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Burt family papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Burt

Scope and Content of the Collection

Materials related to the personal and professional lives of the Burt family of Chicago.

Includes the courtship and post-marriage correspondence of Henry and Edith Burt; family photographs; photo albums recording Henry J. Burt’s years at the University of Illinois and the family’s travel in Yellowstone, the American Southwest, Mexico, and Quebec; diaries of Yellowstone and a 1911 Panama Canal trip; memorabilia from the Panama trip; and two family histories by Helen Burt Potteiger.

Materials relating to Henry J. Burt’s professional career include his articles re the Tribune Tower and Soldier Field Stadium, his 1914 book, Steel Construction, and brochures and a commemorative card from the Bahá'i Temple in North America. Records of Helen Burt Potteiger’s musical career include clippings, reviews, and photographs of musical performances, 1932-1937, and signed sheet music by Philip and Helen Maxwell. The couple also saved a few items relating to their employment at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, including worker’s passes for both and an official guide.


  • Creation: 1890-1951



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Burt family papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Burt family papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Burt Family

Illinois-based family.

Edith Fleming Burt was born to Jesse and Matilda Havens Maxwell Fleming on January 14, 1874 in Champaign, IL. She attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for two years without graduating. Henry Jackson Burt II, of Urbana, IL, was born to parents Henry Jackson Burt I and Isabel Dunlap on February 6, 1873. Henry J. Burt also attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering in 1896. Both Henry and Edith were employed by the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. After the Exposition, Edith remained in Chicago as a music student and performer while Henry worked in various engineering positions around the United States, including an assistant professorship at Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa.

Edith and Henry were married in 1901 and moved throughout the United States. Work transfers included St. Louis, MO, Salt Lake City, UT, Denver, CO, and Chicago, IL. Edith gave birth to five children, including Helen Edith in 1915. The couple traveled frequently, visiting Yellowstone National Park in 1907, the Grand Canyon in 1909, and the Panama Canal in 1911.

Henry J. Burt II was a Major in the Quartermaster Corps and worked in Washington D.C. as part of the Construction Division of the United States Army from 1916-1918. The family followed him and returned to Wilmette, IL following his honorable discharge in 1918. Eventually, the family settled in Wheaton, IL in 1923, where they bought a 20-room mansion at 416 N. Ellis Ave (now 610 W. Franklin).

Henry J. Burt II served as a supervising or consulting engineer on prominent Chicago-area buildings such as Soldier Field Stadium, Tribune Tower, and Bahá'i House of Worship for North America in Wilmette, Illinois. He was also an active member of professional organizations related to engineering and was published professionally. He died on July 28, 1928 following several strokes. Edith Burt would go on to write columns in the Wheaton Daily Journal and Elgin Courier News before her own death on April 6, 1953.

Helen Burt Potteiger went on to attend the University of Illinois from 1932-1936. She performed extensively as a singer (soprano) on campus recitals and theatrical productions. She graduated with a degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences and was awarded the Best Woman Singer of the Chicagoland Music Festival in 1936. Her husband, Arnold Potteiger also attended the University of Illinois and the two were married in 1937. Their two children, Paulette Lynn and Jonathan Burt, were born December 22, 1938 and March 15, 1943, respectively. Helen enjoyed a career as a teacher and contributed two informal books of family history before her death in 2001.


3.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Letters, photographs, diaries, writings, and scrapbooks centering around Edith Fleming Burt, building engineer Henry Jackson Burt, and their daughter, singer Helen Burt Potteiger.


Papers are organized in the following series

Series 1: Personal Papers, 1891-1951
Boxes 1-3
Series 2: Photographs, 1890-1945
Box 3

Collection Stack Location

1 8 5


Gift, Paulette L. Kelly, 2008.

Processed by

Shannon E. Pahl, 2011.


This inventory was created with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this inventory do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Inventory of the Burt family papers, 1890-1951
Shannon E. Pahl
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States