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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.


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”.


Banned Books Week Read-Out and more!

bbw-smallBanned Books Week is coming and we are excited! As librarians, the freedom to read is in our DNA. Every year scores of books have their places in libraries and schools challenged by would-be censors. We can’t stand that, but we can stand up for the freedom to read and you can join us!

Visit the HLS Library lobby during the week of September 26 for a display about local censors. “Banned in Boston” isn’t just an expression; the New England Watch & Ward Society records in our own collection (digitized in 2010) contain lists of “impure literature” that was banned in Boston (and beyond) during the 20th century.

Read-Out, Tuesday, September 27 at 12:15, HLS Library steps 
Bring your lunch and join us on the steps of the library as members of the HLS community read excerpts from our favorite banned books. We’ll be reading from classic literature, children’s picture books, and everything in between! If you’re HLS faculty, student, or staff and would like to be a reader, please contact Meg Kribble by Thursday, September 22 and we’ll add you to the line-up!

All week on Instagram!
Follow our Instagram for photos of HLS faculty, staff, and students with our favorite banned books. Share your own banned book selfies with #hlslbannedbooks! Not sure if your favorite has been banned or challenged? Check out the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books for 2015 and ALA’s Banned & Challenged Classics.

Learn about Caselaw Access Project on the radio!

Two weeks ago, WBUR’s Bruce Gellerman and crew paid us a visit to record a segment on our Caselaw Access Project (CAP), which will make all U.S. case law freely accessible online. You may have heard the result this morning.

If you missed it or you’d like a replay, you can catch the story on WBUR’s website. Although the transcript appears in print along with some photos, we recommend listening to get the experience of what the process sounds like as well looks like!

Learn more about the Caselaw Access Project from our past CAP posts or our Library Innovation Law website.


Summer Reading 2016

At the end of last academic year, we used our bulletin board to ask you what you planned to read this summer. In case anyone out there has some beach time left this month, here are some of the highlights–check them out!

What else are you reading? Feel free to add your favorite summer 2016 reads in a comment.

Lectura Playa by Josué Goge on Flickr, CC:BY license

Lectura Playa by Josué Goge on Flickr, CC:BY license

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

Get Your Fashion Fix!

The HLS Library’s exhibit, What (Not) to Wear: Fashion and the Law closes at 5 pm on Friday, August 12. Come learn about poisonous clothing, proper law attire, and fashionable litigation! The exhibit is on view weekdays from 9 to 5 in the Caspersen Room, fourth floor of Langdell Hall. See you there!

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.

Congrats to Robert Niles!

We’re happy to announce that a Harvard Law School student was among ten winners of the 2016 Bloomberg Law Write-On Competition. Robert Niles is in his final year of the J.D./M.B.A. program at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. His article, Did Reed v. Town of Gilbert Silence Commercial Speech Doctrine? Early Signs Point to No, was recently published in U.S. Law Week. Bloomberg Law subscribers can read it at the link.

Congratulations, Robert!

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.

In Ruhleben Camp: A magazine by any other name…

In Ruhleben Camp follows the production schedule of the magazine created by prisoners at Ruhleben, an internment camp for British civilians in Germany during WWI. Around the time that an issue of the magazine was released a hundred years ago, Marissa Grunes will post highlights from that number and tell part of its story.

Cover. The Ruhleben Camp Magazine, No. 1, March 1916. Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 608

Cover. The Ruhleben Camp Magazine, No. 1, March 1916. Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 608

As March crept in, Ruhlebenites gratefully heralded the return of spring—and of their camp magazine along with it. Following a two-month hiatus, In Ruhleben Camp (IRC) returned under new editorial guidance, and freshly re-christened The Ruhleben Camp Magazine (RCM). As the slight shift towards formality suggests, a few things had changed, but not much.

The cover illustration gives the first hint that the same wry spirit prevails. As we discussed at the beginning of this series, the cover of In Ruhleben Camp’s inaugural issue back in June 1915 had sported a clever example of the “Droste effect,” a graphical technique popularized in advertising around the turn of the twentieth century. The cover had shown a man reading from an issue of IRC, on whose cover was visible a smaller image of the same man holding the same magazine, on whose cover one could imagine the same man…and so on ad infinitum.

The newly renamed Ruhleben Camp Magazine recreates this gambit for its own cover, except that the voluble Ruhlebenite is replaced by an unusually literate March hare, suggesting one thing that Ruhlebenites might be as mad as (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 608). The picture seems to shout: “Remember us? We’re back!”

Back with a familiar cast of characters, too. “The Mad Hatter” (now styling himself number “2”) continues gleefully mocking the antics of the Debating Society; the famous footballer Fred B. Pentland still reports sagely on the camp’s favorite game; a number of sketches bear the impress of a familiar hand, with chicken scratch signatures conjuring up the usual suspects.

Moreover, the new editor echoes his predecessor T. Arthur Barton in lamenting that the camp’s best writers are withholding their talent, forcing the editor to ply his pen to fill up pages. But just who is this new editor? A few former internees who were also the camp’s earliest historians, Israel Cohen, Francis Gribble, and the former “Captain of the Camp” Joseph Powell, identify the new editor as L.E. Filmore—perhaps the most beloved parodist in the camp, and a regular contributor to the magazine (Cohen, p. 156; Powell and Gribble, p. 212). Yet the man who signs off as editor in the Xmas 1916 issue is one C.G. Pemberton (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 799).

The reasons for the shake-up are also mysterious: the former editor T.A. Barton continues contributing to the magazine, which remains under the aegis of the Education Committee. If there had been any reshuffling of leadership or finances in the Education Committee, no chroniclers (that I have found) thought it worth mentioning, and the new editor diplomatically emphasizes continuity over difference. Moreover, in a “Publisher’s Notice,” the Education Committee chisels the magazine’s core commandments onto the first pages of RCM: that “as far as possible the magazine shall appear punctually, that it shall be produced by the co-operation of all those in the Camp who are able and willing to assist, and shall express the true sentiment of the interned,” in order to offer “diversion from the tedium of the prisoner’s life.” As part of a “fresh effort” to follow these commandments, and “in witness of the renewal of the paper’s original purpose,” the Committee announces that it “has made some changes which include that of its title” (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 610).

Yet, as Powell and Gribble write in their joint history, “what differences of policy the editors may have been pursuing, I do not know; but the visible characteristics of the two papers do not seem widely opposed.” They share a sprightly resilience, it seems: “both were illustrated, and always light in tone and touch—always, one might say, modern. They took few things au grand sérieux” (Powell and Gribble, pp. 212-213).

Continuity of purpose was one of those few things taken with great seriousness, and at least one reader took this continuity seriously as well. A letter to the editor, published in this issue, renews the old protest against expensive theatre performances that boxed poorer internees out of warm indoor spaces. “Take up the cudgels once again in favour of” cheaper seats, the writer exhorts the editor, citing earlier issues of “your paper” that had championed this cause (Masterman Coll., Box 2 Seq. 648). And The Ruhleben Camp Magazine seems inclined to do just that. Already the first issue has taken up the satire and public debate once wielded by its predecessor, and sallied forth to do battle with boredom and camp grievances, trumpeting the Ruhleben motto: “Are we downhearted? No!”

Bibliography & Further Reading

Cohen, Israel. The Ruhleben Prison Camp: A Record of Nineteen Months’ Internment. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1917.

Powell, Joseph and Francis Henry Gribble. The history of Ruhleben: the record of British organisation in a prison camp. London: W. Collins Sons & Company Ltd., 1919.

Marissa Grunes is a PhD candidate in English Literature at Harvard University, focusing on transatlantic literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her dissertation project explores frontier architecture in 19th century poetry, fiction, and non-fiction of the United States.