Vincent Godfrey Burns Collection - PP35

Collection finding aids of Photograph Collections in the Prints and Photographs Division of the Maryland Historical Society Library

ca. 1950s-1970s

Prints and Photographs Division, Maryland Historical Society
201 W. Monument St.
Baltimore, MD 21201

Finding aid created by Katherine Cowan with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, January 2000 



Vincent Godfrey Burns (1893-1979) was a Congregationalist minister and Poet Laureate of Maryland. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., he earned degrees at Penn State (1916), Harvard University (1917), and Union Theological Seminary (1922) and did post-graduate work at Columbia University (1922-1924). He served in World War I as a Staff Officer in the Field Artillery in France. After ordination in 1920, Burns worked as a minister in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, marrying Edna Rodenberger in 1924, and having one daughter. He broke with the church on theological issues at some time in the 1930s, and was unsuccessful in attempts in 1941 to be fully restored to the ministry in order to join the Army Chaplains Reserve Corps. In 1945, he married Katherine H. Barker, having two sons; that marriage ended in 1967.

While Burns is sometimes credited with writing the 1932 prison epic I am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! which was made into a movie, his brother Robert Elliot Burns is actually the author; Vincent Godfrey Burns did write the 1942 sequel, Out of these Chains. He wrote other novels, as well as several plays and volumes of poetry in the 1930s and 1940s. Moving to Anne Arundel Co., Md. in 1951, Burns continued writing, being appointed in 1962 by Governor Tawes as second Poet Laureate of Maryland. His poetry was extremely patriotic and religious in tone, making his appointment controversial.

Collection Origin

Gift of Elmer Jackson, Jr., 1980 (75743).

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 1 box containing ca. 125 photoprints and 25 negatives, including color and b/w photoprints, some of which are polaroids. Photos are undated or dated ca. 1950s-1970s. Of these, ca. 75 photoprints remain mounted in one album, with 50 photoprints and all the negatives housed in 3 folders. Subjects include Mr. Burns and friends during his later years, largely unidentified. Activities documented include Mr. Burns’ presentations at Maryland schools, and various ceremonial or social events.

Note: Related materials are found in the Manuscripts Department of the Maryland Historical Society: MS. 2493, the Vincent Godfrey Burns Papers, 1918-1979.


The items have not been assigned PP catalog numbers; inventory not available. Album 1 has photoprints remaining in it, as arranged by Burns, with loose materials from the album removed to a folder. All of the photoprints from Album 2 have been removed to a folder, but remain in the order in which they were found in the album. Loose photographs have not been sorted by subject or date.

Container List

1 Box

Box 1: 3 Folders and 2 Albums

Box 1, Folder 1
Loose photographs: 5 photoprints and 2 negatives, n.d. and 1969. Includes Georgia Chantiles, "Etta", and unidentified portraits.

Box 1, Folder 2
9 photoprints and 23 negatives, n.d. and 1960-1977. Items which were loose in Album 1 (Hallmark, flower-patterned cover). Includes "Pictures PD Luncheon".

Box 1, Folder 3
36 photoprints, n.d. and 1970s. Items removed from Album 2 (marigold-colored cover).

Box 1, Album 1
32 x 27 cm. Hallmark brand album with flower-patterned cover.

Ca. 75 photoprints, n.d. or 1956-mid 1970s. Includes a few items of printed ephemera: postcards, greeting cards, and news clippings. Subjects include a marriage ceremony, and Burns visiting Maryland schools in 1973 and attending various ceremonies and social events.

Box 1, Album 2
30 x 26 cm. Marigold-colored cover. Blank – items removed to Folder 3. © 2001 Maryland Historical Society - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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