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Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records, circa 1904-1991

Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records, circa 1904-1991

Wilbur H. Burnham Studios

Collection Information

Size: 35.2 linear feet

1 rolled doc.

Summary: The records of nationally renowned Boston, Mass. stained glass design company, Wilbur H. Burnham Studios, measure 35.1 linear feet and date from circa 1904-1991. The majority of the collection consists of project files for the studio's stained glass window contracts throughout the United States from the 1920s-1980s. In addition to project files, records include biographical material for the owners, correspondence relating to personal and studio business, general business and financial records, writings such as published articles by Wilbur H. Burnham, scrapbooks and other printed material documenting the history of the company, artwork including extensive watercolor design studies for stained glass, and photographic material.

Biographical material includes resume details and autobiographical notes for Burnham and Burnham, Jr., in addition to membership and fellow certificates.

Correspondence documents general studio business and includes correspondence with current and prospective clients, correspondence related to exhibitions, Burnham, Jr.'s activities on the Executive Committee of the America Arts Exposition, Inc., and the 1940 annual meeting of the Stained Glass Association of America and related business. Also found is some personal correpondence with friends and colleagues. Of note are 4 letters from stained glass artist Charles J. Connick giving his opinions on other stained glass artists, including Burnham, and a letter written by sculptor and designer, Joseph D. Portanova.

General business files include personnel records, records relating to a studio apprenticeship in stained glass design, a 1932 inventory of the studios, and leases and other legal documentation.

Writings include published articles by Burnham, in addition to draft typescripts for a book on stained glass which was never published, and research notes used as background material for stained glass studies. These notes include a number of pencil sketches.

19 diaries and journals consist of travel diaries and date books containing notes on daily appointments, financial notes, and addresses.

Project files form the bulk of the collection and document projects in circa 250 locations throughout the United States and Bellau, France, from the 1920s-1980s through correspondence with clients, architects and builders, contracts, purchase orders, building plans, sketches, scattered photographs and some printed material. Of particular note are extensive files on stained glass for New York's Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Saint Mary's Cathedral in Peoria, Ill., Saint Martin's Church in Providence, R.I., and the National Cathedral in Washington D. C. The series also includes a group of contract files for the company Reynolds, Francis & Rohnstock (later Joseph G. Reynolds), a contemporary of Wilbur H. Burnham Studios.

Financial records include payment and receipt journals, expense reports, bills, account books and general ledgers which provide finanical documentation from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Printed material includes news clippings about Burnham studios and stained glass in general, in addition to source material used in subject research.

Additional newsclippings about Burnham Studios can be found in three scrapbooks which also house announcements and invitations, and scattered photographs. One scrapbook contains photographs of windows designed by the studios for the Church of Saint Vincent De Paul in Los Angeles, Calif.

Artwork and sketchbooks include some artwork by Burnham, Jr., such as pencil and ink sketches, life drawings, and some watercolors. The bulk of the series consists of watercolor design studies on board for many of the studio's projects documented in the project files. Also found are some stained glass design sketches and cartoons, primarily in pencil and charcoal with scattered watercolors, as well as seven folders of material used in creating stained glass patterns and templates.

Photographic material includes photos of Burnham and Burnham, Jr., and of studio work in progress, as well as photographs of artwork, primarily of stained glass created for a significant number of the studio's contracts.

Biographical/Historical Note

Wilbur H. Burnham Studios (founded 1922) is a stained glass design firm out of Boston, Wakefield, and Rowley, Mass. Wilbur H. Burnham, Sr., along with Charles J. Connick and Joseph G. Reynolds, comprised a triumvirate of nationally prominent stained-glass designers in Boston, and from the 1920s-1960s, the firm was among the most prominent in the nation.


The Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records were donated in 7 accesions by Wilbur H. Burnham, Jr., from 1977-1981 and by Wilbur C. Burnham, grandson of the founder, in 1990-1991. Scott McDaniel, co-owner of the firm, contributed to the 1990 donation.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Wilbur H. Burnham Studios Records,
circa 1904-1991
, in the Archives of American Art
Historical Note
Boston, Massachussets stained glass design firm, Wilbur H. Burnham Studios, was founded by master stained glass craftsman Wilbur H. Burnham, in 1922. Together with Charles J. Connick and Joseph G. Reynolds, Burnham studios became recognized as one of the most prominent stained glass design companies in the United States. Burnham took early commissions from influential American architect Ralph Adams Cram, and believed strongly in the medieval stained glass tradition. In the late 1930s his son, Wilbur H. Burnham, Jr., who had received an informal education on tours of Europe with his family, and a BFA from Yale University, joined the firm.
Some of the studio's most notable commissions included seventeen windows for the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D. C., all the windows and murals for Saint Mary's Cathedral, Peoria, Illinois, ten windows for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, and five for the Riverside Church, also in New York City.
Both Burnham and Burnham, Jr., served as presidents of the Stained Glass Association of American from 1938-1941 and 1956-1957 respectively. Burnham, Jr., took over the studio in 1968 when his father retired, and sold the studios in 1982.
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, circa 1930s-circa 1970s (Boxes 1, 27; 4 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1920s-1991 (Box 1; 0.9 linear feet)
Series 3: General Business Files, 1930s-1970 (Box 2; 0.38 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings and Notes, 1920s-1950s (Box 2; 6 folders)
Series 5: Diaries and Journals, circa 1920s-circa 1960s (Box 2; 4 folders)
Series 6: Project Files, 1916-1980s (Boxes 2-12, 42; 10.6 linear feet)
Series 7: Financial Records, 1928-1982 (Boxes 13-14; 1.14 linear feet)
Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1920s-1980s (Boxes 14-15, 27-28; 1.89 linear feet)
Series 9: Scrapbooks, circa 1920s-circa 1970s (Boxes 15-16, 28, OVs 48-49, BV 84; 1.05 linear feet)
Series 10: Artwork and Sketchbooks, circa 1920s-circa 1980s (Boxes 16-23, 29-39, OVs 50-73, 85, RD 83; 13.15 linear feet)
Series 11: Photographic Materials, circa 1904-circa 1980s (Boxes 23-26, 29, 40-41, 43-47, OVs 74-82; 5.8 linear feet)
The Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records were donated in 7 accesions by Wilbur H. Burnham, Jr., from 1977-1981 and by Wilbur C. Burnham, grandson of the founder, in 1990-1991. Scott McDaniel, co-owner of the firm, contributed to the 1990 donation.
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley in 2011-2012, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. Folders within boxes were not physically numbered, although folder numbers are included in the finding aid. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records, circa 1904-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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