | ragoarts.com

Henrietta Bailey for Newcomb College Pottery

plaque (Sailboat and Live Oaks)
estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $4,688

KATHERINE KOPMAN FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early vase with stylized leaves | ragoarts.com

Katherine Kopman for Newcomb College Pottery

Early vase with stylized leaves
estimate: $5,000–7,000
result: $4,375

MARIE ROSS FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early vase | ragoarts.com

Marie Ross for Newcomb College Pottery

Early vase
estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $3,750

ADA LONNEGAN FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Early vase with tulips | ragoarts.com

Ada Lonnegan For Newcomb College Pottery

Early vase with tulips
estimate: $1,000–1,500
result: $3,380

LEONA NICHOLSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, rare tile and postcard depicting Joseph Fortune Meyer | ragoarts.com

Leona Nicholson for Newcomb College Pottery

rare tile and postcard depicting Joseph Fortune Meyer
estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $3,250

ANNA FRANCES SIMPSON FOR NEWCOMB COLLEGE POTTERY, Transitional vase with paperwhites | ragoarts.com

Anna Frances Simpson for Newcomb College Pottery

Transitional vase with paperwhites
estimate: $1,800–2,200
result: $3,250