McDonogh, John, 1779-1850. | Tulane University Special Collections
John McDonogh (1779-1850) was a merchant, planter, and philanthropist from New Orleans and Baltimore of Scottish-Irish descent. McDonogh established a mercantile firm in New Orleans with William O. Payne as William Taylor's business agent, expanding the consignment business and trade to include Southern products, especially cotton. The depression of 1802 caused the McDonogh-Payne partnership to dissolve; McDonogh formed a new partnership with Shepherd Brown when the economy began to recover. McDonogh steadily acquired real estate throughout southern Louisiana so that, by the time of his death, he was considered one of the largest landowners.
In 1816 or 1817, McDonogh established his home on his plantation in Algiers. The Florida land claims controversy was a major trial for McDonogh, who had to have his titles to his Florida land confirmed by the United States government. McDonogh was also associated with the American Colonization Society. He sent many former slaves to Liberia and corresponded with them, although he was still a slave owner and an anti-abolitionist. Still, he gave his slaves the opportunity to purchase their freedom by working on their days set aside for rest in addition to access to an education and trade skills.
Upon his death, McDonogh left the bulk of his fortune to the cities of Baltimore and New Orleans for the purpose of building public schools for poor white and freed black children.