Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Percy J. Burnes Papers, 1918

Finding aid created by
Marvin Brandwin and Cheney J. Schopieray, June 2008

Summary Information
Title: Percy J. Burnes papers
Creator: Burnes, Audrey Hartman
Inclusive dates: 1918
Extent: 0.5 linear feet
Percy J. Burnes wrote these letters to his wife, Audrey Hartman, in New York City, while Mr. Burnes worked in a U.S. Army office in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1996. M-3331.2.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Processing Information:

This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Percy J. Burnes Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is organized chronologically.


Percy J. Burnes had apparently known Audrey Hartman since June 1917, but they did not begin a serious relationship until around May 1918. In August 1918, they were married in a civil ceremony, even though they were devout Catholics. The marriage was kept secret from their parents, who viewed their relationship as without church sanction. Eventually, after Percy assured them of his intention to marry in a church service and after he assured Audrey's mother of his Catholicism, their parents accepted the relationship.

On August 17, two days after their marriage, Percy accepted a job in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as a clerk in a U.S. Army quartermaster office dealing with the arrival of supplies. He did this in order to avoid being drafted into the U.S. Army, which would have meant a longer separation from his wife. He applied for exemption from the draft, on the basis of his work at the Halifax port of embarkation.

In the meantime, his plan was to have his wife, a nurse, join him in Halifax in October 1918, and for her to find work at a hospital. However, she became ill with the flu (the 1918 "Spanish pandemic flu"). With the help of her sister, also a nurse, she survived the sickness and began to recover. Toward the end of October, though still not fully recovered, she resumed making plans for her move to Halifax in November. However, with the threat of being drafted by the U.S. Army, Percy changed his plans. He intended to return to New York, where they would (re)marry. In November 1918, he was granted a deferral and planned to resign his job.

Collection Scope and Content Note

Percy J. Burnes wrote these letters (many quite lengthy) to his wife Audrey Hartman in New York City, while he worked in a U.S. Army office in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The letters begin August 17, 1918, and end in early November 1918. The collection includes some discussion of Percy's work in the U.S. Army office, although his letters were subject to military censorship rules. The primary focus of his letters is on his relationship with Audrey and their plans. Most of the correspondence consists of expressions of his love for her, although both are beset by strong feelings of the loneliness of separation. He also expresses continued concern that he has caused her to be unhappy, professing repeatedly that his goal in life is to be worthy of her and to make her happy.

Subject Terms

    • Catholics--United States.
    • Draft--United States.
    • Elopement.
    • United States. Army--Clerical work.
    • United States. Army--Supplies and stores.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Percy J. Burnes papers,  1918 August-1918 November [series]