Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Gelett Burgess Papers,
Date (inclusive): [ca. 1873-1951]
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-H 52
Creator: Burgess, Gelett, 1866-1951
Number of containers: 6 boxes, 6 cartons, 4 oversize folders (Pt I & II)
Microfilm reel: 2 (Pt III)
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Pt. I: Correspondence; MSS of novels, stories, poems, articles, plays, etc.; MS of incomplete autobiography; notebooks; genealogical
and biographical data; personalia; bibliographies; scrapbooks; clippings. A few papers of his wife, Estelle (Loomis) Burgess
Pt. II: 29 letters from Burgess to Oliver Onions, 1948-1951; obituary for Burgess written by Onions; a report on an interview with
Onions and Berta Ruck by Prof. James J. Lynch; other related items.
Pt. III: On film only (2 reels) Miscellaneous Burgess items including his M.A. thesis for Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which
must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], Gelett Burgess papers, BANC MSS C-H 52, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Material Cataloged Separately
- Diaries removed to
Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 81/115c
(Gelett Burgess diaries)
- Pictorial material transferred to the Bancroft Pictorial Collections
Identifier/Call Number: (BANC PIC 1953.005
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1953.006--A,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1954.010--A,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1959.069-.071,
Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1961.014--ALB)
Scope and Content
The bulk of the Burgess papers were acquired by purchase from Gabriel Engel and Ruth Morissey in 1953 and from Edward Morrill
in 1958. The rest of the collection came as gifts from Mrs. Will Irwin, Mrs. William H. Haan, Oliver Onions, Anthony Boucher,
Theodore M. Lilienthal, Mrs. Juliet W. T. Pottle, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Waybur, Mrs. Elsie W. Martinez, Homer Croy and Joseph
Bransten. Sources of gift items are noted on the folders or on the verso of the manuscripts. The letters given by Oliver Onions,
with other related material, have been kept separately as Part II of the collection.
The papers cover the period from 1873-1951, but most of them date from the period after 1900. They consist mainly of correspondence;
manuscripts of novels, stories, poems, articles, plays and scenarios, musical comedies, radio programs and lectures, some
with related notes; autobiographical and biographical data; diaries; notebooks; scrapbooks; clippings; personalia; bibliographies.
The collection, which also includes papers of his wife, Estelle Loomis Burgess, is described in greater detail in the Key
to Arrangement which follows.
Sketches, drawings, paintings, and photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections.
For list of contents of microfilm, see also microfilm notebooks at Reference Desk, Bancroft Library.
Gelett Burgess was born on Jan. 30, 1866, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in 1887 as a civil engineer. After serving a number of years as a draughtsman on survey work for the Southern Pacific
Railway and as an instructor of topographical engineering at the University of California, he turned to writing.
His literary career began in 1894 in San Francisco as associate editor of
The Wave. During the period 1895-97 he not only served as editor of
The Lark but, with Porter Garnett, published
Le Petit Journal des Refusées and
Phyllida. All three were radical departures from conventional magazines and
The Lark, with its originality and the famous Purple Cow verse which appeared in its first issue, gained him considerable fame.
With the demise of
The Lark in 1897, Burgess left California for New York to pursue a literary career. By the time of his death in 1951, he had written
some 30 books, illustrating many of them also, and had been a frequent contributor to magazines with his short stories, poems
and essays. Despite the variety and quantity of his literary output, his name was generally associated with humorous, satirical
writing. Included among his most famous works are the
Burgess Nonsense Book (1901),
Are You A Bromide? (1907),
The Heart Line (1907), the satirical
Maxims of Methuselah (1907), and
Maxims of Noah (1913),
Two O' Clock Courage (1934), and
Look Eleven Years Younger (1937). His manuals of manners in rhyme for children, the
Goop books, have become nursery classics.
Although Burgess traveled widely and lived in New York, Boston, San Francisco, London and Paris, in the public mind he has
been identified with San Francisco. In 1950 he returned to California and settled in Carmel, and it was there he died in 1951.