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Soulé’s Business College – Practical Business Education for over 120 years

Rex Parade, Mardi Gras. New Orleans, Louisiana. March 8, 2011. Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive //www.loc.gov/item/2011646932/

Our year-long New Orleans Tricentennial focus has meant finding all sorts of interesting things to purpose into business posts. In a previous post, two images of the Henry Clay statue were the impetus behind the post, but it ended up being the businesses along Canal Street that were more interesting.  In this post, I found this Mardi Gras photo, but again, it was something in the background that ended up being more captivating — the words above the door on a building to the right that said Soulé College. After a quick search I discovered it referred to the Soulé Commercial College & Literary Institute, sometimes referred to as Soulé Business College.  The business librarian in me was intrigued and I wanted to know more.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. (1896) Map 108 (image 14) //www.loc.gov/item/sanborn03376_005/

The college was founded in 1856 by Col. George Soulé and was originally located on Camp Street at Common. It later moved to the location in the photo on St. Charles Avenue right next to Gallier Hall across from Lafayette Square.  In 1923 it moved one last time to its final location on Jackson Avenue.  While George Soulé died in 1926, his school continued for a number of years until it finally closed in 1983.

Soulé Commercial College & Literary Institute, SJackson Avenue. Photo courtesy of Ellen Terrell, December 2017.

Soulé Commercial College & Literary Institute, St. Charles Avenue. Photo courtesy of Ellen Terrell, December 2017.

Soulé ran ads for the school in many Louisiana newspapers, including the St. Mary Banner, the Lafayette Advertiser, and The Natchitoches Enterprise.  He even ran ads in Mississippi papers like The East Mississippi Times, and The Mississippi Union advocate and Southern Farm and Home.   A Lafayette Advertiser from 1905 piece had this to say:  “Its popularity grows with the years, and last session the record was broken in number of teachers, number of students and number of graduates”  and went on to say that at that time, there were over 1000 students, 20 teachers, and over 19,000 former students.

It was the kind of school that taught skills useful in the business world.  Classes were offered in typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping, as well as other skills useful for those looking to work in banks, department stores, etc.  According to a 1976 piece in Accounting Historians Journal:

Lafayette advertiser., January 16, 1907. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86079068/1907-01-16/ed-1/seq-2/

The St. Mary banner., July 19, 1902. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88064384/1902-07-19/ed-1/seq-4/

The business curriculum of Soulé College was divided into five courses of study. The first was the “introductory business.” This was intended for students without prior knowledge of bookkeeping and any previous experience in business. Then came “business practice.” Here the objective was to help students learn how to start and conduct a business utilizing source documents as well as bookkeeping records. “Banking and office routine” constituted the third course. In this course students were made thoroughly acquainted with the details of practical banking by serving in the College Bank on various jobs. Next came the “advanced commercial” course. The objective here was to provide students with knowledge of “higher accounting,” as applied to various lines of business, such as foreign and domestic merchandising, banking, plantation, and joint stock companies. Finally, students served in the “actual business” department. Around the turn of the century this was a relatively new and distinguishing feature of the business curriculum. Here, unlike in the “business practice’’ course, students conducted business with real money and goods and kept a complete set of accounting books.

The St. Mary Banner., September 11, 1915. //chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88064384/1915-09-11/ed-1/seq-8/

Soulé published a number of books and many of them are in the Library’s collections, including:

Along with his accounting books and manuals, I can imagine them using other materials like typing manuals and titles similar to Bosman Exact Shorthand, McEwan’s Shorthand Course , and The Factors of Shorthand Speed. There are also a number of other items that students may have either been made aware of, or were actually kept at the school, including:

Soulé’s school was part of the city’s fabric for over a century – my mother remembered it when she went with me to take photos of both locations for this post.  It’s nice that bits of it still survive.


  1. Oscar
    October 22, 2018 at 1:06 am

    I am beginning a study on the history of penmanship. I will be in NO this winter for vacation. I look forward to taking my photo in front of these historical buildings!

  2. Susan McAllister
    November 4, 2018 at 12:57 am

    So strange. I was in NOLA two weeks ago and wanted to see the mansion with the inscription out front because of the quote about education. This weekend I got a hint from Ancestry that linked me to a George Soule who opened a school in LA. My grandfather was George Henry Soule born in the late 1800s. (He died before I was born and would have been close to 90 when I was born) The George Soule from this blog was likely a great uncle of my grandfathers or the like. FYI another Soule, Joshua, is associated with a women’s college in middle Tennessee, now Middle Tennessee State University. He is buried on the Vanderbilt campus.

  3. Ashley Wolf
    December 16, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    I have two silver goblets in sterling silver that are engraved with:

    “Albert Lee Soulé
    President of Soule College
    on his 70th Birthday
    December 16th, 1935”

    and (2) a slightly different shaped silver goblet that says

    “Mary E. Soulé
    President 1915-1940
    New Orleans Branch Alliance”

    My Grandmother’s maiden name was (Dorothy) Soulé but I am wondering if these would be valuable to New Orleans? I’m also curious as to how I was bequeathed them but they are awfully pretty and they’re appropriate for my mother’s connection to education as a lifelong professor…

  4. Charlene Council
    January 4, 2019 at 2:01 am

    There’s been a picture in my father’s house for as long as I can remember and the back reads, “Mr.Soulé of New Orleans. Gentleman friend of Hazel Council in late 30’s and early 1940’s. Is there a way to upload the picture? My great aunt Hazel was a spinster single old maid that didnt want any man to control her money or business. She started and owned Hazel Council Realty in Baldwin County Alabama nearly her entire life, but apparently had quite the social network and friend circle. I have the picture if anyone thinks he may be family or related and would like to see of they can identify who it is.

  5. Ellen Terrell
    January 5, 2019 at 11:42 am

    Charlene – I think that the Historic New Orleans Collection may be helpful here – particularly if they have collections that are available nowhere else.

  6. Debra Ford
    May 21, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Hello Ellen,
    I am doing research on my mother, who passed away long ago. We found a class ring she had for Eleanor McMain High School in New Orleans, and think she may have attended there. We also believe that she may have attended the Soule Business College. Sadly we haven’t been able to find any documentation of any of this. McMain has little to nothing as far as records and I don’t know who to contact for records at the business college as it is closed. My mom probably graduated from McMain in 1940 and I believe she might have attended Soule between then and 1945. We can find no yearbooks or school records to support any of these, though the class ring is definitely from McMain. Do you have any thoughts on who we might check with for help on these matters (have tried the NO public library, and area universities). It would be amazing to find someone still alive or even the next generation down, that might have their relatives info. Any help or suggestions you might have would be much appreciated.
    Debra Ford

  7. Julie (Randolph) Dowling
    May 29, 2019 at 1:09 am

    I was a student at Soule in the late fifties, but didn’t graduate. I thought it was a good school, and the teachers were very good.

  8. Tavenor Lemmon
    March 18, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    I am a nephew of Col. Soule. My great grandmother and grandmother moved to N.O. from Va. after the civil war. My great grandmother was a Beale and married a Reynold. Both families were early settlers in Va. My grandmother married George Plaisance and their oldest son, my uncle, was named George Soule Plaisance in honor of his uncle, Col. George Soule. I don’t know the details of the relationship, I just remember always being told that he was an uncle. As a side story my grandmother used to brag about going to school there and became the first female to ever graduate from the secretarial school. My grandparents moved to Birmingham where my mother Marie was born. She married Sherman Lemmon. I am Tavenor Lemmon an currently live in Memphis.

  9. George Soule’ McConnell
    June 10, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    I am the Great Great grandson of Col. George Soulé and I recommend that you get in touch with Tulane University for information about former Students. There is much about the school archived there!

    It’s been a pleasure reading people’s rememberenceses concerning the College and the Founder; both of which played a huge role in the modern formation of the City of New Orleans and the Deep South in general.

  10. Francisco
    July 6, 2020 at 11:22 am

    I would like to know how to obtain my mother diploma at Soule College. Can anyone direct me on how to do this?
    Thank you

  11. Carey Scott O’Neal Jr.
    August 22, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    I found and framed my father’s graduation certificate from Soule’ last year. He graduated in 1937 on the 20th of some, but I cannot read what month. His degree was in “office reporting. I would like to send a picture of his degree and find out how he did while there. Is there a way to send a pic of his diploma and get more information about his time there?

    • Ellen Terrell
      August 24, 2020 at 8:24 am

      Unfortunately the Library of Congress does not have any resources that can tell you about a student’s time at the college. Tulane has some records but I am not sure what they have in terms of students. Search soule at https://archives.tulane.edu/

  12. BD2412
    December 27, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    Is this post in the Public Domain? I’d like to use it (with proper attribution) to create a Wikipedia article on the subject. I have started a draft at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft:Soul%C3%A9%27s_Business_College Cheers!

  13. Ashley
    July 4, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    Hi! I was on Duckduckgo.com researching where my great aunt went to Business school. Evidently she went to Soule and graduated sometime around 1933 or 1934. Her name was Hilda Connolley. After graduating she went to work at N.O. sewage and water board in 1935 as an administrative assistant . When she retired in 1980 she held the longest record of employment with the S&WB.

  14. Terrence Kerwin
    July 29, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    I worked as a handyman at Soule College in 1971. Evan Soule ran the place and his parents were both still alive, but quite old. It was still a business college and appeared to be doing well though Evan Soule said it was nothing compared to the war years. I stopped by there in 1977 and things were still operating as they had been – very nice people.

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