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Papers of Horace Meyer Kallen (1882-1974)

Identifier: RG 317

Scope and Content Note

The materials in this collection relate to Kallen’s long career and interests in the fields of education, philosophy, Zionism, Jewish affairs, individualism, cultural pluralism, adult education, Jewish education, peace movements, democracy, labor, consumerism, co-operative movement, political activism, humanism, religion, civil rights, history of American Jewish life, and American literature and scholarship. These materials consist mainly of correspondence, as well as notes, research materials, lecture materials, student papers, and personality studies.

The materials include correspondence with over 1000 organizations such as consumers’ organizations in various countries, organizations aiding refugees from Nazism, and organizations in support of academic freedom and civil liberties. There are particularly rich collections of correspondence with the American Jewish Congress, Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, Julian W. Mack School, and the New School for Social Research, as well as the President’s Commission on Higher Education, World Jewish Congress, American Association for Jewish Education, and the Menorah Association. There is also correspondence from about 4,000 individual correspondents active in education, philosophy, Zionism, and politics, including Cyrus Adler, Max Ascoli, Roger Baldwin, Salo W. Baron, Henri Bergson, Jacob Billikopf, Menachem Boraisha, Louis D. Brandeis, Edmund de Schweinitz Brunner, Benjamin Cardozo, Israel S. Chipkin, Morris Raphael Cohen, John Dewey, Theodore Dreiser, Albert Einstein, Felix Frankfurter, Philip R. Goldstein, Sidney Hillman, Sidney Hook, Alvin Johnson, Kurt Lewin, Sinclair Lewis, Julian W. Mack, H.L. Mencken, Jerome Nathanson, Edmond de Rothschild, George Santayana, Hans Simon, Nathan Straus, Louis Sturz, Henrietta Szold, Ernst Toller, Immanuel Velikovsky, Felix Warburg, Stephen S. Wise, and Israel Zangwill.

The materials in this collection date from 1902-1970, the bulk of which are from 1922-1952.


  • 1902-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1922-1952

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, with some German, French and Yiddish, and with a small amount of Italian, Romanian, Spanish, Hebrew, Chinese and Shorthand.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Horace M. Kallen was born in Berenstadt, Silesia, Germany, on August 11, 1882. He was the son of Jacob David Kallen, a Hebrew scholar and Orthodox rabbi, and Esther Rebecca Glazier. He had six sisters, Ida, Dora, Mildred, Deborah, Frances, and Miriam, and one brother, Leo. Kallen immigrated to Boston with his family in 1887 at the age of five.

Kallen attended Harvard University and graduated with his B.A. in 1903. He went to Princeton where he taught English from 1903 until 1905 at which time he was dismissed for being an avowed unbeliever. Originally interested in writing novels and poetry, he became more interested in philosophy and the philosophical implications of the arts and the social sciences. He has credited George Santayana, whose assistant he was while at Harvard, William James, Charles A. Beard, Edwin Holt, Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller, Barrett Wendell, and Solomon Schechter as those who were most influential in the development of his philosophical ideas. Although he refused to be tied to a specific philosophical school, he can be most closely identified with the broad pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey and F.C.S. Schiller.

After studying philosophy at Oxford University and University de Paris La Sorbonne, he returned to Harvard and received his Ph.D. in 1908. He taught philosophy at Harvard from 1908-1911 and logic at Clark College in 1910 until he received an instructorship in philosophy and psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1911. He continued in this post until 1918 at which time he was forced to resign because of his support of the rights of pacifists in the heat of World War I. This incident increased his belief in the necessity of intellectual freedom and the right to speak out on controversial issues.

Dr. Kallen's association with the New School for Social Research marks the longest and most productive period of his life. In 1919, together with James Harvey Robinson, Charles A. Beard, Thorstein Veblen, Alvin Johnson, and Robert Bruere, he founded the New School for Social Research in New York City. The institution was founded as a kind of refugee camp for America's intellectuals and academics during a period in the wake of World War I when academic and intellectual freedom were severely threatened. He taught at the New School from 1919-1952, also serving as the dean of the graduate faculty of political and social science from 1944-1946. He was a research professor from 1952-1965, when he began teaching at Long Island University. He was named emeritus research professor of social philosophy at the New School in 1969. As the last of the original founders, Dr. Kallen taught his last course there in the fall of 1973. While at the New School he also taught courses at Harvard, Columbia, the University of Wisconsin, Ohio State University, Long Island University, and Claremont College in California.

Kallen was close to casting aside his Jewish identity when Barrett Wendell, professor of English literature at Harvard, showed him how the Old Testament had affected the Puritan mind and traced the role of Hebraic tradition in the development of the American character. This helped to motivate Kallen’s interest in Jewish matters and he subsequently became a Zionist in 1902. He argued strongly for 60 years that the Jewish people needed a homeland in Palestine to protect them against persecution and to enhance their Jewish cultural heritage. He affirmed his debt to his Jewish heritage and his insistence on the link between thought and action led him into active participation in the extension of democracy at home and abroad, especially in relation to civil liberties and minority rights.

Dr. Kallen was an active member of the Jewish community working in and with such organizations as the American Jewish Congress, the American Association for Jewish Education, of which he was vice-president, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, where he was the chairman of the Academic Board, and the Institute of Jewish Affairs, of which he was a co-director of the Board of Trustees. He served on many government committees, including the Committee of Inquiry on the Terms of Peace (1918-1919), the Labor Advisory Commission to the Council on National Defense (1918), the Presidential Commission on Higher Education, the Mayor’s Committee on City Planning, and the New York City Commission on Intergroup Relations (1961). Also, he was active in such organizations as the Julian W. Mack School in Jerusalem, the International League for the Rights of Man, American Philosophical Society, the Institute of Church and State, and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. He was the chairman of the Committee on Education of the American Labor Conference, the director of the Masaryk Institute, and served as trustee of the Rochdale Institute.

His philosophy has been variously characterized as Hebraism, aesthetic pragmatism, humanism, cultural pluralism (a term Kallen is credited with coining), and cooperative individualism, although he refused to specifically define his own philosophy. A major precept of his philosophy was: "I have a right to believe what you believe is wrong. If in your eyes I am wrong, yet I have that right to be wrong, and that right is unalienable."

Some distinctive features of his philosophy are the stress on the wide variety that exists in nature and in society, on chance and individuality over law and group characteristics, and his strong beliefs in freedom of will and the individual’s responsibility for his own actions.

Kallen's concept of cultural pluralism affirmed that each ethnic and cultural group in the United States had inherent value and a unique contribution to make to the variety and richness of American culture. This provided a rationale for those Jews who wished to preserve their Jewish cultural identity rather than allowing themselves to be subsumed within the American melting pot. He championed the idea of a world in which all varieties of peoples and cultures would be able to live together, each one the equal of the others. This was in opposition to the prevailing melting pot ideal, a doctrine which Kallen was against.

Horace Kallen was the author of more than 30 books as well as numerous pamphlets and articles, mainly concerned with aesthetics, world peace, Israel and Jewish issues, philosophy, consumerism, democracy, civil liberties, labor, education, and religion. He was active in liberal, educational and Zionist movements. He wrote on cultural pluralism, consumerism and environmental control long before they became major topics. He was an outstanding leader in the adult education movement in America. Among his more well-known writings are: William James and Henri Bergson (1914); The Book of Job as a Greek Tragedy (1918); Zionism and World Politics (1921); The Structure of Lasting Peace (1924); Why Religion? (1927); Frontiers of Hope (1929); Judaism at Bay (1932); Individualism: An American Way of Life (1933); The Decline and Rise of the Consumer (1936); Art and Freedom (2 vol. 1942); The Education of Free Men (1949); Of Them Which Say They Are (1954), edited by Judah Pilch, a collection of Kallen's essays on the Jewish struggle for survival; Utopians at Bay (1958), on his impressions of Israel; and Liberty, Laughter and Tears (1968). Kallen edited William James’ unfinished work, Some Problems in Philosophy (1911) and, with John Dewey, The Bertrand Russell Case (1941).

Horace Kallen married Rachel Oatman Van Arsdale in 1926. They had two children, Harriet S. Haines and David J. Kallen, and six grandchildren. Kallen died February 16, 1974 at the age of 91.


29.5 Linear Feet

60 Reels (MK 499)


This collection contains correspondence between Horace M. Kallen and many important individuals and organizations, as well as manuscripts, notes and other materials for speeches, financial documents, research materials, academic records, and various other assorted items. These materials serve to illustrate Kallen’s important role in philosophy, education, religion, and politics and his deep involvement with consumer rights, environmental controls, Jewish issues, and civil liberties.


The method of arrangement reflects the manner in which much of the materials were originally filed. The materials were filed by a number of different secretaries and for this reason there is some inconsistency in filing methods. Some of the correspondence and related papers were filed under the names of organizations, publications, institutions, and publishers, while other correspondence has been filed by the name of the person who signed the letters. There are also materials that were filed by the subject to which they relate, as well as manuscripts and other papers pertaining to Dr. Kallen’s writings, which were filed by the title of the article or book. Because of the filing inconsistencies, which have been maintained, materials relating to any one topic, individual, or organization may be found in several different series. For example, some papers filed under the names of faculty members and officials from the New School for Social Research are similar in nature to those filed under the heading of “New School,” and materials about education can be found in folders other than just 169-194, which were filed under the heading of “Education.”

Folder titles represent what has been written on the folders themselves, often abbreviations of the names of organizations, individuals, topics, or alphabetical contents when several are represented in a single folder. The pages of the correspondence have a stamped number, generally on the right side, and the pages are in chronological order, both within the folders and from one folder to the next. Because the collection has been microfilmed, any filing errors, including inconsistencies in alphabetization or chronology within individual folders, have been maintained so as to correspond with the microfilm. Microfilm reel and frame numbers follow the folder titles.

Some correspondents are labeled as missing because there is no correspondence from them in the folder even though their names are in the folder list. Generally, there is no break in the stamped numbers, perhaps indicating that the original folder list was compiled before the pages were stamped. The correspondence is, for the most part, alphabetical within the folder. However, some of the correspondence is slightly misfiled within the folder, although this is not indicated in the folder list, which is strictly alphabetical. In some cases, the date ranges also represent materials from the correspondents’ wives and children, although their names are not listed.

Series V and Series VI both consist of correspondence and other materials arranged alphabetically by the names of individuals with only a few duplications in name. In most instances the file heading is the name of the correspondent, although some are filed by the name of the person to whom the correspondence relates. The collection is arranged in 8 series.

  1. Series I: Correspondence with Organizations, 1902-1954
  2. Series II: Correspondence with the Mack School, 1934-1952
  3. Series III: Correspondence with the American Jewish Congress, 1924-1952
  4. Series IV: Materials Relating to the New School for Social Research, 1922-1952
  5. Series V: Correspondence with Individuals, 1906-1952
  6. Series VI: Correspondence with Individuals, 1933-1954
  7. Series VII: Personal and Academic Materials, 1918-1970
  8. Series VIII: Supplementary Correspondence, 1933-1944

Acquisition Information

Received from Horace Kallen in 1954 and 1956.


The collection is on sixty reels of microfilm (MK 499)

Related Material

Another portion of the Horace Kallen Papers is held by the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, OH. The YIVO, American Jewish Historical Society and Leo Baeck Libraries each have several of Kallen’s books, books written about him and in his honor, as well as books in which his essays are printed. His correspondence is also found in a number of other collections, including Herman Bernstein, Marvin Lowenthal, Philip Lown, and Simon Segal.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Processing information

The papers were processed by David Wolfson, and prepared for microfilming by Leo Greenbaum in 1990. Additional processing was completed in March 2011.

Guide to the Papers of Horace Meyer Kallen (1882-1974) 1902-1970 RG 317
Processed by David Wolfson. Additional processing by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States