Arthur F. Burns papers, 1911-2005 and undated, bulk 1940-1987
Using These Materials
- Collection is open for research. However, originals of high-value correspondence are restricted except for use under direct staff supervision. Patrons are requested to use either CD-ROM...
- Burns, Arthur F., 1904-1987
- Arthur Frank Burns was an Austrian-born economist, policy maker, and diplomat; chair of U.S. Federal Reserve Board from 1970-1978 and economic advisor for six U.S. presidencies. These papers cover the years 1911 through 2005. The bulk of the material was created between 1940 and 1987 and pertains to Burns's career as an economic advisor, particularly to Republican administrations, as the chair of the Federal Reserve, and as ambassador to Germany. The collection is arranged into seven series: Correspondence, Honors and Awards, Journals, Personal Papers, Photographs, Print Materials, and Research and Teaching. Topics of interest in this collection include but are not limited to: the United States economic system and fiscal policies; the Federal Reserve Board and related committees; recessions, unemployment, and inflation; the world economy and finance; the U.S. presidency during the time period; the Nixon presidency in particular, including the Watergate affair; presidential campaigns and elections; and U.S. diplomacy. There is a limited amount of research and teaching material, chiefly from the 1920s-1930s. The most significant component of the collection is the correspondence between Arthur Burns and Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as substantive exchanges with economists Milton Friedman and Wesley Clair Mitchell. There are a few letters in German, French, and Russian.
18.5 Linear Feet
approximately 2,675 items
- Material in English
- Collection ID:
- Scope and Content:
The Arthur Frank Burns Papers cover the years 1911 through 2005. The bulk of the material was created from 1940 to 1987 and pertains to Burns's career as an economic advisor, particularly to Republican administrations, as the chair of the Federal Reserve, and as ambassador to Germany. The collection is arranged into seven series: Correspondence, Honors and Awards, Journals, Personal Papers, Photographs, Print Materials, and Research and Teaching. There are also oversize materials housed at the end of the collection. Topics of interest in this collection include but are not limited to: the United States economic system and fiscal policies; the Federal Reserve Board and related committees; recessions, unemployment, and inflation; the world economy and finance; the U.S. presidency during the time period; the Nixon presidency in particular, including the Watergate affair; presidential campaigns and elections; and diplomacy. There is a small amount of research and teaching material, chiefly from the 1920s-1930s. The most significant component of the collection is the correspondence between Arthur Burns and Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, as well as substantial exchanges with economists Milton Friedman and Wesley Clair Mitchell.
The most substantial and notable papers are found in the Correspondence Series, which contains letters and memoranda written from 1911-1997 both to and from Burns and/or his wife, Helen. The series is organized into three subseries, Correspondence by Individual, Correspondence by Topic, and Correspondence to Mrs. Helen Burns. The majority of the exchanges in the first subseries are letters written to or by presidents or vice presidents (Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Spiro Agnew, Hubert Humphrey, and Nelson Rockefeller). Burns's correspondence with presidents Eisenhower and Nixon is particularly extensive and reveals the making of crucial policy decisions. Also included is Burns's correspondence with economists Wesley Clair Mitchell, Milton Friedman, and George Stigler. This subseries is organized alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically.
The Correspondence by Topic subseries contains letters and attachments primarily related to Burns's work in academia, politics, and the private sector. Finally, the Correspondence to Mrs. Helen Burns subseries contains letters written by prominent figures such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Mamie Eisenhower to Burns's wife, Helen, both during his life and after his death.
High-value correspondence, including originals signed by presidents and some other notable correspondents, are separately stored and restricted to use except under direct staff supervision. Photocopies of these original manuscripts have been made for researcher use. Other letters signed by mechanical means have not been photocopied, but they are filed with the photocopies of original letters.
The other series house papers and memorabilia documenting Burns' career, including photocopies of two handwritten journals (1969-1974) kept by Burns during the Nixon Administration; several folders of early research and teaching materials; honors and awards received by Burns; personal correspondence, clippings, and other materials; lectures, speeches, and articles from Burns's career as economist and ambassador; photographs of Burns, his wife Helen, and political figures and celebrities attending events; publicity items such as news clippings, interviews, and articles about Burns; and program materials for the Arthur F. Burns Fellowship, an exchange program for German and U.S. media professionals. Further description available at the series level in this collection guide.
The great majority of the Burns papers are in English, but there are roughly ten items in German and a few items in French and Russian (Cyrillic script).
- Biographical / Historical:
Arthur Frank Burns, economist, policy maker and diplomat, was born into an Austro-Hungarian Jewish family in Stanislau, Galicia (now part of Ukraine) in 1904. His family immigrated to the United States in 1914 and settled in New Jersey. In 1925 Burns received A.B. and A.M. degrees in economics from Columbia University. He worked under renowned economist Wesley Clair Mitchell and received his Ph.D. in economics from Columbia in 1934. Between 1926 and 1944 he taught at Columbia and Rutgers. He was named full professor at Rutgers University in 1943. Burns's economic thought was inspired by Keynes, yet he believed that the Keynesian model was simplistic and totalistic as, according to Burns, each industry had its own cycle, hence government intervention should be taken selectively and upon detailed statistical analysis. Burns joined the National Bureau of Economics as Research Associate in 1930; in later years he served as the Director of Research (1945-1953), President (1957-1967), and Chairman (1967-1968) of this institution.
Burns's political involvement with the Republican Party began with his support for Eisenhower in the 1952 election. Burns acted as the Chairman of the Council of Advisors to the President (1953-1956), Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Small Business (1956), and as member of U.S. Advisory Council on Social Security Financing (1957-1958).
Burns was also an economic advisor to Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign and acted as the White House economic advisor from 1969-1970. He was appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve on Jan. 31, 1970, and held the position until March 1978. Meanwhile, he also served as the Head of the Committee on Interest and Dividends (1971-1974), a committee founded as part of Nixon's Economic Stabilization Program; as the U.S. Alternate Governor to the International Monetary Fund (1973-1978); and as a member of Emergency Loan Guarantee Board (1971-1978). The Nixon administration took over an economy in crisis, and Burns proposed a recovery program, which in the early days seemed to be effective. This period and Burns's reactions to its crises are well-documented in the correspondence and personal journals found in this collection. Between 1977-1981 and 1985-1987, Burns served as a distinguished scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy, where he taught and wrote. In 1981, Ronald Reagan appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, a position he held until May 16, 1985. Burns passed away on June 26, 1987 in Baltimore, Maryland. Burns's theories have inspired many economists, including his renowned student Milton Friedman.
Selected Publications: Date Event 1934 Production Trends in the United States Since 1870. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research 1946 Measuring Business Cycles. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research, with Wesley Mitchell 1952 Wesley Clair Mitchell: the Economic Scientist. New York: National Bureau of Economic Research 1957 Frontiers of Economic Knowledge. Princeton: University of Princeton Press Prosperity without Inflation. Buffalo: Smith, Keynes & Marshall 1967 Full Employment: Guideposts and Economic Stability. Washington D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, with Paul Samuelson 1969 Business Cycle in a Changing World. New York: Columbia University Press 1978 Reflections of an Economic Policy Maker: Speeches and Congressional Statements, 1969-1978. Washington D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
- Acquisition Information:
- The Arthur F. Burns Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift from 2006-2012.
- Processing information:
Processed by Yektan Turkyilmaz, December 2009; Elizabeth Shesko, December 2010.
Encoded by Yektan Turkyilmaz and Paula Jeannet, December 2009, and Elizabeth Shesko, December 2010
2011 addition interfiled by Alice Poffinberger. 2012 addition processed and encoded by Levi Crews. Finding aid updates and edits by Paula Jeannet, October 2013.
Digital materials were processed by Hyeeyoung Kim, September 2017.
Accessions 2006-0050, 2007-0027, 2007-0144, 2008-0013, 2008-0031, 2008-0096, 2009-0004, 2009-0171, 2010-0210, 2011-0116, and 2012-0261 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
- Physical Location:
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
- Other Descriptive Data:
Some of the autographed original letters were photographed with a digital camera before the collection was acquired by the library. Digital image files were provided to the library on CD-Rom. Files from those CD-Roms were migrated to a library server. To request access to these electronic copies, please contact Research Services in the Rubenstein Library before coming to use this collection.
National security classified materials were reviewed and declassified by the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives in 2015. Declassified documents are clearly marked as such.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
Recessions -- United States
Presidents -- United States -- Correspondence
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974
Unemployment -- Effect of inflation on -- United States
Fiscal policy -- United States
Elections -- United States -- History
Monetary policy -- United States
Inflation (Finance) -- United States
Currency question -- United States
Ambassadors -- United States
Economists -- United States
Economists -- Correspondence
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.)
Burns, Arthur F. (Arthur Frank), 1904-1987
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006
Bush, George, 1924-2018
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Mitchell, Wesley C. (Wesley Clair), 1874-1948
Friedman, Milton, 1912-2006
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
United States -- Politics and government -- 1945-1989
United States -- Economic conditions -- 1945-
United States -- History -- 1945-
United States -- Foreign policy
United States -- Economic policy
Using These Materials
Collection is open for research. However, originals of high-value correspondence are restricted except for use under direct staff supervision. Patrons are requested to use either CD-ROM surrogates of selected letters or photocopies of originals in boxes 1-3.
Electronic records in this collection have been migrated to a library server and digital use copies can only be accessed onsite in the Rubenstein Library Reading Room. To request access, please contact Research Services before coming to use these records.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
- BEFORE YOU VISIT:
- Register online to request material for use in our reading room and track the status of your requests. Requests for material must be made 2 full business days in advance of your visit. Most of our collections are stored at the Library Service Center, our off-site repository.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[Identification of item], Arthur F. Burns Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University