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Lester Beall papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CSC-0015

Scope and Contents

The collection is divided into four series: Client Correspondance, Project, and Documentation Files, Bibliographic Files, Biographic Files,and Business Files. Client Correspondance, Project, and Documentation Files includes the bulk of the collection. It includes sample work for clients as well as propsals, sketches, and correspondance. Also included in the first series are volumes of Beall's portfolio.

The second series, Bibliographic Files includes writings about Beall and correspondance between Beall and the author if present.Also included are both published and unpublished writings by Beall, public appearances made by Beall, including invitiations and lecture notes from events, exhibition records, and journal submissions.

Series III. Biographic Files contains writings, photographs and records documenting both, Beall's professional and personal life. Wrtitings are done by Beall, his wife, or his staff. Also included is paintings and drawings done by Beall, audio recordings, and awards Beall recieved during his career.

The last series, Business Files includes client lists, fan letters, billings, and financial records.


  • Creation: 1911-1984

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

A pioneer of twentieth-century American graphic design, Lester Thomas Beall was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on 14 March 1903; his childhood years were spent in St. Louis and Chicago. Beall was educated at Chicago's Lane Technical School and began his design career in 1927, the year following his graduation from the University of Chicago. He married Dorothy Wells Miller in 1928 and they were the parents of two children, Lester Beall, Jr., born in 1928, and Joanna May Beall, born in 1935.

By 1935 Beall had decided to move to New York and in September of that year opened a studio/office/apartment in Tudor City on Manhattan's east side. In 1936, while maintaining his office in New York, he moved to Wilton, Connecticut where he established his home and office in a rural setting. He was to remain in Wilton until 1950. Many of the significant work from this period were done in his studio in Wilton. Through the 1930s and 40s Beall produced innovative and highly regarded work for the Chicago Tribune, Sterling Engraving, The Art Directors Club of New York, Crowell Publishing Company, Hiram Walker, Abbott Laboratories, Time Magazine and the United States Government's Rural Electrification Administration, among others.

Beall had moved his office to 580 Fifth Avenue by 1946 and worked from there as well as from his rural Connecticut home and studio, Dumbarton Farm in Brookfield Center, which he had purchased in 1950. In 1952 Beall took an office at 60 Sutton Place in Manhattan; in 1955 he moved to consolidate all his operations at Dumbarton Farm, developing some of the working farm's outbuildings into professionally praised office and studio space.

During the 1950s and 60s Beall's design office expanded both its staff and scope, adding associate designers and mounting full scale corporate identification campaigns for large companies such as International Paper, Caterpillar Tractor, Martin Marietta and Rohm and Haas. Beall incorporated his business in June of 1960 and it continued in operation until shortly after his death on June 20, 1969.

Throughout his career Lester Beall was a highly respected designer whose thoughts and principles made him a favored lecturer in professional and educational circles. He wrote, and was written about, extensively, and his work was regularly featured in American and international design periodicals and books. During his lifetime he participated in more than one hundred exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including over ten one-man shows, and won over 150 professional awards for his graphic and package designs as well as his personal oil and watercolor paintings.

The Lester Beall Collection consists of an extensive written and visual collection documenting a lifetime of distinguished professional achievement. The correspondence, photographs, design samples, published and unpublished writings, biographical material and business papers were assembled by Beall, his staff and, especially, his devoted wife of 41 years, Dorothy Miller Beall. It provides a remarkably comprehensive record of the designer and his life, and reveals every phase of the creative process which has established Lester Beall's contribution to the history of graphic design in America.


41 Linear Feet (77 document boxes 33 oversize boxes 15 notebooks 45 posters 1 framed canvas painting)




Collection of materials from graphic designer Lester Beall. The collection includes client correspondence, client publications, portfolios, and writings on and by Beall. Awards, speeches, exhibitions, business records are also included in the collection.


The collection is arranged into four series: Series I. Client Correspondance, Project, and Documentation Files, Series II. Bibliographic Files, Series III. Biographic Files, and Series IV. Business Files.

Physical Location

Cary Graphic Arts Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Lester Beall Collection was given to Rochester Institute of Technology in 1984 by Joanna Westermann Beall and Lester Beall, Jr.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sandra Markham, 1986-1989.

Finding aid encoded by Megan Moltrup, April 2012.

Lester Beall papers
Cary Graphic Design Archives
Megan Moltrup
13 April 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408