Papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr.
Zechariah Chafee, Jr. (1885-1957), legal scholar, civil liberties advocate, and educator, taught at Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1956. He joined the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor in 1916, was promoted to full professor in 1919, appointed Langdell Professor of Law in 1938, and University Professor in 1950, retiring in 1956. His papers contain materials related to his personal life and professional career, including correspondence; student papers; commonplace books; diaries and personal notebooks; literary manuscripts, reprints, and pamphlets; scrapbooks; tape recordings of Chafee’s Lowell Television Lectures on "The Constitution and Human Rights;" and a Chafee family scrapbook and correspondence.
- 1889-1957 and undated
The Papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr. are open for research with the following exception: "The Constitution and Human Rights" Tape recordings of the television lecture, 1956-1957 (HUG 4273.23) may be restricted until use copies can be made; please see reference staff for details.
Extent19.5 cubic feet (49 document boxes, 5 flat boxes, 4 half-document boxes, 4 folders)
The Papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr. contain materials related to his personal life and professional career. The collection has personal and professional correspondence, including letters pertaining to Chafee's work as president of the Massachusetts Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, as well as his involvement in professional organizations such as the American Bar Association and the American Civil Liberties Union. Chafee’s papers include his Harvard College and Law School student papers, with addresses and notebooks; commonplace books; diaries and personal notebooks; literary manuscripts, reprints, and pamphlets; scrapbooks; and tape recordings and a manuscript of Chafee’s Lowell Television Lectures on "The Constitution and Human Rights." The papers also contain Chafee family correspondence, including letters relating to his wife and children, and a scrapbook of Chafee’s letters belonging to his parents, Zechariah (1859-1943) and Mary Dexter Sharpe Chafee (1860-1934).
Biographical note on Zechariah Chafee, Jr.
Zechariah Chafee, Jr. (1885-1957), legal scholar, civil liberties advocate, and educator, taught at Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1956. He graduated from Brown University in 1907, then received his Harvard LLB in 1913. Chafee practiced at the Rhode Island law firm Tillinghast & Collins from 1913 to 1916 before joining the Harvard Law School faculty as an assistant professor. He was promoted to full professor in 1919, then appointed Langdell Professor of Law in 1938 and University Professor in 1950; Chafee retired in 1956.
In 1921, he was brought before the Harvard Board of Overseers on a charge of radicalism for challenging the sentence handed down in Abrams v. United States. He defended his position successfully and was able to keep his position at Harvard. In 1952, Senator Joseph McCarthy labeled Chafee as “dangerous” to the United States because he had defended Communist leader Earl Browder.
Throughout his career, Chafee made significant contributions to First Amendment scholarship, most notably with his 1920 work, Freedom of Speech. He participated in several cases relating to freedom of speech before the United States Supreme Court. Chafee served as vice chairman of the Commission on Freedom of the Press (the Hutchins Commission) from 1943 to 1947, was a member of the United Nations Subcommission on Freedom of Information and of the Press from 1947 to 1951, and served as a United States delegate to the 1948 United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information and the Press.
He married Bess Frank Searle in 1912, and the couple had four children: Zechariah, Robert, Anne, and Ellen. Chafee died in 1957.
This collection is arranged in twenty-one series:
- Files relating to his work as president of the Massachusetts Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, [circa 1928-1932] (HUG 4273)
- General Correspondence (HUG 4273.5)
- Personal correspondence (HUG 4273.6)
- "Personal-Private" Correspondence, 1907-1955 (HUG 4273.7)
- Personal ("not private") Correspondence, 1926-1929 (HUG 4273.7.5)
- Personal ("not private") Correspondence prior to 1940, 1930-1940 (HUG 4273.8)
- Personal ("not private") Correspondence through 1948, 1942-1948 (HUG 4273.9)
- Correspondence (Special Folders), 1928 (HUG 4273.11)
- College and Law School Papers, etc. including early addresses (HUG 4273.12)
- School papers and notebook, etc. (HUG 4273.13)
- Family Letters, Chronological File, 1910-1957 and undated (HUG 4273.14)
- Family Letters. Special Folders (HUG 4273.15)
- Scrapbook of Zechariah Chafee [Sr.] and Mary Dexter (Sharpe) Chafee covering letters from their son Zechariah Chafee, Jr., 1889-1915 (HUG 4273.16)
- Diaries, 1895-1927 (HUG 4273.18)
- Personal notebooks, 1897-1913 (HUG 4273.18.5)
- Commonplace Books (HUG 4273.19)
- Scrapbooks, 1902-1924 (HUG 4273.20)
- Scrapbooks, 1928-1957 (HUG 4273.20 F)
- "The Constitution and Human Rights" Television Lectures, WGBH-TV, mss., 1956 (HUG 4273.22)
- "The Constitution and Human Rights" Tape recordings of the television lecture, 1956-1957 (HUG 4273.23)
- Reprints, Pamphlets, etc. (HUG 4273.72)
Specific acquisition information, when available, is noted at the series level:
- Gift of Zechariah Chafee, III, June 5, 1972
- Gift of Zechariah Chafee, III, June 4, 1984; Accession 10095
- Transferred from the Harvard University Secretary to the Corporation, September 11, 1958
This finding aid was created by Olivia Mandica-Hart in February 2021. Information in this finding aid was assembled from legacy paper inventories and container management data. The collection was not re-examined by the archivist.
- Chafee, Zechariah, Jr., 1885-1957. Papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr., 1889-1957 and undated : an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
- February 4, 2021
- Description rules
- Language of description
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
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