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Arch GA 37.5

Hidy, Ralph Willard, 1905-1977. Ralph Willard Hidy Papers, 1938-1977 (bulk 1957-1971): A Finding Aid

Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University


Harvard Business School, Boston MA 02163.

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: Arch GA 37.5
Repository: Baker Library Special Collections, Harvard Business School, Harvard University
Title: Ralph Willard Hidy papers
Date(s): 1938-1977
Quantity: 13.5 linear feet (27 boxes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Correspondence, research, writing, subject files, course development, and administrative material of Ralph Willard Hidy while teaching at Harvard Business School.


Gift of Muriel Hidy, [1979].

Processing Information:

Processed: January 2001
By: Christine Di Bella

Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open for research. Materials stored offsite; access requires advance notice. HBS Archives collections require a secondary registration form, please contact specialcollectionsref@hbs.edu for more information.

Preferred Citation:

Cite as: Ralph Willard Hidy. HBS Archives. Baker Library Historical Collections. Harvard Business School.

Related Materials

Professor Hidy's research files on the volume he authored for the History of Standard Oil Company (New Jersey) are located at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin in their ExxonMobil History Collection.

Biographical Note:

Ralph Willard Hidy was born in Portland, Indiana on April 21, 1905. He received his BA from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in 1926, his M.A. from Clark University in 1928, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1935.
Hidy taught at Wheaton College from 1932 to 1947, becoming a Professor of History there in 1946. He took a leave of absence from teaching from 1941 through 1946 to serve in the U.S. Army intelligence force based in Boston. Hidy then served as Senior Research Associate for the Business History Foundation for three years, leaving in 1950 to take a position as Professor of History at New York University and Editor of the Business History Series of the N.Y.U. Press. In 1957, Hidy came to HBS as the Isidor Straus Professor of Business History, a position he held until his retirement in 1971. During his HBS tenure, he also served as Editor-in-Chief of the Business History Review from 1962 to 1965 and as Editor of the Harvard Studies in Business History series from 1962 until his retirement.
Hidy's primary focus at HBS was to further the development of the field of business history. As head of the Business History Group (which at various points in his tenure included Henrietta Larson, Barry Supple, Arthur Johnson and James Baughman) he expanded course offerings in the MBA program to include an advanced seminar for MBA and doctoral students, taught in the Advanced Management Program, and worked to develop a doctoral specialization. As editor of the Business History Review and the Harvard Studies in Business History series Hidy encouraged contributions that fostered new types of research and a broadening understanding of the field of business history to include more than just company histories. In both roles, he secured and administered funding for numerous business history fellowships and grants to encourage scholars to pursue research in business history. Hidy was also active in soliciting business records for Baker Library and worked closely with librarians Arthur Cole and Laurence Kipp to promote and expand the historical element of the collections.
Hidy's strong advocacy of the field of business history extended beyond the HBS community, including his participation in the Harvard-Newton Project, which sought to teach high school students the basic concepts of economics through use of the case-study approach. He was very active professionally, serving on the leadership boards of the Economic History Association (including a term as President from 1970 to 1971), the Forest History Society, the Lincoln Educational Foundation and the Merrimack Valley Textile Museum. Hidy was a mentor to countless younger scholars, both at HBS and elsewhere. His influence swept beyond the American historical community as well, as he reached out to business historians from a number of other countries, particularly Japan, to share information about American business history methods and to foster understanding of practices in other countries. Even in retirement, Hidy was a tireless promoter of the field, conducting a United Negro College Fund-sponsored traveling lecture series at African-American colleges in 1971, teaching courses at Boston University, and co-founding and serving as president of the Business History and Economic Life Program, Inc. (BHELP).
Hidy's wife Muriel, whom he met while both were students at Clark University, was his (sometimes uncredited) collaborator on many of his projects and publications. Hidy's publications with Muriel and others included The House of Baring in American Trade and Finance: English Merchant Bankers at Work, 1763-1861 (1949), the first volume of the History of Standard Oil Company, subtitled Pioneering in Big Business, 1882-1911 (1955, with Muriel), The World of Business (1962, with Edward C. Bursk and Donald T. Clark), Timber and Men: The Weyerhaeuser Story (1963, with Frank E. Hill and Allan Nevins), and numerous articles in scholarly journals. The major research focus of Ralph and Muriel Hidy's later decades was a comprehensive history of the Great Northern Railway Company, which was not completed in their lifetimes (Muriel died in 1985), but which was revised and published posthumously in 1988.
Hidy died on December 5, 1977 at the age of 72.

Series Outline

The collection is arranged in the following series:

Scope and Content Note:

The collection includes nine series, the largest of which comprises Hidy's correspondence and subject files from his years at HBS. The collection also includes smaller amounts of materials related to Hidy's roles at HBS as a faculty member and publications editor: Hidy's administrative correspondence and course notes demonstrate the development of the business history curriculum at HBS, while his administrative files from the Business History Review give indications of the direction of the publication under Hidy's editorship. Also included are program brochures and correspondence for various historical organizations with which Hidy was involved and a small number of drafts and published versions of writings and speeches.

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