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COLLECTION Identifier: Arch GA 51.10

Malcolm P. McNair papers


The collection consists of teaching, administrative, consulting, and business records of Malcolm P. McNair, a pioneer in retailing and in predicting trends.


  • Creation: 1919-1985


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. HBS Archives collections require a secondary registration form, please contact for more information.


33 linear feet (62 boxes, 7 volumes, and 1 oversize folder)

The collection consists of teaching, administrative, consulting, and business records of Malcolm P. McNair. Teaching records include memorandum, notes and lectures for such classes as Retail Distribution, Retail Store Management, Marketing, and Elements of Administration, among others. Administrative records document McNair’s work in the development and administration of Harvard Business School programs and events, including his participation on committees. Consulting records include company records and McNair’s notes and correspondence for Indian Head Mills, Allied Stores, Allerton, Berman, & Dean, and John Wanamaker.

The collection reflects the development of marketing and retailing as fields of study, as well as the development of forecasting trends. The collection is also a record of McNair’s understanding of economic principles and his objections to government regulation of the economy. Speeches, writings and research files kept by McNair concern general economic conditions and marketing issues, including the New Deal, governmental intervention in business and the economy, and the role of the Harvard Business School in promoting an understanding of the free-market system. Other subjects include business cycles, economic forecasting, business’s wartime role, business planning for peacetime, and developments in distribution and marketing. The collection also documents the development of Harvard Business School teaching methods and courses.

The records related to Indian Head Mills document the founding and development of the company, acquisitions, complex organizational structure, movement out of the textile business, and decline of the textile industry in the United States.

Biographical Note

Malcolm Perrine McNair was a pioneer in marketing, retailing and forecasting trends. He taught at Harvard Business School for forty three years and played a key role in the development of marketing, retailing and case method courses. He was also influential in early case collection activities.

McNair was born on October 6, 1894 in Dansville, New York. He married Mary Lowe Hemenway in 1918 and the couple had three children. He attended Lehigh University from 1912-1913 and transferred to Harvard University, receiving an BA in 1916 and a MA in 1920.

While a graduate student, McNair edited Harvard Business School students' marketing reports for composition and style. In this capacity he caught the attention of Melvin T. Copeland, one of the originators of the case method. In 1920, Copeland persuaded him to join the faculty. McNair was appointed Instructor at Harvard Business School in 1920, and was promoted to Assistant Professor of Marketing in 1924, Associate Professor of Marketing in 1927, and Professor of Marketing in 1931. In 1950 he was appointed the first Lincoln Filene Professor of Retailing, a position he held until his retirement in 1963.

McNair served as Assistant Director of the Harvard Bureau of Business Research from 1922-1929 and Managing Director from 1929-1933. He became Director of the Division of Research at HBS at its founding in 1933 and served until 1936. He authored many books on retailing, distribution, and marketing and was the author of many cases and articles. He was an indefatigable public speaker, giving lectures and addresses to many business organizations, most notably the National Retail Dry Goods Association (NRDGA), later the National Retail Merchants Association (NRMA). He also spoke frequently before Harvard Business School alumni clubs across the nation.

McNair was a consultant for a number of companies, most notably Indian Head Mills. He was a teacher and mentor to the founder and president, James Robison (MBA ‘40). He also served on various corporate boards and served as director of various companies including, Allied Stores.

Malcolm P. McNair died on September 16, 1985.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Correspondence/ Subject files, 1920-1983
  2. Series II. Harvard Business School Teaching, 1921-1967
  3. ___Subseries A. MBA Teaching, 1921-1967
  4. ___Subseries B. Executive Education and other Teaching, 1928-1962
  5. Series III. Harvard Business School/ Harvard University Speeches, Writings and Research, 1931-1966
  6. Series IV. General Writing, Research, and Addresses, 1922-1978
  7. Series V. Harvard Business School/ Harvard University Administrative and Program Records, 1919-1962
  8. Series VI. Outside Consulting Records, 1941-1969
  9. ___Subseries A. Indian Head Mills, 1941-1968
  10. ______i. Correspondence/ Subject files, 1941-1968
  11. ______ii. Directors meetings and financial statements, 1953-1968
  12. ______iii. Stockholder meetings, 1953-1968
  13. ______iv. Management meetings, 1962-1968
  14. ______v. Securities and Exchange Commission records, 1953-1967
  15. ______vi. Financial records, 1955-1965
  16. ______vii. Consolidated financial statements, 1962-1966
  17. ______viii. Compensation, 1953-1968
  18. ______ix. Organization and divisions, 1956-1967
  19. ______x. Mergers and acquisitions, 1954-1968
  20. ___Subseries B. Allied Stores, 1954-1967
  21. ___Subseries C. Other Outside Consulting, 1951-1969
  22. Series VII. Biographical Material, 1927-1985
  23. Series VIII. Restricted Student and Personnel Records, 1921-1948 (Restricted until 2028)

Physical Location


Processing Information

Processed By: Katherine Powers and Dominique Tremblay, June 2006

McNair, Malcolm P. (Malcolm Perrine), 1894-. Malcolm P. McNair Papers, 1919-1985: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baker Library Special Collections and Archives, Harvard Business School Repository

Baker Library Special Collections and Archives holds unique resources that focus on the evolution of business and industry, as well as the records of the Harvard Business School, documenting the institution's development over the last century. These rich and varied collections support research in a diverse range of fields such as business, economic, social and cultural history as well as the history of science and technology.

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