University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota LibrariesOnline Finding Aids
space Home | About Us | Search Tips | Finding Aids FAQ | View Basket |
Virginia Lee Burton Papers

Summary Information
Title: Virginia Lee Burton Papers
Dates: 1942-1962
Creator: Burton, Virginia Lee
Extent: 1 cubic ft.
Location: See Detailed Descriptions for Each Title Item for Box Locations
Language: English
Collection Number: CLRC-10
Virginia Lee Burton's papers focus on her work as an illustrator of picture books for children. The collection contains illustrative material for four titles published between 1942 and 1962, and includes studies, illustrations, proofs, and an endpaper proof. There is also a Christmas card done by the illustrator on her own press.

Repository: University of Minnesota Libraries Children's Literature Research Collections

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for researchers with no restrictions. Registration with the collection is required.


This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


Christmas card,

Emperor's New Clothes, 1949

Life Story, 1962

Little House, 1942

Maybelle, the Cable Car, 1952

Folly Cove,

Biographical Sketch

Virginia Lee Burton was born August 30, 1909 in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. She studied at the California School of Fine Arts and the Boston Museum School. In the 1930s, Virginia Lee Burton began writing and illustrating children's picture books, as well as illustrating the works of other authors. Her first book, Choo Choo: The Story of a Little Engine Who Ran Away, was published in 1937. The book told the story of a little engine who decides to run away and see the world and was told in direct and "rhythmic" style with simple illustrations, a style that was to become a trademark of Ms. Burton's. The story also emphasizes theme that were also to become part of many of Ms. Burton's works for children: the machine as "heroine" and the importance of security and stability in everyone's life, along with the attainment of a "happy ending." These themes would recur in Ms. Burton's best known works, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and Katy and the Big Snow, whose simple and direct text and illustrations provided children with a plot and characters they could identify with. Ms. Burton sued these themes again in her Caldecott Award winner The Little House (1942) that used repetition and rhythm to tell the story of a little house's life and introduce children to such concepts as the seasons, time, and change, with an ultimately reassuring happy ending. Throughout her career, Ms. Burton's books were praised by critics for their simplicity and directness that made them easy for children to comprehend and their subtle messages of everyone's need for security, stability and happiness in life. Virginia Lee Burton continued to write and illustrate picture books throughout the 1950s and 1960s, until her death on October 15, 1968.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The collection contains material for four titles published between 1942-1962, and consists of ink and tempera studies, and endpaper proof, watercolor and ink illustrations, watercolor illustrations and studies, and text proofs. There is also a Christmas card which the illustrator printed herself from one of her hand-carved linoleum prints.

Subject Terms
Indexing Terms
  • The collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
  • Burton, Virginia Lee Papers
Collection Contents
 Location  Title
Christmas card  
Box MC 4
linoleum print (1 p.)  Box MC 4
Emperor's New Clothes 1949 
Note  1949
Box MC 4
endpaper proof (1 p.)  Box MC 4
Life Story 1962 
Note  1962
Box MC 4
ink and tempera studies (2 p.)  Box MC 4
Little House 1942 
Note  1942
Box MC 4
watercolor illustration for jacket (1 p.)  Box MC 4
watercolor illustrations (26 p.)  Box MC 4
sheet watercolor studies for endpapers and illustrations (1 p.)  Box MC 4
watercolor studies (4 p.)  Box MC 4
sheets text proof (5 p.)  Box MC 4
Maybelle, the Cable Car 1952 
Note  1952
Box MC 802
ink and watercolor illustration (1 p.)  Box MC 802
ink and watercolor illustration on one sheet (2 p.)  Box MC 802
Folly Cove  
block print on fabric (1 p.)  Box