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J. Harold Kittleson Papers

Identifier: M/A 0024

Description of Contents

Materials created and collected by J. Harold Kittleson, including correspondence, clippings, club materials, travel documents, family history, and inscribed books. Materials document Kittleson’s work as a bookseller and book collector, as well as his many travels.


  • Creation: 1920 - 2002



The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


J. Harold Kittleson was an avid book collector and supporter of the Minneapolis Public Library. Kittleson was born May 8, 1905. His father, John Custer Kittleson, worked for the Milwaukee Railroad. In 1917, the Kittleson family moved to south Minneapolis. Kittleson graduated from South High School in December 1922, his father died that same spring. After his father's death, both Bessie and J. Harold Kittleson then began work at Dayton’s in downtown Minneapolis; she in the infant department and he in shipping and receiving. By 1924, he had transferred to the book department. He saved his earnings and was able to take his first trip to Europe in 1929.

In January 1930, he became a book buyer and later manager of the Mabel Ulrich Book Shop in Minneapolis. September of that year he went to work for the Powers Department Store in the book department (this was the premier bookstore in Minneapolis pre-World War II). Leonard Wells, the book department manager died in 1933 and Kittleson became the buyer and manager of the department. In 1936 he was able to take a second trip to Europe, partially paid for by Powers, in his capacity as a book buyer. After WWII, Kittleson joined Random House as a sales representative. In his capacity as a sales representative, he traveled from Duluth to Corpus Christi, Texas, to Buffalo, N.Y., to Miami Beach, Florida Beach. Kittleson retired from Random House after 23 years to take care of his mother who passed away in 1972.

Kittleson began collecting World War II material including books, posters, pamphlets, periodicals and maps relating to all aspects of World War II in the 1940s. He first approached the library director about establishing a World War II collection in December 1944. This collection has grown to over 9,000 books, 2,000 posters, and 3,500 miscellaneous materials. The Kittleson World War II Collection is housed in the Special Collections Department, at the Minneapolis Public Library.

Upon his retirement, Kittleson became active with the Friends of Minneapolis Public Library. In 1969, he donated his New England writers collection to the Minneapolis Public Library. It was housed in the Emerson Room at North Regional Library until 1988 when it was moved to the Central Library to the newly formed Special Collections Department and the collection was renamed the 19th Century American Studies Collection. Kittleson continued to add materials to both of these collections throughout his life.

Minneapolis Public Library hosted tributes to Kittleson in both 1986 and 2000. Kittleson also donated materials to other institutions and collections including the Kerlan Collection, Macalester College, and various collections at the University of Minnesota. He received the Kay Sexton Award at the 1996 Minnesota Book Awards "for Outstanding Contributions to the Minnesota Community of the Book".

Kittleson was a lifelong member of the Ampersand Club, the Skylight Club in Minneapolis, and Grolier Club in New York. He was president and honorary board member of the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library and a trustee of the Minneapolis Public Library from 1972-1982. In his retirement, he again took up travels to Europe, most often Great Britain.

He died September 27, 2002.


20.75 Linear Feet (44 boxes)

Language of Materials


Kittleson Materials at Other Repositories

Minnesota Historical Society

J. Harold Kittleson Papers
Sonja Isaacson
August 2012
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.