852 RARE : New Collection: The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913

852 RARE : New Collection: The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of a new Modern Manuscript collection, The Albert F. Burt Letters, 1911-1913.

The Albert Burt (Harvard Law School, class of 1914) collection is relatively small by Modern Manuscript standards containing a mere 63 letters and 7 postcards.  But these 70 documents provide unique and invaluable insight into the life of a Harvard Law School student in the early twentieth century. In these letters written to his mother, father and two brothers , Albert writes about everything from the weather and housing, to life in Cambridge and, perhaps most interesting of all, his social and academic life at the Law School.

In one letter, dated October 29, 1911, Burt provides vignettes of faculty members.  He refers to professor Joseph Beale as the “argumentative Prof”  and notes a comment by a fellow student that, “doesn’t the old cuss love to get you to make a fool of yourself?”  Professor Bruce Wyman is described as the “round, roly-poly, jolly, smiling prof” who will, “… do pretty much nearly all of the work if you’ll let him.”

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Excerpt of letter dated October 29, 2911. Box 1, folder 10 of the Albert F. Burt Letters.

Dean Ezra Ripley Thayer is mentioned in a letter to Albert’s brother Howard written in November 1911.  He writes that, “…now it is etiquette in that class not to ask any questions unless you really want to know, because it takes the Dean so long to give a poor answer if he tries it himself and because you doubt whether the answer is trustworthy if he turns the question on the class.”

According to one letter the recently built Langdell Hall appeared to have been something of a novelty to students. In a letter dated October 22, 1911 Burt mentions that, “The whole plan of the institution seems to be that we should do our studying in these places”.   (The other “place” being Austin Hall.)  Encouragement to do so includes the existence of “… a whole staff to get us the books and everything we need in using them…” and that students were “…provided with lockers in the basements…” to store books and other necessary items.

This Albert F. Burt Letters will be of interest to anyone interested in the history of the Law School.  The HOLLIS number is 13846966.  A finding aid is also available. Researchers interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections and schedule an appointment.

Post contributed by Edwin Moloy, Curator of Modern Manuscripts.