Guide to the Amos Burg Motion Picture Collection
1928-1979

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Burg, Amos
Title: Amos Burg Motion Picture Collection
Dates: 1928-1979 ( inclusive )
Quantity: Approx. 100 reels nitrate filmstock (approx. 78,000 ft.)  :  silent and sound., b&w and color  ;  35 mm.
Approx. 420 reels safety filmstock (approx. 315,000 ft.)  :  silent and sound, b&w and color  ;  16 mm.
Collection Number: Mic 5
Summary: The collection contains materials from Burg's 50-year career in motion pictures. Includes footage from around the world: Scandinavia, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela, Britain, Indonesia and much of the United States, especially Alaska. There is a concentration on the children and natural resources of these areas.
Repository: Oregon Historical Society
Research Library

1200 SW Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97205
Phone: 503-306-5240
Fax: 503-219-2040
E-mail: libreference@ohs.org

Languages: The collection is in English. 
Sponsor: Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Funding for preparing this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Biographical Note

Amos Burg (1901-1986) was a cinematographer, lecturer, explorer, author and photographer. He was born and raised in Portland. In the late 1920s he learned filmmaking from Jesse Sill, pioneer Oregon filmmaker. For one of Burg’s first independent assignments, in 1928, Sill sent him, with his friend Fred Hill, to Alaska to cover the migration of the caribou. It was the start of a career that lasted more than 50 years. Burg visited every continent, made nearly 50 films, and gave illustrated lectures of his travels to the National Geographic Society and the Explorers Club, among others. He canoed nearly every major river in North America, including the Columbia, Yellowstone, Colorado, Missouri, Mississippi, Yukon, Snake and the Mackenzie and Canoe rivers of Canada. He wrote articles for National Geographic magazine and other publications. He filmed the coronation of King George VI of Great Britain. In Japan in 1940 to make a film about children for Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, he was arrested as a spy, but released immediately. Eventually he settled in Alaska, making films for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, from where he retired in 1974. He died in Alaska in 1986.

Content Description

The collection contains materials from Burg's 50-year career in motion pictures. Included is black-and-white and color footage from around the world: Scandinavia, Spain, Thailand, Venezuela, Britain, Indonesia and much of the United States, especially Alaska. There is a concentration on the children and natural resources of these areas. The collection includes Burg's short film, Conquering the Colorado, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1938. Complete films make up only a small part of the collection; the bulk consists of production elements such as A/B rolls, effects rolls, title rolls, outtakes, field footage, and soundtracks. The extent of the collection is estimated, as the bulk of the collection is unprocessed, mainly production elements, field footage and outtakes. These estimates will be refined as more of the collection is processed.

Use of the Collection

Alternative Forms Available :  

Preview videotapes are available for materials as noted in this guide.

Restrictions on Access :  

Most of the collection is unprocessed and therefore not available to the public at this time. Processed materials are listed in this guide and can be accessed through videotape viewing copies in the Research Library. Other materials will be added to this guide as they are conserved and cataloged.

Restrictions on Use :  

The Oregon Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any reproduction use. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation :  

Amos Burg Motion Picture Collection, Oregon Historical Society Research Library. Individual films may be cited by archive number or title.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The films have been individually numbered. They are arranged into the following four series:

  • Series A: Jesse G. Sill Productions, 1929-1935
  • Series B: Erpi Classroom Films/Encyclopaedia Britannica Films productions, 1941-1978
  • Series C: Alaska Department of Fish & Game productions, 1951-1979
  • Series D: Other productions, 1930-1976
Acquisition Information :  

The films were given to the Oregon Historical Society by Amos Burg, and after his death, by his widow, Carolyn Burg. See accession records at the Research Library for details on specific donations.

Processing Note :  

Much of the collection was in delicate condition, either from being on nitrate filmstock or suffering from mold due to storage conditions, before being given to the Historical Society. As of 2004, the 16 mm films are being conserved, and copied onto videotape for public viewing. Those films for which work has been completed are listed in this guide. As funds become available, the nitrate films will be transferred to safety filmstock, viewing copies will be made, and the films will be added to this guide.

Separated Materials :  

Oregon Historical Society Research Library Collections include Amos Burg's still photographs in Organized Lot 450, his papers in Mss 1759, and a 1984 oral history interview with him ( SR 464).


Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Series A:  Jesse G. Sill Productions, 1929-1935
4 reels.
Description
MI 01580: [Yukon river trip] : Little Salmon to Purgatory, [1929]
1 reel (10 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Copies: reduction original, contact print, and duplicate negative.Shows a journey along the Yukon River as Amos Burg and Fred Hill travel downriver by canoe from Little Salmon in Canada's Yukon Territory to Purgatory in central Alaska. It includes many scenes of the natives, their villages, fishing and pets, mostly dogs. Also included are several types of gold mining. Photographers: Amos Burg and Fred Hill.
MI 01581: Alaskan Wilds with Amos Burg, 1935
1 reel (7 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Copies: reduction original, contact print, and duplicate negative.Exploring Alaska's rivers and waterways from aboard ships and small boats. Photographers: Amos Burg and Fred Hill. Appearing: Amos Burg and Fred Hill.
MI 01582: [Bering Sea trip : King Island to Nunivak Island], [1928]
1 reel (12 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Copies include a duplicate negative.Documents the relocation of caribou from King Island near the Bering Strait to Nunivak Island, farther south. Photographers: Amos Burg and Fred Hill. Appearing: Amos Burg and Fred Hill.
MI 05724: [Alaskan Wilds], [1928]
1 reel (10 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Scenes around the Norton Sound area of Alaska, including Inuit and native villages, livestock, boats and native peoples. Photographers: Amos Burg and Fred Hill. Appearing: Amos Burg.

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Series B:  Erpi Classroom Films/Encyclopaedia Britannica Films Productions, 1941-1978
11 reels.
Description
MI 06826: First 50 : EBE's Golden Anniversary Retrospective, 1978
1 reel (16 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
A retrospective celebration of the work of Erpi Classroom Films and Encyclopaedia Britannica Films under the National Defense Education Act (1958). Includes samples of the types of films made by Erpi and EBF for use in classroom situations: live action, x-ray, strobe and time-lapse photography, microphotography, traditional animation, clay animation, puppetry, fiction, historical recreations, and documentary. Includes footage of Eskimo children at play, taken by Amos Burg in 1941 and used in Eskimo Children (MI 06834). Narrator: Jim Brill.
MI 06834: Eskimo Children, 1941
1 reel (11 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm check print
Eskimo life on Nunivak Island off the western Alaskan coast. Portrays the activities of the children in describing how Eskimos solve their basic problems of food, shelter, and clothing. Presents such phases of Eskimo life as handicraft, work, household duties, hunting, drying fish, visiting the trader's store, gathering driftwood, playing games, and telling stories. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04819: Eskimo Children [outtakes], [1941]
2 reels (40 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Scenes of life on Nunivak Island. Includes many close-ups of faces. Shows several villages, many scenes of children at school and at play, and the unloading of barges from a supply ship just offshore. Also shows preparing reindeer meat for transport to the supply ship. Photographer: Amos Burg. (Outtakes from MI 06834.)
MI 06830: The Far Western States, 1942
1 reel (11 min.) : sound, b&w;16 mm
Characterizes the far western states as a region of contrasts in climate, topography, people and population densities. The film emphasizes the importance of mining and lumbering, growth of industry and commerce, the area's interdependence with other regions, and its strategic position as gateway to the Pacific and Asia. Explains how irrigation and contrasting climates have influenced varied and large scale agricultural production. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06824: The Northwestern States, 1942
1 reel (11 min.) : sound, b&w;16 mm
Represents the northwestern United States as the bread basket of the Nation and stresses the importance of the Northwest's agricultural and mineral resources. Animated maps illustrate the region's geographical characteristics, population trends, extent of resources, and interdependence with the rest of the nation. Shows agricultural, mining and lumbering activities, and recreational facilities. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06829: The West Indies, [1943-1944]
1 reel (22 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Surveys the islands of the Caribbean, concentrating on the Greater Antilles: Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. The film covers tourism, native traditions, the influences of slavery and the colonial powers, population problems, climate and geography, and economic conditions. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06831 and MI 06832: [Colombia and Venezuela—outtakes], [1945]
2 reels (24 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
A riverboat trip along the Magdalena River in Colombia. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06895: [Spain—outtakes], [1947-1948]
1 reel (46 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Scenes around coastal Spain. Includes many scenes of sunsets over the ocean, dancers, ox wagons and pack donkeys, and parades and religious processionals. Possibly filmed for Encyclopaedia Britannica film, Spanish Children. Appearing: Amos Burg (two scenes). Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06825: Alaska: The 49th State, 1960
1 reel (24 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
A view of Alaska, its climates and scenery, its geography and natural resources, its cities, and its people and their jobs. It indicates that many obstacles must be overcome before Alaska can reach its full potential of wealth. Photographers: Bill Baker and Amos Burg.
MI 06827: Scandinavia: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, 1962
1 reel (22 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Depicts modern life in the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The similarities and differences between these neighboring countries are illustrated by specific examples. The success of the Swedish social welfare system is explained. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06828: The British Isles: The Land and the People [second edition], 1963
1 reel (21 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Shows the physical geography of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and reveals ways in which the land has influenced the way of life and the national character of the British people. Examines the chief economic activities of the British Isles; points out that this land, where the industrial revolution began, is today at the crossroads in a rapidly changing post-war world. Photographer: Amos Burg.

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Series C:  Alaska Department of Fish and Game Productions, 1951-1979
10 reels.
Description
MI 06836: [Inside passage—outtakes] , [1951]
1 reel (30 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Scenes along the Inside Passage in southeast Alaska. Includes sailing yachts, water traffic, scenery, and a native village. Many of the clips are of animals, including deer, birds, porpoises, bears and fish. Also includes a family raising a pet fawn. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06822: White Whales of the Bering Sea, [1954-1958]
1 reel (10 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Beluga whales preying on salmon in the Bristol Bay fishery are harvested for study of their eating habits. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06821: Quest for Better Fishing, [1956-1957]
1 reel (12 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Documents the measures taken by the Kitoi Bay Research Station and hatchery to improve and expand the salmon runs of Afognak Island. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04928: Alaskan Big Game Safari, [1960-1969]
1 reel (30 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Presents a story of a guided hunt on horseback in the Alaskan Range for moose, Dall sheep, caribou and grizzly bear. Gives hints on hunting, skinning and preparing the hides and trophies. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04929: The Pink Salmon Story, [1960-1969]
1 reel (34 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Outlines the harvest and canning of Alaska's salmon, its migratory routes in the Pacific and its economic importance to Alaskan coastal communities. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06835: [Sea otter capture—field footage], [1960-1969]
1 reel (15 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Possibly from Sea Otter Saga. Documents the capture, tagging and transplanting of sea otters in Alaska. Includes much footage of otters in a holding pen awaiting transport. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06894: [Mackenzie River #1—field footage], [1968]
1 reel (36 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
A trip along the Mackenzie River in northern Canada to its mouth on the Arctic Ocean near Tuktoyaktuk. Includes scenes of wildflowers, bison, fishing, a parade in an unidentified town, and children pitching pennies. In the final scenes, Burg meets with scientists and rows away in a canoe. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04925: Quest for Grayling, [1970-1973]
1 reel (15 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Presents an adventurous fishing trip by canoe and rubber raft down the Delta River from the Tangle Lakes to the Richardson Highway. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04926: The Bristol Bay Story, [1970-1979]
2 reels (41 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Presents a view of the Bristol Bay area, especially the towns of Dillingham and King Salmon. Shows the people and their primary industry, the salmon fishery. Discusses the history, management, harvesting and processing of this resource. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04923: [Common B rolls & A roll titles & Qs], [1954-1974]
1 reel (20 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
No viewing copy.Production materials. Title rolls for King Crab, Quest for Better Fishing, Valley of the Kings, Rainbow for Sportsman, Angling Under the Midnight Sun, White Whales of the Bering Sea, Bristol Bay Story, Pink Salmon Story, Alaskan Big Game Safari, The Sea Lion, Alaska's Bird of Prey, Brown Bears of Alaska, Sea Otter Saga, and Fur Seals of the Pribiloffs. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04924: [Alaska Fish and Game Department distribution titles], [1954-1974]
1 reel (25 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Production element. [No viewing copy.] Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04927: [Alaska Fish and Game titles], [1954-1974]
1 reel (30 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Production element. [No viewing copy.] Photographer: Amos Burg.

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Series D:  Other Productions, 1929-1976
20 reels.
Description
MI 04273: [Upper Columbia River], [1929]
1 reel (9 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
By canoe and small boat down the Columbia River in British Columbia. Appearing: Amos Burg. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06833: [Camargo voyage], [1931-1932]
1 reel (12 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm
Scenes of life in Indonesia and Thailand, including traditional buildings, a ritual wrestling match, water buffalo, native dancers and drummers, several kinds of watercraft, and a Muslim preacher. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 01583: [McCormick Steamship Co.—outtakes], [1935?]
1 reel (8 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Clips and trims from film made for the McCormick Steamship Co., later part of Pope and Talbot. Includes scenes of a sailing ship, the McCormick offices, the San Francisco harbor and docks with horse-drawn and motorized lumber delivery, oil derricks, a produce market and porpoises swimming near a moving ship. The final clip runs upside down and backwards. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04270: [McCormick Steamship Co.—outtakes], [1935?]
1 reel (8 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Clips and trims from film made for the McCormick Steamship Co., later part of Pope and Talbot. Includes scenes of passenger travel: a crossing the equator party, feeding seagulls, building a model sailboat and relaxing on deck, watching porpoises, and looking at the scenery. Also shows men navigating by sextant. Repeats some images from MI 01583. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04274: [McCormick Steamship Co.—outtakes], [1935?]
1 reel (6 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Clips and trims from film made for the McCormick Steamship Co., later part of Pope and Talbot. Includes scenes of docks, the McCormick Steamship Co. offices, truck traffic near the docks, loading grain onto ship from grain elevators and in sacks. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04275: [McCormick Steamship Co.—outtakes], [1935?]
1 reel (10 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Clips and trims from film made for the McCormick Steamship Co., later part of Pope and Talbot. Includes scenes of a man transferring from a steamship to a smaller boat, possibly a pilot boat; loading the S.S. Emergency Aid ship; San Francisco harbor and docks; a public produce market; and a ship repair yard. Longer versions of some senes from MI 01583. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 04271: [Charles R. McCormick Lumber Co.—outtakes], [1935]
1 reel (9 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Probably made in connection with the McCormick Steamship Co. film. Scenes of the lumber industry including a mill and company town, log trains, felling trees, moving logs, and barging chips and sawdust. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06823: Conquering the Colorado, 1939
1 reel (11 min.) : sound, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
MI 4307 is a silent copy; probably made as a check print during the reduction copying process.Re-creation of Buzz Holmstrom's 1937 solo trip down the Colorado River from the conjunction with the Green River to the barrier of Hoover Dam. Nominated for an Academy Award. Appearing: Buzz Holmstrom. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06838: [Conquering the Colorado—outtakes], [1938]
1 reel (6 min.) : silent, color;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Appearing: Amos Burg and Buzz Holmstrom. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06896: [River Trips], [1930-1939]
1 reel (53 min.) : silent and sound, b&w and color;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Clips from several of Burg's films: MI 06831 and MI 06832 [Colombia and Venezuela – outtakes]; MI 01580 [Yukon river trip] : Little Salmon to Purgatory; MI 06823 Conquering the Colorado; and MI 01584 [Middle Fork of the Salmon River]. Also a clip of Native Americans fishing at Celilo Falls on the Columbia River. Silent until the last piece, a complete copy of Conquering the Colorado.Appearing: Amos Burg and Buzz Holmstrom. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 01584: [Middle Fork of the Salmon River], [1939]
1 reel (40 min.) : silent, b&w;16 mm reduction print from 35 mm nitrate original
Possibly from Seeing is Believing, distributed by Paramount. Six boats run the whitewater rapids of the Salmon River in Idaho, meeting miners and fishermen along the way. Photographers: Amos Burg and Fred Hill.
MI 06837: [North Star Sails Alaska's Wild West—outtakes], 1950
1 reel (8 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Scenes of Eskimo village life, including moving supplies from cargo ship to village using small boats, tractors and flatbed trailers, a cemetery marked with whalebones, the monument marking the site of the Will Rogers/Wiley Post airplane crash, and polar bears in a zoo. Photographer: Amos Burg.
MI 06892: Juneau: Alaska's Capital City, [1967]
1 reel (34 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Promotional overview of Juneau as a tourist destination, produced for the Alaska Territorial Centennial celebration. Director and photographer: Amos Burg. Sponsor: "Juneau Chamber of Commerce and the people of the Gastineau Channel area."
MI 05404: [ Juneau: Alaska's Capital City—outtakes], [1967]
1 reel (41 min.) : silent, color;16 mm
Scenes include aerial views of the Juneau area and the surrounding mountains. Also includes logging and recreation. Director and photographer: Amos Burg. Sponsor: "Juneau Chamber of Commerce and the people of the Gastineau Channel area."
MI 06839: Wealth from the Navajo Forest, [1974-1976]
1 reel (32 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
Promotional film for sustained yield use of the forests in the Chuska Mountains of the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona. Includes an explanation of the economic benefits of a tribal owned enterprise, especially employment. Written, photographed and produced by James A. Brill and Amos Burg.
MI 06897: The King of the Sea, [1959]
1 reel (19 min.) : sound, color;16 mm
A fishing trip onboard a processing ship for king crab showing the production line from the crab being caught in a net to the meat being packaged for consumer sales. Photographer: Edward R. Johnston.

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Subjects

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

    • Corporate Names :
    • Charles R. McCormick Lumber Co.
    • McCormick Steamship Co.
    • Geographical Names :
    • Alaska--Description and travel.
    • British Isles--Description and travel.
    • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)--Description and travel.
    • Columbia River--Description and travel.
    • Indonesia--Description and travel.
    • Juneau (Alaska)--Description and travel.
    • Mackenzie River (N.W.T.)--Description and travel.
    • Magdalena River (Columbia)--Description and travel.
    • Nunivak Island (Alaska)--Description and travel.
    • Pacific states--Description and travel.
    • Salmon River (Idaho)--Description and travel.
    • Scandinavia--Description and travel.
    • Spain--Description and travel.
    • Thailand--Description and travel.
    • West (U.S.)--Description and travel.
    • West Indies--Description and travel.
    • Yukon River (Yukon and Alaska)--Description and travel.
    • Subject Terms :
    • Boats and boating--Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico)
    • Canoes and canoeing--Alaska.
    • Caribou--Alaska.
    • Eskimos.
    • Fish hatcheries--Alaska.
    • Fishing--Alaska.
    • Gold mines and mining.
    • Hides and skins--Alaska.
    • Hunting--Alaska.
    • Logging.
    • Navajo Indians--Economic conditions.
    • Salmon canning industry--Alaska.
    • Salmon fisheries--Alaska.
    • Sea otter--Alaska.
    • Seafood industry--Alaska.
    • Shipping--Pacific coast (U.S.)
    • White whale.
      • Form or Genre Terms :
      • Documentary.
      • Educational
      • Outtakes
      • Other Creators :
      • Hill, Fred  ( photographer)
      • Johnston, Edward R.  ( photographer)
      • Sill, Jesse G.  ( producer)
      • Alaska. Dept. of Fish and Game.  ( producer)
      • Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Inc.  ( producer)

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