University of Idaho

Manuscript Group 55


Papers, 1890-1954
2 cubic feet

The papers of Burton Lee French were donated to the University of Idaho Library by Mary Margaret (French) Frank, daughter of Burton's brother Harley, between 1970 and 1986. A small portion of the material was processed in 1979, but with the material received in 1986, and the addition of vertical file material and the diaries which were removed from the Day-NW collection it was decided to combine the material into one record group. The records were reprocessed by Judith Nielsen in December 1989.


Born August 1, 1875 in Delphi, Indiana, Burton Lee French was the fourth of nine children born to Charles Albert (or David Scott) and Mina Philippena (Fisher) French. In 1880 the family moved to Kearney, Nebraska where David Scott changed his name to Charles Albert French. In 1882 the family continued the trek westward on the "Immigrant Train" Railway to San Francisco, then by ship to Portland, by riverboat and railway to Walla Walla where they paused for about a month while seeking a permanent location. They then crossed the prairie in a wagon and settled near Princeton, Idaho, but within a year the family moved to the town of Palouse, Washington. In 1891 French was a member of the first graduating class of the Palouse school, a school his father helped to build.

In January of 1893 Burton French entered the University of Idaho. He interrupted his education to teach in the public schools of Kendrick and Juliaetta, thus did not graduate from the University until 1901. From 1901 to 1903 he was a fellow in political science at the University of Chicago, graduating with a Ph.M. degree. He was admitted to the Idaho bar in 1903. In 1921 he received an honorary LL.D from the University of Idaho; Miami University awarded him the same degree in 1948.

In 1898, while still a student at the University of Idaho, Burton French was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives, and was re-elected in 1900, serving as Republican floor leader for his last two years. While in Boise he met Winifred Estel Hartley, a teacher originally from Nebraska. They were married in Norfolk, Nebraska, June 28, 1904. Their only child, a daughter, died in infancy.

In 1902 French was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served as Congressman from Idaho from 1903 to 1909, 1911 to 1915, and 1917 to 1933. He was a member of the House Appropriations Committee and served as chairman of the Sub-committee on Naval Appropriations. In 1930 and 1931 he was Congressional Representative to the Interparliamentary Union in London and Bucharest respectively.

Following his defeat by Compton I. White in the Democratic landslide of 1932, French returned to Moscow, where his wife died in February 1934. In September 1935 he accepted a teaching position at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He continued teaching, eventually becoming head of the political science department, until 1946.

Although French was a life-long Republican, soon after his retirement Miami President Truman appointed him to the Loyalty Review Board of which he became vice chairman. He served on this board until it was reorganized in 1953.

Burton French died at the age of 79 of leukemia in Mercy Hospital, Hamilton, Ohio on September 12, 1954. He was buried in Moscow, Idaho on September 22.


The papers of Burton Lee French span the years 1890 to 1954, with the bulk of the material covering the years 1900 to 1950. The papers include correspondence, diaries, speeches, genealogical material, newspaper clippings about French, and photographs.


The first series contains the original inventory prepared in 1979.

The correspondence, diaries, and speeches are contained in the second series. The majority of the letters are written by Burton to his brother Harley and concern his activities, teaching, and travels. Also included are letters to the entire family and his contribution to "Round Robin" letters initiated after the discovery of their half brothers and sister. The early diaries through 1923 are mainly financial records. The diaries then begin again in 1934 and are daily records of French's activities. The speeches are those given by French between 1930 and 1933 and include an appreciation of Alfred H. Upham, a convocation address delivered at the University of Idaho, and two addresses delivered in Oxford, Ohio at the end of World War II.

The genealogical material in the following series contains two typescript articles on David Scott French, and a mimeographed volume on the descendents of Samuel French of Connecticut. Among the legal documents contained in this series are Burton's marriage certificate, two passports, and a deed. Also included is an article by Forrest Crissey, "Running for Congress in the Rockies; How Burton L. French, a student at the University of Chicago, successfully conducted his campaign in Idaho," Success, Dec. 1903, p. 741. The photocopies are copies of newspaper articles about Burton French, including obituaries, and were most likely the property of Harley French.

The final series contains photographs of the French homestead on Cedar Creek, photographs of Burton French taken between 1890 and 1948, photographs of French's parents and siblings, Harley's pictures of the grain warehouse in Wawawai, Washington where he worked in 1901 and a souvenir scrapbook of a House Appropriations Committee trip to national parks and reclamation projects in 1920.


I.	Original Inventory, 1979	1
II.	Correspondence, Diaries, Speeches, 1898-1954	1-2
III.	Genealogy and Other Papers, 1891-1958	2
IV.	Photographs, 1890-1941	2


I. Original Inventory, 1979

1	1	A Descriptive Inventory of the Papers of Burton L. French in the University of Idaho Library, 1979	1

II. Correspondence, Diaries, and Speeches, 1897-1954

	2	Correspondence, 1898-1954	22
	3	Correspondence from Vertical File, 1909-1936	15
	4	Letters to Harley and Round Robin, 1901-1954	77
	5	Leaves from an Old Journal, 1897-1954	42
	6-39	Diaries, 1890-1923; 1934-1953	34
2	40-41	Speeches of Burton French, 1930-1953	10

III. Genealogy and Other Papers, 1891-1958

	42	"David Scott French", by Mary Celia French Ruberg, n.d.	1
	43	"The Family of David Scott French; a Genealogical Report," by Roy H. French, 1958	1
	44	Ancestors and Descendants of Samuel French the Joiner of Stratford, Connecticut, by Mansfield Joseph French, 1940	1
	45	Genealogy of the French Family, ca.1933	2
	46	School essays of Burton French, ca.1891	2
	47	Pencil map of Palouse and Diploma of Harley French, ca.1897	2
	48	The Juvenile Class and Concert No.2, 1895	1
	49	Cartoon drawings of delegates to L'Union Interparlementaire in Bucharest, drawn by Taru, 1931	1
	50	Legal Documents, 1904-1944	6
	51	Newspaper Clippings from Vertical File, 1910-1954	9
	52	Newspaper Clippings from Mary Margaret Frank, 1907-1936	5
	53	"Running for Congress in the Rockies." Success, December, 1903	1
	54	University of Idaho Catalog, 1894/95	1
	55	Photocopies, 1903-1955	35

IV. Photographs, 1890-1948

	56	Old Homestead on Cedar Creek, 1929	1
	57	Burton French, 1890-1948	5
	58	French Family, 1890-1916	6
	59	Henry Pratt Judson, 1926	2
	60	Grain Handling, Wawawai, Washington, 1901	2
	61	Souvenir: House Appropriations Committee Inspection Trip of National Parks and Reclamation Projects", 1920	1

November 1995 / mg055.htm

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