Finding Aid for the Franklin L. Burns Collection of Ornithological Notebooks
In June of 2022 George W. Pyle, Jr. of Crown Point, Indiana, donated fifteen volumes of
clippings, journals and ornithological notes, compiled by Franklin Lorenzo Burns (1868-1946). Mr. Pyle’s father, George W. Pyle, Sr. (1912-2011) was an avid ornithologist and knew Franklin Burns as a mentor. The notebooks were passed on to Pyle’s son. The books are physically much like the three scrapbooks of Franklin L. Burns received by the TEHS in 2016 (titled by him Scrapbooks A, B, and H), as part of the Wadsworth-Burns Collection. The earliest dated entry in the ornithological notebooks is from 1885 when Burns would have been about seventeen years old. The many notes and observations continue through the 1930s, and there a few from the 1940s, attesting to Burns’ lifelong passion for ornithology. His interest in local history seems to have accelerated in the late 1930s, which would correspond to his retirement, and to the founding of the TEHS in 1937. During the 1940s Burns wrote close to 40 articles for the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly. Mr. Pyle also donated two digital images of Franklin L. Burns during birdwatching trips, ca. 1930s (TEHS Image Collection PEO134-35).
The huge volume of written notes in these volumes may relate to Burns’ important work Ornithology of Chester County (1919), and may provide new insights into ornithological history at both county and state levels. The volumes have been lent to Dr.
Matthew Halley at the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science for research and publication. The loan period will run from October 17, 2022 to October 1, 2025, at which time both parties will discuss the next step in the preservation and publication of these important volumes. These notebooks are all commercially-sold bound volumes of 300 to 500 lined pages (roughly 8 by 6 inches). Ten of the volumes are titled on the front cover in Burns’ hand, as follows:
These notebooks are all commercially-sold bound volumes of 300 to 500 lined pages (roughly 8 by 6 inches). Ten of the volumes are titled on the front cover in Burns’ hand, as follows:
Scrapbook C: Ornithological, mostly of Local Ornithologists and Obituaries
Contents: obituaries and natural science articles cut from newspapers, all glued to the righthand pages. Subjects are both ornithologists and other natural scientists, as well as events in these fields. Well over 200 clips. Left-hand pages are handwritten texts by Burns which seem to be about one or more individual scientists, as well as bird species. A partial index at the front.
Scrapbook D: Mostly Ornithological Appertaining to Former Ornithologists
Contents: clippings, as above but with fewer obituaries. Most pertain to individual scientists, exhibitions, and institutions, mostly related to Philadelphia or its suburbs. As above, clips are glued to the right-hand pages and the left-hand pages contain notes in Burns’ hand on individual bird species. Index at the front as above.
Scrapbook E: Some Writings of Former Ornithologists, Chiefly Newspaper Clippings
Contents: very similar to Scrapbook D, with clippings for the first 100 pages, and the rest of the volume filled with notes on bird species. This book contains no index.
Scrapbook F: Bibliography of Current Scientific Journals, mostly Ornithological
Contents: lists of titles, publications dates, and some contents for scores of ornithological publications. Part of the list is a long publication list from a printed book or magazine.
Bird Notes: Bartram, Barton, Kalm
Contents: a title is inscribed by Burns on the first page: “Travel Through North & South Carolina, East & West Florida, Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulages [sic], or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws, Containing an Account of Those Regions Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians, Embellished with Copper-Plates. By William Bartram, Philadelphia, Printed by James & Johnson. MDCCXCI .” This volume contains extensive notes by Burns on the Bartram work, and over 100 pages on specific bird species.
Reptiles and Birds of the World
Contents: a title is inscribed on the first page “A Compendium of the Life Histories of Some Groups of Reptiles and Birds of the World in Relation to the Phylogenesis of the Superclass Sauropsida (Huxley).” Extensive notes by Burns on numerous species and a few clippings.
Records: Skins, Eggs, Migration
Contents: counts of bird sightings covering the years 1900 to 1930.
Journal: 1908 – 1911
Journal: 1912 – 1918
Journal: 1919 – 1925
Contents of the three journals: mostly bird observations and notes written in narrative form, and personal recollection of families and friends. Upon arrival at the TEHS there were five untitled notebooks. One was found to have nothing written on the few remaining pages, and also some mold was detected. See below. Thus, four untitled notebooks are recorded and described here, numbered for clarity 1 to 4 by the TEHS cataloguer, reducing the total number of books from fifteen to fourteen.
Notebook 1: Bird Sighting Counts, 1885 to 1900. with over 200 handwritten pages. This volume is badly damaged and thus very fragile.
Notebook 2: Bird Sighting Counts, with hundreds of typewritten notes glued in between sections.
Notebook 3: Bird Observation Notes, without numerical counts. Date range could not be determined. Pages 25 to 493 contain writing.
Notebook 4: Published Writings of Franklin L. Burns
Contents: typed list of published writing on ornithology by Frank Burns, listing 138 items, some with content summaries or notes, dating from 1885 to 1943. And a second typed list of published writing on local history by Frank Burns, listing 47 items, some with summaries, dating from 1937 to 1945. Most of this book has been left blank.
The fifth untitled volume was discarded as it had no written material in the few pages which remained in it. Various loose items found in the book were transferred to a file folder. These are: a Report Card for Burns’ school performance, probably dating to the first half of the 1880s; 19 pages of loose notes by Burns on bird species; a 1930 letter estimating the cost of painting the North Berwyn School; and 5 copies of an offprint of an article by Burns titled “Miss Lawson’s Recollections of Ornithologists,” (1917). The book also contained a group of photographs and commercial postcards of Bartram’s Garden. These were removed for safer storage, and will likely be donated to Bartram’s Garden. The Deed of Gift for this collection is in a separate folder, along with the loan correspondence.
Items removed from the discarded volume:
An untitled volume was discarded as it had no written material in the few pages which remained in it, and some mold was found. Loose contents from it were transferred to a file folder. These are:
a Report Card for Burns’ school performance, probably dating to the first half of the 1880s.
19 pages of loose notes by Burns on bird species.
a 1930 letter estimating the cost of painting the North Berwyn School.
five copies of an offprint of an article by Burns titled “Miss Lawson’s Recollections of Ornithologists,” 1917.
a photograph of a drawing of a school, used as the first illustration in Burns’ book Ornithology of
Chester County (1919).
Finding Aid: October 12, 2022
HCS updated 1/6/2023