- 1912 - 1983
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
The collection falls into three distinct groups: (a) The draft of an autobiography, (b) Fraenkel's correspondence with Selma M. Breitenbach, and (c) his diaries.
The holograph draft of the manuscript of Osmond K. Fraenkel's autobiography is contained in five small-size notebooks, and the period covered is 1888 to 1953. The draft was written essentially between 1954 and 1956, with a few last entries dated 1962. Volume 1 contains a one-page Introduction about how Fraenkel came to draft this autobiography. He states that he was challenged and inspired by Arthur Meyer to whom he had sent parts of his diaries. He drew on his diaries and on letters to write this manuscript. He began in the summer of 1954 with vol. 3 (1913-1927), wrote vol. 4 in the fall of 1954, vol. 1 in 1955, vol. 2 in December 1956, and vol. 5 sporadically over the years 1954, 1955, 1956, and 1962. Fraenkel says that, in addition to drawing on his diaries, the autobiography fills in gaps in his diaries. The "autobiography" has not been published.
The correspondence of Osmond K. Fraenkel with Thelma M. Breitenbach spans the years 1933 to 1983, with the bulk of the correspondence falling into the period 1933 to 1965. Letters and notes are mainly those of Fraenkel addressed to his friend Selma Breitenbach, with a smaller number of letters by her. They relate to Fraenkel's day-to-day personal and professional activities; to their families and friends, e.g. Alfred A. Knopf who introduced Fraenkel to the pleasure and satisfaction of collecting first editions of books; to the world of the theater, music, art and literature; and to observations on nature and on travel. In part the letters of Fraenkel reflect his life-long concern with violation of the civil liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights: as co counsel to the New York Civil Liberties Union (1934-1955) and later general counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (1955-1977) he handled great numbers of their cases, arguing several of them before the Supreme Court of the United States. Letters also discuss some of his writing commitments.
Osmond K. Fraenkel's diary-notebooks span the years 1912 to 1980; there are seventy-six of these volumes. Essentially, entries were made by him on a daily basis; however, an occasional span of two months or more is summed up in a resume. The entries document in detail Fraenkel's professional activities, including comments on cases argued and on court decisions; his civil liberties activities including accounts of meetings of the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union; his social life; and his travels. In addition, there are a few loose items in these diary volumes, e.g. an exchange between Fraenkel and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, 3 and 15 February 1961, and a holograph letter of Fraenkel to Roger Baldwin, 20 April 1964.
Major correspondents in these papers are Fraenkel himself, and Selma M. Breitenbach.
b. 17 October 1888, New York, New York
s. Joseph E. and Emily (Kessler) Fraenkel
A.B. magna cum laude, Harvard University, '1908
A.M., Harvard University, 1908
LL.B., Columbia University, 1911
m. Helene Esberg, 11 December 1913; children: Nancy (Mrs. James A. Wechsler), Carol (Mrs. Mack Lipkin), George K.
Admitted to New York State bar, 1910
Attorney and partner, Goldsmith and Fraenkel, 1916-1928; Goldsmith, Jackson and Brock, 1928-1942; Fraenkel, Jackson and Levitt, 1942-1945
Counsel to Hays, St. John, Abramson and Schulman, later Hays, St. John, Abramson and Heilbron, 1945-1981; Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman, P.C., 1982-1983
Co-counsel to New York Civil Liberties Union, 1934-1955
General counsel to American Civil Liberties Union, 1955-1977
Recipient, Florina Lasker Award, New York Civil Liberties Union, 1973
Member, Association of the Bar of the City of New York; member of its Law Reform Committee Member, National Lawyers Guild; American Arbitration Association
d. 16 May 1983
- The Sacco-Vanzetti Case, 1931
- Our Civil Liberties, 1945
- The Supreme Court and Civil Liberties [Revised to end of 1961 term of the Court], 1966
- Also articles in legal journals and general magazines.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Fraenkel, Osmond Kessler. Papers, 1912-1983 Finding Aid.
- Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
- EAD ID
Part of the Harvard Law School Library, Historical & Special Collections Repository
Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.
1545 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02138 USA