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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601661

Ezra Ripley Thayer papers


Papers relating to Thayer's student and teaching career at Harvard Law School, work as a practicing attorney, and involvement in professional affairs. Includes notes, financial records (1884-1891), and examination questions from his student days at Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and studies for the Massachusetts Bar Association and Carnegie Foundation on the quality and content of bar examinations and methods of teaching in American law schools.


  • Creation: 1882 - 1915

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library. This collection is open to the public, but is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Law School Library holds copyright on some, but not all, of the material in our collections. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be directed to the Special Collections staff. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Harvard Law School Library are also responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations who hold copyright.


1 collection (15 boxes, 2 Paige boxes)

The approximately 1,400 items in the papers of Ezra Ripley Thayer (1866-1915) span the years 1882 to 1915. The collection includes correspondence; letterpress copybooks; notes; drafts; reports; memoranda; clippings; and other printed items.

The bulk of the Ezra Ripley Thayer papers relates to his years at Harvard, both as a student at the College and as a student, teacher and dean at the Law School. Thayer preserved sets of examination questions, student notes, and personal financial records while a student at Harvard (1884-1891). His papers from his teaching period (1910-1915) include some of his lecture notes, studies for the Massachusetts Bar Association and for the Carnegie Foundation concerning the quality and content of Bar examination questions and methods of teaching in American law schools. Also contained is a certain amount of correspondence with colleagues and others concerning professional matters. Arrangement of this correspondence is partially chronological (11 folders) and partially alphabetical. The chronological sequence contains a considerable amount of correspondence with Harlan Fiske Stone, at that time Dean of the Columbia University Law School. Among his other correspondents during this period were: Adolf Berle, Jr.; F.W. Grinnell; Richard W. Hale; Judge Joseph C. Higgins; Roscoe Pound; John H. Wigmore; and Bruce Wyman.

A third prominent group of papers consists of material preserved from his years as practicing attorney (1893-1910). Included in this group are seven letterpress volumes of carbons of letters sent during this period. There is also a small amount of correspondence with Louis D. Brandeis and Henry L. Stimson.

Historical/Biographical Information

Thayer, Ezra Ripley, attorney, law professor and law dean.

b. February 21, 1866, Milton, Massachusetts.

p. James Bradley and Sophia Bradford (Ripley) T.

A.B. Harvard College, 1888.

LL.B. Harvard Law School, 1891.

m. Ethel Randolf Clark, June 23, 1898 (three children).

Secretary to Justice Horace Gray, U.S. Supreme Court, 1892.

Practiced law in Boston with the firm of Brandeis, Dunbar, and Nutter, 1893-1900.

Practiced law in Boston with the firm of Storey, Thorndike, Palmer and Thayer, 1900-1910.

Dane Professor of Law and Dean of the Harvard Law School, 1910-1915.

d. September 14, 1915.


  1. "The Harvard Law School: Looking Ahead," Harvard Alumni Bulletin 17, 7, November 11, 1914, pp. 104-105.
  2. "Observations on the Law of Evidence," Michigan Law Review XIII, 5 March, 1915.
  3. "Judicial Administration"; an address before the Law Association of Philadelphia, 1915.
  4. References to Cases and Statutes to Accompany Lectures on Massachusetts Practice, 1903-1904.

Compiler: Legal Essays, by James Bradley Thayer, 1908.

Series List

  1. Series I. Ezra Ripley Thayer as Student
  2. Series II. Ezra Ripley Thayer as Practicing Attorney
  3. Series III. Teaching Notes
  4. Series IV. Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Ezra Ripley Thayer as Dean and Dane Professor of Law
  5. Series V. Addenda

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The provenance of the Ezra Ripley Thayer Papers has not been definitively ascertained. Quite possibly they were collected in Dean Thayer's office soon after his unexpected death and stored with other manuscript materials of the Law School Library. It is also possible that they were transferred to the Law School in later years by Dean Thayer's son, James B. Thayer (1899-).

Processing Information

Prepared by John J. Feeney, Jr., October 1974.

Thayer, Ezra Ripley. Papers, 1882-1915: Finding Aid.
Harvard Law School Library Cambridge, MA 02138
Language of description

Repository Details

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.

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