Vincent Godfrey Burns Papers 1918-1979, MS. 2493

Maryland Historical Society
Library of Maryland History

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N T P Q R S T U V W X-Z

Vincent Godfrey Burns Papers, 1918-1979
Maryland Historical Society
 

(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)
 

Vincent Godfrey Burns Papers, 1918-1979
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
410.685.3750
Fax: 410.385.2105
library@mdhs.org
www.mdhs.org



Descriptive Summary

REGISTER FOR VINCENT GODFREY BURNS PAPERS

MS.2493

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674

by

Janice E. Ruth

March 1981

 


Biographical Sketch

Vincent Godfrey Burns, a Congregationalist minister (ordained 1920) and Poet Laureate of Maryland (appointed 1962), was born on October 17, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Penn State in 1916 and with a Masters from Harvard University the following year. Moreover, he held a divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary (1922) and did postgraduate work at Columbia from 1922-1924.

Following his education at Harvard, Burns served during World War One as a Staff Officer in the Field Artillery in France. Upon returning home, he commenced his theological training and was ordained in 1920 as a Minister in the Congregational Church in New England. He was married to Edna Rodenberger on June 15, 1924 and had a daughter, Barbara “Bobbie” Burns, by this first marriage. Burns was active in congregations throughout New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts from 1920 through the 1930's. At some point in the 1930's, however, he broke with the Church on theological principles. He tried unsuccessfully to be restored to the ministry in 1941, in order that he might join the Army Chaplains Reserve Corps.

While a minister in Pallisades, New Jersey, Burns co-authored his best known literary work, “I Am A Fugitive From A Georgia Chain Gang”, published in 1932. The story is based on his brother's treatment while incarcerated in a Georgia prison. The story was made into a movie starring Paul Muni, and later Burns wrote a sequel entitled, “The Man Who Broke A Thousand Chains” (1968). In addition to novels, Burns wrote several plays and volumes of poetry throughout the 1930's and 1940's. Moreover, he hosted a radio health show which ran under the titles, Voice of Chiropractic, The Chiropractor's Broadcast, and The Keep Smiling Program.

In 1951, Burns moved to Epping Forest in Anne Arundel Co., Maryland. He continued writing and in 1962, Governor Tawes appointed him the second Poet Laureate of Maryland. Burns' appointment proved controversial with time and attempts to fire him were repeatedly launched. His poetry, which is extremely patriotic and religious in tone, was well received by only some members of the community. Many other individuals and several publishing houses rejected Burns' poetry and found his conservative, anti-communist, moralistic, anti-Semitic tendencies displeasing. As poet laureate, Burns visited schools, attended speaking engagements, and published a poetry magazine known as the Rainbow.

Burns died at home in Epping Forest on February 3, 1979. He was survived by a former wife, Katherine H. Barker whom he married in 1945 and who divorced him in 1967. His two sons from that marriage, Vincent Howard Burns (fl.1979) and Vincent David Burns (fl.1979), also survived him.

 


Scope and Content

Collection consists of the papers of Vincent Godfrey Burns, a Congregationalist minister and Poet Laureate of Maryland. The bulk of the collection is comprised of Burns' plays, novels, short stories, and poetry. In addition, there is incoming correspondence (1918-1979), radio scripts (1937-38), receipts (1941-1978), scrapbooks (1918; 1972-73), certificates (1918), deeds (1967; 1972), and divorce papers (1967). The collection is arranged roughly into five parts: correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, misc. papers, and submissions.

Correspondence consists of two letters written during World War One; several letters written by his daughter, Barbara and his second wife, [Katherine H. Barker]; correspondence concerning speaking engagements; and requests from Burns' readers for either his opinion of their work or copies of his writings.

Writings are divided into plays, short stories, essays, and poetry. The poetry number largest. Most of his writing exhibits patriotic, religious, or moral overtones. Many have a prison setting.

Scrapbooks are comprised of one volume of World War I material, and two volumes of letters from schools visited by Burns in 1972-73. There is also a record book of marriages performed by Rev. Vincent G. Burns from 1931-35.

Miscellaneous Papers include certificates of graduation, appointments, leases, deeds, receipts, divorce papers, savings account books, contracts, and loose notes containing phone numbers, addresses, and some poetry. For the most part, there are only a few of each type of item.

Submissions are items written by individuals other than Burns but submitted to him for either his editing or for use in one of his antholgies.

LIBRARY AND PRINTS&PHOTOS

Several of Burns' books and sheet music were transferred to the Library for processing. Printed material and photographs were sent to the Prints & Photos Division.

 


Container List

BOX ONE

Vincent Godfrey Burns incoming correspondence, 1918-1978; n.d.

[c.200 items]

Vincent Godfrey Burns outgoing correspondence, 1941-1945

[3 items]

Katherine Ann Howard Burns incoming correspondence, 1945

[1 item]

Misc. correspondence, 1941; 1979

[2 items]

BOX TWO

Plays

Out Of These Chains, bound typewritten volume with notations, [1942]

[1 vol.]

I Am My Brother's Keeper, [1942]

[c.65 pages]

I Am My Brother's Keeper, student critisms, n.d.

[41 items]

“The Heretic”, n.d.

[c.40 pages]

Abe Lincoln: Sage of Salem Town, n.d.

[32 pages]

“Youth Is Marching On”, 1940

[20 pages]

“Our Land Is Free”, 1976

[two copies, 32 pages each]

BOX THREE

Short Stories

“Twenty-Four Hours In The Chain Gang”, n.d.

[18 pages]

Essays

“I Hate Wrongmindedness”, n.d.

[138 pages]

“Jesus Must Be Understood”, n.d.

[25 pages]

Miscellaneous Writings

re: Anti-Semitism, n.d.

[c.85 pages]

Poetry

To You, America, [1975]

[110 pages]

“This Undying Flame”, n.d.

[30 pages]

The Sunny Side Of Life, [1970]

[45 pages]

Loose Poems, n.d.

[c.70 items]

Rainbow Literary Magazine, draft, (Spring 1973)

[c.35 pages]

Rainbow Literary Magazine, (Spring 1978)

[10 pages]

BOX FOUR

The Story Of Old Glory, anthology, [1972]

[c.1000 pages]

BOX FIVE

Poems Of A Patriot, n.d.

[c.200 pages]

Secrets Of Eternal Youth, 1974

[contains one xerox copy (56 pages), one typescript copy (50 pages), and one galley copy (69 pages)]

BOX SIX

Radio Scripts, for program entitled Voice of Chiropractic/ The Chiropractor's Broadcast/ The Keep Smiling Program, typewritten copies, 1937-1938

[31 items]

Scrapbook, containing articles, letters, memorabilia of WWI, 1918

[1 vol.]

BOX SEVEN

Certificate of Graduation, Officers' Training School, 1918

[1 item]

Appointment to U.S. Army, Rank of Sargeant, 1918

[1 item]

Saumur School of Artillery Manual, mimeographed typescript, 1918

[1 vol.]

Newsletters, 1935-1979

[c.10 items]

Automobile lease, 1940

[1 item]

Army Chaplains Reserve Corps papers, 1941

[7 items]

Receipts, 1941-1978

[8 items]

Cost Bill After Judgement, 1944

[1 item]

Savings Account Books, 1962-1965

[2 vols.]

Deeds, 1967; 1972

[2 items]

Divorce Papers, 1967

[2 items]

Contract, between Dr. D.G. Werner and V.G. Burns re: publishing rights, 1968

[2]

Drivers Registration, 1978

[1 item]

Addresses/Phone Numbers, n.d.

[c.15 items]

School Listings, n.d.

[c.10 items]

Papers re: Brotherhood of Youth, n.d.

[1 item]

Notebooks, containing phone numbers, messages, and some poetry, n.d.

[3 vols.]

Misc. notes, n.d.

[c.50 items]

BOX EIGHT

Record Book of Marriages and Baptisms Performed by Rev. Vincent Burns, 1931-1935

[1 vol.]

Scrapbooks, containing letters, autographs, etc. written by students and teachers from the schools at which Burns lectured, 1972-1973

[2 vols.]

BOX NINE

Writings by Individuals Other than Burns

My Life by Ralph Reno, 1937

[33 pages]

Torments I Have Known by Jesse Crawford, 1939

[c.160 pages]

Poems, submitted for Burns' War Anthology, 1945

[c.150 items]

Poems, submitted to poetry contest judged by Burns, 1972

[c.40 items]

Oh Love How Beautiful You Are by Carolyn Savaria, n.d.

[42 pages]

Old New Town and New Pocomoke City by Eben Hearne, n.d.

[c.150 pages]

Loose poetry, n.d.

[75 items]

INDEX

The following list corresponds to subject headings in the Card Catalogue.

Agnew, Spiro Theodore

(1918-)

Anne Arundel Co., Maryland

1951-1979

Anti-Semitism

20th century

Bicentennial,

1976

Burns, Barbara

(fl.1941)

Burns, Vincent David

(fl.1979)

Burns, Vincent Godfrey

(1893-1979)

Burns, Vincent Howard

(fl.1979)

Chaplain's Reserve Corps

c.1941

Chiropractor's Broadcast

1937-1938

Churches- Congregational,

1920-1930's

Congregational Church,

1920-1930's

Crawford, Jesse

(fl.20th century)

divorce

20th century

Epping Forest, Maryland

1951-1972

essays

20th century

Ford, Gerald R. (Pres. of U.S.)

(1913-)

Hearne, Eben

fl.20th century)

Mandel, Marvin Gov.

(1920-)

ministers, Congregationalist

1920-1930's

National Religion Labor Foundation

1939

novels

20th century

patriotism

20th century

Peace Action Review

1941

Poet Laureate of Maryland

1962-1979

poetry

20th century

prisons

20th century

prison reform

20th century

politics- Maryland

20th century

radio

c.1930's

religion

20th century

Reno, Ralph

(fl.1937)

Savaria, Carolyn

(fl.20th century)

scrapbooks

Tawes, Millard Gov.

(1894-1979)

World War One

1918-1919