Milton J. Burns Collection

Manuscripts Collection 186

Overview of the Collection

Repository: G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport
Creator: Burns, Milton J., 1853-1933
Title: Milton J. Burns Collection
Dates: 1880-1928
Extent: ca. 175 pieces
Abstract: Letters from Burns to his wife, Mary (Waud) Burns, in New Jersey, relating to his stay in England from Feb. to July 1910, where he tried selling his work to various publishers; together with samples of his engravings from Harpers’ New Monthly Magazine, Literary Digest, Century Magazine and others
Identification: Coll. 186

Biography of Milton J. Burns

Milton J. Burns was born January 9, 1853 in Mt. Gilead, Ohio. As the result of an eye injury, he was advised to go to sea, and was on board the PANTHER from Newfoundland to the Arctic in 1869. He studied at the Art Student’s League and National Academy of Design in New York City in the 1870’s. Burns served on fishing vessels along the East Coast. He was an illustrator for St. Nicholas Magazine, Scribners Century, Literary Digest, and made many trips to illustrate for Harpers. He was in Boston in 1889; Germany in 1901; England in 1910/11; Los Angeles in 1914; and New York City in 1929. While in France in 1932, he became ill and died on December 27, 1933 in New York City. Burns exhibited at the National Academy from 1875-1889 with New York addresses, and the London Fisheries Exhibition in 1883.

(From Brewington, Dorothy, Dictionary of Marine Artists, p. 66)

The period covered in the correspondence of this collection is primarily that of Milton Burns’ stay in England from February to July 1910. The letters to his wife, Mary Waud Burns, depict a devoted husband and father writing about his vocational and social life in England just before and after the death of King Edward VII. He had left his wife and sons, Donald, Malcolm, and Robert, at home in Millington, New Jersey. Apparently he hoped, at the beginning of his stay, to get a studio in London and establish himself in England as an illustrator. However, the English publishers would not advance money on illustrations for which they had contracted. Although he was able to sell some of his illustrations and pictures, he could not live on what he made, much less bring his wife and sons to England, and he returned to the United States.

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Restrictions on Access

Available for use in the Manuscripts Division

Restrictions on Use

Various copying restriction apply. Guidelines are available from the Manuscripts Division.

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Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the G. W. Blunt White Library. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.


Burns, Mary Waud–Correspondence


England–Description and travel
Millington (N.J.)


Art, American–19th century
Art, American–20th century
Marine art

Document Types:



Marine artists–United States

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Coll. 186, Manuscripts Collection, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

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Index to Personal and Vessel Names

NOTE: The fraction(s) indicate the Box and Folder numbers where that particular reference can be found. For example, the researcher will find information about W.J. Aylward in Box 1, Folder 2 of the collection.
Aylward, W.J. 1/2
Baldwin, Sidney 1/2
Bullock, J.M. 1/1
Burns, Donald 1/1
Burns, M.J. (Esq.) 1/1
Burns, Malcom 1/1
Burns, Mary 1/1
Burns, Murnie 1/1
Burns, Robert 1/1
COLUMBIA (Sloop) 1/2
Keener, Frances 1/2
Nation, Seymour 1/1
SHAMROCK (Sloop) 1/2
Ward, Josephine 1/1

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Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.


Correspondence and clippings relating to Burns and his work 1880-1928
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence between Milton Burns and his family; 1910 Feb-Jul
2 Miscellaneous letters relative to M. J. Burns; 1920-1921, 1928
3 Pages from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, Century Magazine, and others, containing examples of Burn’s illustrations; ca. 1880-1923
4 Envelopes, stamped and addressed; ca. 1910-1920

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