The Newcomb Arcade was a quarterly magazine published between January 1909 and June 1934 by the students and alumnae of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College in New Orleans, Louisiana. The history of The Newcomb Arcade is intertwined with the history of Newcomb College and the experiences of its students. As a publication, the magazine not only provides us with samples of the students' literary talents, it also reflects the values and attitudes of its time.
The "rise and fall" of The Newcomb Arcade is a good barometer of this period in the history of Newcomb College. Founded in 1886 by Josephine Louise Newcomb in the memory of her late daughter Harriott Sophie Newcomb, Newcomb College is the women's co-ordinate college of Tulane University (Tulane opened its doors in 1836 as The Medical College of Louisiana). Newcomb College was the first such co-ordinate college in the country, and later became the model for other co-ordinate colleges such as Barnard College of Columbia University and Pembroke College of Brown University. Newcomb's first home (1887-1890) was on Howard Avenue, Lee Circle (New Orleans). The institution quickly outgrew this space, and, in 1890, the college moved to 1220 Washington Avenue. It was here on this beautiful and beloved campus that The Newcomb Arcade was begun. The Newcomb Art School, famous for the pottery produced and sold by students, established its foothold here also. After twenty-eight years under the famous oaks on Washington Avenue, the college moved further Uptown to its present Broadway Avenue campus next to Tulane University. Unfortunately, the new campus did not win a very big place in the hearts of Newcomb students used to the beauty and privacy of the Washington Avenue campus. The school spirit of the students was noticeably diminished. The effects of this move were to greatly transform the college, the students, and eventually The Newcomb Arcade.
I. The "Arcade"
In 1908, when the students and alumnae decided to start a college publication, they named it after their favorite building on the Washington Avenue campus, the Arcade. Built in 1896 between Newcomb's main building and the Academy), it was designed to form a connection on each floor of the two buildings and thus reduce the number of stairs the students had to climb between classes. Reflecting the popular Darwinism of the age, the students affectionately called the Arcade building "The Missing Link." It became "a meeting-place for all sorts of discussion, the relation of incidents, funny stories, as well as impromptu debates and disputes, the singing of class songs, and the plotting of doings in general" (Dixon 99,100). It is therefore hardly a stretch to read The Newcomb Arcade as an attempt to translate this sense of spirit and intellectual engagement onto paper.
The original "Newcomb Arcade." From Brandt V.B. Dixon's book, A Brief History of H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College: 1887-1919. A Personal Reminiscence, page 89.
II. Table of Contents
Mission: In the first issue of The Newcomb Arcade, its editors put forth the "mission" of the publication:
"The Arcade is the official publication of the students of Newcomb, and as such represents Newcomb among the departments of the University as well as among the women's colleges of America. The Arcade is the medium through which artistic and literary talents of Newcomb shall find expression. It shall be the policy of The Arcade to keep the alumnae and undergraduates informed concerning all student and graduate activities."
Subscribing to The Arcade: The Newcomb Arcade's yearly subscription rate for four quarterly issues was $1.00. Single copies could be obtained for 30 cents. It is obvious from The Newcomb Arcade's financial reports that revenue from advertisements exceeded money obtained from subscriptions. The Newcomb Alumnae contributed $150 yearly in the form of subscriptions to The Newcomb Arcade.
Sections: Although The Newcomb Arcade functioned mainly as a literary publication it also reported on the activities around campus as mandated in its "mission statement." The composition of The Newcomb Arcade changed over time but the major sections remained the same as they were in the first issue. Each issue featured a literary section, the "Of Alumnae Interest" column, an "Of College Interest" section, the "Arcade Echoes" segment, the "Exchanges" department (featuring short bits from other women's college publication), an Editorial column, advertisements and original artwork.
A receipt of a subscription to The Newcomb Arcade
From the Fanny Seifirth Scrapbook, Newcomb Archives
The always-substantial literary section showcased short fiction and non-fiction pieces, plays, poems, and critiques, as well as book reviews. Unlike many other women's colleges at the time, most of Newcomb's students were local, and many lived at home. Not surprisingly, many articles and stories in The Newcomb Arcade discuss the burdens of juggling a college life and "home life" simultaneously. This section traditionally contained regular pieces on the importance of social work and civic activities. Since so many of the students were local, the New Orleans community had a major effect on the students' lives, and the Newcomb alumnae often took part in settlement work around the city ("Settlement Work" The Newcomb Arcade January 1913). In addition, social work was touted by Newcomb faculty members as an appropriate career for the "New Woman." ("The College Woman and Social Service" The Newcomb Arcade August 15).
The "Of Alumnae Interest" section was written and edited by Newcomb alumnae. Here, Newcomb graduates reported on the activities of the very active Alumnae Association, presented minutes of the meetings, and expressed their hopes for and critiques of their alma mater. It was in this section also that the alumnae declared their displeasure upon the death of The Newcomb Arcade. The "Of Alumnae Interest Section" also bespoke another dissimilarity between Newcomb and other women's colleges of the time: The fact that Newcomb alumnae took an avid interest in the College, and that unlike students at other colleges (Agnes Scott, for example) Newcomb students looked up to alumnae as role models (Gordon 179). This section also documented the alumnae's fight to attain a seat on the Tulane Board of Administrators in order to ensure their voice was heard in the affairs of Newcomb College. (They finally succeeded in 1920, but were resigned to only a non-voting advisory position with the Tulane College Alumnae Association (The Newcomb Arcade January 1920: 114).)
Under the rubric of "Student Activities," The Newcomb Arcade covered the various happenings at the college: student body meetings, Field Day events, sports, commencement speeches and class plays, et cetera. Here, The Newcomb Arcade reported enthusiastically on the recent accomplishments of Newcomb's Debate Team or last week's performance of the Glee and Mandolin Club.
Debate medallions from the Newcomb-Agnes Scott Debate
From the Fanny Seiferth Scrapbook, Newcomb Archives
Other sections included "Arcade Echoes," which reported amusing odds and bits heard around campus; the "Exchange Department," which reprinted "college life" tidbits gleamed from other college publications; and the Editorials which often provide a glimpse into the controversial issues in the lives of college girls of the time.
The advertising section which appeared at the beginning of each issue reflects the growing consumerism of early twentieth century America. The Newcomb Arcade's editors claimed "you can get everything from a shoe-shining to a piano" from the ads found in the magazine. Notice that many of these advertisements address "The Newcomb Girl" more or less directly. This is a significant sociological development, for the ads represent the first time advertisers consider college women as a discrete group in society. Similar ads are found in the publications of other women's colleges of the period.
The "Newcomb Girl" Corset ad from The Newcomb Arcade, April 17.
The art featured in The Newcomb Arcade (also at the beginning) was usually a mix of pen and ink drawings and woodblock prints of young women in nature. These pictures were courtesy of students in the Newcomb Art Department. The prints reflect the fluid, art nouveau and art deco styles of representing "femininity" that were popular among the art students and faculty.
Literary characteristics: Along with a certain general romanticism, the influence of Regionalist and local color writers stands out as the most prominent literary characteristic of The Newcomb Arcade. In articles like "Plantation Echoes" that purvey a sense of "all is (was) well," the students glorified the days gone by in the South, while other articles like "An Acadian Venice" painted idealized images of the Cajun culture so unique to Louisiana (The Newcomb Arcade, November 1909: 15, 16). The Newcomb Arcade writers often used New Orleans' "peculiarities of speech" and "quaint local customs" that were part and parcel the local colorist writing (Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: 840). The stories often featured characters like the praline-selling "Mammy" who sold her sweets outside the gates of the Washington Avenue campus (The Newcomb Arcade, April 1917: 210). In short sketches like "Mammy's Washday," Arcade authors wrote in "black" dialect (The Newcomb Arcade March 1914: 23).
A picture of "Mammy"
From The Newcomb Arcade, February 1910: 19.
Newcomb College Center for Research on Women @ Tulane University New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5238 firstname.lastname@example.org