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History Vault

Law and Society since the Civil War: American Legal Manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library

Law and Society since the Civil War:  American Legal Manuscripts from the Harvard Law School Library (Module 14)

Consists of 11 collections from the Harvard Law School Library. These are the papers of Albert Levitt, Felix Frankfurter, Livingston Hall, Louis D. Brandeis, Richard H. Field, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Roscoe Pound, the Sacco-Vanzetti Case, Sheldon Glueck, William H. Hastie, and Zechariah Chafee, and insights into developing ideologies and laws, as far back as 1861 with the Papers of Oliver Wendell Holmes, which span from the Civil War to the Great Depression.  
Taken together, The Papers of Louis D. Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter provide a behind-the-scenes view of the Supreme Court between 1919 and 1961.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Papers include Holmes’s correspondence from 1861 through 1935. Holmes was a prolific and brilliant correspondent and his letters have been acknowledged as an extraordinary record of a wide-ranging and imaginative intellect.
The Sacco-Vanzetti case papers include the records of another high profile legal case of the 20th century. The Sacco Vanzetti case papers offer researchers an inside view of the legal strategy in this controversial case.
The Frankfurter Papers are of special note because they reveal how the Supreme Court approached the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the landmark school desegregation case that is well documented in other History Vault modules.

The Supremes

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Papers

The papers of this Justice put the "Civil War" into the title of this module. This collection spans the years 1861 to 1935, with some family biographical material going back earlier, and the notes and correspondence of Holmes' biographer, legal historian Mark DeWolfe Howe, continuing through the 1960s. While the collection does contain some Supreme Court material, such as Holmes' bench notes and bound volumes of his Supreme Court opinions, the correspondence only touches on Supreme Court activities more generally, with few mentions of specific cases. The main focus of the collection is Holmes' life, as a soldier, lawyer, and judge, his friendships, social life, and most of all, his intellectual life. Most notable are the letters Holmes wrote to his parents and a diary he kept during the Civil War (001762-015-0980). Edited by Mark Howe, these records were published as Touched With Fire: Civil War Letters and Diary of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1947).

Louis D. Brandeis Papers

History Vault's Brandeis Papers consist of two parts with the first part comprising Brandeis' Supreme Court documents during 1916-1931. The second part includes his court papers from 1932 until his retirement in 1939 as well as miscellaneous court and personal documents, addenda, and bound volumes. The Papers consist of Justice Brandeis' working papers for all the Supreme Court cases in which he wrote, including his holograph drafts; the printed opinions as they were returned by the printer and corrected and/or expanded by Brandeis; the final circulations to his "brethren" with their penciled comments on the back; the law clerks' memos and research notes; and brief and scattered correspondence with the other Justices and outsiders relating to specific cases.

Of special interest in the second part of Brandeis Papers are two notebooks which contain later-Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter's handwritten notes on conversations he had with Brandeis between 1922 and 1926 at Brandeis' summer home in Chatham, Massachusetts. A typescript of these notes, from the Library of Congress, accompanies the notebooks (handwritten notebooks can be found at 001761-033-0258 and typescript at 001761-033-0450).

Felix Frankfurter Papers

This collection contains Justice Felix Frankfurter's opinions and memoranda for Supreme Court October Terms from 1938 through 1952, and represents the first part of History Vault's series of Frankfurter papers. Part two contains Frankfurter's opinions and memoranda during October Terms 1953-1961, while part three contains his voluminous correspondence throughout his legal and judicial career. The "Felix Frankfurter Papers"  guide was prepared for an earlier microfilm edition of the collection.

The Best of the Rest

Albert Levitt was a judge, law professor, attorney, and candidate for political office. While he was a memorable teacher at Washington and Lee University, and as judge of the United States District Court for the Virgin Islands he ordered that woman voters must be registered. This collection contains the legal documents written or used during 1927-1937 and 1965-1968. A small number of research items used by Levitt date back to the early 1920s and before. In addition to his legal positions, Levitt was an unsuccessful candidate for political office, most notably in his race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in California in 1950. He finished last to the winner, Richard Nixon.

William Henry Hastie, Jr. was an American, lawyer, judge, educator, public official, and advocate for the civil rights of African Americans. He was the first African American to serve as Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, as a Federal judge, and as a Federal appellate judge. The papers of William Henry Hastie span the years 1916 to 1976, with the bulk of the papers falling into the period from his nomination to the bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit by President Harry S. Truman, October 15, 1949, to the time of his death, April 14, 1976. Part One covers Hastie's judicial activities, including extensive documentation of court opinions. Part Two contains Judge Hastie's papers in the nonjudicial areas of civil rights, racial discrimination and segregation, and organizational, writing, and speaking activities.

Sacco-Vanzetti trial

The Trial of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti began on May 21, 1921 in Dedham, Massachusetts. Sacco and Vanzetti were accused in the April 1920 murder of Alessandro Berardelli and Frederick Parmenter at a shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts.

The Sacco-Vanzetti Case Papers is a collection of material relating to the case of Commonwealth v. Sacco and Vanzetti, spanning the years 1920 to 1928. The collection includes legal documents, correspondence, memoranda, reports, research notes, newspaper clippings, printed material, photographs, blueprints, and memorabilia, and is split into two primary groups: Defense's papers and Prosecution's papers. Over half of the collection is comprised of documents belonging to the defense. There are pleadings, hearings, examinations, photographic exhibits, jury lists, arguments, decisions, sentencing, and newspaper clippings from the 1921 trial. While less extensive than the Defense's papers, the Prosecution's papers still contain a significant amount of material, comprised of hearings, examinations, arguments, photographic exhibits, appeal testimony, and newspaper clippings. The third and smallest section of the collection contains a variety of documents ranging from bills of exceptions, corrections and omissions, essays, letters, photographs, and foreign newspaper clippings.

The Ivory Tower- Harvard Law professors

Roscoe Pound

Roscoe Pound was a distinguished American legal scholar and educator. He was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936. The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Pound as one of the most cited legal scholars of the 20th century. Roscoe Pound also made a significant contribution to jurisprudence in the tradition of sociological jurisprudence, which emphasized on the importance of social relationships in the development of law and vice versa. His best-known theory consists of conceptualising law as social engineering. According to Pound, a lawmaker acts as a social engineer by attempting to solve problems in society using law as a tool.

Professor Livingston Hall-

Professor Livingston Hall throughout his career made significant and enduring contributions to Massachusetts laws and judicial procedures. He graduated from Harvard Law in 1927 before working in private practice and as a US Attorney. Hall returned to Harvard and began teaching in 1932. He retired in 1971. The papers cover Hall's activities as a member, and frequently chairman, of study groups, surveys, commissions, and councils which were charged with monitoring law enforcement agencies and the judicial system of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and with presenting recommendations and/or drafting legislation for the revision of existing laws and codes.

Richard H. Field

This collection contains the working papers of law professor and legal scholar Richard H. Field, spanning the years 1942 to 1978. Roughly half of the collection relates to Field's work as chief reporter for the American Law Institute's study of jurisdiction between state and federal courts, including papers by Field and reporters Paul J. Mishkin and Charles Alan Wright. Other collection documents cover his work as visiting professor at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London, service with U.S. Office of Price Administration during and after World War II, and his involvement with the Alger Hiss espionage trial.

Sheldon Glueck Papers

This collection brings together an extensive number of jurisprudence papers written and used by Sheldon Glueck, a prominent criminologist at Harvard Law School, who with his wife Eleanor Glueck was a pioneer in research on juvenile delinquency. The Gluecks were the first criminologists to perform studies of chronic juvenile offenders.

Zechariah Chafee Jr. papers

Zechariah Chafee was a Harvard law professor, judicial philosopher and civil rights advocate. Defending freedom of speech, he was described by Senator Joseph McCarthy as "dangerous" to the United States. He also authored important works on business law and, in 1936, drafted the Federal Interpleader Act, which he considered his most important achievement among his legal writings.