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Clifford Petitt papers

Identifier: Y. USA. 33


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.


  • Creation: 1922-1983
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1931-1968).


Language of Materials


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.


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.


2.4 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


Collection contains primarily correspondence of Clifford Petitt with other YMCA leaders and an extensive manuscript autobiography of Clifford Petitt.


These documents are organized into the following sections:

  1. Personal Papers
  2. China-Related Material
  3. YMCA Work

Accession Information:

A portion of this collection was donated to the Archives in July 1996 by Allen Arnold. Additional material was donated to the Archives in May 2023 by the Oberlin College Archives.


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

Processing Information:

Processed by: Yaru Zhang and Lara Friedman~Shedlov, 2005.

Catalog Record ID number: 4660877

An Inventory of His Papers
Finding aid prepared by Yaru Zhang and Lara Friedman~Shedlov.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • October 2023: Revised to include newly donated material

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area