Tag Archives: Law Kiosk

New website brings 9 decades of University history online

Chicago Little Theatre stage

Designed for the 1916 Cap and Gown by C. Raymond Johnston of the Chicago Little Theatre.

The newly launched University of Chicago Campus Publications website allows researchers to readily explore more than nine decades of University history, from 1892 to 1995.   At launch, the site provides digital access to four periodicals:  Cap and Gown, the College yearbook; the University of Chicago Magazine, the official alumni publication; Quarterly Calendar, an early omnibus publication; and the University Record, its successor By visiting campub.lib.uchicago.edu, members of the UChicago community and researchers around the world can conduct a simultaneous keyword search of all four publications, using an interface built and maintained by the University of Chicago Library.

University of Chicago Magazine, April 1952.


University of Chicago Magazine, April 1952.

The Campus Publications site is an exciting new resource for faculty, students, and alumni of the University and provides a wealth of historical information for other researchers examining the history of the University and its impact on higher education. Genealogists researching University connections may also find the site particularly helpful. For many, research into University history will no longer require careful and laborious browsing of multiple volumes of bound print publications.  For the first time, the complete content of some of the most heavily used University periodicals will be fully accessible online across publications and chronological time periods.

The earliest publication on the site, Quarterly Calendar (1892-1896), includes a wide range of information:  faculty and administrative rosters, course descriptions, official regulations, convocation addresses, directories of administrators and faculty, lists of registered students by academic program, and statistics on student registration.

Adler and Hutchins cartoon

Adler and Hutchins cartoon, Cap and Gown, 1934.

It was superseded by the University Record, published from 1896 to 1908, from 1915 to 1933, and finally, from 1967 to 1981 under the new name University of Chicago Record. The Record published convocation addresses; articles on University buildings, cornerstone layings, and dedications; biographic sketches and memorial tributes; statements and reports by Presidents and other administrators; photographic portraits of faculty, administrators, and convocation speakers; an announcements of campus events.

The Campus Publications site includes all issues of the University of Chicago Magazine that were published from 1908 to 1995.  The Magazine includes articles on campus events; news from classes; alumni activities; articles by faculty members on their research; news and notes on individual alumni; excerpts from recently published faculty books; feature articles on notable alumni and faculty; and photographic essays on the campus and University events.  For a period from 1908 to 1915 when the University Record was not issued as a separate publication, the content of the University Record was published as part of the University of Chicago Magazine.

Sketch of urban renewal at Ridgewood Court on 55th

Violet Fogle Uretz’s sketch of urban renewal at Ridgewood Court on 55th in the November 1957 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine (page 22).

Cap and Gown varied in format from year to year, reflecting the changing student editorial board.  The Campus Publications site includes all issues published from 1895 to 1958.  Cap and Gown included individual photographs of undergraduate students with information on their campus activities; essays on University administrators and faculty members; photographs and records of athletic teams by sport; photographs and lists of members of fraternities, social clubs, and other student organizations; and photographic essays focused on the campus and events of the past year.

Because all four of these publications can now be simultaneously searched by keyword, researchers can rapidly access the distinct voices and perspectives of faculty, administrators, students, alumni, and guest lecturers as they engage with the vital issues of the day.  For example, a search on “urban renewal” leads to numerous illustrated stories beginning with an October 1954 piece in the University of Chicago Magazine.  Among many other sources, researchers will find an article on the launch of urban renewal in the 1956 Cap and Gown; a set of sketches of urban renewal sites by Violet Fogle Uretz in the November 1957 University of Chicago Magazine; an Interim Report of the Subcommittee on South Campus on the impact of urban renewal in the March 14, 1969, University Record; and an article in the March 1976 University of Chicago Magazine pointing to changes in student housing options resulting from urban renewal.

Photos and descriptions of alumni members of the military reported killed or missing in action

Part of Chicago’s Roll of Honor in the February 1943 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine (page 16). Featured are alumni members of the military reported killed or missing in action.

Campus attitudes toward war and the military are another longstanding issue that can be researched in Campus Publications.  Among the relevant coverage, one can find a convocation address by Carl Schurz on American imperialism prompted by the Spanish-American War in the January 6, 1899, University Record; a report on the University’s involvement in World War I in the October 1917 University Record; an article on a peace march by University students in the May 1937 University of Chicago Magazine; an essay by Katharine Graham, who later became the publisher of the Washington Post, on student unrest and the media in the July 1969 University of Chicago Magazine; and a discussion of psychological diagnoses of student anti-war protesters by Joseph Schwab in the March 1970 University of Chicago Magazine.

Some subjects that were particularly difficult to research in the past are readily explored using the new online interface.  One is women’s athletics at the University of Chicago, and especially images of women athletes and teams.  A search returns information about women’s intramural basketball games in the 1900 Cap and Gown; the organization of the University’s Women’s Athletic Association in the December 1903 University Record; completion of a women’s athletic field adjacent to Ida Noyes Hall in the July 1923 University of Chicago Magazine; a photograph and description of the activities of the women’s archery team in the 1930 Cap and Gown; a photograph and report on the record of the women’s field hockey team in the 1955 Cap and Gown; and the merger of the separate Departments of Physical Education for Men and for Women in the July 19, 1976, University Record.

Senior Baseball Team, 1915

Senior Baseball Team, 1915, in Cap and Gown, 1916 (page 298).

Searches on well-known topics in University history may yield some surprises.  For example, Enrico Fermi’s name appears for the first time in the February 1946 issue of the University of Chicago Magazine.  But Fermi is not the focus of the news note; it is instead Leona Woods Marshall, his Manhattan Project colleague, who has been named one of Mademoiselle magazine’s ten women of the year.

The Campus Publications site can be used on its own, but it also works well when supplemented by the University of Chicago Photographic Archive, the Library’s searchable database of more than 40,000 digitized documentary images.  The Photographic Archive provides access to photographs of many individuals, buildings, events, student activities, and historic landscapes.  Many other images of University individuals and events, however, appeared only in the official publications, the alumni magazine, or the student yearbook.  Researchers now have the opportunity to use both the Photographic Archive and Campus Publications sites together to locate the widest possible array of documentary photographs of University history.

As additional periodicals are digitized, the Library is looking forward to adding new content to the Campus Publications site, offering a growing and increasingly rich source of information on the University’s distinctive history.

Sexual segregation cartoon

Sexual segregation cartoon, Cap and Gown, 1903 (page 17).

The construction of the University of Chicago Campus Publications database and website required the expertise and collaboration of staff across multiple departments of the Library, including archivists, digitization experts, and web and database developers from Special Collections, Preservation, and the Digital Library Development Center.  Kathleen Arthur oversaw the digitization of the content.  Charles Blair and John Jung developed an interface that would enable and optimize the search experience for those interested in University of Chicago history.

The University of Chicago Campus Publications may be used for educational and scholarly purposes, but any such use requires that the University of Chicago Library be credited.   Commercial publication projects require the permission of the Library .

Researchers with questions about the collection may contact the Special Collections Research Center.

Crime, Punishment, and Pop Culture

The Library has purchased Crime, Punishment, and Pop Culture, from Gale Cengage. Focusing on the period from 1790-1920, this collection brings together over 2 million pages of archival materials. Content includes trial transcripts, detective agency records, police force records, police gazettes, penny dreadfuls, crime-related broadsheets, true crime literature, prisoner photographs, prison postcards, statistics, and manuscripts.  During this period, major prison reforms and the development of dedicated police forces occurred, crime journalism appeared in daily newspapers, and crime fiction became a popular literary genre.

Lincoln at the Bar

The Library now has access to Lincoln at the Bar: Extant Case Files from the U.S. District and Circuit Courts, Southern District of Illinois 1855-1861. (And Archives Unbound collection from Gale Cengage)

“This collection consists of the extant files of cases from the records of the U.S. District and Circuit Courts at Springfield with which Abraham Lincoln has been identified as legal counsel, and date from 1855 to 1861. The 122 case files reproduced here include civil actions brought under both statute and common law, admiralty litigation, and a few criminal cases.” This collection is a useful addition to the Library’s extensive collection of material about Lincoln, and will improve understanding of his law practice.

Throwback Thursday: The Law Library on the cusp of the Digital Age

There’s a hand-drawn map of the law library’s second-floor Reading Room that harkens back to a barely digital age—a time when card catalogs and bound volumes of Shepard’s Citations took center stage and the latest technology included a dedicated Lexis machine with a dialup modem and a clunky “comcat” terminal that couldn’t even search whole words. It appears to have been created some eight or nine years before the library was expanded, renovated, and renamed in honor of Dino D’Angelo, ’44, in 1987.

It’s a small piece of the library’s past—but one that serves as a visible reminder of how far technology, legal research, and the law library itself has come in the past three or four decades. The drawing, part of an old law library guide, was sent to the Law School late last year by a 2011 alumnus who works as an attorney with the US Railroad Retirement Board and found the map on a shelf in the RRB’s law library.Map of D'Angelo Law Library from the 1970s

“It’s interesting to look at this and see what was most prominent in the space,” D’Angelo Law Library Director Sheri Lewis said of the map, which appears to represent the Reading Room in the late 1970s. Back then, federal, state, and regional case reporters filled stacks along the north end of the room, and bound copies of state annotated codes, various indices, and the latest copies of Shepard’s ringed the center of the room.

“These were obviously a very important resource, so they had prime real estate,” Lewis said, remembering the days when a lawyer or law student needed to consult the bright red books to find tables of citations to see if a case had been overturned, reaffirmed, questioned, or cited by later cases. “But this was also a system that was just screaming for automation.” (LexisNexis released an online version of Shepard’s in 1999.)

The 1970s library also featured a built-in card catalog along the southwest wall, just past the circulation and reference desks. At the beginning of that decade, the library was already crowded, and books were being moved into Harper library for storage, said Judith Wright, who retired as the law library’s director in 2013 after more than four decades. “We sold the second copy of the English Reports to make space—very painful!” Wright said.

Online cataloguing was nascent; there was a single “dumb” terminal that hooked into the Library Data Management System mainframe. The comcat (computerized catalog) terminal didn’t have a search engine, and users could only type in portions of words, said Bill Schwesig, the D’Angelo’s Anglo-American and Historical Collections Librarian, who has worked in the law library since 1986. As the technology advanced, though, searching became easier—and the library eventually undertook a long project to digitize all of its catalog entries. When the library was renovated again in 2008, the printed card catalog was removed.

Photo of the D'Angelo Law Library Wilson Reading Room from the 1980sIt wasn’t always easy to accommodate emerging technology: when the building was built in the late 1950s, few could have anticipated how important wiring would become.

“There were few plugs, few telephone lines—it was a major problem,” Wright said. “It was hard to find a place to put anything.”

When the first Lexis terminal arrived in the late 1970s, it ended up in the Rare Book Room at the far west end of the library because there was a place to plug it in. The dedicated microfilm reader on which users could view an index of law reviews and other academic journals was installed nearby.

The 1970s library was smaller and darker. There was wasn’t yet a staircase in the center of the room—that came with the 2008 renovation—and there were three heavy wood tables surrounded by dark wood chairs with hunter green cushions, several of which can be found now in Lewis’s office. The latest law journals were kept in stacks in the room’s northwest corner, and Lewis said faculty would stroll through and browse the latest scholarship.

In those days, law library staff spent a lot more time handling print material—labeling, shelving, and routing material to faculty. A huge volume of mail came to the library each business day and on Saturday, including Shepard’s pamphlets and other updates, new materials, and more.

But as the computer age took hold, and resources and catalogs moved online, the work of the law librarians evolved, too.

Today, “their work is so much more complex and requires a vast knowledge ranging over incredible print and online resources along with sophisticated knowledge about ever-changing technology,” Wright said. “In addition, law seems to have become more complex, and scholarship and teaching reflect that complexity.”

One thing, however, has remained constant, Wright said.

“From my earliest days in 1970s to the day I retired, we always had committed faculty and students who were very serious about their work—and always trying to keep a step ahead of whatever (research tools) were available. It was amazing how quickly students and faculty adapted to each new thing.”

Spatial Data & GIS Workshops

This spring Resident Librarian for GIS Taylor Hixson is hosting three introductory workshops about spatial data and geographic information systems (GIS).

Spatial Data Literacy

Date: Thursday, March 30 @ 4-5 p.m.
Register

This introductory workshop will cover what makes something spatial data, spatial data files that are compatible with geographic information systems (GIS), and best practices for keeping GIS projects organized.

Introduction to ArcGIS Online

Date: Thursday, April 6 @ 4-5:30 p.m.
Register

This hands-on workshop will give a basic introduction to the ArcGIS Online platform, including adding data to a map and creating web apps. If you’ve wanted to learn how to make an interactive map but don’t know how to code, don’t miss this workshop!

Finding Spatial Data

Date: Thursday, April 13 @ 4-5 p.m.
Register

Thousands of resources exist online for finding spatial data, but finding the right resource can be a challenge. This workshop will focus on techniques for finding spatial data, the top free and open resources online, and resources available through UChicago.

Crerar Lower Level Map

The workshops will be held on the lower level of Crerar Library. The entrance to the lower level is on the left-hand side of the vestibule, the area before the library gates. The classroom is behind the staircase.

E-mail Taylor (taylorhixson@uchicago.edu) with any questions about the workshops. If you are not able to attend the workshops but are interested in learning more about GIS and spatial data, check out the GIS Research Guide for helpful resources.

New app lets users check out Library materials with their phones

The University of Chicago Library has launched a new mobile app, Checkout UChicago, that lets users check out Library materials using their phones or tablets.

Checkout UChicago allows students, faculty members, staff, and others with borrowing privileges at the University of Chicago Library to scan an item’s barcode with their phone and instantly check it out to their Library account.

Checkout UChicago app on a phone in the bookstacks

A phone displaying the Checkout UChicago start screen

D’Angelo Law Library users who want to leave the building with their items can bring items to Circulation Desk for deactivation. Books shelved in the Reserve Room cannot be checked out using Checkout UChicago.

Download the app

Checkout UChicago is available for download for both iOS and Android devices.

Gift for new users

The first 100 UChicago students and faculty members to check out a book with this app will receive a $3 credit to their UChicago Card in Maroon Dollars. They will receive an email notifying them when the credit has been applied.

Library staff, including student staff, are not eligible for this promotion.

Try new CCH research platform Cheetah

The Library now provides access to Cheetah, the new Wolters Kluwer platform, which replaces the old platform CCH IntelliConnect. It includes the same content as IntelliConnect, but in a modern, more intuitive user interface with improved searching and browsing capabilities. Cheetah also utilizes responsive user design, so it works equally well on desktop and mobile devices so you have access whenever you need it.

Cheetah includes primary sources and secondary sources for antitrust, corporate and securities, banking, intellectual property, and tax law, including the treatises Antitrust Law: An Analysis of Antitrust Principles and Their Application by Areeda and Hovenkamp and Securities Regulation by Loss, Seligman and Paredes; the topical reporters Federal Securities Law Reporter,Trade Regulation ReporterStandard Federal Tax Reporter, and U.S. Tax Treaties Reporter; and many other looseleaf services, treatises, practice tools, and newsletters. The focus is on the United States, but there is some international coverage, as well.

For help using Cheetah, visit Wolters Kluwer’s training site or Ask a Law Librarian for assistance.

Hidden treasures: Law Library unearths original letter from Marshall to Washington—and more

On March 26, 1789, 22 days after the newly ratified US Constitution took effect, future Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall sent a letter to George Washington at his Mount Vernon estate, where the president-elect was waiting for Congress to count the votes of America’s first electors.

It was, in many ways, an unremarkable note from a Richmond lawyer to his powerful, land-owning client, merely the latest in an ongoing conversation regarding Washington’s disputed claim to a piece of land on the banks of the Ohio River. But it was also one founder writing to another: a constitutional defender who would help shape the nation’s legal system advising the man who would soon assemble the nation’s first cabinet, oversee the creation of a national government strong enough to navigate partisan debate, and suppress the Whiskey Rebellion—and whose property holdings in the Ohio River Valley were already helping push the burgeoning nation west.

It was history, living and breathing among the syllables of routine correspondence.

Which is why, when Sheri Lewis, the director of the University of Chicago’s D’Angelo Law Library, opened an unfamiliar hardbound volume from the library’s Rare Book Room last summer and glimpsed Marshall’s 227-year-old letter—the original—pasted carefully inside, her first thought was, “Oh—wow.”

What’s more, the handwritten missive wasn’t alone. The carefully constructed album that had protected it for nearly six decades, maybe more, bristled with 18th- and 19th-century Supreme Court history, mostly hand-drawn portraits and letters signed by early justices, men like John Jay, Oliver Ellsworth, Samuel Chase, Salmon P. Chase, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

And for years nobody at the University of Chicago Law School knew it was there.

* * *

There had been clues: an old catalog entry in the D’Angelo’s records; a note in an online database maintained by the National Archives; a plaque on the library’s sixth floor honoring the album’s donor, albeit for a different generosity; and a couple of 1958 articles in back-to-back issues of the University of Chicago Law School Record. It had been the articles that ultimately led Lewis and her team to the well-preserved, but temporarily forgotten, collection in July.

“It took me awhile to really absorb how much is in here,” Lewis said one morning in early 2017, as the D’Angelo’s librarians were preparing to send the 154-page album to the central University of Chicago Library to be fully digitized. “Every piece of parchment in this book tells a story.”

It had been a busy several months since Lewis first saw the volume. In that time, she and her team created an inventory of the collection, examined it with a preservation librarian and Law School scholars, and worked to unravel the mysteries of the album, which had been given to the Law School in the late 1950s by a colorful Chicago hotelier, Louis H. Silver, ’28.

 

D'Angelo Law Library Director Sheri Lewis with Professor Alison LaCroix

D’Angelo Law Library Director Sheri Lewis with Professor Alison LaCroix

The discovery was thrilling and unexpected but, for librarians and scholars versed in archival research, it wasn’t a shock. Library science has evolved significantly since the late 1950s; back then, there were no digital inventories and few finding aids—new items were catalogued and added to the shelf. As a result, the Supreme Court collection was, in fact, never truly lost: it was well-preserved and findable to those who went looking—it’s just that, after a while, there was nobody at the Law School who would have known about it without looking. And that’s why the rediscovery wasn’t a shock. History, after all, is a decidedly human affair that takes on a slightly different shape for each generation, molded by a combination of perspective, whim, and fortuity. People discover, forget, and rediscover; they choose what to protect, display, study, and discuss—and all of this ultimately shapes the historical narrative, often leaving a trail of breadcrumbs along the way.

“As historians, we tell our stories and build our analyses based on the evidence we have,” said Alison LaCroix, the Robert Newton Reid Professor of Law and a legal historian who was among the first to examine the rediscovered collection. “There’s always this question of what has been preserved, and why it’s been preserved. Sometimes things that are ‘lost’ don’t stay lost, and when we find them, we have new evidence. But what’s interesting, and important to remember, is how much of it is chance.” It was the point, she noted with a laugh, of the final number in the musical Hamilton, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” which centers on the twists of fate that ultimately shape one’s legacy.

“You think of history as being this thing that comes in nice, tidy boxes,” said William Baude, the Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Law and a scholar of constitutional originalism who also has examined the collection. “But it doesn’t. There are things that we don’t know are out there—and things that we know are out there but don’t know we have.”

Before the Law School’s discovery, historians actually knew that Marshall had written to Washington on March 26, 1789; current-day researchers just didn’t know where the note was or what it said. Its entire public record was reflected in a short entry in the National Archives’ Founders Online database: “To George Washington from John Marshall, 26 March 1789 [Letter Not Found].” Other letters in the series had been catalogued as part of the Papers of George Washington at the University of Virginia and incorporated into Founders Online—including Washington’s April 5, 1789, reply to Marshall, which began, “Sir: I have duly received your letter of the 26 Ulto . . . ” (Note: Ulto is an abbreviation of the Latin ultimo mense, used in correspondence at that time to say “last month.”) Also included in the database: the March 17, 1789, letter from Washington that prompted Marshall’s March 26 reply.

Professor Alison LaCroix

“I think for me part of the excitement is that nobody knew what this March 26 letter said, and now we do,” said LaCroix, an expert in early American history. “But also, like most historians, I have a fascination with holding the real things. I was almost fearful in a way when Sheri brought it to my office and let me keep it for a day or two. I thought, Can I really have this? It’s unique, it’s the only one, it’s its own thing.”

The album, bound in blue goatskin with gold tooling, is filled with strokes of history, each with the potential to shade the narrative in some small way or even deepen our understanding of modern America. There are 60 drawings and 5 photographs of Supreme Court justices, various banking and legal documents, and 75 letters, including the one by Marshall and one in which future Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase speculates that Abraham Lincoln will win the upcoming 1860 election.

“In these manuscripts, we hear the voices of the country’s greatest jurists, recorded in their own hand, along with portraits that put faces to the authors,” said Bill Schwesig, the D’Angelo’s Anglo-American and Historical Collections Librarian. “The great effort and expense that Mr. Silver put into building the collection resulted in a beautiful and engaging artifact.”

The written documents, which appear to be expertly affixed to preservation-quality pages, are arranged not by the order in which they were produced, but by the order in which the writer or signer served on the Supreme Court—starting with a 1783 letter written by the first chief justice, John Jay, and ending with a 1917 letter by Oliver Wendell Holmes. In between, the book holds a 1797 bank draft signed by the Supreme Court’s third chief justice, Oliver Ellsworth; an 1844 letter from Justice Peter Vivian Daniel to President John Tyler; and an 1823 note from Supreme Court Justice William Johnson to David Hosack, the physician who nearly two decades earlier had attended to Alexander Hamilton after his fatal duel with Aaron Burr. One of the oldest documents is a 1762 writ from King George III summoning a man named William Keating to court in Charleston, South Carolina; it was signed by the state’s provost marshal, John Rutledge, who more than 30 years later would serve—briefly—as the US Supreme Court’s second chief justice.

“When we first started looking for the collection this summer, we knew it was important,” Lewis said. “But, until we saw it, we didn’t have any sense of the breadth of it. This collection is unusual, and it is something nobody else has. And the fact that it was given to us by an alum is significant.”

Louis Silver, who had been an engineer before attending the Law School, was known as lively, astute, and discriminating. His personal collection of rare books—some 800 of which were purchased by the Newberry Library for a record $2.75 million after his death in 1963—was considered among the most impressive in the world. Even before the rediscovery, D’Angelo librarians knew of Silver: the Rare Book Room was named for himPhotos of selected portions of the Rare Books Collection at the D'Angelo Law Library. decades ago, when it first occupied a space on the Law School’s second floor. Silver had been generous to the University of Chicago, and although nobody knows why he donated the Supreme Court collection—or where it and its individual pieces had been in earlier years—librarians have speculated that he may have acquired, or even assembled, it expressly because he wanted the Law School to have it. At any rate, when the D’Angelo’s rare books collection moved in 2008 to the two glass-enclosed rooms on the sixth floor, Silver’s name went with it.

Quietly, so did the US Supreme Court Portraits and Letters collection, which ended up on a shelf in the western chamber, just feet from the plaque.

And there it slept until Lewis launched a research project this summer as a first step in rediscovering the rare books collection, which she and her team hope to strengthen and expand. That research turned up the 1958 Record articles, which referenced a “rare and important” collection that nobody in the 2016 law library had ever seen. One story contained the reprinted text of the Marshall letter, and the other included the text of the Chase letter.

“We didn’t even know it was assembled as a book—I first thought that the portraits and letters must have been displayed at some point in the Law School,” Lewis said. But she couldn’t find anything. She called retired D’Angelo Director Judith M. Wright; she, too, was stumped.

Finally, a member of the library’s staff found a promising entry in the library catalog. It was simple but accurate: “United States Supreme Court; portraits and autographs [collected by Louis H. Silver].” The call number led them to a shelf in the western chamber of the sixth-floor Rare Book Room.

And just like that, John Marshall’s words were back.

* * *

George Washington, Esquire
Mount Vernon

Richmond March 26th 89

Sir:

I had the honor to receive a letter from you enclosing a protested bill of exchange drawn by the executors of William Armstead esquire. I shall observe your orders, sir, with respect to the collection of the money. I shall only institute a suit when I find other measures fail. I presume Mr. Armstead’s executors had notice of the protest. If they had, you will please to furnish me with some proof of the fact or inform me how I shall obtain it. Should a suit be necessary this fact will be very material.

Your caveat against Cresap’s heirs is no longer depending. It was dismissed last spring under the law which directs a dismission if the summons be not served.

I wrote to you on this subject before that session of the court and supposed it to be your wish that it should no longer be continued.

I remain Sir
With perfect respect and attachment
Your obedt servt

                     (signed) John Marshall

“Just looking at this, we can assume that this is Washington’s copy,” LaCroix said one afternoon in December, as she and Lewis were looking through the collection with a visitor. “You can see that it has been folded and postmarked—and it’s stamped, ‘FREE,’ so Marshall must have had franking privileges because he was a government official.” (Franking privilege, which dates to 1775, allows public officials to send mail without a postage stamp. Marshall was the Richmond city recorder—and therefore a magistrate—as of 1785, and that may well have been the office that gave him free postage in 1789.)

Someone would have copied the letter for Marshall’s files, LaCroix said, which means that at some point there was a second version that hadn’t traveled the 95 or so miles between Richmond and Mount Vernon. “But this one,” she said, “is addressed to ‘George Washington, Esquire, Mount Vernon.’” She paused. “Because, really, what else would you have needed to write? This must have been his.”

To a historian’s eye, the letter is filled with little insights, reminders, and curiosities: from the role of the founders in westward expansion to the quirks of letter writing; Marshall, for instance, used 11 words to sign off, but abbreviated the last two: obedient servant.

It was a little detail, but one that had a humanizing effect. It was hard not to wonder what Marshall had been thinking and feeling as he wrote the letter, or to consider the swirl of activity that must have surrounded Washington as he read it. There was something fascinating, LaCroix mused, about touching what they’d touched, and seeing the curves of their handwriting, and reading the words they’d chosen.

“It’s a little window into the founding,” LaCroix said. “It’s a slice of life. Marshall and Washington are writing to each other as lawyer and client, and that’s a relationship that had been going on for a long time, too.”

It was a time of transition for the young nation: the US Congress had met for the first time on March 4, and they were on the verge of certifying Washington’s victory in the first presidential election. “He was reluctant to become president,” LaCroix said. “He’d been away from Mount Vernon for so long, and he wanted to be back there and be the gentleman soldier in retirement.” But Washington felt a sense of duty, and on April 16, he’d begin a weeklong procession to New York City, the nation’s capital, for his swearing-in on April 30.

“He was getting ready to process to be the chief magistrate of this unknown experiment,” LaCroix said. “It’s pretty cool to think about.”

Marshall was a force in his own right. He’d been a leading champion of the Constitution as a delegate to Virginia’s ratifying convention, and he’d fought especially hard for Article III, which provides for the federal judiciary. (Years later, in 1803, the first major case before Marshall’s Supreme Court would be Marbury v. Madison, which established judicial review.) But now, he was practicing law in Richmond—and trying to help Washington settle a dispute over hundreds of acres of land in the Ohio River Valley, property Washington had claimed in 1770 and had most likely earned for his service in the area during the French and Indian War.

It was a typical frontier dispute: another man built houses on Washington’s land in 1773, and now, years later, Washington was still sorting things out with the man’s heirs. (According to research that accompanies the Founders Online entry, it appears that the dispute wasn’t fully settled until 1834, when a court upheld the title in favor of a man who had purchased the land from Washington in 1798.)

What’s intriguing to LaCroix about the timeline, though, is that it began in British America and was eventually settled in the United States—an important reminder about the continuity of law.

“You look at this and you remember: it wasn’t that Americans invented law on March 4, 1789,” LaCroix said. “They already had British common law, and they had disputes that had been going on under the British Empire.”

It is impossible to know, of course, whether Louis Silver shared this fascination or even envisioned contemporary and future scholars probing these sorts of details when he donated the album sometime during or just before 1958. His intentions are one of the collection’s enduring mysteries.

“He was this extremely well-known collector of his time, but law wasn’t his major area of focus,” Lewis said. “And yet, he did collect this. He intentionally gave it to the Law School, even though much of the rest of his collection went elsewhere. To me, it suggests that he thought it was important that the Law School have this.”

Sign outside in the Louis H. Silver Special Collections Room in the D'Angelo Law LibrarySilver made the gift while he was still living—and he made it at a time when Americans’ interest in the Supreme Court was particularly high: Earl Warren was the chief justice and, just a few years earlier, the Court had ruled in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. (Incidentally, Silver’s album arrived just a year or two before the Law School moved from Stuart Hall to the current building south of Midway. It is possible that the flurry of activity accompanying the move contributed to the album’s recession from collective memory, though Lewis notes that the library’s comparatively small staff—directed by a member of the faculty in those days—and its predigital cataloguing system probably played roles as well.) Either way, both the timing and topic were curious. Silver’s interests were broad: in 1958 and 1959, he’d donated science and technology books to the University of Chicago, and the collection acquired by the Newberry Library included valuable works in English and Continental literature and history. But there isn’t much indication that law was a top priority beyond the Supreme Court collection.

“Collectors collect things for different reasons, and—I don’t know—but you can imagine Mr. Silver thinking, I’m a lawyer and I’m really interested in Supreme Court justices, so let’s get all the documents we can pertaining to them.” LaCroix said. “But that could take so many different forms. He could have just been after the autographs. One of the letters, Roger Taney’s, is responding to someone who wrote [in September 1860] asking for his autograph. And Taney just sent it back with a note.”

LaCroix shook her head: “Of all the ones you’d want.” (Three years before sending the autograph, Taney had delivered the majority opinion in the landmark Dred Scott case, which held that black people, whether free or slave, could not claim US citizenship.)

But the Taney letter underscored another important point: motive aside, someone had collected these letters, portraits, and documents; and had taken care to preserve them regardless of writer or content; and had assembled them into one book, ensuring that, to some extent, they would be studied and considered together.

“This is the happenstance, and good fortune, of someone choosing to collect and preserve, and choosing to do it in a certain way,” LaCroix said.

This album, for instance, connected each writer to the Court, but also, at least in some cases, offered insight into other parts of their lives. LaCroix turned the pages until she found the 1762 summons that had been signed by John Rutledge.

“See here, in 1762, this is Rutledge as the provost marshal of South Carolina—it’s a future Supreme Court justice as a judicial official in the British Empire, carrying out writs signed by George III,” LaCroix said. “This, too, is a continuity we often don’t think about.”

Similarly, the album’s portraits captured some of the men as younger, or otherwise different, than the images we most often see. In the Marshall letter, Washington was a man eager to keep the land he’d claimed on the western frontier and Marshall was a practicing lawyer whose time on the Supreme Court was still a dozen years away.

“Sometimes the value in letters like these is that they tell us something we didn’t already know . . . but other times the value is that they make [the writers] real,” Baude said. “The artifacts bring them to life, and they’re more than abstractions in the computer. Seeing an original letter, you remember, too, that the writer actually had to sit down and write, and that the letter had to travel—and you remember how little they knew about what was going on [outside their geographic area]. You get a better emotional sense for how big the world is.”

What’s more, reading about pivotal events through the wizened eyes of hindsight, he pointed out, can offer up powerful reminders and even a lesson or two.

* * *

In 1860, Salmon P. Chase, the Ohio governor and a candidate for US Senate, wrote to a man named E. A. Stansbury about the upcoming presidential election. It had been a turbulent election cycle marked by deep divisions over slavery, a geographically fractured Democratic Party, and a contentious four-way race involving Abraham Lincoln, John C. Breckinridge (a cousin, incidentally, of the Law School’s first female graduate, Sophonisba Breckinridge, 1904), Stephen A. Douglas, and John Bell.

Chase, who would later become the Supreme Court’s sixth chief justice and whose face would appear on the now-defunct $10,000 bill, was an abolitionist lawyer who had represented runaway slaves. He seemed to favor Lincoln and speculated that the Illinois Republican would win—and that his election might bring an end to slavery in America.

But Chase couldn’t help but wonder: what comes next?

My dear friend,

Nothing in the future is even tolerably clear to me except the probability, approaching certainty, that Mr. Lincoln will be our next President, and that by his election the power of slavery in our country will be broken. What lies beyond I see not. I hope the Administration will be Republican, and that faithful Republicans will be called into the Cabinet, and that all will be well. To that end I shall honestly, sincerely and earnestly labor. I do not know Mr. Lincoln personally. All I hear of him inspires confidence in his ability, honesty and magnanimity. These qualities justify the best hopes, but we must remember that he has not been educated in our school, and may not adopt our ideas, therefore, either in selection of men or in the shaping of measures.

Faithfully your friend,

S.P. Chase      

Any apprehension Chase might have felt was well placed, of course. The coming years would bring the secession of 11 southern states, a devastating civil war that would leave hundreds of thousands of dead, and Lincoln’s assassination. But the future would also bring the end of slavery, a fitful reconstruction, and an eventual return to national unity.

“We think of ourselves as confronting all these new circumstances, and we think, ‘Who knows what’s going to happen?’ But they felt that way in 1860, too,” Baude said. “We see that, in some ways, our problems aren’t as new as we think they are. In a way, we’ve been here before.”

All of this—the perspective, the opportunities to connect with founders and shapers of law, the chance to see the evolution of America and its legal system through the words of those who were there—have underscored the very mission that led Lewis and her team to the US Supreme Court Portraits and Letters collection in the first place.

“We were focused on advancing the rare books collection when we found this and, now, it’s a nice reminder of the value that this material brings to the Law School,” Lewis said. “We are looking for ways to continue making rare books more accessible to faculty, and to strengthen and build our offerings.”

Part of that means continuing to explore the existing rare books collection, which includes more than 2,800 items.

“After this,” Lewis said, “I can’t help but wonder what else we’ll find.”

Mansueto Library 360° video

Explore the Mansueto Library’s Grand Reading Room, get a robot’s-eye view of the automated storage and retrieval system, and see preservation experts at work in the conservation and digitization laboratories in this 360° video.

How to view 360° videos

On desktop computers, use a web browser compatible with 360° playback (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Opera). Click and drag the mouse to adjust the frame. Set the video quality to 2160S (4K) for an optimal viewing experience.

On mobile devices, install the YouTube app, and visit https://youtu.be/fV6CAJsqWLA. Either tap and drag your finger to adjust the frame, or move the full device around with your hands.

About the Mansueto Library

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library opened at the heart of the University of Chicago campus in 2011. It features a soaring elliptical glass dome capping a 180-seat Grand Reading Room, state-of-the-art conservation and digitization laboratories, and an underground high-density automated storage and retrieval system.

Learn more at mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu.

New online resource: Global-Regulation

Global-Regulation

“Search 1,530,460 laws from 78 countries, in English. Find, compare and analyse more than 750,000 translated foreign laws.”

The Library is now subscribed to: Global-Regulation. This e-resource contains English translations of laws from many jurisdictions, and especially Canada, Australia, and European countries. You can do one Global Law Search or search individual country’s laws via the Global-Regulation Law Database Coverage Details page. The page also lists the total number of laws for each country or jurisdiction (including the European Union) and has a scope of coverage map.

Note that Global-Regulation translations are not “human-vetted,” so use with care:

“Our service is entirely run by computer algorithms…There may be inaccuracies in information due to our algorithmic extraction of information. Always consult the official source when making use of legal information.”

Global-Regulation, Inc. is partnered with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. The vision of the Canada-based corporation with Global-Regulation is: “To make all of the world’s laws accessible to users in a way that’s as easy as a Google search.”

Check it out!