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Bernard Sanders Papers

Identifier: mss-546

Scope and Content Note

Significant for not identifying with any formal political party and instead identifying as a self-styled socialist, Bernard Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont from 1981 to 1989. The Bernard Sanders Papers document that role and time. The following material types are present: correspondence, memos, meeting minutes and agendas, election campaign material, reports, financial documents, clippings, photographs, speeches, notes, legislation, press releases, proclamations, newsletters, flyers, publications, and ephemera.

Subject files represent the largest volume of material and contain mostly letters and memos regarding ongoing issues or projects. Some noteworthy projects represented in the collection include the Southern Connector; Burlington's waterfront development; the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont (MCHV); healthcare costs; the Burlington International Airport; housing; taxation; utility rates (including cable television, telephone service, and heat); and Central America (including Burlington's sister city in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua). Material related to development in Burlington may be found in the Subject File in the following folders: Alden Corporation; Appletree Point; Builders; Building Code; Building Heights; Building Permits; Burlington Urban Design Study; Community and Economic Development Office; Community Development Block Grant; F.M. Burlington; Maple Tree Place; Neighborhood Development; Northshore Development; Waterfront.

A small series of correspondence is also present and mostly contains letters from constituents. Other material types are grouped together and presented in small series. Working Notes consist of legal pads and loose sheets carrying notes hand written by Sanders. They are akin to a personal journal.

Papers related to elections are present in the Subject File series. The election type denotes the office for which Sanders was a candidate. If he was not a candidate, the type designation is general (for state or national offices) or city (for Burlington offices such as aldermen). Elections regarding city matters are denoted as "Special." Material produced by the Sanders campaign or campaign staff is presented alongside Elections files.

Speeches and Statements contains notes, drafts, and final versions of remarks made by Sanders, including radio addresses. The Speaking Engagements folders in the Subject File series contain correspondence arranging and publicity advertising the events at which Mayor Sanders spoke. Text of speeches related to elections may also be found in the Elections folders within the Subject File series.

Note that the Clippings series and the Subject File series do not follow the same naming conventions, instead each folder retains the title used when it was created in the Mayor's Office.

If a publication's title is underlined, the folder contents are copies of that publication.


  • 1980 - 1989



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

Bernard Sanders was born in New York City in 1941 and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 1964 and afterward worked as a freelance writer, youth counselor, and carpenter. He moved to Vermont in 1968. From 1971 to 1976, Sanders chaired the Vermont Liberty Union Party. In 1976, he became the director of the American People's History Society where he authored filmstrips and articles on social, historical, and political subjects.

He was elected Mayor of Burlington, VT in 1981. This election was significant since Sanders ran as a Socialist candidate against Democratic and Republican opposition, including the incumbent Mayor. He won the office by a margin of ten votes, becoming the first Independent Mayor in Burlington's history. He served as Mayor of Burlington from 1981 until 1989, when he chose not to run for reelection.

During his time in office, the Sanders Administration worked to reform taxation, change health care, and lower utility rates. Notable gains included new programs in the areas of arts, youth, women's rights, affordable housing, and environmental protection.

Sanders went on to serve as a Congressman and a Senator.

The Sanders family consists of wife Jane O’Meara Sanders, and children Levi, Heather, Carina, and David. [adapted from biographical writings within the collection]


47.2 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Collection contains correspondence, subject files, campaign materials, speeches, notes, and photographs of Bernard Sanders, socialist mayor of Burlington, VT. (1981-1989). Includes materials on waterfront development, construction of the Southern Connector highway bypass, and other projects from his administration.


Library Research Annex; contact for access.

Separated Materials Note

Personnel files containing resumes and applications were removed from the collection

Guide to the Bernard Sanders Mayoral Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)