See problems with this finding aid? REPORT THEM!

Guide to the Frederick Russell Burnham Papers

Manuscript Group 115

compiled by Christine Weideman and Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty

October 2002

Yale University Shield

Copyright © 2006 Yale University Library

Overview

 
Creator:
 

Burnham, Frederick Russell, 1861-1947.

 
Title:
 

Frederick Russell Burnham papers, 1864-1951 (inclusive).

 
Physical Description:
 

9.5 linear ft.

 
Arrangement:
 

Arranged in five series: I. Correspondence, 1864-1947. II. Subject Files, 1890-1947. III. Writings, 1893-1946. IV. Personal and Family Papers, 1879-1951. V. Photographs, ca. 1893-1924.

     
    Biographical Overview:
     

    Frederick Russell Burnham was born on May 11, 1861, in Tivoli, Minnesota. After his family moved to California, he became a scout and learned from the best professionals in western America and Mexico. He earned fame and honors for his work as a scout in the two Matabele Wars and the Boer War in South Africa. He also explored uncharted regions of both Africa and Mexico and ran development, oil, and mining companies in the United States, Africa, and Mexico. He married Blanche Blick in 1884, and they had three children. After Blanche died in 1938, he married Ilo K. Willetts in 1943. Burnham died on September 1, 1947.

     
    Summary:
     

    The papers consist of correspondence, subject files, writings, and photographs documenting the personal and professional life of Frederick Russell Burnham, especially his years in Africa, and his exploration work in Mexico.

     
    Provenance:
     

    Gift of Mrs. Ilo K. Burnham, 1949. Transferred from the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution, and Peace, 1984.

     
    Terms Governing Use:
     

    Copyright has not been transferred to Yale University.

     
    Preferred Citation:
     

    Frederick Russell Burnham Papers. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

     
    Catalog Record:
      a record for this collection is in our Library Catalog (ORBIS)
     
    For further information:
     
    Manuscripts and Archives

    Yale University Library

    P.O. Box 208240

    New Haven, CT 06520-8240

    Tel. (203) 432-1744

    Fax. (203) 432-7441

    mssa.assist@yale.edu

    ^ Return to Top

    Biographical Sketch

      Biographical Sketch

    Frederick Russell Burnham, scout, mining expert, and adventurer, was born on May 11, 1861, in Tivoli, Minnesota, to Reverend Edwin Otway and Rebecca (Russell) Burnham. After nine years of frontier life in Minnesota, during which Frederick and his mother survived an Indian attack on New Ulm, the family moved to Los Angeles. Edwin Burnham died in 1873, and Rebecca and Howard, Frederick's brother, moved back east. Frederick, however, enjoyed California so much that he chose to stay and began to acquire the outdoor skills that were to make him famous. For the next twenty years he travelled throughout the southwestern United States and Mexico. He sought out the best scouts in the regions and from them learned riding, tracking, hunting, and wilderness survival skills. His jobs ranged from mounted messenger for the Western Union Telegraph Company (when he was thirteen), to cowboy, big game hunter and seller, gold prospector, deputy sheriff, and Apache fighter.

    While mining for gold in Arizona in 1893, Burnham read in the newspapers of the career of Cecil John Rhodes. Feeling he was being "summoned," Burnham, with his wife, Blanche (Blick), and son, Roderick, journeyed to the South African frontier to be of assistance to Rhodes in his endeavors. For the next four years he was a scout for Rhodes' British South Africa Company, and he fought and gained widespread fame in the two Matabele Wars. He also led exploring expeditions north of the Zambesi River and made significant discoveries of archeological ruins and fields of coal and copper. After returning to North America to mine gold in the Klondike, Burnham went back to Africa early in 1900 to serve as chief of scouts for the British army during the Boer War. Again earning fame for his exploits, and mustered out in 1900 due to injuries received in battle, Burnham was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the South African Medal by the British government.

    Burnham arrived back in the United States in 1904 and during the next three decades he lived in California and engaged in prospecting and archeological expeditions. He was particularly interested in Mexico and made several important archeological discoveries that shed light on the Maya civilization. With John Hays Hammond, the well-known mining engineer who Burnham had first met in Africa, he attempted to irrigate and cultivate the Yaqui Valley in northern Mexico, but encountered difficulties after the outbreak of the Mexican civil war in 1912. The two men were more successful in establishing the Burnham Exploration Company, which operated the productive Dominguez Hill oil field in California.

    Burnham had a number of personal interests, to which he devoted a good deal of time and energy. He was a friend and admirer of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, and helped that organization spread in America. He was concerned with preserving American wilderness and was one of the original members of the California Park Commission. He also explored the importation of wild game animals from Africa to live in the American Southwest where they could provide a food alternative to beef and pork.

    Burnham had little formal education, but he learned to read and write at home when he was a child. After being pursued by publishers for a number of years, Burnham wrote two books detailing his life and exploits: Scouting on Two Continents (1926) and Taking Chances (1944).

    Burnham married Blanche Blick of Clinton, Iowa, in 1884, and she accompanied him on many of his trips, as did Blanche's brothers, John and Judd. He had two sons, Roderick and Bruce, and a daughter, Nada. Blanche died in 1938, and in 1943, Burnham married Ilo K. Willetts. He died on September 1, 1947, in Santa Barbara, California.

    ^ Return to Top

    Description of the Papers

     

    The Frederick Russell Burnham Papers are particularly useful for the detailed information they provide on Africa, from approximately 1893 to 1911. Burnham's correspondence, and that of his wife, Blanche, his journals and diary extracts, and photographs provide written and visual observations of military life, native inhabitants and cultures, geography, and wildlife in south and western Africa. Although Burnham was an American, his views of Africa and its future, native Africans, the Boers, and the wars in which he participated, were very much in keeping with those of British imperialists, many of whom he admired, befriended, and fought alongside. There is also substantive material in his subject files, and extensive photographs, on the mining explorations and development operations he undertook in Mexico, from approximately 1905 to 1920. Blanche's life is primarily documented through the informative letters she wrote to Frederick and other relatives.

    ^ Return to Top

    Series I. Correspondence, 1864-1947

     

    The series is arranged in three sections: Family, General, and Letterbook. The Family correspondence is comprised of letters written by Frederick, generally to his wife, Blanche ("BB"); letters written by Blanche to various family members; and letters written by members of the Ingram family, into which one of Blanche's sisters married. The letters of Frederick are excellent sources of information on his trips, explorations, and military assignments, and contain fairly detailed observations of the geography he traversed, the wildlife he hunted, and the native peoples he encountered. Blanche's letters to her relatives often summarize Frederick's trips, the day-to-day routines of her family and social life, and include reports on Roderick and Bruce. Many of the letters in the series from the years 1893 to 1896 were published in An American Family on the African Frontier: The Burnham Family Letters, 1893-1896, edited by Mary and Richard Bradford.

    The General section is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. Frederick remained in contact with a number of men he met and befriended in Africa, including Lord Baden-Powell, A. Kingsley Macomber, and H. Rider Haggard, and his letters to and from them often contain reminiscences of battles and military life in Africa and commentary on the future of the country. His long friendship and business collaborations with John Hays Hammond are documented in the Hammond files, and in various files in the Subjects series.

    A letterbook at the end of the series, entitled "Bulawayo, Rhodesia," holds seven letters written in 1897 by Burnham to Lord Gifford, Henry Green, and John W. Nolan. There is additional correspondence between Burnham and the three men in the General section. The letters are damaged and difficult to read, but appear to concern land and mining claims and sales in Africa.

     
    Description
     
    Box
    Folder
     

    Family

     

     

    1864-1900

    See also: Oversize Box 25

     

    1

    1 - 10

     

    1900-1908

     

    2

    11 - 20

     

    1909-1919

     

    3

    21 - 32

     

    1919-1945, n.d.

     

    4

    33 - 39

     

    Typescripts, 1893

     

    4

    40

     

    General

     

     

    A, 1906-1946

     

    5

    41

     

    B, 1895-1945

     

    5

    42

     

    Baden-Powell, Lady, 1900-1940

     

    5

    43

     

    Baden-Powell, Lord Robert, 1941-1946

     

    5

    44

     

    Beek, Joseph A., 1941-1945

     

    5

    45

     

    Bent, Arthur S., 1899-1929

     

    5

    46

     

    Birdwood, F. M., Lord, 1945-1946

     

    5

    47

     

    Boyes, John, 1941-1942, n.d.

     

    5

    48

     

    Brininstoll, E. A., 1945

     

    5

    49

     

    C, 1900-1946

     

    5

    50

     

    Cheney, M. G., 1945

     

    5

    51

     

    Christie-Crawford, Arthur, 1914-1945

     

    5

    52

     

    Churchill, Winston, Sir, 1943

     

    5

    53

     

    D, 1908-1945

     

    5

    54

     

    Davis, Richard Harding, 1906, n.d.

     

    5

    55

     

    de Chair Family, 1929-1945

     

    5

    56

     

    E, 1896-1947

     

    5

    57

     

    F, 1906-1945

     

    5

    58

     

    Foster, T.W., 1917-1919

     

    5

    59

     

    Frick, Childs, 1933-1945

     

    5

    60

     

    G, 1908-1945

     

    6

    61

     

    George, John G., 1919-1920

     

    6

    62

     

    Gifford, Maurice, Hon.[military expedition reports], 1895

     

    6

    63 - 64

     

    Gifford family, 1896-1945

     

    6

    65

     

    Grant, Madison, 1911-1936

     

    6

    66

     

    Grey, Earl, 1896

     

    6

    67

     

    H, 1900-1946

     

    6

    68 - 69

     

    Haggard, Sir H. Rider, 1891-1926

     

    6

    70

     

    Hammond, Harris, 1911-1936, n.d.

     

    6

    71

     

    Hammond, John Hays, 1905-1936

    See also: Series II. Subject Files, 1890-1947 Folder 30

    See also: Series II. Subject Files, 1890-1947 Folder 31

     

    6

    72 - 74

     

    Hammond family, 1910-1940

     

    6

    75

     

    Holder, Charles, 1909-1919

     

    6

    76

     

    Hoover, Herbert, 1925-1939

     

    6

    77

     

    Howard, Walter, 1938-1941

     

    7

    78

     

    Hunter-Weston, Ayler, Sir, 1937-1945

     

    7

    79

     

    Hutchinson, Joseph K., 1925

     

    7

    80

     

    I, 1905, 1945

     

    7

    81

     

    Ingram, P., 1895

     

    7

    82

     

    J, 1906-1945

     

    7

    83

     

    Jamison, Leander Starr, 1895, 1906

     

    7

    84

     

    K, 1912-1943

     

    7

    85

     

    Kinzie, R. L., 1916-1917

     

    7

    86

     

    L, 1908-1945

     

    7

    87

     

    Little, Stanley, 1903-1910

     

    7

    88

     

    Longan, Patrick, 1917-1946

    See also: Series II. Subject Files, 1890-1947 Folder 63 - 65

     

    7

    89

     

    Lord, Elliot, 1909

     

    7

    90

     

    M, 1909-1946

     

    7

    91

     

    Mackie, W.W., 1926-1945

     

    7

    92

     

    Macnaughton-Jones, H., 1905-1917

     

    7

    93

     

    Macomber, A. Kingsley, 1895-1945

     

    7

    94

     

    Macomber, H. J., 1916-1921

     

    7

    95

     

    Mc, 1916-1945

     

    7

    96

     

    Mudd, Harvey S., 1938-1942

     

    7

    97

     

    N, 1905-1945

     

    7

    98

     

    O, 1909-1945

     

    7

    99

     

    P, 1909-1945

     

    7

    100

     

    Perrin, E. B., 1905-1917

     

    7

    101

     

    R, 1902-1945

     

    7

    102

     

    Roosevelt, Archibald, 1941-1945

     

    8

    103

     

    Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, 1933-1941

     

    8

    104

     

    Roosevelt, Grace, 1934-1945

     

    8

    105

     

    Roosevelt, Kermit, 1930-1934

     

    8

    106

     

    Roosevelt, Theodore, Jr., 1926-1940

     

    8

    107

     

    S, 1907-1945

     

    8

    108

     

    T, 1908-1942

     

    8

    109

     

    Thompson family, 1896-1941

     

    8

    110

     

    Thornberry family, 1917-1943

     

    8

    111

     

    Troxell, L. E., 1915

     

    8

    112

     

    V, 1906-1919

     

    8

    113

     

    W, 1897-1945

     

    8

    114

     

    Whitcomb, R. E., 1908

     

    8

    115

     

    Y, 1944

     

    8

    116

     

    Unidentified, 1900-1919, n.d.

     

    8

    117

     

    Letterbook, “Bulawayo, Rhodesia”, 1897

     

    8

    118

    ^ Return to Top

    Series II. Subject Files, 1890-1947

     

    The series is arranged alphabetically by corporate names, individuals' names, topics and primarily documents Burnham's mining, oil, and exploration pursuits in Africa and Mexico, especially after the Boer War. The various company, syndicate, land, and mining folders mostly contain correspondence, contracts, and financial transaction records. Occasionally, however, there are reports, written by Burnham or field agents, which provide detailed descriptions of various geographical areas. The Yaqui Project folders document the efforts by Burnham and Hays Hammond to cultivate the Yaqui Valley in Mexico and the difficulties they encountered with the local Indians during the Mexican civil war. The series also documents Burnham's personal interests in such matters as animal importation, the Boy Scouts, and his efforts during World War I to recruit men for a military division headed by former President Theodore Roosevelt (the government rejected Roosevelt's offer to lead a division to France).

     
    Description
     
    Box
    Folder
     

    Animal conservation and importation, 1905-1911

    See also: Oversize Box 25

     

    9

    1 - 3

     

    Banda Syndicate, 1901-1904

     

    9

    4 - 5

     

    Bardeen Oil Company, 1919-1924

     

    9

    6

     

    Belingive Development Syndicate, 1911

     

    9

    7

     

    Boy Scouts of America, 1931-1947

     

    9

    8 - 11

     

    British South Africa Company, 1890-1911

     

    9

    12 - 13

     

    Burnham Exploration Company, 1924-1933

     

    10

    14

     

    Carmichael, John Gordon [primarily correspondence between Carmichael and H. Rider Haggard, and Carmichael manuscripts], 1894-1897, n.d

     

    10

    15 - 18

     

    Chilean gold mines, 1916-1918

     

    10

    19

     

    Chinese expeditions, 1898-1907

     

    10

    20

     

    East Africa Syndicate

     

     

    Correspondence, 1902-1920

     

    10

    21 - 23

     

    Contracts, 1902-1912

     

    10

    24

     

    Reports, 1904-1920, n.d.

     

    10

    25

     

    Miscellaneous, 1898-1903, n.d.

     

    10

    26

     

    Elephant hunting, 1903

     

    10

    27

     

    Guggenheim Exploration Company, 1905-1906

     

    10

    28

     

    Hammond, John Hays

     

     

    Clippings, 1913-1936

     

    10

    29

     

    Correspondence [re: Secretary of Commerce campaign], 1921

     

    10

    30

     

    Correspondence [re: Secretary of Interior campaign], 1923

     

    10

    31

     

    International Petroleum Company, 1911-1919

     

    11

    32

     

    La Caridad Mines, 1906

     

    11

    33

     

    Louisiana oil interests

     

     

    General, 1920-1921

     

    11

    34

     

    Letterbook, 1920

     

    11

    35

     

    Macomber museum collection, 1940-1944

     

    11

    36

     

    Manganese Company of California, 1916-1917

     

    11

    37

     

    Manganese properties, 1917

     

    11

    38

     

    Map [Bloemfontein, South Africa; hand-drawn map and handwritten battle report on verso], 1900

    See: Oversize Box 25

     
     

    Mexican Seaboard Oil Company, 1922-1924

     

    11

    39

     

    Mexican Southern Mining Syndicate, 1905-1908

     

    11

    40 - 42

     

    Mining

     

     

    Consultants, 1909-1921, 1937

     

    11

    43

     

    Maps, 1900, n.d.

    See also: Oversize Box 26

     

    11

    44

     

    Reports

     

     

    Mexico, 1904-1906

     

    11

    45

     

    United States, 1907-1921

     

    11

    46

     

    Moulton Irrigated Lands Company, 1917

     

    11

    47

     

    National Rifle Association, 1942-1943

     

    11

    48

     

    Pao Verde Valley lands, 1916-1920

     

    11

    49

     

    Redfield Mines, 1911-1916

     

    12

    50

     

    Rhodes, Cecil [writings about Rhodes, probably by Burnham], n.d.

     

    12

    51

     

    Richardson Construction Company, 1921-1922

     

    12

    52

     

    Riverbend Ranch [Burnham's ranch on the San Joaquin River]

     

     

    Contracts, 1911-1920

     

    12

    53 - 54

     

    Correspondence, 1915-1921

     

    12

    55 - 57

     

    Riverside County Real Estate

     

     

    Correspondence, 1916-1920

     

    12

    58

     

    Financial, 1913-1921

     

    12

    59

     

    Rocky Mountain Club, n.d.

     

    12

    60

     

    Roosevelt, Theodore [re: attempts to raise an Army division to fight in World War I]

     

     

    Applications, n.d.

     

    12

    61

     

    Clippings, 1914, 1917, 1919, n.d.

     

    12

    62

     

    Correspondence, 1917

     

    12

    63 - 65

     

    Scouting [writings by Burnham], n.d.

     

    13

    66

     

    Sonora lands, Mexico, 1906-1909

     

    13

    67

     

    Southwest Museum, 1944-1945

     

    13

    68

     

    Tungsten mining, 1916

     

    13

    69

     

    Wa Syndicate, 1901

     

    13

    70 - 71

     

    Western Mexico Development Syndicate, 1906-1910, n.d.

     

    13

    72

     

    Wheeler Land Company, 1909-1921

     

    13

    73

     

    Yaqui Land and Water Company, 1906-1917

     

    13

    74 - 75

     

    Yaqui project, 1908-1941

     

    13

    76 - 79

    ^ Return to Top

    Series III. Writings, 1893-1946

     

    This series is comprised of Frederick Burham's various writings, published and unpublished.The Deletions folder under Taking Chances, and the Articles contain writingsabout American Indians, scouting, hunting, and several interesting individuals he met on his explorations.

     
    Description
     
    Box
    Folder
     

    Scouting on Two Continents

     

     

    Typescript, n.d

     

    14

    1 - 4

     

    Dust covers, n.d

     

    14

    5

     

    Taking Chances

     

     

    Typescript, n.d.

     

    14

    6 - 8

     

    Deletions, 1943, n.d.

     

    15

    9

     

    Articles, 1896-1946, n.d.

     

    15

    10

     

    Journals

     

     

    Northern vs. southern exploration, n.d.

     

    15

    11

     

    "Trek to Victoria", 1893

     

    15

    12

     

    Africa [includes clippings], 1893

     

    16

     

    Speeches, 1922-1939, n.d.

     

    17

    13 - 16

    ^ Return to Top

    Series IV. Family and Personal Papers, 1879-1951

     

    The series is arranged alphabetically, by name of family member. The most informative materials are the diaries of John Blick and Frederick (which should be used in conjunction with his journals in the Writings series), which detail African expeditions. The diary of Rebecca Burnham (Frederick's mother) mostly describes her social life in California and England during the years 1895 and 1896.

     
    Description
     
    Box
    Folder
     

    Blick, John Charles

     

     

    General, 1921-1922, n.d.

     

    18

    1

     

    Diary [West Africa mining expedition], 1901

     

    18

    2

     

    Burnham, Blanche Blick [diary, few entries; passport; teaching certificates], 1879-1938, n.d.

    See also: Oversize Box 25

     

    18

    3

     

    Burnham, Frederick Russell

     

     

    Address book, 1929

     

    18

    4

     

    Biographical [articles about Burnham, including obituaries], 1895-1951, n.d.

     

    18

    5 - 6

     

    Condolences [cards and letters written upon his death]

     

     

    General, 1947-1948, n.d.

     

    18

    7 - 9

     

    General, 1947-1948, n.d.

     

    19

    10 - 11

     

    Boy Scouts of America, 1947

     

    19

    12

     

    Burnham family, 1947

     

    19

    13

     

    Southwest Museum, 1947-1948

     

    19

    14

     

    Diary [typescripts], 1893, 1895, n.d

     

    19

    15

     

    Financial, 1895-1921

     

    19

    16 - 17

     

    Legal, 1895-1939, n.d.

     

    20

    18

     

    Memorabilia

     

     

    General, 1898-1935, n.d.

    See also: Oversize Box 25

     

    20

    19

     

    African[?] [artifacts: scale and weights; bracelets; plaque; geological fragments; small carvings], n.d.

     

    21

     

    Boy Scouts of America [Award of the Silver Buffalo], 1936

     

    22

    20

     

    Freemasonry [includes certificate], 1898

     

    22

    21

     

    Military, 1900-1904

     

    22

    22

     

    Notebooks, 1920, n.d.

     

    22

    23

     

    Passport, 1935

     

    22

    24

     

    Burnham, Mather Howard [re: estate], 1920-1922, n.d.

     

    22

    25

     

    Burnham, Rebecca [diaries kept in California and England], 1895-1896

     

    22

    26

     

    Ingram, Pearl [claims agreements], 1895

     

    22

    27

     

    Unidentified

     

     

    Notebooks, n.d.

     

    22

    28

     

    Notes, n.d.

     

    22

    29

     

    Trip book [probably by Burnham], 1935

     

    22

    30

    ^ Return to Top

    Series V. Photographs, ca. 1893-1924

     

    The series is arranged in two sections: people and places. Both sections contain quite good photographs of the geography, animal life, and native inhabitants of Africa and Mexico, although some of the photographs in the Yaqui folders are fading.

     
    Description
     
    Box
    Folder
     

    People

     

     

    Blick, John [trip in Mexico, includes landscape photographs], 1908

     

    23

    1

     

    Burnham, Frederick Russell [portrait], n.d.

     

    23

    2

     

    Wilson's Patrol, ca. 1893

    See: Oversize Box 25

     

    x-ref

     

    Places

     

     

    “African Life” [album, includes photographs of Kaffir men and women, Massai warriors, Boer War military encampments, and wildlife], n.d.

     

    23

    3

     

    Australia, 1924

     

    23

    4

     

    East Africa, 1902-1903

     

    23

    5

     

    West Africa, 1901

     

    23

    6

     

    Yaqui, Mexico, 1907, n.d.

     

    24

    7 - 17

    ^ Return to Top

    Oversize

     
     
    Description
     
    Box
     

    Oversize materials

     

    25

     

    Maps

     

    26

    ^ Return to Top

      MODIFIED: 2006-01-30

      PUBLISHER: Yale University Library, Manuscripts and Archives

      COPYRIGHT: © 2002-2006, Yale University Library

      COMMENTS: mailto:mssa.assist@yale.edu