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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of His Papers

Biography | Contents Summary/Organization | Administrative/Access Info | Contents Details | Related Materials | Indexed Terms/Access Points


Creator: Petitt, Clifford W.
Title: Clifford Petitt papers.
Date: 1922-1983(bulk 1931-1968).
Collection Number: Y. USA. 33
Abstract: Collection contains primarily correspondence of Clifford Petitt with other YMCA leaders and an extensive manuscript autobiography of Clifford Petitt.
Quantity: 2.4 cu. ft. (6 boxes).
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Clifford Walter Petitt was born February 7, 1890 on a central Kansas farm. His elementary schooling was in a one room school house a three-mile walk away. After graduating from Concordia Normal School and the Salt City College of Business, he worked as a secretary for a real estate operators and bankers in the Kansas cities of Plains, Liberal and Hutchinson.

Petitt's YMCA career began in 1911 when he was invited to become assistant to the general secretary of the new Hutchinson, Kansas association . He later became financial secretary at Lafayette, Indiana and then general secretary for the LaPorte, Indiana association. He was appointed secretary of the International Committee for service in China in 1918. He went to the Peking School of Chinese Studies and then to his assignment with the National Committee in Shanghai.

Petitt continued his work with the National Committee until 1924, when he went to Tsingtao (Qingdao) to organize a YMCA there. He went back to Shanghai for four years and in 1930 returned home. In 1936 he went back to China to the Shanghai Foreign YMCA. Three years later he left China when the Metropolitan YMCA of New York invited him to become its business manager.

In 1955, Petitt retired, but he maintained his association with the YMCA as president of the International Association of Retired Directors (IARD), secretary-treasurer of the Employees Alliance of the YMCAs, and as a member of the Commission on Aging and the local Chamber of Commerce. He took an active part in community affairs and participated in many activities in his home area. Some of his many roles included President of the Church Council and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tourist Church, later to become a part of the United Church, Chairman of the Halifax Social Agencies Planning Council and member of the Board of Directors, member of the "Year ' Round Living Committee" of the Chamber of Commerce and Former Chairman, and member of the State of Florida Council on Aging.

Petitt married Ruth Randle of Hutchinson, Kansas in 1911 and the couple had three children. Ruth died suddenly in 1967 following a fall and a broken hip. In July 1968, Petitt married long-time friend Eleanor Arnold, and the couple moved to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California. Petitt continued to be extremely active during his final decades as a member of the board of directors and the health committee of Pilgrim Place. Under his chairmanship, the Residents' Comittee for the Health Services Center raised over one million dollars from residents and their families for an expansion project. He retired from the board in 1981 but continued to serve as an honorary board member until his death in 1984.

Biographical information taken from "The Most Unforgettable YMCA Director I Ever Met: Clifford W. Petitt: China to California" (James F. Eggleston, in Perspective, February 1984); and from the collection.


Clifford Petitt's papers consist primarily of biographical information, including a lengthy autobiographical manuscript, and materials documenting Petitt's lifetime of work with the YMCA, as well as records concerning Petitt's work with his church and other organizations. The collection in organized in three major groups: The Personal Papers section includes miscellaneous correspondence, autobiographical and genealogical papers, and material relating to the Riverside Church of New York City and Pilgrim Place, a retirement community for Christian professionals in Claremont, California. China-Related Material comprises documentation from Petitt's twenty years of YMCA work in China, as well as China-related organizations in which he was active in the United States. Records of Petitt's YMCA-related activities in New York City, Puerto Pico, Daytona Beach (Fla.), Claremont (Calif.) and Pomona (Calif.), as well as his work with the YMCA's organization for retirees and his biographical research on YMCA leaders are all found in the YMCA Work section.


These documents are organized into the following sections:
Personal Papers
China-Related Material


Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Clifford Petitt Papers. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Accession Information:
A portion of this collection was donated to the Archives in July 1996 by Allen Arnold.
Processing Information:
Processed by: Yaru Zhang and Lara Friedman~Shedlov, 2005.
Catalog Record ID number: 4660877


The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

Personal Papers

1 Provenance information.
Petitt Biographical Material:
1 "Boyhood and Early Domestic and China YMCA Experiences of Cilfford W. Petitt," 1977.
Autobiography covering the period of February 7, 1890 to the year 1940, including Petitt's boyhood years, his early YMCA experiences in the United States, his YMCA work in China (1818-1930 and 1936-1940), and in New York City (1930-1936). The volume was intended to be the first of a two-volume work.
Background material and drafts of Petitt autobiography, volume II, 1980-1981. 10 folders.
Includes material for chapters 1-5 and 10-11 of a second volume of Petitt's autobiography, covering the period from 1939 to 1981. Material includes correspondence, photographs, news clippings and memorabilia, as well as drafts of text for the autobiography.
Includes letters concerning family and friends, the YMCA, church work, and other activities.
2 Selected letters, 1922-1980. 2 folders.
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1945-1985.
Petitt - Arnold family, 1972-1978.
Includes genealogical information.
E. Caryl Brownell, 1935-1938.
Memorial material, 1960s-1970s.
Family reunion, 1969-1976.
Miscellaneous papers and memorabilia.
Riverside Church (New York, New York):
2 Background information.
Reports, monthly bulletins, memoranda, correspondence, and other miscellaneous records, 1934-1982. 4 folders.
Pulpit Committee, 1945-1946.
3 Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce and All Year 'Round Living Committee, 1960-1969.
Pilgrim Place:
Pilgrim Place is a retirement community for Christian professionals located in Claremont, California. Petitt and his wife Eleanor moved there in 1968.
3 Residents' Committee, 1969-1981.
Pilgrims who worked/lived in China.

China-Related Material

Includes correspondence and other material from Pettit's YMCA work in China, as well as records relating to other China-related activities and organizations in which he participated.
3 Memorabilia.
Correspondence, 1922-1940.
Relief and refugee work, ca. 1937-1945.
Shanghai Community Church, 1925-1940.
2 Shanghai Tiffin Club of New York1939-1982. 2 folders
The club was organized in 1924 to promote friendship and mutual aid between Americans who had resided in east Asia or had business interests there.
The China Fellowship ,1969, 1971-1983
The club was made up of Chinese residents in the Los Angeles area and Westerners who formerly lived in China.
United Service to China1952, 1965-1966
3 China Famine Relief, U.S.A., Inc., 1939-1952.
Photographs of the YMCA in China (photocopies), ca. 1920s and 1930s.
Originals moved to the photograph collection.


Material relating to YMCA work in China can be found in the "China-Related Material" series.
4 Miscellaneous correspondence, 1924-1980.
National Council, 1932-1980. 2 folders.
YMCA of New York City, 1931-1955. 4 folders.
YMCA of Puerto Rico, 1950-1955. 2 folders.
YMCA of Daytona Beach, Florida, 1957, 1967-1968.
YMCA of Pomona Valley, California, 1969-1982.
YMCA of Claremont, California, 1978-1982.
5 World Service Fellowship, 1933-1947.
YMCA Historical Library: Annual reports, 1960-1965.
Lay Leaders Biographical Project, 1959.
Employed Officers Alliance, 1941-1977 (scattered).
International Association of Retired Secretaries/Directors (IARS/IARD):
5 Correspondence and related material, 1940-1983. 4 folders.
Correspondence with Wayne Hanson, 1957-1963.
Retirement Fund: Forrest E. Wharry1964-1982.
6 Retirement Fund: "Retired YMCA Personnel on the Annuity Roll of the 'Secretarial Plan,'"1969-1982.
Old Guard News, 1956-1983. 3 folders.
Chapters, 1960-1982.
Chapter newsletters, 1974-1983.
C. B. Willis Chapter, 1962-1982.
Biographical information on YMCA leaders.
Material collected by Petitt on YMCA leaders including John R. Mott, Harry Fosdick, Fletcher Brockman, Daniel Tyler, Robert R. Gailey, Eugene Epperson Barnett, A. Wayne Hanson, T. Z. Koo, George Warren Brown, Richard Morse, Wilfred Fry, and others.
"They Made a Difference: Biographical Sketches of Eminent YMCA Laymen -- Volume II," 1965.
Includes sketches on Vincent Colyer, Adrian Lyon, and Harrison Sackett Elliott.


Additional information on Clifford W. Petitt can be found in the YMCA Biographical Files.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Employees.
Young Men's Christian associations -- China.
Young Men's Christian associations -- New York (State) -- New York.
Young Men's Christian associations -- Puerto Rico.
China -- Description and travel -- 1901-1948.
Daytona Beach (Fla.).
International Association of Retired Secretaries of the Young Men’s Christian Association.
International Association of Retired Directors of YMCAs of U.S. and Canada.
Pilgrim Place (Claremont, Calif.).
Riverside Church (New York, N.Y.).
Petitt, Clifford W.
Petitt, Eleanor Arnold.
Petitt, Ruth Randle.