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COLLECTION Identifier: Vis 22

Kahn's Department Store photographs and ephemera


Photographs, ephemera, brochures and artwork collected and prepared by J. Ullman Stewart, director of display department at Kahn's Department Store of Oakland, California, 1926-1954.


  • 1926-1954

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials stored onsite. Please contact for more information.


8 linear feet (11 boxes, 1 map case folder)

The Kahn's Department Store photographs and ephemera collection contains photographs, artwork and printed material. The photographs include images of store window displays, interior merchandise displays, floor displays and store fixtures at the Oakland, California flagship building from 1926 to 1954. The window display photographs depict holiday themes, seasonal exhibits, featured shows and celebrations, new styles and specific accessories. Some of the interior photographs depict the department store sales floor and the interior of what is now the Rotunda Building. Also included is correspondence, trade publications, retail store fixture brochures, sketch drawings, artwork and photographs prepared and collected by J. Ullman Stewart from 1926 to 1954. Stewart was the long time director of the display department at the store and compiled ideas for future displays at Kahn's. The photographs located in Series II, J. Ullman Stewart records are similar in nature to the photographs in Series I.

Historical Note:

Kahn's Department Store was founded by Israel Kahn in Oakland, California in 1879. Israel Kahn emigrated to the United States in 1848 and settled in New York City. In 1877, he moved his family to San Francisco and later to Oakland running an established retail clothing trade. Israel Kahn died in 1883 and the business was left to his sons Henry, Solomon and Frederick. The business was first known as Kahn and Son, later Kahn Brothers and finally Kahn's. Kahn's experienced a large growth period during the late 19th century and early 20th century. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, many people moved to Oakland. The added business allowed Kahn's to build a flagship building in downtown Oakland. Designed by Charles W. Dickey, the new Beaux-Arts style store opened in 1912 across from Oakland city hall. At the time, it was the largest department store in the city and architecturally significant with an impressive elliptical rotunda.

Kahn's was purchased by the Western Department Stores in the early 1950s, later to be merged with Rhodes in 1960 and Liberty House Department Store in 1975. The 1912 Beaux-Arts style building still stands and is a designated National Register Historic Landmark. The building is now used as office space and as event space.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  1. Series I. Kahn's Department Store photographs, 1926-1953
  2. Series II. J. Ullman Stewart records, 1926-1954


Purchase, 2003, 2005.

Processing Information

Processed: July 2013

By: Benjamin Johnson

Processing Information

The material in the collection was acquired by Baker Library Historical Collections as two separate accessions and the collection is organized to reflect that. The first accession was solely photographs of Kahn's window and interior floor displays. These photographs make up Series I. Kahn's Department Store photographs, 1926-1953 There are a total of 1, 052 black and white photographs in this series. The second accession included material from the estate of J. Ullman Stewart comprising of sketch drawings, artwork, photographs and printed material. This material makes up Series II. J. Ullman Stewart records, 1926-1954.

Stewart, J. Ullman. Kahn's Department Store Photographs and Ephemera, 1926-1954: A Finding Aid
Baker Library
Language of description

Repository Details

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

Baker Library Special Collections 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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