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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.

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