Series: 852 RARE •

852 RARE: Guest Blog – Molding the Legal Mind: The Notebooks of Harvard Law Students

Many of us would shudder to imagine a researcher 100 years from now poring over our college lecture notes, scribbled in spiral-bound notebooks or, more likely, typed up in hundreds of sporadically organized .docx files. Historical & Special Collections at the Harvard Law School Library has been doing just that, cataloging a collection of over 250 students’ class notebooks amounting to hundreds of volumes. Dating from approximately 1860 to 1970, the collection represents an era that encompassed some of the most formative decades of the Law School’s curriculum and reputation. The Class Notes Collection, now fully cataloged for the first time, should be of great interest to anyone working on legal history, legal education, or the history of Harvard Law School itself.

View of spines of volumes of class notes.

Miscellaneous class notes volumes

Page of class notes in black and red ink taken during lectures on trusts

Page from the class notes of Eliot Harlow Robinson taken from lectures on trusts given at the Harvard Law School by James Barr Ames, 1907-1908
HOLLIS 14778115

The bulk of the collection takes the form of neatly homogeneous, crimson-leather-bound notebooks purchased from the Harvard Coop and inscribed on the inner cover with students’ names, local addresses, and desk numbers. “Louis L. Jaffe, 3 Perkins Hall,” one notebook reads. “3L, 1927-28. Property.” Many of the students’ names sound antiquated and (to this author’s ear) aristocratic; with a single exception, all are male. Case law is written on transparent onionskin sheets the size and shape of Post-Its and pasted in on top of lecture notes; red ink is typically used to underline and summarize key arguments in the margins. One gets the impression of a disciplined and uniform method of note-taking, taught from an early age, which gradually fell away after the Second World War and was abandoned as standard practice by the 1960s.

 

 

 

Detail of page of handwritten notes in blue and red ink. At the top of the page is written "Wolf vs the American Trust and Savings Bank

Detail of a page of class notes of Paul Cleveland
taken during the second year course “Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes” taught by Morton Campbell, 1931-1932
HOLLIS 14453392

While the notebooks have the outward appearance of uniformity, within, they attest to rich personal histories. Exam prompts, holiday cards, and even the occasional love letter are tucked between their pages. Current law students may find comfort in the near ubiquity of question marks and crossed-out phrases (as well as large splotches of ink). Some are covered in doodles, caricatures, and exhortations (“To hell with Beale!” writes Chauncey Craven Hackett (LL.B. 1906) in his 1905 notes on Equity, taught by Beale), while others suggest great discipline and organization, such as the tidy script and thorough indexing of future HLS professor Austin Wakeman Scott (1884-1981). Many of the notebooks were donated to the library by graduates’ children and grandchildren, and some have been carefully typed up and bound in display volumes. Notable legal minds represented in this collection include Zechariah Chafee (1885-1957), E. Merrick Dodd (1888-1951), Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965), Paul Freund (1908-1992), and David Charny (1955-2000). Their class notes provide valuable and perhaps otherwise inaccessible windows into their formative years as students and thinkers.

Open volume of handwritten notes in blue and black ink. On the right side is printed advertisement from Burke & Co. Tailors

Detail of a page of class notes of Manley Ottmer Hudson, 1907-1910
HOLLIS 2004707

The collection should also be very useful to the study of legal curriculum and its development across the twentieth century. While the 1L course load of Torts, Contracts, and Criminal Law has remained largely unchanged since the nineteenth century, a proliferation of electives can be observed beginning in the 1960s, yielding Soviet Law, Antitrust Law, Psychoanalytic Theory and Legal Assumptions, even a class taught by Henry Kissinger on National Security Policy in 1967. From this collection one can learn how Justice Stephen Breyer taught his class on Antitrust Law, or how Derek Bok taught Economic Regulation, through the eyes of their students. The pressures of US history are also apparent, from the cluster of deaths, withdrawals, and hastily rearranged course schedules during World War II, to notes on segregation, the KKK, and Communism in the 1940s and 1950s.

Detail of handwritten page of notes at top of page is written "Commentaries on the Laws of England Book 2nd"

Detail of a page of class notes of John Willard Bickford, 1864-1865
HOLLIS 2594561
Bickford was from Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He entered Harvard Law School in 1865 but his career was ended when he drowned in the Charles River on June 26, 1866.

It is the otherwise anonymous, little-heard voices of HLS students across the years that form the bulk of the collection—studying for their exams, trying to remember their locker codes, and forging the opinions that have shaped legal discourse across the last two centuries. We encourage students, faculty, and researchers to come see for themselves what has changed—and what has remained the same—about the studying and teaching of law at Harvard since the late nineteenth century.

Georgia Henley is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, finishing a dissertation on the transmission of historical texts and manuscripts between England and Wales in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. She works part-time in Historical & Special Collections at the Harvard Law School Library.

Note: For now, the easiest way to see the entire collection is in HOLLIS Classic. Under search type select “Other call number” and search for “Class Notes Collection”.

852 RARE: Justice Frankfurter talks criminal justice, legal education, and the citizen lawyer in a recently-digitized video

 

Recorded audio and moving images have been part of our cultural history for over a century now, and over the years Harvard Law School’s Historical & Special Collections has amassed thousands of audiovisual artifacts related to legal history and curriculum in the United States and beyond. These types of media degrade relatively quickly, and can become obsolete when their players are no longer being produced. Even the DVD-R, a format developed barely 15 years ago – “new” if considered within the context of the long arc of preservable culture – is only expected to have a lifespan of 5 to 20 years before its contents are no longer readable. For comparison, HSC’s oldest item is a komonjo dated 1158 that (with proper housing, temperature, humidity control, security, and standard conservation intervention) is still thriving today, in a format that isn’t obsolete (rice paper).

In the interest of both mitigating these risks to ongoing preservation and providing access to more dynamic digital material for researchers, HSC is currently undergoing a long-term project to reformat our audiovisual collection. Many gems have been found already, but one in particular has stood out for this author: A Lawyer’s Place in Our Society, wherein Justice Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) is interviewed by Prof. Paul A. Freund (1908-1992), recorded on 16mm film in the early 1960s and transferred later to u-matic tape, the copy from which the digital transfer was made. Paul Freund taught at Harvard Law School, focusing on constitutional law and conflict of laws, from 1939 until his retirement from teaching in 1976. Justice Frankfurter graduated from HLS in 1906, taught here from 1914-1939, and served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1939-1962.

The two were close friends, and it’s evidenced by their comfortable and well-articulated conversation. Justice Frankfurter’s thoughts often circle back to some common themes. He believes very much that the lawyer should also be a civic leader, attributing this requirement to the changing nature of the law: as law and government historically expands into affecting everyday lives, the lawyer increasingly needs to be an active citizen. Both Freund and Frankfurter share the opinion that great lawyers shall be exceptionally well-read (because “even with the greatest breadth of personal experience, it’s infinitesimal compared with the accumulated experience of mankind, and the accumulated experience of mankind is predominantly contained in the covers of books,” [25:00]) and involved in many activities outside of the field of law.

In addition to unsurprising homages to Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) and Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), Frankfurter goes on at length about the influence that his early mentor, Henry L. Stimson, had on him. Through his work with the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he learned, “first and foremost, a sense of the deep responsibilities of all those who are concerned with the administration of the criminal law – the awfulness of the instruments by which men may lose their liberties and sometimes lose their lives as the result of a process of law” (28:00). Stimson would have preferred for search warrants to only be issued by a judicial officer, but absent that reality, he had his assistants accompany officers enforcing large search and seizure operations to ensure that they adhered strictly to the warrant and seized only the property that was explicitly described.

It’s quite extraordinary to see Frankfurter on film, born in the 19th century and speaking to us now. Though the interview was conducted near the end of his career and after the deaths of Holmes, Brandeis, and Stimson, it is stirring to imagine that his remarks are not speculation or even historic research based in their archives, but come from actual experiences with those towering legal figures that mentored him and significantly impacted American law. Check out the full video for yourself above, and stay tuned to Et Seq for more historic AV gems.

The 25th anniversary of Cohen v. Cowles Media Company : Guest post by Joseph Russomanno, Associate Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University

It was my privilege to organize and moderate a panel discussion in 2016 looking back at – and forward from – the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1991 ruling in Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. This occurred at the annual conference of AEJMC, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. I am a member of AEJMC’s law and policy division. The confluence of events made it the perfect time and place for this discussion: Not only was it the 25th anniversary of the ruling, but for only the second time in its 104-year history, AEJMC’s conference was held in Minneapolis, the city that shared the case’s origins with its twin, St. Paul.

Et Seq.’s editors have been kind enough to include an audio recording of the discussion here. It speaks volumes thanks to the unique insights the panelists share. Thus, what I write here is not meant to supersede the recording, but merely to supplement it with a bit of context. As I attempted to do with the session itself, I will allow the superb panelists to speak for themselves.

The reader may wonder why a discussion of this ruling appears on Et Seq., the blog of the Harvard Law School Library. HLS is deeply woven into Cohen v. Cowles Media Co. The case papers are archived at HLS, thanks to the efforts of HLS graduate Elliot Rothenberg. Mr. Rothenberg, a participant in the panel, successfully represented Dan Cohen, himself a HLS graduate. (It should also be noted that this recording would not have materialized without the perseverance of Mr. Rothenberg.) In addition, Paul Hannah, another HLS graduate, not only was chief counsel to the St. Paul Pioneer Press during the Cohen case, he served on this panel as well.

Two other individuals also agreed to contribute to the discussion. First is Bill Salisbury, the Capitol bureau reporter for the Pioneer Press. During a 1982 meeting, he promised to keep Mr. Cohen’s identity confidential in exchange for sensitive information. When Mr. Salisbury’s editor overruled the promise, a door opened for a lawsuit. Second, Susan Keith, a former newspaper reporter and now an associate professor and media law expert at Rutgers University, served on the panel. Though not directly involved with Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., Dr. Keith provided a tremendously valuable perspective to the conversation.

While this discussion provided a small degree of grounding in the ruling, that was not its primary purpose. Instead, my goal with the panel was to 1) reflect on some aspects of the case with the perspective that 25 years provides, and 2) consider the ruling’s legacy over the past quarter century and to look ahead. Those interested in more complete foundational information might turn to Mr. Rothenberg’s book, The Taming of the Press and, of course, the ruling itself: 501 U.S. 663 (1991).

Those who listen to the recording will hear about a significant case that began when newspaper editors decided to break promises of confidentiality their reporters had made to a source, Mr. Cohen. At issue: Is that an editorial decision that is protected by the First Amendment’s press freedom clause? How has the ruling affected the news media’s ability to gather information? What has it done to the practice of utilizing anonymous sources? Did the ruling erode or enhance the news media’s First Amendment rights?

For me, there’s nothing more gratifying and rewarding professionally than assembling, then guiding, a successful panel discussion. When you listen, I hope you will share in that same sense of satisfaction.

Joseph Russomanno, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Faculty Affiliate, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University

Note: The Case files from Cohen v. Cowles are part of the Law Library’s Historical & Special Collections Modern Manuscript Collection.  The collection is open to all researchers. Anyone interested in using the collection should contact Historical & Special Collections to schedule an appointment.

Elliot Rothenberg’s oral argument from March 27, 1991 can be heard on OYEZ, hosted by the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

852 RARE: New Exhibit: Deep Cuts: The B-Side of Historical & Special Collections –Object Spotlight- Cardozo Sculptograph

Historical & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of its newest exhibit, Deep Cuts: The B-Side of Historical & Special Collections. The exhibit steps away from the collection’s “A-side,” the popular items people expect to find and instead focuses on lesser known parts of the collection that include some bizarre finds and hidden gems.

b-side-of-hsc-poster_final_web

One of those hidden gems is a unique photograph of Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870-1938). Cardozo began his career in private practice after graduating from Columbia Law School in 1890. In 1914 he was elected to the New York Supreme Court where he served as an associate justice until 1917. He was then appointed to the New York State Court of Appeals where he served from 1917 to 1932, serving as chief judge from 1926-1932. President Hoover appointed Cardozo to the United States Supreme Court on February 15, 1932, to a seat vacated by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. He was confirmed by the Senate on February 24, 1932, and received commission on March 2, 1932. He served as associate justice until his death in 1938.

3-D Black and white photograph of Justice Benjamin Cardozo

Benjamin Cardozo, 1936-1938

Underwood & Underwood, photographer

Gelatin silver print sculptograph, 26 x 21 x 2.5 cm, HOLLIS 8001213107

In 1997, Professor Andrew L. Kaufman gave Historical & Special Collections material he collected and created during the research for his book, Cardozo (1998). Included in the gift was a small collection of photographs he had amassed over the years—including this very unique item. Having never seen anything like it before, we brought the print to the attention of photograph conservators at the Weissman Preservation Center of Harvard Library. It was a mystery to them as well! After researching the process they were able to determine that the photographic object is a sculptograph. Creating a sculptograph is a complex process that involves adhering a photographic image onto a secondary support, usually made of metal, essentially turning a two-dimensional photograph into a three-dimensional bas-relief.  Although various techniques for creating photographs with bas-relief surfaces were patented during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, sculptographs are rare and few historical publications or technical analyses regarding the process exist. This example is especially notable because instead of a metal support it has a molded, plaster relief.

The photograph was loaned in 2002 to the American Sephardi Federation in New York for a Cardozo exhibit. As far as we know, this is the first time in 14 years it is being displayed, and possibly the first time at Harvard.

We are thankful to our colleagues at the Weissman Preservation Center of Harvard Library who took the still images they captured using RTI imaging (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) to create a movie that offers a three-dimensional viewing experience.

The exhibit was curated by HSC staff: Karen Beck, Jessica Farrell, Jane Kelly, Edwin Moloy, Mary Person, and Lesley Schoenfeld. It will be on view in the Caspersen Room, Harvard Law School Library 4th floor, daily 9am-5pm through March 2017.

For those unable to make it to the physical exhibit, we invite you to a view a selection of exhibit images online at bit.ly/HSCexhibit. We have also included the recently reformatted recordings of a rare 1957 vinyl record, James Garrett Wallace Sings of the Law and Lawyers, side 1 & side 2 and a 1979 U-matic videocassette titled Langdell Legends featuring numerous HLS professors, because it wouldn’t be fair to display them without letting people fully enjoy these B-side gems!

852 RARE: Of Elks, Magicians, and Stone Cutters

Alexis de Tocqueville famously wrote that “Americans of all ages, all stations of life and all types of disposition are forever forming associations …” and a little known but intriguing collection here in Historical & Special Collections demonstrates just that.  It consists of constitutions and by-laws of a wide variety of American organizations, dating from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.  The majority were part of a gift from the private collection of Roger Stoddard, former Curator of Rare Books at Houghton Library. From The Constitution of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (printed in Charlestown, Massachusetts in 1803) to the New programme and new constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (Drafts for discussion) (Chicago, 1980) these pamphlets encompass nearly 200 years of American social, religious, trade, and political history.

fanned-ii

They include organizations as diverse as the Charlestown Association for the Reformation of Morals (of Charlestown, Mass.) whose object as stated in its 1813 pamphlet was to “discountenance and suppress vice and wickedness generally, and to promote Christian virtue and morality … especially in the youth,” to the 1886 Constitution and by-laws of the Burlington Coasting Club of Burlington, VT,  whose object was “the encouragement and promotion of out door winter sports, such as Coasting, Toboggan Sliding, Snow-Shoeing, Ice Skating and Curling.”  Many of the pamphlets— such as By-laws of the Joint Association of Stone Cutters and Quarry Men (1888), and Constitution & by-laws of the Lynn & Boston R.R. Mutual Aid Association (1886)—were for associations that were precursors of modern workplace unions.

 ;

;

This is a somewhat hidden collection as catalog records for these rare and ephemeral pamphlets are often preliminary and brief, but the collection is open for research and we encourage you to explore it. These seemingly dry organizational documents actually provide fascinating snapshots of different times and places in American history. You can search this collection by doing a “Other call number “ search in HOLLIS Classic using the term “Constitutions and By-laws”.

fanned-iii

852 RARE: Games People Play*

Believe it or not, Historical & Special Collections is home to some law-related games, including playing cards and materials created to help students learn the law. This set of educational cards, published in Halle, Germany in 1709, was intended to teach students civil law.

Civil Law Playing Cards

Chartae Iusoriae Juridicae (Halle, 1709), HOLLIS 3706209.

Our set consists of 34 cards, numbered 2 through 35. Each card contains several principles of civil law, written in Latin. The principles are numbered 5 through 194. It’s too bad the first card is missing from our set! Each card has been backed with marbled paper, and the whole set fits into a papier mâché box, also covered with marbled paper.

Case and Playing Cards

Case and Playing Cards, HOLLIS 3706209.

There is an eight-page instruction booklet, written in German, bound into marbled paper wrappers that match the playing cards. Students could use the cards as simple flash cards for self-study, or gather with a group of fellow students for a scintillating round of play. Here are a few excerpts from the instructions, translated by Jennifer Allison, an HLSL Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian:

  1. Those who would like to familiarize themselves with these laws and repeat them at will / must start by learning the first law on a card / tam quoad numerum, quam quoad sensum, and discuss it with their fellow players / who do the same thing.
  2. Once this has happened / they both, or also four, five, and six [people] could … / sit together / shuffle the cards / and deal them out to each player.
  3. At this point, the person who received the first card starts / by asking his neighbor a question about one of the cards in his hand e.g. ex fol 8. An possessor rerum immobilium satisdare teneatur? If this person answers / quod sic; he has answered incorrectly and must take the card / and must read … out loud from it / so that the other players, ex auditu, can be informed of the law. …
Instruction Booklet

Instruction Booklet, HOLLIS 3706209.

Let’s hope they were drinking lots of beer. Nevertheless, it’s a good reminder that legal study aids – and the market for them – have been around for a long time. Good luck in your law school studies, whichever study method you choose!

*with apologies to Eric Berne

852 RARE Bonus Edition: The 25th Anniversary of Cohen v. Cowles Media

June 24, 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663 (1991), in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that freedom of the press does not exempt journalists from following generally applicable laws. Dan Cohen (HLS ’61), a Republican campaign associate in the 1982 Minnesota governor’s race, gave information about another party’s candidate to reporters at two local newspapers. Though Cohen had received a promise of confidentiality from the reporters, the papers divulged his name. Cohen lost his job and sued the papers in state court, alleging breach of contract. Cohen won at trial and on appeal, but the Minnesota Supreme Court reversed. Cohen appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The question before the Court was: Does the First Amendment bar a plaintiff from recovering damages, under state promissory estoppel law, for a newspaper’s breach of a promise of confidentiality? In a close 5-4 decision with two dissents, the Court ruled in favor of Mr. Cohen.

Cohen v. Cowles Media has been the subject of much debate and legal analysis in the past 25 years. It stands with New York Times v. Sullivan and a handful of others as a significant first amendment case involving the press.

Interested in learning more about what went on behind the scenes of this important case? Historical & Special Collections has the case files! Donated by Cohen’s attorney Elliot C. Rothenberg (HLS ’64), the collection consists of materials Mr. Rothenberg compiled and used in Cohen’s defense. HSC has many collections of case files, lawyers’ papers, and judges’ papers. If you are interested in a particular legal case, lawyer, or judge, search HOLLIS+ , the Harvard Library catalog.

HLS Class Marshal Elliot C. Rothenberg ('64). VIA record ID 8000950463

HLS Class Marshal Elliot C. Rothenberg (’64). VIA record ID 8000950463

We’re grateful to Mr. Rothenberg for sharing his collection with us, so we can share it with you. And his generosity does not end there: over the years, he has donated a number of HLS-related papers and artifacts to HSC, including the very baton he wielded as the Law School’s 1964 Class Marshal! Both baton and photo are on view through August 12, 2016 in the “academic regalia” section of the Library’s exhibit, What (Not) to Wear: Fashion and the Law.

852 RARE: Preserving Digital Media at HLS: First Steps

Whether you’re familiar with archives or not, unless you work in one all day you might think of them as mysterious locked rooms full of old (dare I say, “dusty”) books with intricate bindings, manuscripts crafted hundreds of years ago in no-longer-spoken tongues and script, and artifacts once owned by famous people. HLS Library’s Historical and Special Collections does contain “treasures” like these but a much larger portion of our collection is made up of manuscripts that tell the stories of the lives of legal scholars, lawyers, and judges, regardless of fame or fortune. These items make long physical journeys from someone’s home or office through archivists’ hands, workspaces, and many other processes before finally being ready for access by our researchers.

But digital media has turned traditional archiving on its head. With formats and technology evolving much faster than the technology of papermaking and bookbinding, how do we preserve today’s records? Over the past 5 years, we have been building a program that will support the imminent inundation of digital records and allow us to be more nimble through new practices such as on-demand collecting. We already house an array of historic digital media, such as floppy disks, computers and laptops containing twenty or thirty-year-old hard drives, zip disks, files on CDs, and much more.

Image collage of media from a recent acquisition.

A few pieces of media from a recent acquisition. Clockwise, starting top left: HP Omnibook, 1997; La Cie external hard drive, 1994; HP OmniBook’s internal hard drive, 1997; Apple internal hard drive and its laptop computer, ca. 1994; IBM ThinkPad and its internal hard drive, 2004.

To preserve these, we use digital forensics techniques (yes, similar to what law enforcement units do in a criminal investigation!) to safely transfer files off of obsolete media and stabilize them on a secure server space managed by HLS ITS. We have an array of equipment to read the media, such as 3.5” floppy controllers and an UltraDock writeblocker that connects to over 10 different types of media such as internal hard drives and SD memory cards. We have a computer equipped with the Linux-based open-source BitCurator environment to extract metadata and perform many other activities on the disks we’ve stabilized. We recently added a Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device Laptop (FRED-L) to our arsenal in anticipation of going out into the field and imaging media straight from donors’ offices or homes, without having to bring obsolete media into the archives at all (yes, I’m sorry to tell you, but that floppy disk is going to be unreadable someday whether you’ve got a working drive for it or not!).

FRED-L and UltraKit

FRED-L and UltraKit

But, all of this actually only solves the FIRST step of archiving – transferring files to the archive. A bit more complicated than going to an office to pick up boxes, but also pretty fun. We are currently working on the rest of the workflow – extracting files from stabilized disk images, migrating them to readable formats (WordPerfect for DOS, anyone?), and making them available through our finding aids in OASIS. I’ll be sharing more about these processes and milestones as we reach them, so come back to Et Seq for more digital preservation 852 Rare posts!

852 RARE: In Celebration of Pranksters and Practical Jokers: The Legend of Lady Ellesmere

April Fools’ day may have come and gone, but in the spirit of keeping the laughter going, let’s look back almost 70 years to a student prank involving the school’s portrait collection. As the story goes, two 3L students wanted to pull off a prank before graduation so they commissioned a young art student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts to paint a semi-nude female judge. The portrait, now fondly referred to as “Lady Ellesmere” was painted by Mrs. Vera Chvany Hussey, now Vera Chvany Hussey-Forbes. She was referred to the two HLS students by a friend with strong Harvard connections; Sally Mallinckrodt, the granddaughter of Edward Mallinckrodt. Early in the morning of March 24, 1948, the students made arrangements with janitorial staff to hang the portrait, an oil painting on heavy craft paper, in the Langdell South Middle classroom in the frame normally reserved for the portrait of Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere, who had supposedly been removed for cleaning. Dean Griswold’s 10:00am class experienced the portrait in situ, which is memorialized in the photograph below. The prank received front page coverage in the Law School’s student paper the following week. Sadly, by the time the article went to press no one knew of the painting’s whereabouts.

Langdell South Middle Classroom, 1948

Dean Griswold can be seen in the lower left corner of the photograph. 
Miscellaneous Groups and Events Collection, Box 2
Historical & Special Collections, Harvard Law School Library

 

The portrait of Baron Ellesmere is currently in storage but we know that it was eventually returned to its frame and remained on display in the Langdell South Middle classroom until at least the 1950s, thanks to this photograph. You can see the left side of the painting on the far right of the photograph. For those wondering what he looked like, we have other images of Egerton in the collection, including the engraving below.

Sir Thomas Egerton

Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, 1615?
Record ID: olvwork177013

Mrs. Hussey-Forbes believes that Griswold confiscated the portrait and hopeful that it might have made it into our collection she has contacted the Law School and other Harvard sources for more than 60 years trying to get more information. Sadly, we have not found it but it seems the incident did make an impression on Griswold, who memorialized it in a scrapbook of clippings, pamphlets, and photographs now in our collection. Griswold wasn’t the only one interested in the prank; the story spread from coast to coast and reached newspapers in California, Colorado, Nebraska, and Indiana just to name a few places. Mrs. Hussey-Forbes has written a memoir that includes the story of the painting and more recently published a blog post on the incident. She was kind enough to speak with me and shared a few more details that didn’t make it into the original news coverage. Vera’s relationship with HLS started long before the prank; she grew up on Everett Street and has memories of running through Langdell Hall as a kid. After the prank, Look magazine contacted her about doing a story, which they hoped would include Griswold giving the painting back to her. But when Vera contacted Dean Griswold to see if this was a possibility his response was that he would only give the painting back if she gave him the names of the pranksters. Vera refused and that was the end of the Look piece.

It is important to note that this prank was pulled off two years before Harvard Law School admitted its first class of women. Thankfully times have changed and multiple portraits of actual female judges adorn the walls of the school and their presence is neither a joke, nor an anomaly like Lady Ellesmere’s brief appearance in 1948.

Correction: April 25, 2016
This post incorrectly stated that Mrs. Hussey-Forbes first contacted Historical & Special Collections eight years ago. In fact she had been contacting numerous Harvard sources for the last 68 years with no success. Thanks to Mrs. Hussey-Forbes’ persistence in bring the story to light and recent digitization efforts, I was able to locate the article published in the Law School student paper, which served as the starting point for further research.

852 RARE: David Sewall: Lawyer, Federal Judge, Weather Aficionado

It’s spring break at Harvard, although March can bring decidedly un-springlike weather to New England. After an unusually mild winter (except for one weekend of record-breaking cold), the first weekend of spring break started off as mild and sunny as a fine day in late April, and is now, well, very March-like. Weather is a perennial topic of conversation in New England (and everywhere else?). It affects us all and is a topic of conversation anyone can participate in and on which everyone seems to have an opinion.

Of all seasons, winter is perhaps especially ripe for discussions, whether one is marveling at, cursing, or boasting about record snowstorms, record cold, unseasonable warmth, and everything in between. Not surprisingly there’s nothing new about the weather as a rich source of conversation. As we approach the vernal equinox on March 20th this year, here’s a glimpse into the meteorological musings of David Sewall (1735-1825). Sewall was a 1755 Harvard graduate (and classmate of John Adams), a lawyer, and a judge, appointed by George Washington to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in 1789, a position he held until his resignation in 1818.

Historical & Special Collections has a letter from Sewall, written from his home in York, Maine (then part of Massachusetts) to an unidentified correspondent, on January 17, 1795.

HOLLIS 2204095_p1

Sewall begins with the acknowledgement of a small book, then talks of politics. But soon the topic of the weather slips in, when in the third or fourth line, he comments: “The month of December as to mildness and agreeableness of weather has surpassed any that the most ancient among us, can recollect. We have now scarcely enough for slaying [sleighing] ….” Shortly thereafter Sewall turns back to politics and government, pondering Alexander Hamilton’s intention to resign as Secretary of State at the end of the month. He mentions meeting and conversing with the Rev. David Osgood (1747-1822) in a public house in Woburn (Mass.) and discusses court and legislative issues. But the next day, a Sunday, when he picks up his pen to continue the correspondence, his opening line sets the tone for most of the rest of the letter.

HOLLIS 2204095_p2-3

“Last Evening we had a pretty fall of light snow … The cold increases and N.N.W. wind blows about the Snow considerably this Evening.” He asks “how comes it that we ever have snow?” and launches into a long, detailed, and thoughtful musing on trade winds, precipitation, temperatures, and weather patterns along the eastern coast of the United States. He marvels at having “known the thermometer to be at 6° below 0 and in less than 9 hours to be above the freezing point” and notes that “I have known the snow to dissolve faster toward the close of Winter with a Southerly Wind of 24 hours (or a little longer) continuance than with a moderate Rain, of the same duration.” Had he lived in our era, the good judge from Maine may have settled down at the end of a long day to watch the Weather Channel.

%d bloggers like this: