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G. Burton Pearson, Jr., papers

Identifier: MSS 0432

Scope and Contents

The G. Burton Pearson, Jr. Papers include personal correspondence, papers, and photographs from his birth in 1905 until shortly before his death in 1999. The Pearson papers also contain correspondence, papers, and photographs from some of Burton Pearson’s ancestors, dating from about 1840 to the 1950s. The collection has been arranged in two series: I. George Burton Pearson, Jr.’s papers; and II. Pearson family papers, which contains the papers of relatives from the Pearson, Cochran, Warren, and Hardcastle families. Family photographs and correspondence between Pearson, his parents, and his aunt, Oka Cochran Warren, between about 1880 and 1950, form the bulk of the collection.

The collection, especially the photographic series, (I.3 and II.3), is strong as a source of Delaware local and family history. For example, the collection includes photographs of members of the Pearson, Cochran, Warren, and Hardcastle families of Delaware and Maryland. Photographs of early-twentieth century Middletown depict Delaware architecture, children at school and at play, pets, domestic life, and leisure activities. The collection contains a real estate advertisement and several photographs of the Pearson family home at 94 East Main Street, Newark, Delaware. Extensive genealogical information on the Pearson, Cochran, and Hardcastle families of Maryland and Delaware is available in the collection, (Series I.4).

The collection reveals much more about Burton Pearson’s relationships with his parents and his aunt, Oka Cochran Warren, than about his professional life. The Princeton materials, (F2, F3, F25 through F36, and F86), contain correspondence between Pearson, his parents, and his aunt about daily matters such as pocket money and laundry, as well as student life. One letter has a piece of the goalpost from the Princeton Yale game of 1925 pierced through the top of it. Course notes, grade reports, exams, bills for tuition and housing, social activities, yearbooks, and photographs of Princeton colleagues are also included.

Much of the correspondence from Pearson’s mother, Estelle, and her sister, Oka, contains Christian Science messages and clippings from the Christian Science Monitor (F11). Another strength of the collection is the large assortment of valentines, Christmas cards, birthday cards, greeting cards, and photographic postcards. Some of the valentines are handmade from wallpaper scraps; there are also many examples of early-twentieth-century manufactured cards, such as Tuck’s valentines and postcards. Photographic postcards depict early-twentieth-century street scenes of Middletown, Delaware. There are several sets of photographic postcards of Europe in the 1920s and the Los Angeles Expo of 1939.

The collection includes a few pieces of correspondence between Pearson and Hugh Morris, in whose office Pearson worked from 1931 until 1939 (F5). There are several photographs of Pearson’s judical associates, including one of Judge Victor B. Woolley (F94). The oral history that Pearson contributed in 1993 for the Delaware Bar history project on the Delaware Supreme Court, along with Pearson’s revisions, is included in Series I.2 (F76 and F77). There are a small number of papers and photographs related to Pearson’s work on the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware (F68 through F72). Pearson apparently became involved in the General Semantics movement in the late 1940s. The collection includes papers and minutes of congresses of the Institute of General Semantics, including essays by Count Korzybski, S.I. Hayakawa, and one that Pearson delivered at the Institute’s Third Congress in 1949 (F51 through F58).


  • Creation: 1840-1999
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1880-1950

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical Note

George Burton Pearson, Jr., (1905-1999), was a Delaware lawyer, judge, and banker. He was educated at the Wilmington Friends School, (1918-1923), Princeton, (1924-1927), and the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned an LL.B in 1931. Judge Victor Woolley chose Burton Pearson as his first law clerk. From 1931 until 1939, Pearson worked in the Wilmington law firm of Hugh M. Morris. Pearson left private legal practice in 1939 to serve as Delaware’s first statutory Vice Chancellor. In 1946, Governor Walter W. Bacon appointed Burton Pearson Associate Judge of the Delaware Supreme Court, in which capacity he served until 1949, when he resigned to take a position at Wilmington Trust Company. He remained with Wilmington Trust Company as a Senior Vice President, Director, and Chairman of the Trust Committee until he retired.

Burton Pearson was elected President of the Delaware State Bar Association in 1950, serving until 1952. In 1951, he joined the Board of Trustees of the University of Delaware. He was a founding member and president of the Unidel Foundation, Inc., which supports many academic departments at the University by providing research funds for students. In 1988, the University awarded Judge Pearson an honorary doctorate.

Burton Pearson was born in Middletown, Delaware, where he lived with his father, G. Burton Pearson, Sr., M.D., (1869-195?), and his mother, Estelle Cochran Pearson, (1871-1947). Burton Pearson’s maternal great-grandfather was Robert Thomas Cochran, brother of John P. Cochran, who was governor of Delaware from 1875-1879. An only child, Burton Pearson apparently had strong and supportive extended family relationships, especially with his aunt, Oka Cochran Warren. He attended Middletown Public Schools until 1918, when his father relocated his medical practice to 94 East Main Street, Newark, Delaware. Burton Pearson continued to live with his parents in Newark until he married Isabella Turner in 1941. Burton and Isabella Pearson raised their two children near Wilmington, Delaware. Burton Pearson married Edith du Pont late in life, after his first wife died in 1962.

Throughout his working life, Pearson was active in the Delaware Bar Association. In 1993, Pearson contributed his oral history for the Bar History Project on the History of the Delaware Supreme Court. His hobbies ranged from history and genealogy to semantics to winetasting. Pearson served on the executive committees of the Wilmington Institute Free Library, the Tower Hill School, the Historical Society of Delaware, and the Memorial Hospital of Wilmington. He was a member of the Alliance Française of Wilmington, the Wilmington Country Club, the Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the American Revolution, and the Society of Colonial Wars. He had a home in Montchanin, Delaware, and in the exclusive Mill Reef Club in Antigua, W.I. George Burton Pearson, Jr. died in December, 1999.

Biographical AND/OR historical information derived from the collection.Princeton Alumni Weekly (Online Archives), Volume 1999-00, Number 17, July 5, 2000, Memorials., Helen L., ed. The Delaware Bar in the Twentieth Century. The Delaware State Bar Association, 1994.


6.3 linear foot (7 boxes)

3 oversize box


Personal correspondence, papers, and photographs from Delaware lawyer, judge, and banker George Burton Pearson, Jr., as well as papers from relatives in the Pearson, Cochran, Warren, and Hardcastle families.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Pearson family, 2000-2001

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-6: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Box 7: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (17 inches)

Oversize boxes 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (24 inches)

Processing Information

Processed by Karen E. Ryder, December 2001. Encoded by Jaime Margalotti, July 2021.


Finding aid for G. Burton Pearson, Jr., papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2021 July 23
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA