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James Henry Burton papers

Call Number: MS 117

Scope and Contents

The Colonel James H. Burton Papers consist of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, photographs, plans, and miscellaneous items spanning from 1845 to 1950.


  • 1845-1950
  • Majority of material found within 1845 - 1893


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Correspondence and other papers available on microfilm (2 reels, 35mm.) from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM3.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown, though much of the material in this collection is likely in the public domain. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Edwin Pugsley, 1953, 1958, and 1962. Gift of Eugenia Scheffel, 1998.


5.75 Linear Feet (9 boxes, 1 folio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, diaries, notebooks, clippings, printed matter and a draft history of the Richmond Armory which he headed from 1861 to 1862. Included also are notes on machinery and a British patent for small fire-arms.

Biographical / Historical

Colonel James H. Burton (1823-1894), after he had been educated at Westchester Academy, Pennsylvania, entered a Baltimore machine shop at the age of sixteen. In 1844, he took employment in the rifle works of the United States armory at Harper's Ferry, was appointed foreman in 1845 and master armorer shortly thereafter. In 1855, he accepted the post of chief engineer of the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield, near London, and did not return to Virginia until 1861. In June of that year, Burton was commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel in the Ordinance Department of the Virginia State Militia and placed in charge of the State Armory by Governor John Letcher with instructions to arrange for the removal of all machinery captured at Harper's Ferry and place it in position for use. Within ninety days, Colonel Burton had the machinery at work in Richmond producing rifles of standard United States patterns.

The following September, Burton was appointed superintendent of arms by President Jefferson Davis with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During the summer of 1863, the Confederate Government ordered Burton to Europe on State Department business. He did not return to the United States for three years and only then after having received an amnesty from President Johnson.

As a private citizen, he returned to England in 1871 to take direction of a Leeds firm manufacturing arms for the Russian Government. He returned to Virginia in 1873.

Processing Information

Parts of the papers were microfilmed in 1970 and 1974. The papers were reorganized in 1979 and no longer correspond with the film.

Guide to the James Henry Burton Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Staff of Manuscripts and Archives
March 1974
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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