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Collection on Charles H. Foster

Identifier: M/A 0282

Description of Contents

Correspondence, manuscripts, and materials related to Foster’s donation of items to the Minneapolis Public Library. Several folders contain incoming and outgoing correspondence with author Truman Nelson.


  • Creation: 1940 - 1995


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


A writer, university professor, and collector of 19th Century American literature, Charles Howell Foster was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1913. His father, who was a pharmaceutical executive expected his son to grow up to become a businessman. However, Charles' interests were in literature and letters. He decided to become a poet and began corresponding with Robert Frost during his prep school education. In 1936, he received his bachelor’s degree in English from Amherst college. In 1937, he received a master’s degree in English from the University of Iowa followed by a Ph.D. in 1939.

Although he managed to publish several poems, he decided to turn his talents to academia. Foster became recognized internationally for his expertise in 19th century American literature and wrote several books on the subject. These included a biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe which received rave reviews from the New York Times. In addition, he was on the board of editors for the New England Quarterly and wrote book reviews for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In addition to his writing, Foster was a respected educator. He taught at a number of colleges in the U.S. including the universities of Iowa and Colorado and was the chairman of the English department at Grinnell College. He began teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1958 and was the director of the American Studies Department in addition to being part of the English Graduate Studies Division. This was to be his final teaching position which he would hold until his retirement in 1971.

Foster was also a collector of rare 19th century books, pamphlets, and manuscripts. Many of these were copies of the early American authors that he so loved. Eventually he would donate a significant number of these items to the Minneapolis Public Library.

After his retirement Foster moved to Luray, Virginia, but returned to Minnesota in 1994. In 1995, he passed away due to complications with pneumonia.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Collection on Charles H. Foster
Benjamin Skinner
May 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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.