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James Bertram Collection

Identifier: 1996-0001

Scope and Content Note

The James Bertram Collection is housed in eight archival boxes and is arranged in seven series. Series have been designated for materials relating to the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Andrew Carnegie, Mr. Bertram's Personal Life, Dr. Frank Pierce Hill, Audiovisual, Publications, and Three Dimensional Artifacts and Artwork. The collection includes correspondence, photographs (prints and negatives), newspaper clippings, bound volumes, annual reports, pamphlets, and other sundry items.

The Collection relates primarily to Mr. Bertram's life while Secretary of the Carnegie Corporation of New York (1911-1934) with the bulk of the material from 1926-1935. The Collection is mostly correspondence regarding Mr. Bertram's duties at the Carnegie Corporation, including correspondence between Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Bertram, correspondence with libraries regarding Carnegie funds, correspondence with the Carnegie Institution of Washington and other similar Institutions, and other organizations regarding libraries and books in general. Also prominent in the collection is material relating to Mr. Bertram's personal life, including correspondence with Mrs. Carnegie and evidence of his travels abroad.

For some of the material it was difficult to determine if the item related to Mr. Bertram's duties for Mr. Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation or with his personal life. There may be overlap among the correspondence in these two series. It was also difficult to determine if the photographs were taken for business or personal reasons.


  • Majority of material found within 1926-1935
  • 1897-1949



Biography or History

James Bertram (1872-1934) served as confidential secretary to Andrew Carnegie from 1897-1914 and as Secretary for the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1911-1934.

Mr. Bertram was born in Corstorphine, Scotland (four miles west of Edinburgh). He attended the Corstorphine parish school and graduated from Daniel Stewart's College, Edinburgh in 1888. He first went to work for the Great Northern and Northeastern Railway Company in Edinburgh in 1888. In August 1890, he began a position in the passenger department of the Natal Government Railways in Durban, South Africa. Mr. Bertram went on to work as station managers at Bellair and then at Harrismith in the Orange Free State, staying with the Natal Government Railways for five years. In December 1895, Mr. Bertram was hired as the secretary for S. Neumann and Company in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mr. Bertram would also work as Mine Secretary of the Van Ryn Gold Mines Estate Limited and the night secretary to the British forces in Johannesburg before returning to Scotland in June 1897 due to a severe fever.

Mr. Bertram applied for the position of personal secretary to Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), through Dr. Hew Morrison, Chief Librarian of the Edinburgh Public Library, Dr. Morrison having been commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to hire a secretary on his behalf. Mr. Bertram began as Mr. Carnegie's Confidential Secretary on December 1, 1897 at Skibo Castle, Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland. Mr. Bertram served as Mr. Carnegie's Confidential Secretary from 1897 to 1914. Mr. Bertram was also the Secretary of the Carnegie Corporation of New York from its incorporation in 1911 to his death in 1934. All together Mr. Bertram served Mr. Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation for thirty-seven years. As Confidential Secretary, Mr. Bertram carried out personal assignments made by Mr. Carnegie and assisted Carnegie in the distribution of his wealth. Mr. Bertram took it upon himself to organize and formalize donations of church organs and library buildings, the two types of donations for which Mr. Carnegie was most famous. Mr. Bertram saw himself as a buffer between the applicants and Mr. Carnegie, essentially deciding upon all requests for donations of church organs and library buildings himself. The consideration of applications for donations of both church organs and library buildings ceased in 1917.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was incorporated in 1911 to "promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding among the people of the United States and the British Dominions and Canada." Mr. Bertram traveled on behalf of the Carnegie Corporation of New York in the United States, Canada, the British Dominions, including British Guiana, and parts of Africa in support of this mission. Mr. Bertram was voted the Secretary of the Corporation, was made a life trustee and served on its executive committee. Mr. Bertram's influence on the decisions on broad policies of the Corporation grew over time. He provided his services to the Board until his sudden death on October 23, 1934. After his death, the Board commissioned Dr. Frank Pierce Hill to write a biography of Mr. Bertram.

Apart from his professional duties, Mr. Bertram was a husband and father. In 1904 he married Janet Tod Ewing (d1949). The marriage produced one daughter, Jean Ewing Bertram. Miss Bertram would later wed Mr. James L. Burke. When not traveling, the Bertrams lived in New York. Mrs. Bertram and Mr. and Mrs. Burke would later live in New Rochelle, New York.


8 Linear feet (8 boxes. Collection also contains one partial oversize box, artwork, and artifacts. Box 2 and 5 are combined. ) : Boxes 5-8 contain audiovisual material.




This collection contains the papers of James Bertram (1873-1935), who was Andrew Carnegie's personal secretary and a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation. The Collection relates primarily to Mr. Bertram's life while Secretary of the Carnegie Corporation of New York (1911-1934) with the bulk of the material from 1926-1935.

Physical Location

Physical Location


The James Bertram Collection was donated to the Carnegie Mellon University Archives by Dr. and Mrs. James Tucker. Donations were made in 1996 and 2002.


Photographic prints and negatives have been removed from the main collection for preservation reasons. A photocopy has been included of prints that were interspersed with other materials, maintaining the relationships between the text and the image and to alert the user that there are images related to the documents. Photos removed from sub-series are listed under that sub-series in Series V. Photographs. Photographic prints are housed in a document box (.5 cubic feet) with the collection. Negatives are housed in one partial filing drawer, labeled "4x5 negatives miscellaneous".

All oversize materials, as indicated in the container list, are housed in an oversize box.

Some of the art and three-dimensional artifacts are also recorded in Carnegie Mellon's Artistic Properties Database. These pieces have been noted in the container list with the designation APD, for Artistic Properties Database. Several smaller three dimensional items have been stored in Box 3 and are noted as such within the container list.

The magnetic media from the collection, i.e. the three transcriptions of the wax cylinders, are located at the Archives' offsite storage facility.

Physical Description

Eight boxes (Boxes 1-8); 7.5 linear feet, one partial oversize box, artwork, and artifacts.


Hillary Bober, Matthew Yount, and Jasper Giddings
James Bertram Collection 1897-1949 1926-1935 1996.01
July 28, 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Carnegie Mellon University Archives Repository

4909 Frew St
Pittsburgh PA 15213
(412) 268-5021