Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Finding aid to the Burr-Allyne family papers and photographs, 1839-2012 MS 717
MS 717  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (202.28 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Related Collection(s)
  • Existence and Location of Copies
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • Processing Information
  • System of Arrangement
  • Family History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Indexing Terms

  • Title: Burr-Allyne family papers and photographs
    Date (inclusive): 1839-2012
    Collection Identifier: MS 717
    Extent: 47.5 Linear feet
    Repository: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA 94105
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org
    Location of Materials: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are primarily in English.
    Abstract: Comprises correspondence, genealogies, personal papers, ephemera, business records, legal records, property records, photographs, motion picture films, and artifacts documenting the personal and professional activities of the Burr-Allyne family in San Francisco and California from 1839 to the early 2000s. Papers include significant holdings of correspondence by John Winslow Allyne, Mary Newell Burr Allyne, Lucy Helen Allyne, Edith Winslow Allyne, Ephraim Willard Burr, Edmund Coffin Burr, Anna Barnard Burr, Elsie Burr Overstreet, Marian Barnard Burr, Alice Burr and Harry Allen Overstreet and others, documenting family relations, travels, and historic events; ancestral charts, notes, and obituaries; diaries, journals, and sketchbooks recording the world travels of Elsie, Marian, and Alice Burr and Lucy and Edith Allyne; and last wills and testaments, estate records, marriage certificates, and land deeds. The collection also includes business records related to the commercial and real estate ventures of Ephraim Willard Burr, Edmund Coffin Burr, and John Allyne in Alameda, Mariposa, Monterey, Placer, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties; among these are records for the Savings and Loan Society (San Francisco), Alameda Sugar Company (Alvarado), and Baden Company (San Francisco). Photographic prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, autochromes, negatives, glass plate negatives, photograph albums and motion picture films depict the Burr-Allyne family, their homes, gardens, and travels, and the growth of San Francisco at the turn of the century. Highlights include images of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, the San Francisco chapter of the American Red Cross, Spanish-American War volunteers at Camp Merritt, San Francisco deploying to and returning from Manila, Philippines, and the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. Also included are portraits and other photographs by the Pictorialist woman photographer Alice Burr, primarily depicting San Francisco scenes, nature scenes, and portraiture of families, women, and children in the 1910s and 1920s.


    Collection is open for research, with the following exceptions: original home movies are unavailable for paging and viewing. Use digitized copies, available on DVD.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of Library and Archives, North Baker Research Library, California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. Consent is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Burr-Allyne family papers, MS 717, California Historical Society.

    Related Collection(s)

    John W. Allyne business papers, 1853-1927, MS 43.

    Existence and Location of Copies

    Digitized copies of Alice Burr's photographic negatives of Spanish-American War volunteers at Camp Merritt, San Francisco, are available on compact disc and on the Flickr Commons . Digitized copies of home movies are available on DVD.

    Acquisition Information

    The Burr-Allyne family papers and photographs comprise gifts and purchases of related materials made between the years 1972 and 2011. The bulk of materials were given to the California Historical Society by Jeanne M. Overstreet in 1979, 1986, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2008; and by Nancy Chandler in 2005 and 2011. Studio portraits and motion picture films belonging to Alice Burr were purchased from Robert and Debbie Bosch in 2011. Support for the processing of the collection was generously provided by Jeanne M. Overstreet.


    No additions are expected.

    Processing Information

    The collection was reprocessed and additions incorporated by Jaime Henderson in 2011-2012.

    System of Arrangement

    The Burr-Allyne family papers are arranged in eleven series. The series arrangement of the collection is as follows: Series 1: Correspondence, 1839-1980; Series 2: Genealogical materials, 1869-1976, undated; Series 3: Writings and personalia, 1852-1998; Series 4: Ephemera, 1839-1974; Series 5: Legal and property records, 1847-1954; Series 6: Business records, 1844-1959; Series 7: Paintings, drawings, and artifacts,1878-1925, undated; Series 8: Photographic prints, 1840s-2000s; Series 9: Negatives, 1880s-1940; Series 10: Autochromes, 1915, undated; Series 11: Home movies, circa 1930.
    The arrangement of the collection was imposed by California Historical Society staff.

    Family History

    Ephraim Willard Burr (E. W. Burr) was born in Warren, Rhode Island on March 7, 1809. He began a family with his wife Abby Miller Child, having five children between the years of 1836 and 1846. In 1849 E. W. Burr was working in the whaling industry managing four whaling ships, when one of his ships, the Niantic, went missing. E. W. Burr sailed to California, arriving in San Francisco in the early months of 1850 to find the ship had been grounded and abandoned, its crew lured by gold in the California foothills and mountains. Recognizing commercial opportunities in Gold Rush era San Francisco, E. W. Burr decided to stay in the city. By April of 1850 E. W. Burr had formed Burr, Mattoon and Company, which operated a general store and grocery. Once successfully established Burr sent for his wife and children and built a home for them at Filbert and Van Ness streets.
    E. W. Burr proved successful in a variety of endeavors. In 1854 he organized the San Francisco Accumulating Fund Association (later renamed the Savings and Loan Society), the first savings bank on the Pacific Coast. He was elected president of the association in 1857 and remained president for 21 years. In September 1856 E. W. Burr was nominated by the People’s Reform Party for mayor of San Francisco; he was elected in November 1856, serving as mayor of San Francisco until 1859. E. W. Burr speculated in mining in Mariposa, Monterey, and Placer counties and was also prolific in real estate, holding deeds to land in Alameda, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties. E. W. Burr was an early urban developer of San Francisco, particularly in the Lagoon Survey, an area of San Francisco now known as Cow Hollow and Russian Hill. E. W. Burr retired from business in 1879 and died on July 20, 1894.
    John Winslow Allyne was born on April 18, 1841 in Brewster, Massachusetts. At age 18 he sailed with his father around the Cape Horn to San Francisco, with the rest of the Allyne family following soon after. Allyne worked as a clerk for the Stanford brother’s Pacific Oil and Kerosene Works. Allyne partnered with William White to form the Allyne and White firm and in 1869 they purchased Pacific Oil and Kerosene Works from the Stanford family. In 1871 Allyne married Mary Newell Burr, daughter of E. W. Burr, bringing together the Burr-Allyne families. They had two children, Lucy and Edith, and made a home at Green and Gough streets. Allyne died on December 4, 1901.
    Ephraim Willard Burr’s son Edmund Coffin Burr (E. C. Burr) had come from Warren, Rhode Island, to reunite with his father in San Francisco in 1852. As a student he studied chemistry in Leipzig, Germany. E. C. Burr married Anna Barnard in 1875 and together they raised three daughters, Elsie, Marian and Alice in their home on Vallejo Street in San Francisco. E. C. Burr successfully took control of the Alameda Sugar Company in 1889, which produced sugar from beets. Like his father, E. C. Burr also speculated in mining, holding land in Monterey and Alameda counties for this purpose and was also successful in real estate; in 1902, with his siblings Lucy, Mary and Clarence, he founded Baden Company, a real estate and property management company with holdings in Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. E. C. Burr died in September of 1927.
    Elsie Burr, the eldest daughter of E. C. and Anna Barnard, was born in 1877, traveled and studied abroad in Europe from 1904 to 1905 and attended University of California, Berkeley, where she first met her husband, Harry Overstreet. Elsie and Harry had three children and she spent some years living in New York State, where Harry was a professor of psychology at City College of New York. They divorced in 1930; soon after Elsie settled in Berkeley, California. She died in 1957. Alice Burr, the middle daughter, was born in 1883 and was active in the League of Women Voters. Alice took interest in photography in her teens, perhaps influenced by her aunt, Mary Newell Burr Allyne. In 1916 Alice graduated from the Clarence White School of Photography where she was a student of White. Alice’s work is attributed to the school of Pictorialism, the subjects of her photography usually San Francisco scenes, nature scenes and portraiture. She worked in silver and pigment prints, experimenting in bromoil and pigment and the color Autochrome process in her studio on the property of the Burr home on Vallejo Street. Alice also photographed many of her travels with her sister Marian, even filming their travels in Africa with her motion picture camera.
    Marian Burr, born in 1887, was active in the Red Cross of San Francisco and traveled extensively with her sister Alice through Europe, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Japan. Both Marian and Alice remained in the Burr family home on Vallejo Street until their deaths in 1966 and 1968, respectively.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection comprises correspondence, genealogies, personal papers, ephemera, business records, legal records, property records, photographs, motion picture films, and artifacts documenting the personal and professional activities of members of the Burr-Allyne family in San Francisco and California from 1839 to the mid 2000s. Significant themes and events represented in the collection include: early land and commercial development in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Spanish-American War, the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Panama Pacific International Exposition, women travelers and photographers, and Pictorialist photography as practiced by San Francisco photographer Alice Burr.
    Burr-Allyne family papers include significant holdings of correspondence by John Winslow Allyne, Mary Newell Burr Allyne, Lucy Helen Allyne, Edith Winslow Allyne, Ephraim Willard Burr, Edmund Coffin Burr, Anna Barnard Burr, Elsie Burr Overstreet, Marian Barnard Burr, Alice Burr and Harry Allen Overstreet and others, documenting family relations, travels, and historic events. The bulk of the correspondence is made up of the letters of Elsie Burr, which chronicle her marriage to Harry Allen Overstreet, the raising of their three children, and their divorce in 1930. Diaries, journals, and sketchbooks record the extensive international travels of Elsie, Marian and Alice Burr and their cousins, Lucy and Edith Allyne throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, in the 1920s and 1930. In addition to correspondence and other writings, the collection contains smaller holdings of genealogical materials, legal and property records, ephemera, paintings, drawings, and artifacts, created or collected by the Burr-Allyne family.
    The collection includes significant holdings of business records relating to the various and extensive business dealings of the Burr-Allyne family, especially Ephraim Willard Burr (E. W. Burr), John Allyne, and Edmund Coffin Burr (E. C. Burr), from the 1840s to the 1920s. These include records for the Gold Rush ship Henry Tuke (1849); Burr, Mattoon and Company (groceries, San Francisco); the Savings and Loan Society (banking, San Francisco); Allyne and White (San Francisco); the Pacific Oil and Kerosene Works (San Francisco); Stone Canon Company (coal mining, Monterey County); the Alameda Sugar Company (beet sugar manufacturing, Alvarado); and Baden Company (real estate management, San Francisco). The collection also contains records documenting real estate holdings and transactions in Alameda, Mariposa, Monterey, Placer, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties, including records describing the sale of Joaquin Pina’s land grant at Pacific and Powell Streets in San Francisco and the development of the Lagoon Survey, an area of San Francisco now known as Cow Hollow and Russian Hill.
    The large visual component of the collection consists of photographic prints, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, autochromes, film and glass plate negatives, photograph albums, and motion picture films created by or representing Burr-Allyne family members from the 1840s to the 2000s. Photographs mostly depict the interiors and exteriors of the Burr-Allyne homes; the family’s travels in California and abroad; and San Francisco events such as the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Panama Pacific International Exposition (1915), and the Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-1940). The bulk of the photographs in the collection were taken by Mary Allyne, a photography hobbyist who took many pictures of her family, home and travels; and Alice Burr, a professional photographer who specialized in the Pictorialist style. Alice Burr’s photographs include photographic prints, photograph albums, and portraiture, as well as digitized images of Spanish-American War volunteers stationed at Camp Merritt, San Francisco, deploying to and returning from Manilla, Philippines taken when Burr was a teenager. Some negatives have been attributed to Mary Allyne, including images of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire and President William McKinley’s 1901 visit to San Francisco. Film and glass plate negatives attributed to Alice Burr demonstrate some of her early portraiture work and her travel photography. Autochromes include pictures of general subjects, such as flowers and gardens; travel photography; a large collection of Panama Pacific International Exposition photographs taken by Lucy Allyne; and portraits by Alice Burr. The collection also includes original home movies (and digitized copies) of Alice and Marian Burr’s 1929-1930 travels throughout Africa, as well as edited bits of footage of the Panama Canal, Waikiki, Hawaii, and the San Francisco Bay.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog:
    Allyne family.
    Allyne, Edith Winslow, 1877-1963.
    Allyne, John Winslow, 1841-1901.
    Allyne, Lucy Helen, 1873-1960.
    Allyne, Mary Newell Burr, 1844-1921.
    Burr family.
    Burr, Alice, 1883-1968.
    Burr, Anna Barnard, 1847-1920.
    Burr, Edmund Coffin, 1846-1927.
    Burr, Ephraim Willard, 1809-1894.
    Burr, Marian Barnard, 1887-1966.
    Overstreet, Elsie Burr, 1877-1957.
    Overstreet, H.A. (Harry Allen), 1875-1970.
    Account books.
    Alameda Sugar Company.
    Allyne and White (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Allyne-White Pacific Oil Works (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Amateur films.
    Ambrotypes (photographs).
    American Red Cross. San Francisco chapter--Pictorial works.
    Autochromes (photographs).
    Baden Company (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Beet sugar industry--California.
    Business records.
    Businessmen--California--San Francisco.
    California--San Francisco--Commerce.
    Cased photographs.
    Commercial portraiture.
    Daguerreotypes (photographs).
    Drawings (visual works).
    Land titles--California--Alameda County.
    Land titles--California--Mariposa County.
    Land titles--California--Monterey County.
    Land titles--California--Placer County.
    Land titles--California--San Francisco.
    Land titles--California--San Mateo County.
    Legal documents.
    Motion pictures (visual work).
    Negatives (photographic).
    Paintings (visual works).
    Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915 : San Francisco, Calif.)
    Photograph albums.
    Photographic prints.
    Photography of children--United States.
    Photography of families--United States.
    Photography of women--United States.
    Pictorialism (Photography movement)--United States.
    Real property--California--Alameda County.
    Real property--California--Mariposa County.
    Real property--California--Monterey County.
    Real property--California--Placer County.
    Real property--California--San Francisco.
    Real property--California--San Mateo County.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Historic houses, etc.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Pictorial works.
    San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906--Pictorial works.
    San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906.
    Savings and Loan Society (San Francisco, Calif.)
    School children--California--San Francisco--Pictorial works.
    School yearbooks.
    Spanish-American War, 1898--California--San Francisco--Photographs.
    Spanish-American War, 1898.
    Women photographers--California.
    Women travelers.