The Albert Kahn Papers offer researchers the opportunity to study the correspondence, transcripts of speeches, photographs and architectural drawings of the preeminent, American, industrial architect. On March 21, 2003 (the 134th anniversary of Kahn's birthday), Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. (AKA) donated this collection to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan to ensure the conservation and accessibility of these papers. Through this gift, AKA has shown its commitment to preserving the legacy of Kahn, whose factories on five continents influenced the development of industrial architecture and whose commercial, residential and institutional buildings define the character of Detroit and the University of Michigan today. The collection encompasses thirteen linear feet of correspondence, transcripts of speeches, newspaper and journal articles and construction photographs, as well as 7,417 architectural drawings in 32 flat-file drawers and 69 oversized tubes.
The Albert Kahn Papers are comprised of eight series: Personal Papers, Professional Papers, Photographs, Photographs of Completed Buildings, Books Owned by Albert Kahn, Albums Containing Furniture, Fabric, Ironwork and Terra Cotta Samples, Audio-Visual Material, and Project Records. The narrative and visual materials in these series illuminate the breadth of Kahn's career from Job Number 1, A. Dupont Residence (1896), designed shortly after the founding of his first firm, Nettleton, Kahn and Trowbridge, to his last great project before his death, the Ford Motor Company Willow Run Bomber Plant (1941). In pairing the textual materials with the construction photographs and architectural drawings associated with 145 of Kahn's projects, this collection offers a rich perspective on the master architect himself, illuminating his personal views on his own architecture and its place in a changing and often tumultuous world. It is anticipated that the collection will grow over time, as AKA donates more historic materials to the Bentley Library. When the additional papers are processed, a description of these documents will be added to this finding aid.