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Howard Kissel (1942-2012) Papers

Identifier: 31/6/119

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Scope and Contents

The Howard Kissel papers comprise 19 boxes including one half-sized box and two oversize boxes. They span the years 1930-2012, with the bulk of the materials dating between 1960-1990. The papers consist mainly of Kissel’s clippings and publications, both fiction and non-fiction, photographs, correspondence, and biographical materials, providing information from Kissel’s personal as well as professional life. Because Kissel’s work and hobbies both consisted largely of writing about the arts, there exists much overlap and many of the materials provide insight to both areas of his life. The collection is organized into the following subseries: biographical materials, clippings, correspondence, writings, playbills and programs, photographs, and oversized materials.

Biographical materials span the years 1948-2012 and have been separated into categories for school, work, and general in order to distinguish which domain of Kissel’s life they came from. The "school" files include school work, diplomas, and report cards, as well as related materials. The "work" section covers materials related to his work as a critic, as well as his brief acting career. Finally, the "general" biographical materials relate to Kissel’s personal life and hobbies, as well as materials relating to his family.

Newspaper Clippings and scans span the years 1959-1990, and contain biographical materials about Kissel. The large bulk comes from school newspapers relating to Kissel’s school career from grade school to college, including a number of reviews of plays that he wrote.

Correspondence spans the years 1954-2012. It includes both incoming and outgoing letters between Kissel and family and friends. The subjects of the letters range from professional business to personal matters. A particularly large subgroup is the years 1964-1966, when Kissel was studying abroad in Europe and corresponded with old schoolmates. One piece of note comes from Robert Altman, director of movies such as Nashville and M*A*S*H, accepting an invitation to attend the New York Film Critics Award Dinner to receive the Best Director award for Nashville (1975).

Kissel’s Writings fill approximately ten boxes, spanning the years 1957 to 2010. This series is divided into subseries for clippings, periodicals, books, essays and speeches, notes and journals, and plays, depending on the medium as well as the content.

The Writings (Clippings) group consists largely of scrapbooks of Kissel’s newspaper reviews from the years 1967-1984, when he was employed by Women’s Wear Daily. Kissel glued the clippings into blank notebooks, organizing them by date as well as subject, and his order has been retained. In addition, this section includes unbound clippings from some other publications, including a copy of the Quincy Illinois Herald-Whig, to which Kissel contributed to during his time at Northwestern.

The Writings (Periodicals) group spans the years 1980-2009. It contains complete magazines and other publications to which Kissel provided an article.

The Writings (Books) group spans the years 1952-2010. Copies of Kissel’s books, all published after 1990, make up the bulk of this subseries, including a copy of Stella Adler: The Art of Acting which contains Kissel’s handwritten annotations about the book’s layout. The subseries also includes a number of notes, interviews, and research materials relating to Broadway Producer David Merrick, which Kissel collected during the writing of the unauthorized Merrick biography David Merrick: The Abominable Showman.

Materials in the Writings (Essays and Speeches) subseries span the years 1965-1986, although the vast majority of it is undated. They consist of drafts which Kissel intended either for publication or for public performance. Most are untitled, and have been assigned a name according to their subject. Works with titles in quotation marks were designated as such by Kissel. The materials called "untitled travel writings" were from Kissel’s travel fellowship in Europe following college, in the years 1965-1966.

Writings (Notes and Journals) span the years 1983-2008, although much is undated and some of it may have an date. This group consists of Kissel’s notebooks and journals, as well as uncollected notes. It includes a mix of notes Kissel took while reporting, notes for his essays, diaries about his life, and other thoughts Kissel had.

Writings (Plays) span from the 1950s to the 1980s and consist of drafts, handwritten notes, programs, correspondence, and materials related to the writing and production of Kissel’s dramatic works. Two plays, Strawberries and Cream and The Origin of Species, both of which received productions in the 1970s, have the largest volume of related materials, particularly the latter.

Playbills and Programs span the years 1959-2012, and largely consist of Broadway shows which Kissel saw as a theatre critic. It also includes programs for memorial services which Kissel attended.

Photographs and Slides span the years 1930-2000. The existing photo negatives have been retained and stored with their respective photographs. Most of the photographs and virtually all of the slides depict Kissel and his family on vacation, as well as a large number of photographs of their pet dogs. Several unidentified photos capture theatrical productions, and possibly relate to the subjects of Kissel’s writings.

Oversized Materials come from the 1970s and 1980s and consist of LP records and magnetic tape recordings of the soundtrack to Kissel’s musical The Origin of Species. This subseries also contains one drop-front box of oversized photographs. The oversized papers are mainly posters for plays which Kissel wrote. In addition, it includes several posters designed by his wife, Christine, a caricature drawing of Kissel, a relief-printed copy of the Quincy Herald-Whig, and some promotional materials for various productions.


  • 1930 - 2012
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1990
  • Other: Date acquired: 02/08/2010


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


19.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



Howard William Kissel (1942-2012), a theatre critic and writer from Wisconsin, wrote for Women’s Wear Daily and a number of other publications. In 1986, he was appointed chief theatre critic for The New York Daily News, a position which he held for nearly 20 years.  He also published over a half-dozen books, and wrote plays and musicals for most of his life. Materials in this collection include handwritten notes, drafts of publications, a variety of fiction and non-fiction writings, correspondence, playbills and programs, and photographs.


The papers of Howard Kissel are organized into: biographical materials (school, work, general); clippings; correspondence (arranged chronologically); writings (clippings, periodicals, books, essays and speeches, notes and speeches, plays); playbills and programs (arranged by date); photographs (arranged by date); and oversized materials. Folders are generally arranged in chronological order.

Source of Acquisition

The Howard Kissel Papers were donated to the Northwestern University Archives by Anne Elliot as accession number 12-156.

Guide to the Howard Kissel (1942-2012) Papers
David Marrero
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US