Amos Burg papers, circa 1855-1989

Overview of the Collection

Burg, Amos
Amos Burg papers
circa 1855-1989 (inclusive)
1908-1986 (bulk)
8.4 cubic feet, (6 record cartons; 1 legal document case; 1 slim legal document case; 1 flat box (14x18); 3 oversize folders (30x42))
Collection Number
Mss 1759
Papers of Amos Burg (1901-1986), including diaries, travel logs, notes, correspondence, published materials, and ephemera. Burg was born in Portland, Oregon, and lived there until after World War II, when he moved to Alaska. He traveled on multiple rivers in North America, and was a writer, photographer and filmmaker who worked for the National Geographic Society, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Erpi Classroom films, and later the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Oregon Historical Society Research Library
1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, OR
Telephone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Amos Burg, Jr. was born in 1901 in Portland, Oregon. At age 15, he signed on as a bellboy on the passenger ship Rose City; by the end of World War I, he had sailed around the world and earned the rank of able seaman. In 1920, he traveled down the Snake and Columbia rivers by canoe, the first of many river voyages he would take in his life. In 1922, he traveled from Montana to New Orleans via the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers. In late 1924, he canoed the entire length of the Columbia River.

In 1928, Burg traveled to Alaska, where he filmed the annual caribou migration. This trip was the basis of the article "Today on the Yukon Trail of 1898," which was published in National Geographic Magazine in 1930; it was the first of ten feature articles that Burg wrote for the magazine, and until the 1950s Burg worked as an assignment and freelance writer, photographer, and filmmaker for the National Geographic Society, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Erpi Classroom Films, Inc. This work included an expedition to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego in South America; expeditions to Alaska, China, and Japan; and filming the coronation of Britain's King George VI. In 1938, Burg and Haldane "Buzz" Halstrom journeyed on the Green and Colorado rivers.

During World War II, Burg worked as an agent for the United States government in Argentina and Chile. After the war, he moved to Juneau, Alaska, where he worked for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from 1955 until his retirement in 1974. He produced 15 films during his tenure at the department, and both during his career and after retirement wrote the column "Campfire Reflections" in the department's magazine, "Alaska Fish Tails and Game Trails." He also wrote for Alaska newspapers under the pen name Sourdough Sam.

Burg married Carolyn Warren (1908-2000) in 1958. He died in 1986 in Juneau, Alaska, and had his ashes scattered over the Columbia River.

Sources: Obituary in the Daily Sitka Sentinel, June 16, 1986; articles in the Oregonian, 1924 and 1984-1986; collection materials; vital records on

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of papers relating to the life and work of Oregon-born explorer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker Amos Burg. A significant portion of the collection consists of diaries, trip logs, notes, and correspondence that reflect Burg's travels; his work as an assignment and freelance writer, photographer, and filmmaker for the National Geographic Society, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Erpi Classroom Films; and his later career at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A significant amount of this material relates to Alaska. Other travels well-represented are Burg's voyages on rivers in the United States and Canada and his time at Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego in South America.

The collection also holds Burg's research notes; drafts and published clippings of newspaper and magazine articles that he wrote; unpublished writings, including quotes, proverbs, and observations that Burg wrote down; notes and papers relating to speeches and lectures that he gave; scripts and other records relating to films he produced; published materials by others that are about Burg or mention him; and papers relating to a schooner he owned, the Endeavour. Other materials in the collection include scrapbook pages of clippings, publications, and ephemera relating to Burg; the papers of Burg's wife, Carolyn Burg; addresses; guest book entries; and published material that Burg collected.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Amos Burg papers, Mss 1759, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Restrictions on Use

The Oregon Historical Society owns the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Collection is arranged in 11 series:

  • Series 1: Diaries
  • Series 2: Trip records and memorabilia
  • Series 3: Correspondence
  • Series 4: Topical research materials
  • Series 5: Unpublished writings
  • Series 6: Published materials by Burg
  • Series 7: Lectures and speeches
  • Series 8: Materials relating to films by Burg
  • Series 9: Published materials about Burg
  • Series 10: Records of schooner Endeavour
  • Series 11: Personal and family papers and memorabilia

Acquisition Information

Gifts of Carolyn Burg made between 1986 and 1995 (Lib. Acc. 17787; Lib. Acc. 20170; Lib. Acc. 22211).

Preservation Note

Due to their condition, materials in Folders 1-3 of Box 9 and in Oversize Folder 3 may require assistance to view. Contact library staff.

Processing Note

The collection was initially processed in late 1992 or early 1993, with additions made circa 1995. The collection was reprocessed in 2023. Reprocessing included rehousing of materials and significant rearrangement. At that time, the collection description was revised to reflect these changes and to more thoroughly and accurately describe the collection's contents. Due to its condition, the original of the ship manual in Box 6, Folder 21, was discarded in 2023 after a preservation color photocopy was made.

Separated Materials

Photographs from Lib. Acc. 17787, Lib. Acc. 20170, and Lib. Acc. 22211 were separated to the Amos Burg photographs collection, Org. Lot 450. Films from Lib. Acc. 20170 and Lib. Acc. 22211 were separated to the Amos Burg motion picture collection, MIC 5. Artifacts were separated to Museum Collections, Oregon Historical Society.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series 1:  Diaries, 1917-1984Return to Top

This series consists of diary entries, both in bound volumes and on loose pages, and related materials. Many of the diary entries relate to journeys that Burg undertook, particularly on rivers in the United States and Canada. Some volumes also contain notes and clippings, and one also contains copied passages from Erich Maria Remarque's novels and from a Will Rogers radio program. This series also holds typescript copies of diaries by Haldane "Buzz" Halstrom and Willis Johnson, who traveled with Burg on the Green River and Colorado River in 1938.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
Diary entries
circa 1920-1950
1 2
1917 November 21-1918 January 27
1 3
Diary of voyage to San Francisco, California
1918 January-March
1 4
Diary of time on the U.S.S. Waikiki and on the Pacific Coast
1 5
Diary and related notes and writings
1921 May 1-1922 May 14
1 6
Loose diary entries
1 7
1925 June 28-October 23
1 8
Loose diary entry
1927 September 7
1 9
1928 April 22-August 5
1 10
Diary with additional writings quoting Erich Maria Remarque's novels and Will Rogers radio program
1928 October 22-November 21; circa 1928-1931
1 11
1928 December 10-1924 April 24
1 12
Diary from voyage on Athabasca River and Mackenzie River, with additional writings
1929 September 6-7; circa 1929
1 13
Typescript copy of diary entry; diary entries and related notes
1930 June-July
1 14
Diary entries
1 15
Typed diary entries from Colorado River journey, and historical information about Colorado River journey
1938 August 25-November 3; circa 1970
1 16
Typescripts of Haldane "Buzz" Holstrom and Willis Johnson diaries from Colorado River journeys
1 17
Typescript of Wilis Johnson's diary from journey on Snake River and Columbia River
1939 April 23-June 4
1 18
Diary entries and related notes
1 19
Diary entries
1960 February 4-April 29; 1964 May 4-October 5
1 20
Diaries, plus notes about supplies, films, and finances
1965 November 27-1966
1 21
Diary of journey on Mackenzie River and related notes
1968 July 14-August 1
1 22
Diary entries and related notes
1969 August-September
1 23
Diary entries and related notes
1 24
Diary entries and related notes
2 1
Book with notes, clippings, and diary entries
2 2
Diary entries and related notes
1981 March-May; 1984 March 18-November 25

Series 2:  Trip records and memorabilia, 1918-1977Return to Top

This series consists of trip logs, notes, maps, and ephemera relating to journeys that Burg undertook throughout his life. Of particular note are several folders of travel log entries and notes regarding Burg's expedition to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego from 1933 to 1934 on an assignment from the National Geographic Society. The series also includes materials relating to multiple river journeys in the United States and Canada, multiple expeditions to Alaska, a 1924 trip to East Asia, and a post-World War II trip to Norway. Some notes include patronizing or derogatory statements about Indigenous peoples. The collection also includes typescript and photocopied versions of the logs that Burg's colleagues Haldane "Buzz" Halstrom and Willis Johnson kept when all three were traveling on the Green and Colorado rivers.

Due to their condition, papers relating to Burg's expedition to Alaska from 1950 to 1951 in Box 9, Folders 1-3, may require assistance to view; contact library staff.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
2 3
Ephemera and memorabilia from trips, including currency, postcard packs, passenger lists, and menu
2 4
Trip logs for Lewis & Clark Trail expedition and Mississippi River journey; poem, "Song of the River," written by Burg during Mississippi River journey
2 5
Trip log for Columbia River journey (photocopy)
2 6
Trip log for journey from Seattle to East Asia (titled "Seattle to the Orient")
2 7
Handwritten transcript and photocopied maps of Snake River journey with Harry Fogelburg
2 8
Yukon River journey records, including notes, log entries, financial records, and possible film outline
2 9
Notes, hand-drawn map, and trip log for MacKenzie River and Yukon River journey
2 10
Map pages with markings showing 1929 trip from Athabasca to Whitehorse
circa 1955
2 11
Maps with markings showing route of MacKenzie River and Yukon River journeys in the 1920s
circa 1970
2 12
Trip log for and photograph of voyage on yacht Camargo
1931 January 17-August 20
2 13-18
Trip log, notes, and other records from journey to Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego
2 19
Notes about Cape Horn and Tierra del Fuego, including notes about 1855 book "Captive in Patagonia"
2 20
Notes and caption scripts relating to National Geographic article about Cape Horn journey
circa 1934-1937
2 21
Maps of South America, Cape Horn, and Tierra del Fuego
circa 1935-1975
2 22
Notes, log entries, and clippings of photographs from Green River and Colorado River journey
2 23
Typescript and photocopies of Amos Burg, Buzz Holstrom, and Willis Johnson's trip logs for Green River and Colorado River journey
2 24
Notes, hand-drawn map, article drafts, and caption scripts relating to Snake River journey
circa 1944-1945
2 25
Souvenir publication about Hammerfest, Norway
circa 1950
9 1-3
Notes and correspondence relating to "North Star" voyage to Alaska
2 26
Chronology and itinerary for Bracher River journey
2 27
Notebook for Mackenzie River voyage
2 28
Log for trip to Cape Horn and related notes
2 29
Equipment list and suggestions relating to Yukon River voyage

Series 3:  Correspondence, circa 1918-1985Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
2 30
Correspondence to Amos Burg from his mother, Annie Burg
circa 1940-1943
3 1-2
Correspondence from Amos Burg to his parents, Amos Burg, Sr. and Annie Burg
circa 1918-1952
3 3
Correspondence between Amos Burg and family
circa 1919-1985
3 4-5
Incoming personal correspondence, surname or organization name A-H
circa 1924-1985
3 6-7
Incoming personal correspondence, surname or organization name I-Z
circa 1924-1985
3 8-9
Incoming personal correspondence, no surname provided
3 10-11
Outgoing personal correspondence
3 12-13
Incoming and outgoing correspondence relating to Burg's work at Alaska Department of Fish and Game and related records
3 14
Incoming and outgoing correspondence with Encylopaedia Britannica Films and Erpi Classroom Films, Inc.
3 15
Incoming and outgoing correspondence with National Geographic Society
3 16
Incoming professional correspondence and related records, surname or organization name A-G
3 17
Incoming professional correspondence and related records, surname or organization name H-Z
3 18
Outgoing professional correspondence
3 19
Correspondence from and to Amos Burg and Carolyn Burg relating to proposal to move Alaska's state capital and related clippings

Series 4:  Topical research materials, 1932-1982Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
3 20
Research notes and related photocopy of book pages on Colorado, Columbia, and Yukon rivers
circa 1980
4 1
Research notes and published material on lifeboats
4 2
Research notes on Norway
circa 1938
4 3-4
Research notes on Nunivak Island Inuit and related clippings
4 5
Notes for National Geographic articles on Oregon
4 6
Research notes on Pioneers' Home, Sitka, Alaska
circa 1953
4 7
Notes and writings, primarily about Ferdinand Magellan at Cape Horn
4 8-12
Unsorted research notes and published material used for research
circa 1934-1982

Series 5:  Unpublished writings, circa 1915-1984Return to Top

This series consists of unpublished writings by Burg other than his diaries and research notes. These include two short stories he wrote; the draft of an unfinished book; and compiled quotations, proverbs, and observations, most of which Burg labeled as "anecdotes."

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
4 13
Short story written as a school assignment, "Si and I"
circa 1915
4 14
Short story, "Love Confessions of a Sailor"
circa 1920
4 15-16
Compiled quotes, proverbs, and observations, titled by Burg as "anecdotes"
circa 1950-1980
4 17
Notes on life experiences, news, lectures, and other topics
4 18
Notebook with notes, draft or copy of outgoing letter, and log entries
4 19
Notes and partial transcript of unfinished work by Burg about his voyage on the Katia, dedicated to Skip Wallen
4 20
Assorted writings
circa 1920-1960
4 21
Typed and handwritten vocabulary lists
circa 1935-1970
4 22
Handwritten and typed life advice and proverbs
circa 1931-1980

Series 6:  Published materials by Burg, 1925-1985Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
4 23
Covers for Alaska Fish Tales and Game Trails magazine using photos by Burg
circa 1972-1978
4 24
Alaska Fish Tales and Game Trails column by Burg, "Campfire Reflections"
circa 1973-1985
5 1-2
Drafts for "Campfire Reflections" column
circa 1970-1980
5 3
Other Alaska Fish Tales and Game Trails articles by Burg
circa 1972-1984
5 4
Drafts for and clippings of Daily Alaskan Empire column by Burg, "Mushin' Along Alaska Trails with Sourdough Sam"
circa 1963-1967
5 5
National Geographic articles and photographs by Burg
5 6
Article by Burg about 1938 Colorado River journey
circa 1939
5 7
Drafts for articles about Alaska
circa 1940-1950
5 8
Drafts for articles about Colombia
circa 1947
5 9
Drafts for articles about Burg's river voyages and related notes
circa 1925-1975
5 10
Drafts for articles on various topics
circa 1945-1975
5 11
Clippings of articles written by Burg in Alaska publications
5 12
Clippings of articles written by Burg or photographs taken by Burg in publications outside Alaska

Series 7:  Lectures and speeches, circa 1930-1980Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
5 13
Lecture and speech notes and drafts
circa 1930-1975
5 14
Lecture and speech notes and drafts
circa 1930-1980
5 15
Book of lecture notes
circa 1940-1960
5 16
Programs, itineraries, advertisements, and financial records for lectures and lecture tours
5 17
Notes for speech to Seattle Rotary Club about news around the world
circa 1950
5 18
Speech about Burg's job at Alaska Department of Fish and Game
circa 1970
5 19
Speech to Explorers Club

Series 8:  Materials relating to films by Burg, circa 1928-1989Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
5 20
Essay by person named "Mark" about Burg film, "The Story Behind the Alaska Big Game Safari Film 1960"
circa 1965
5 21
Loan records for and notes about Alaska Department of Fish and Game films
5 22
Handbooks, background information, advertisements, and shooting scripts for Encyclopaedia Britannica films and Erpi Classroom Films
5 23
Shooting script, records, and notes for film "Navajo Wood Plant," and related publications
5 24
Correspondence and financial records relating to film "Navajo Wood Plant"; note from Carolyn Burg about production of film
1974-1977; 1989 June 7
5 25
Text for film, "On the Hudson's Bay Trail to the Polar Sea"
5 26
Captions and text for films about Alaska
circa 1928-1950
6 1
Captions for films by Burg
circa 1940-1975
6 2
Script drafts, captions, and notes for films shown at Burg's lectures
circa 1940-1966
6 3
Notes on films made in 1928
circa 1980
6 4
Unsorted papers related to filmmaking
circa 1970-1980

Series 9:  Published materials about Burg, 1924-1986Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 5-9
Newspaper and magazine clippings about Burg
6 10
National Geographic Society Members' newsletters mentioning Burg
1941; 1934
6 11
Radio interview scripts and transcripts
6 12
Article about Burg by Jean Steffens
circa 1940
6 13
Draft of article about Burg's films, author unidentified
circa 1950
6 14
Article about Burg, author unidentified
6 15
Draft and final versions of Explorer's Journal article about Burg by Oshen Agathon
6 16
Article in Alaska Magazine, quoting Burg's opposition to river dams
1984 June
6 17
Explorer's Club newsletter with feature about Burg
6 18
Essay by Ken Wise, "North to Alaska - by Canoe (Two Thousand Miles from Seattle to Circle, Alaska)," citing Burg as an inspiration
6 19
"Campfire Reflections" column by Mark Kissel about Burg

Series 10:  Records of the schooner Endeavour, 1908-1989Return to Top

This series relates to a schooner that Burg purchased around 1939 and initially named the Captain R. O. Rankin after its former owner before changing its name to Endeavour. In addition to official paperwork relating to the ship, this series includes the ship's plans, a manual for its operation, logbook entries, a few photographs, and two newspaper articles about the ship. The series also includes notes that Amos Burg and his wife, Carolyn Burg, wrote about the ship in the 1980s, and a photograph of a drawing depicting a different ship, the H. M. Bark Endeavour, which may have been the namesake of Burg's schooner.

Due to condition, plans for ship equipment in Oversize Folder 1 may require assistance to view; contact library staff.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 20
Ship documentation
6 21
Ship manual (black and white photocopy and preservation color photocopy)
6 22
Ship plans (photocopies of sections)
circa 1908
Oversize 1
Ship equipment plans
circa 1908
Box Folder
6 23
Newspaper clipping about Burg purchasing Endeavour
1939 July 6
6 24
Notes about best practices in sailing
circa 1941
6 25
6 26
Log entries
6 27
Photographs (1 print and 2 photocopies)
circa 1950-1970
6 28
Article about Endeavour's new engine
6 29
Financial records
6 30
Notes by Amos Burg and Carolyn Burg about Endeavour; photograph of drawing of H. M. Bark Endeavour
circa 1980-1989

Series 11:  Personal and family papers and memorabilia, circa 1855-1989,   (bulk circa 1913-1989) Return to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
6 31
Awards and certificates
8 3
Award certificate from Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation
6 32
Club member rosters, membership cards, and business cards
6 33
Rotary Club materials: Cover of Rotarian with photo by Burg; newsletters; telegram
1943; 1964-1970
6 34
Diploma from Oregon Institute of Technology
1937 June 7
6 35
6 36
Photograph of Burg's flag with insignia and humorous "instructions" for flag's use
6 37
Alaska property records
6 38
Burg's resumé
6 39
Scrapbook pages with clippings, publications, postcards, and correspondence
circa 1933-1969
8 2
Scrapbook pages with clippings, ephemera, and correspondence (original)
8 1
Scrapbook pages with clippings, ephemera, and correspondence (preservation photocopies)
6 40
Wills and testaments of Amos Burg and Carolyn Burg
1968 May 6
6 41
Memorial service programs for Burg; eulogy for Burg by Cort Conley
6 42
Correspondence to and from Carolyn Burg
6 43
Newspaper articles by Carolyn Burg; newspaper clipping about Carolyn Burg
1965 August 8; 1967 August 22; 1968 May 17
6 44
Copy of legislation suggested by Carolyn Burg, with notes by her
6 45
Memoirs of Amos Burg's sister, Vera Burg Yunker
6 46
Eulogy for Haldane "Buzz" Holstrom
circa 1950
6 47
Partial letter by unknown author to "Rolf and Betty" discussing Haldane "Buzz" Holstrom and Amos Burg
1980 October 21
8 4
Poster advertising Utah State History Museum exhibit about 1937-1938 river expeditions by Amos Burg and Haldane "Buzz" Holstrom
circa 1975
6 48
Financial record for canoe "Song o' the Winds"
6 49
Advertisement for Dwight Long lecture about his sailing around the world
circa 1939
Oversize 2
Maps of Snake River, Porcupine River region, and Middle Fork of Salmon River
circa 1913-1955; 1976
Oversize 3
Map of Canadian Arctic Expedition routes
circa 1920
Box Folder
6 50
Maps of Alaska Steamship Company routes
circa 1940
6 51
Powell Centennial Grand Canyon River Guide, including a mention of Amos Burg
6 52
Report, possibly written by Amos Burg, about missing biologists Peter Winslow and Rex Thomas
6 53
Pencil sketches by Ralphael Livingstone
circa 1922
6 54
Account by Michael Lesley, "Yukon River Float Trip, August 1977," and accompanying illustration of moose hoofprint
circa 1978
6 55
Voters' pamphlet with markings by Carolyn Burg and possibly Amos Burg
6 56
Typescript copy of William Parker Snow's account about Tierra del Fuego, with brief annotations by Amos Burg
6 57
Tierra del Fuego memorabilia: lithographs of schooner Allen Gardiner at Cape Horn; photograph of Indigenous peoples; clipping from magazine of Nathaniel Brown Palmer's portrait
circa 1855-1975
6 58
Reference articles and publications of interest to Amos Burg
6 59
Collection of inspirational literature
6 60
Religious pamphlet, "Awake and Inherit," with markings by Amos Burg
1937; undated
7 1
Guest book pages
7 2
Book with guest entries and notes about Christmas card recipients
7 3
Address book
circa 1945-1950
7 4
circa 1935; circa 1970-1980
7 5
Unsorted papers and clippings
circa 1925-1981

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Authors, American--Alaska
  • Authors, American--Oregon
  • Motion picture producers and directors
  • Photographers--Alaska
  • Photographers--Oregon

Personal Names

  • Burg, Amos

Corporate Names

  • Alaska. Department of Fish and Game
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
  • Erpi Classroom Films, Inc.
  • National Geographic Society (U.S.)

Geographical Names

  • Alaska--Description and travel
  • Canada--Description and travel
  • Tierra del Fuego (Argentina and Chile)--Description and travel
  • United States--Description and travel--20th century

Form or Genre Terms

  • diaries
  • scripts (documents)