Donald S. Klopfer

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Donald Simon Klopfer (January 23, 1902 – May 30, 1986) was an American publisher, one of the founders of American publishing firm Random House, along with Bennett Cerf. Klopfer was the quiet inside businessman to Cerf's quite-visible and gregarious "Mr. Outside" personality.[1]

Donald S. Klopfer
BornDonald Simon Klopfer
(1910-01-23)January 23, 1910
New York, New York
DiedMay 30, 1986(1986-05-30) (aged 84)
New York, New York
Alma materColumbia College
(did not graduate)
Williams College
(did not graduate)
SpouseMarian Annsbacker
Florence Selwyn (193_–71)
Kathleen (Katie) Scofield Louchheim (1981–his death)
ChildrenCharles A. Wimpfheimer (Step)
Lois Levy


Donald Simon Klopfer was born on 23 January, 1902[2] in New York City to Jewish parents,[1][3][4] Simon Klopfer Jacobson and Stella Jacobson (née Danzinger). He entered Columbia College but transferred to Williams College.[5] He entered with the class of 1922 but did not graduate from Williams College either.[6]


As a young man, Klopfer worked as a treasurer from 1921 to 1925 for his step-father who was a diamond cutter at the United Diamond Works, Inc.[citation needed] in Newark, New Jersey.[1] In 1925, his friend Bennett Cerf presented with him an opportunity to buy for $200,000 the classic imprint, Modern Library, from Boni & Liveright. Klopfer and Cerf formed a partnership, completed the purchase, and went into business as 50/50 partners.[1] They increased the series' popularity, and in 1927 began publishing general trade books which they selected "at random." Thus began their publishing business, which in time they named Random House. It used as its logo a little house drawn by Cerf's friend and fellow Columbia alumnus Rockwell Kent.[7] Cerf's talent in building and maintaining relationships brought contracts with such writers as William Faulkner, John O'Hara, Eugene O'Neill, James Michener, Truman Capote, Theodor Seuss Geisel, and others. Klopfer ran the business and book production.[1] From 1942 to 1945, Klopfer served as a USAAF major in the European Theater.[citation needed]

Cerf retired in 1970, with Klopfer succeeding him as chairman; he retired in 1975.[1]

Personal life and deathEdit

Klopfer's first wife, Florence Selwyn, died in 1971,[8] and a decade later Klopfer married the well-known writer and Democratic political activist Katie Louchheim on 19 July 1981.[9]

Cerf and Klopfer were both prominent Jewish businessmen. In 1967, Klopfer resigned from the American Council for Judaism after the Council issued a statement which Klopfer and other Jewish leaders found to be repugnant.[10]

He was a member of the Harmonie Club.[citation needed]

Klopfer died at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, New York, on May 30, 1986, aged 84. Klopfer was survived by his second wife, a step-son, C.A. "Tony" Wimpfheimer (with his first wife), and a daughter, Lois Klopfer Levy.[1][11]


Before his death, Klopfer received an honorary degree by Williams College, in spite of never having completed his degree requirements.[1]


In 2012, Random House published a book of collected World War II letters titled Dear Donald, Dear Bennett: The Wartime Correspondence of Donald Klopfer and Bennett Cerf.[1]

  • Dear Donald, Dear Bennett: the wartime correspondence of Donald Klopfer and Bennett Cerf (New York: Random House, 2002). ISBN 0-375-50768-X


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i McDowell, Edwin (31 May 1986). "Donald S. Klopfer Dies at 84; Co-Founder of Random House". New York Times. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Donald S. Klopfer". Oxfam.
  3. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (January 23, 1982). "Modern Library Giant, 80 Today, Still Active". New York Times. One thing that has changed is personal - there isn't anti-Semitism in the profession, Mr. Klopfer said. In the 20s and 30s, Bennett and I and other Jewish publishers were looked down upon.
  4. ^ Times of Israel: "The Good Old Days Of The Future Of Publishing" by Susan Reimer December 16, 2012
  5. ^ "Bennett Alfred Cerf". Retrieved 2020-05-20.
  6. ^ "Donald S. Klopfer papers". Williams College Archives. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Cerf, Bennett. At Random. New York: Random House, 1977. p. 65
  8. ^ New York Times: "Florence S. Klopfer Dead at 73; Wife of Random House Founder" December 22, 1979
  9. ^ Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 5, Page 397, retrieved November 4, 2013.
  10. ^ Five Prominent Jews Repudiate Position of American Council for Judaism, July 20, 1967; retrieved November 4, 2013.
  11. ^ New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths LEVY, LOIS K" June 14, 2010

External linksEdit

  • Donald Klopfer interviewed by Lucy Rosenthal for the Fall, 1984 issue of The Missouri Review.