Stephanie L. Ashley
Scope and Contents
The records of nationally renowned Boston, Massachussetts, stained glass design company, Wilbur H. Burnham Studios, measure 40.3 linear feet and date from circa 1901-1991. 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. There is a 3.4 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2021 that includes sketches, awards, printed material, passports, biographical material, Christmas cards, photographs and negatives of Burnham and works of art, slides and postcards of stained glass windows, posthumous material, a bound ledger, legal papers, invoices and receipts, project files and glass plate negatives. Materials date from circa 1901-1991.
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, Illinois, Saint Martin's Church in Providence, Rhode Island, 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, California.
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.
The Wilbur H. Burnham Studios records were donated in 8 accessions by Wilbur H. Burnham, Jr., from 1977-1981 and by Wilbur C. Burnham, grandson of the founder, in 1990-1991 and 2021. 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
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.