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General correspondence and related material, 1923-1955, undated, 1925-1954


Scope and Contents

Comprising the largest portion of the Fiske Kimball Records, this series clearly documents Kimball's extensive contact with the institutions, individuals, and businesses that collectively directed and promoted art and artists, and a public appreciation for both. Kimball cultivated a variety of correspondents, from dealers and donors to museums, educational institutions and professional organizations. Throughout the three decades documented, antiques and art dealers appear to be Kimball's most prolific correspondents, particularly the New York firms of French & Company and Wildenstein and Company, as well as Arnold Seligmann, Rey & Co., Acton Surgey, Ltd., A.S. Drey and M. Knoedler & Co. Additional material pertaining to most of these firms can also be found in the "Objects and related topics" series. Kimball's correspondence with personnel at other art museums in the United States is also significant. There are letters with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in every year-span subseries. Some of the correspondents at the Met were former PMA curators, including Joseph Downs, Horace Jayne and Francis Taylor, who served as the Met's director from 1940 to 1955. Other museums well documented include the Fogg Art Museum, the Toledo Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the University of Pennsylvania's museum. Much of the correspondence with the latter is with Horace Jayne, who served as the curator there before returning to PMA in 1955.

Kimball was also diligent in his correspondence with donors and private collectors. Those best documented in this series also represent some of the most prominent names in Philadelphia society, such as president of the Curtis Publishing Company George Horace Lorimer and his son Graeme and various members of the Elkins, Lewis and McFadden families. Another frequent correspondent was Chester Dale, whose art collection came to the PMA in the early 1940s. Files pertaining to the Museum's receipt of his collection are in the "Objects and related topics" series. There are also a number of correspondence files from the 1930s with Francis Patrick Garvan. In regard to professional affiliations, the bulk of material pertains to the Association of Art Museum Directors, the American Association of Museums and the American Federation of Art. There is a significant amount of correspondence with Harvard, New York University and the University of Michigan, educational institutions that Kimball was associated with either academically or professionally. Other schools represented include the Art Institute of Carnegie Institute, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

Although not on any regular basis, Kimball corresponded with some of the art world's more illustrious figures, such as the art critics and writers Bernard Berenson and Christian Brinton, the artists Marcel Duchamp and Georgia O'Keefe, and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Kimball also corresponded with the movie star and art collector Edward G. Robinson and his wife, Gladys, an artist, regarding possible exhibitions of their collection and of Gladys' work.

While most of this material consists of original correspondence to Kimball and file copies of his outgoing letters, there is a significant amount of correspondence between other museum personnel and outside entities. Although this interfiling is in part a result of the previously noted central filing system, it also reveals how Kimball operated as a director. In many cases, Kimball would refer matters to various staff members, but also continue in the correspondence between the museum and the outside correspondent. Thus the papers of a particular institution or individual may consist of letters with Kimball and/or with other staff members.

Many folders contain material related to the correspondence, including clippings, ephemera, photographs and occasionally a publication. Attachments have been retained with the appropriate correspondence as well as any reference material Kimball may have assembled with it. Notes are scattered throughout the papers, usually Kimball's own reminders or telephone messages.


  • 1923-1955, undated
  • 1925-1954

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Because of its fragile condition, the following item may only be consulted with permission of the Archivist: floor plan with annotations of PMA Gothic installations (in "Objects and related topics" series, "European decorative arts and arms and armor" subseries, "Rooms and architectural elements" sub-subseries, "England. Gothic installations at PMA, incl. Abergavenny, Wales" file).


42.5 linear feet

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


This series is divided into 14 chronological subseries, typically of two-year increments. Within these subseries, folders are arranged alphabetically in one of two ways. Alphabetical-run folders contain papers generated by a number of authors, whose personal or corporate names fall within that particular alphabetical run (ex. Abel-Acme). The second type of folder documents a single author, personal or corporate. These individual files were created for authors represented by a significant amount of material (at least 10 items) or for any prominent author regardless of the number of items. Occasionally, items are filed by a personal or corporate name that is not the author of the correspondence but rather the subject. In other cases, items are mixed, including correspondence authored by or about the person or corporate entity. Both of these exceptions were part of the collection's previous order and thus have been retained. Some folders pertain to the estate of an individual and are titled as such, with "Estate" following the personal name. For each letter of the alphabet, folders containing an alphabetical run of various authors precede single author folders.

Note that all subseries contain undated material that was placed within a particular chronological subseries because of original order. Undated material is noted at the subseries level only, and not on individual folders. Note also that Kimball's dual filing for certain individuals has been retained. Kimball indicated on a letter that it be filed by the individual working at a particular organization; while other letters to the same individual were noted for filing by the corporate name.


Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States