Michael Burns (actor and historian)

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Michael Burns
Born (1947-12-30) December 30, 1947 (age 71)
Mineola, Long Island, New York, U.S.
Occupation Professor
Actor (retired)
Nationality United States
Genre History
Spouse Elizabeth Topham Kennan

Michael Burns (born December 30, 1947) is an American professor emeritus of history at Mount Holyoke College.[1] He is also a former television and film actor, particularly known for his role as the teenager "Barnaby West" on the NBC and ABC television series Wagon Train from 1960-1965.


Burns was born in Mineola, Long Island, New York. He graduated summa cum laude in 1976 from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a B.A. and earned his M.A. in European history at the same institution. He entered Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1977, and earned his Ph.D. in Modern European history.



Burns was a well-known child actor, starring on the television program Wagon Train, as orphaned "Barnaby West" during seasons 4-8. He worked on the series with John McIntire, Robert Horton, Robert Fuller, Denny Scott Miller, Terry Wilson, and Frank McGrath.

Burns also co-starred with Glenn Corbett, Ted Bessell, and Randy Boone in a 19-episode NBC comedy/drama It's a Man's World in the 1962-1963 season. Burns played 14-year-old Howie Macauley, who lives on a houseboat called the Elephant on the Ohio River with his older brother Wes, played by Corbett. Bessell and Boone were the two other young men living with them. The program was hailed by its viewers and critics for its portrayal of restless youth but was quickly cancelled because of low Nielsen ratings.

Burns appeared with James Stewart in the film, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation. He appeared as a guest star in over thirty-five series in the 1960s and 1970s, mostly Westerns, including CBS's Gunsmoke, NBC's The Virginian and The Road West, and ABC's The Legend of Jesse James and The Big Valley. During his twenties, Burns appeared in several films, including Journey to Shiloh (1968), The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968), That Cold Day in the Park (1969), Thumb Tripping (1972) and Santee (1973).

Burns appeared as "Blue Boy" in "The LSD Story", a well known episode of the TV series Dragnet.


He became a professor of history at Mount Holyoke College in 1980 and authored books on the Dreyfus affair of the 1890s. Upon his retirement in 2002, he was honored by Mount Holyoke as Professor Emeritus.[2]

Later life

While on the faculty at Mount Holyoke College, Burns married the college's then-president, Elizabeth Topham Kennan. He and his wife presently reside near Danville, Kentucky, where they have restored the Cambus-Kenneth Estate, a thoroughbred horse farm listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2]



  • France and the Dreyfus Affair: A Documentary History (1998)[3]
  • Dreyfus : a family affair, 1789-1945 (1991)[4]
  • Rural society and French politics : Boulangism and the Dreyfus affair, 1886-1900 (1984)[5]


Select filmography


External links