Thomas Joseph Burns papers, 1891-1979

Overview of the Collection

Burns, Thomas Joseph.
Thomas Joseph Burns papers
1891-1979 (inclusive)
1.8 cubic feet, (4 document cases)
Collection Number
Mss 1101
Papers, printed ephemera, books and pamphlets collected by Thomas J. Burns, a socialist leader who ran a watch repair shop in Portland, Oregon, through the early 1950s. Includes pamphlets, books, broadsides, and clippings relating to national, local and Oregon politics, and a small amount of personal correspondence.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Thomas J. Burns was born in England in 1876, and after living in San Francisco he settled in Portland, Oregon in 1904. He was a watch repairman by trade and a well-known local personality, and his shop on West Burnside Street in downtown Portland included political books and pamphlets, as well as curiosities and other memorabilia. He was an executive secretary for the Socialist Party of Oregon and published various political pamphlets, tracts and newsletters, including The red flag, The harpoon, and The fax. Among his many dislikes were Communists, Republicans, fascists, big businesses, and organized religions. He died in 1957.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The papers nclude correspondence, receipts, certificates, news clippings, a journal and various publications, booklets, political and religious leaflets, a bible, handbooks, and a small number of family photos.

Other Descriptive InformationReturn to Top

Inlcudes materials formerly designated Mss 1101-1.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library prior to any use of reproductions. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use of reproductions may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright holders.

Preferred Citation

Thomas Joseph Burns papers, Mss 1101, Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The collection is arranged in two series:

  • Series A: Materials formerly designated Mss 1101-1
  • Series B: Materials from the original collection

Custodial History

The collection consists primarily of materials found among the effects of Thomas Burns by his daughter Elizabeth after his death in 1957.

Acquisition Information

Acquired 1958, Library Accession 7392.

Separated Materials

Several issues of The fax, a four-page newspaper edited and owned by Burns during the 1930s, and a few issues of other labor newspapers, have been placed in the Oregon Historical Society newspaper collection. Nine oil-cloth posters with anti-religious slogans and a hand-drawn anti-Axis poster are located in the Oregon Historical Society broadside collection.

Related Materials

Most of the books, pamphlets and letters of Thomas J. Burns are now housed in the Knight Library of the University of Oregon, Eugene.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

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

Series A:  Mss 1101-1, 1891-1979Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Biographical data
1891-circa 1957
Writings by Thomas Burns
Correspondence between family members
Correspondence, outgoing
Correspondence to Burns
"Buy American watches" campaign
Financial materials
"Resource" files (mostly printed articles)
General materials (mostly broadsides and clippings)
Bible with annotations by Burns, and annotated bookmarks
Books and serials (primarily related to political and social issues)
1914-1946; undated
Newspapers and clippings
NBC recipe bulletins (collected by Elizabeth Burns)
Materials concerning watchmaking in Oregon
Booklets on cooking, sewing, and health (including dress patterns)
circa 1920-1955
Booklets--Mostly from the Little blue bookand People's pocket series
1916-1938; undated
Books, primarily political in nature
Two books: Catholic history of Oregon (1916) by Edwin V. O'Hara, and The kingship of self-controll by William George Jordan (c1899)
1899; 1916
Family photographs (3 items and negative strip)
1949; undated

Series B:  Original collection, 1899-1957Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Letters to Thomas Burns
  • Lembert, R. J., 1916 August 8, Montana Anti-Saloon League
  • Peterson, Hjalmar, 1943 January 20, watch request
  • Widmer, 1946 January 17, crank letter
  • McGar, O. R., 1950 October 6, thankyou letter
Receipt for insured mail, and certificate of re-registration in watchmaking
1950 October 9; 1944 January 11
Postcards and printed leaflets
  • Five postcards printed by Burns and titled "Me un Gott-Heinie and Teddy," addressed to Charles L. McNary, Claude Pepper, Fulton Lewis, Jr., Tom Young, and others.
  • Funeral notice card, Harry L. Gross, 1902-1938
  • Broadsides: "Fosterism -- a Communist Party disease"; "The essence of Leninism"; "Attention! Watefront strikers!"; and "The tramp" by Jack London, 1904, 28 p.
  • Flyer to "Repeal special tax levy for police and firemen," signed by the East Side Tax Payers' League and executive committee, Multnomah Tax Economy League. On reverse: Burns listed names of signers and his objections to each of them (primarity economic).
  • Christmas cards, one from Mayor and Mrs. Earl Riley, 1944
  • The American farmer-- a report on the farm policies of the Democratic administration, 1932-1943, by Democratic National Committee
  • Free mind-- Official organ of Institute of Human Fellowship, Vol. III, No. 6, 1949
  • The challengers-- Official organ, Portland section, Communist Party, Vol. 1, No. 2, May 1, 1956
Tom Mooney labor booklet
"Tom Mooney destroyed by labor leaders," expose of connection between California labor politicians and other forces involved in continued imprisonment of Mooney. Asks for help from every member of organizaed labor in demanding unconditional pardon for Mooney from San Quentin.
1931 May
Newspaper clippings
Conservative/Congressional publications
  • Two letters from America's Future, Inc., distributors of reprints of John T. Flynn radio programs
  • Report of the Super Power Committee of Oregon to the governor and 1933 legislatures of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, December 1932, suggesting cooperative and reciprocal hydroelectric power development of interstate streams.
  • "Ceiling Price Regulation 7" -- retail ceiling prices for certain consumer goods, Office of Price Stabilization, D. C., August 14, 1952.
  • "Universal mental liberty"
  • "My parents were preachers too"
  • Handwritten sign, Burns's reply to "Mr. Green-hand Communist"
  • Handwritten sign advertising Rablie Berkowitz's lectures on religion in a changing world, undated
  • The carpenter, Vol LVII, No. 12, December 1937 -- Monthly owned and published by United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
  • The civic review, Portland, 1938-1939 -- Annual review of Portland's city government
Political leaflets
  • "Private power manipulation" -- reprint of an address by Homer T. Boone, in support of candidacy of Julius L. Meier for governor, 1930 October 9
  • "Julius L. Meier for Governor"--a radio talk by Rufus C. Holman, 1930 October
  • Senator J. E. Bennett for city commissioner, 1930 October
  • Northwest laborer, Vol. 5, 1930 October (on Julius L. Meier)
  • "Labor repudiates unfair circular" (against Meier and Frank Co.)
  • "The battleship Oregon," reprinted from Oregon Grange bulletin, 1933 February 23
  • "An open letter to the President on his reorganization plan" by Amos Pinchot (exposing a purpose to break the authority of Congress and expand the powers of the president), 1938 January 29.
  • Tom Burns leaflet: "If you're for Dewey! Roosevelt or Ruin!," showing "Tom Burns Roosevelt rooster," compliments of Tom Burns, FAX editor, ex-state secretary, Oregon Socialist Party.
  • "What's cooking Mr. Dewey-- more apples," 1944
  • "Let's get the facts straight Mr. Dewey," "Communists -- show their hand," "Fascism vs. democracy," 1944.
  • "Utopia" -- leaflet from H. H. Stallard.
  • "Old age pensioners live on bread and water," 1949.
  • "F.D.R. vs. Churchill," Stalin's crusader, Vol. 1, no. 8, May 1950
  • "Elect Lew Wallace for mayor," 1952 May 16
  • "Who are taxpayers?" -- Leaflet put out by Stallard for Congress, 1952
  • "Stallard for Congress in 1954"
  • "Elect Willis Mahoney, United States Senator," 1954?
  • "A picket's eye view of the Douglas McKay Chevrolet Company strike, 1956 (vote for Wayne Morse)
  • "Defeat doublecross Democrats," by Tom Burns of League for Independent Political Actions, undated.
Pamphlets, leaflets, and related materials
  • The harpoon, article by Burns on "Saint Fred Boalt," 1927
  • The harpoon, June 1928, the "Make America Catholic" campaign and Aimee Semple McPherson.
  • "Portland Community Chest racket," August 1933, on its failure in welfare relief.
  • The Old Hickory Club of Oregon, 1935 (Burns first vice-president)
  • "An appeal for unity of the Socialist movement on a scientific basis," Neil Barnett, 1937
  • "Bill of rights for G.I. Joe," 1944.
1927-1944; undated
Assorted religious leaflets
1908-1950; undated
Consolation : a journal of fact, hope and courage (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society)
1943 June 23
Collection book for FAX, and R. G. Dun & Co. business ratings for Oregon
undated; 1926
Clippings which were in store window at various times
1940-1945; undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Clocks and watches--Repairing--History.
  • Socialism--Oregon.

Personal Names

  • Burns, Thomas Joseph--Archives

Corporate Names

  • Socialist Party (U.S.)

Geographical Names

  • Oregon--Politics and government
  • Portland (Or.)--History.

Form or Genre Terms

  • Letters
  • Newsletters
  • Printed ephemera