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COLLECTION Identifier: Mss:776 1909-1942

Louis E. Kirstein business records

Scope and Contents

The office files of Louis Kirstein, Vice-president of Filene's of Boston, Massachusetts, (1911-1942), contain material throughout on the professional role of his secretary; correspondence with women working for charities; material on women working at Filene's; and personal correspondence with his sister, wife, and daughters. Although there are some papers relating to Filene's store, the focus is on business interests of Kirstein, his philanthropic and community activities, the Associated Merchandising Corporation, the Federated Department Stores, and the Associated Retail Federation.

Kirstein's office was managed by his secretary, E. R. ("Effie") Beverly, and the papers paint an encompassing picture of the role of a secretary to a man of many interests. Beverly first shows up by name in the collection in the early 1920s, when she was already quite established as Kirstein's assistant. Beverly handled all of Kirstein's correspondence, much of it under her own name, even when he was not on one of his frequent trips abroad. She communicated with Rose Stein Kirstein and the children about finances and Kirstein's whereabouts and seems to have balanced Mrs. Kirstein's checkbook at the end of each month. She worked for Kirstein until his death in 1941 and wrote letters for the family about the estate after that.

There are several files with correspondence by and with specific women in those parts of the collection that pertain to Kirstein's work at Filene's. They include letters from Mrs. Caroline Warren, manager of Filene's restaurant, and some correspondence with both Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein regarding booths in the Filene's stores. Kirstein seems to have had some doubts about their business practices. The various Labor Relations files contain materials on topics such as a 1939 negotiation with Filene's union (FCA) in which the FCA stipulated that male elevator operators would not be replaced by women, Consumer-Retailer Council (a group working in the 1930's to develop standards for labeling, informative advertising, and a retail code of ethics), and on the World War II strictures on the sale of silk stockings.

The collection also contains a smattering of correspondence with women who chaired or directed various charities, especially in the 1930s. Kirstein's personal files include many letters from and to Rose Stein Kirstein, his daughter Mina Kirstein, his sisters Julia K. Mannheimer and Ida Kirstein, and Nina Stein. In his will, Kirstein left money in trust to his wife and his sisters.


  • Creation: 1909-1942


Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

Box 45 of the Louis E. Kirstein business records is available on microfilm (2 reels, 35mm.) for use in the Historical Collections Reading Room, Baker Library. Order no. 03-435, reel 1 & 2.


50 linear feet (103 boxes, 11 volumes, 2 microfilm reels)

Biographical / Historical

Merchant and civic leader. Born in Rochester, N.Y. Vice-president, William Filene's Sons Company, Boston, Mass. (1911-1942). Kirstein played an important role in the Associated Merchandising Corporation and in the American Retail Federation. He was a trustee of the Boston Public Library and served on the boards of hospitals and welfare organizations.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of George and Lincoln Kirstein and Mrs. Mina Curtiss, 1952.

Baker Library
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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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