Joseph Newberger, Cotton Man, Philanthropist
Written by Joe Lowry with research and editorial assistance by Trish Gully.
Joseph Newberger, born June 12, 1858, was a multi-millionaire, philanthropist, and world-known outstanding cotton man. He was born in Coffeeville, Mississippi, was raised in the Catholic faith and attended the Jesuit Springhill College in Mobile Alabama. He became director of Methodist Hospital, and principal owner of more than 26 of the largest Federal Compress companies located throughout Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. His company owned oceangoing cargo ships and had offices and employees all over the world. He was a member of the New York Cotton Exchange, and European Cotton Exchange.
The Newburger Cotton Company name was known to everyone in the cotton business. Quietly, without a lot of fanfare, he raised money to champion great causes. As a member of the Odd Fellows he supported Porter Leath Orphanage. He raised money for the construction of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. While serving as President of the Congregation of the Children of Israel, he went to Constantinople to study the construction of St Sophia’s so he could return to Memphis and build Temple Israel on Poplar Ave. He was a Republican, a Mason and in 1912, when he built his mansion located at 168 E. Parkway South, (Memphis Theological Seminary) it cost him $500,000. The 5,000 square foot home was the largest mansion in Memphis at the time. He died after having a heart attack while visiting his brother in New York City on December 27, 1926.
In 1909 a story in The Guardian, a Liverpool, England newspaper stated he sold more than 10,200,000.00 bales of cotton worldwide. In the twenties, he was known as Memphis’ greatest Philanthropist.
I have always been impressed with Memphians who quietly championed good causes and Joseph Newberger was one of the finest.
6 thoughts on “Joseph Newberger, Cotton Man, Philanthropist”
Great story about a great man from a fellow long tenured cotton man whose career was 1956-1999. Thanks Joe.
Love reading about forgotten people that helped make Memphis
Using the U.S. Inflation Rate, the $500,000 Newberger paid for his Mansion in 1912 computes from 1910 to 2020 would now be worth $13,577,421.05.
Thank you putting together an excellent, well-written story about a great man. One quibble, though. I don’t believe Mr. Newberger was raised in the Catholic faith, even though he attended the Jesuit Spring Hill College. Many Jews and other non-Catholics have attended Catholic schools and colleges to attain a high-quality education.
It would have been very unusual for someone who was raised Catholic to become Jewish back in those days. Your story notes that Mr. Newberger was president of Congregation Children of Israel in Memphis, known today as Temple Israel. He also was a prominent member of Baron Hirsch Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Memphis that I attended with my family when I was growing up. As your story notes, Mr. Newberger showed great generosity to all worthy causes, whatever faith they espoused. This is another way in which he served as a fine example to all of us.
Mr. Newberger and his parents, Leopold and Esther Newberger, are buried in Temple Israel Cemetery in Memphis:
Tthank you again for a well done article!
Hi Julius, thanks for the comment. We’re glad you enjoyed the article. We’ll need to look into Mr Newberger’s upbringing further as Joe’s research shows differently. Thanks again for being a part of our reader/listenership, we appreciate it!
You’re welcome, Mark!