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Harland Bartholomew was born near Boston, Massachusetts in 1889 in the community of Stoneham, though his family moved shortly thereafter to a farm in New Hampshire. Although he enrolled in Rutgers civil engineering program, due to lack of funds, Bartholomew left after two years. He obtained work at the New York District of the Corps of Engineers then with E.P. Goodrich, a civil engineer active in the "city efficient" approach to city planning. There, Bartholomew was assigned to Newark, New Jersey, where he would be involved in preparing a city plan. Next, Bartholomew worked as a consultant and wrote about the new field of American city planning. In 1915, he moved to St. Louis, where he was hired to prepare a comprehensive city plan. By 1919, Bartholomew had enough expertise to found Harland Bartholomew Associates and hired architects, civil engineers and landscape architects to assist him in preparing comprehensive city plans for local governments. During the period of his greatest professional contributions, 1919-1962, Bartholomew carried on a three-part career simultaneously. He was Director of Planning at Newark, 1913-1916, at St. Louis, 1916-1953 and Washington, 1953-1962. Simultaneously, he was partner-in-charge of Harland Bartholomew and Associates for 42 years from 1919 to 1961. Finally, Bartholomew became a teacher of city planning at a number of American colleges.

More information about Bartholomew's career can be found in the accession folder, and in Harland Bartholomew: His Contributions to American Urban Planning by Eldridge Lovelace, 1993.