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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS601667

Zechariah Chafee papers


This collection includes materials relating to Chafee's activities as law teacher, legal scholar, historian, and defender of civil liberties. Includes research material for drafts of the Federal Interpleader Act of 1936.


  • Creation: 1898 - 1957

Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library, and by the special terms of access as stated in the letters of Zechariah Chafee 3rd dated Sept. 18, 1957 and Dec. 26, 1969, respectively, and Mr. Earl C. Borgeson's letter of Jan. 6, 1970. Most of this collection is open to the public without restriction. This collection is housed off-site at Harvard Depository and requires 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Consult the Special Collections staff for further information.

There is material relating to Harvard Law School Admissions and Faculty appointments that is governed by the University rules for administrative records and these may be closed to researchers (Boxes 54, folders 14-22; 55-19 and 20; 56-8-18; 57-9 and 10; 57-14 through 59-4, and box 61-11).

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.


93 boxes

The 22,000 items in the personal papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr. (1885-1957) span the years 1898-1957, with the bulk of the material covering the years from 1916 to 1956. There is also a small group of materials of Zechariah Chafee, Jr.'s father and grandfather, originating between 1840 and 1882.

The collection includes professional correspondence; a small amount of personal and family correspondence; teaching notes; student notes; statistical surveys in the field of legislation; reports; minutes of meetings; drafts of writings, speeches, lectures, and legislation; pamphlets, photographs, and clippings.

The papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr. relate to his activities as law teacher, legal scholar, and historian. There is only a small amount of material in these papers relating to his family and personal life. His professional activities dominate the papers.

The Chafee Papers include Prof. Chafee's research and correspondence in connection with the drafting of the Federal Interpleader Act of 1936, of which he was the "author," and his editorial contributions to the post-humous publication of Prof. Edwin Merrick Dodd's American Business Corporations until 1860 (1954).

Among Prof. Chafee's correspondents were U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, Jr.; U.S. Supreme Court Justices Black, Brandeis, Burton, Cardozo, Douglas, Frankfurter, Holmes, and Stone; Judges Charles F. Amidon, Amos N. Blandin, Armistead Dobie, Laurence I. Duncan, Learned Hand, Frank R. Kenison, Raymond S. Wilkins, and Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr.; Harold Laski, Archibald MacLeish, Allan Nevins, Frank W. Taussig, Alfred North Whitehead, and Herbert Croly.

Historical/Biographical Information

Zechariah Chafee was a Fellow at Brown University, a member of: the American Philosopical Society; American Bar Association; Colonial Society Of Massachusetts; American Academy Arts and Sciences; Massachusetts Historical Society ; Alpha Delta Phi; and Phi Beta Kappa. He was also a member of the Harvard Club (Boston); Tavern Club; and Century Club (New York). Chaffee was an Episcopalian.

  • December 7, 1885 Born Providence, Rhode Island,
  • 1907 A.B., Brown University,
  • 1913LL.B., Harvard,
  • 1936LL.D., St. John's University,
  • 1937 LL.D., Brown University
  • 1953LL.D., University of Chicago
  • 1941D.C.L., Boston University
  • 1944 Litt. D., Colby College,
  • July 20, 1912Married Bess Frank Searle; children: Zechariah III, Robert S., Anne C. Brien, Ellen C. Tillinghast.
  • 1907-1910With Builders Iron Foundry, Providence,
  • 1914-Member Builders Iron Foundry Board of Directors
  • 1913-1916In practice with Tillinghast and Collins, Providence
  • 1916-1919 Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard
  • 1919-Professor of law
  • 1923-1925, 1932Lecturer on Law, Columbia University Summer School
  • 1938-Langdell Professor of Law
  • 1950-University Professor
  • 1936Chicago University,
  • 1936Syndic Harvard University Press
  • 1917-1918Member Cambridge Legal Advisory Board,
  • Director Cambridge Welfare Union
  • 1920One of twelve lawyers reporting on illegal activities of the Department of Justice
  • 1923 Chairman Comm. on Coal and Civil Liberties, reporting to U.S. Coal Commission
  • 1929-1931Consultant to National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (co-author of report on lawlessness in law enforcement, 1931)
  • 1943-1947Freedom of Press Comm.
  • 1947-1948Member U.N. Subcommittee on Freedom of Information and the Press
  • 1948 U.S. delegate to U.N. Conference, Geneva
  • American Bar Association Subcommittee drafting Federal Interpleader Act of 1936, Bill of Rights Commission
  • 1920 Freedom of Speech
  • 1924 Cases on Equitable Relief Against Torts
  • 1922 chapter on law in Civilization in the U.S.
  • 1938 America Now
  • 1928 The Inquiring Mind
  • 1939 Cases on Equitable Remedies
  • 1937 State House vs. Pent House - Legal Problems of the Rhode Island Race Track Row
  • 1938, 1939The Constitutional Convention That Never Met, (two parts)
  • 1941Free Speech in the United States,
  • 1942 Weathering the Panic of 1973
  • 1947 Reissued Notes on Bills and Mass Communications
  • 1950 Some Problems of Equity
  • 1951 Documents on Fundamental Human Rights
  • 1952 How Human Rights Got Into the Constitution
  • 1955 Freedom of Speech and Press,

Cases on Equity (Chafee, Simpson and Maloney), 1934, 2nd ed., 1946; Return to Freedom, 1944.


Brannan's Negotiable Instruments of Law (4th ed.), 1926.

Wrote legal introduction to Suffolk Co. Court Records (1671-1680), 1933.

Freedom of Speech
Cases on Equitable Relief Against Torts
chapter on law in Civilization in the U.S.
America Now
The Inquiring Mind
Cases on Equitable Remedies
State House vs. Pent House - Legal Problems of the Rhode Island Race Track Row
1938, 1939
The Constitutional Convention That Never Met, (two parts)
Free Speech in the United States,
Weathering the Panic of 1973
Reissued Notes on Bills and Mass Communications
Some Problems of Equity
Documents on Fundamental Human Rights
How Human Rights Got Into the Constitution
Freedom of Speech and Press,

Series List

The arrangement that Prof. Chafee had imposed upon his files, including folder headings, was preserved throughout. For convenience of handling of these papers, large, bulky folders were broken up into thinner folders.

  1. Series I. General Correspondence, 1916-1956 1916-1956

    Predominantly general professional correspondence, dealing withChafee's writings, lectures, speeches, general law school matters,publication matters, proposed federal legislation, etc.Correspondents include Harvard College and Harvard Law Schoolcolleagues, law teachers in other parts of the U.S. and abroad,practicing lawyers, editors of law reviews and national publications,former students, etc. Period covered is mainly 1916 to 1928, withlittle correspondence after that. Correspondence concerning specificactivities is generally filed with the particular activity,committee, investigation, organization in Series IV, V orVI.Correspondence includes letters from Harold Laski, ArchibaldMacLeish, Allan Nevins, Frank W. Taussig, Alfred North Whitehead, andHerbert Croly.

  2. Series II. Judges' Letters

    Predominantly professional correspondence, discussion of Chafee'sbooks and investigations, acknowledgements of receipt and expressionsof gratitude for articles and other material received from Chafee,comments on current legal cases of national prominence, etc.

  3. Series III. Personal, Biographical, FamilyMaterial

    Material includes correspondenceof various members of Chafee family, some clippings, photos, estatematters, and other personal miscellany.

  4. Series IV. Activities

    Material inthis series covers mainly professional activities outside of ProfesorChafee's teaching and writing. Much of it is material gathered forspecial committees and special investigations. Material includesreports, correspondence, memoranda, pamphlets, reprints of articles,federal laws, and newspaper clippings.

  5. Series V. Interpleader

    ProfessorChafee was the author of the Federal Interpleader Act, which waspassed by Congress in 1936. He undertook his studies for the Sectionof Insurance Law of the American Bar Association. Material in thisseries includes correspondence in connection with the research for,and drafting of, the Federal Interpleader Act, the study of specificcases used as a basis for the drafting of the Act, and correspondenceabout articles and reports that resulted from his investigations. The"Research" section of this series is confined to his research of theindividual states of the Union concerning existing statelegislation.

  6. Series VI. Civil Liberties

    Professor Chafee was the outstanding legal scholar of the firstpart of this century in the field of Civil Liberties. For forty yearshe spoke and wrote about the Bill of Rights and the problems of CivilLiberties such as mail censorship, academic freedom, loyalty oaths,etc. Materials in this series includes reports, memoranda, analysesof Browder, Bridges, Hollywood Ten and similar cases, discussion ofCongressional bills and state legislation designed to limitconstitutional freedoms. Manuscripts of Chafee's writings in thefield of Civil Liberties are found in Series IX.

  7. Series VII. Teaching Notes

    Material in this series consists of Chafee's hand-written lecturenotes, typescripts of notes, diaries of courses, correspondence aboutcourses, cases he used for illustrations of points, examinationquestions, etc. Included are notes for courses that he taught atHarvard College. Boxes 36-39 contain material for "Old Courses,"courses he taught during the first part of his teaching career.During the later part of his teaching, Chafee specialized in Equityand in Bills and Notes.

  8. Series VIII. Harvard Law School

    Material in this series consists of Chafee's own student notes andtrial briefs while at the Harvard Law School, correspondence,memoranda, minutes and reports of various faculty committees heserved on, examination questions, miscellaneous correspondence,miscellaneous memoranda, book-lists, material concerning law clubs,policy statements, and photographs. The abbreviation H.L.S. forHarvard Law School is used throughout.

  9. Series IX. Writings

    This seriesconsists of manuscripts for books, speeches, outside lectures,articles, correspondence with Chafee's publishers, copies of bookorders, reviews of Chafee's books, correspondence with co-authors,financial matters, background material Chafee collected for hiswritings, copyright matters, early writings (juvenilia), andmiscellaneous clippings.

  10. Series X. Legal Miscellany

    Thisgroup of materials was placed under the heading of "Legal Miscellany"by Prof. Chafee himself and was arranged by him in alphabeticalorder. It contains various items relating to his research, histeaching and writing, legal issues of the day, prominent legal cases,material relating to professional groups, etc. Period covered extendsfrom the beginning of his teaching career until his death in1957.

  11. Series XI. Addenda

    This seriesconsists of Chafee material which was brought in after the completionof the arranging of the papers, from various sources within the LawSchool, mainly the late Professor Mark DeWolfe Howe's office. (Prof.Howe was Prof. Chafee's literary executor.)

  12. Series XII. Addenda, Writings
  13. PaigeBoxes: 2 Boxes of Student Notes while at Harvard Law School.
  14. Index Cards: 4 Boxes of Index Cards.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Papers of Zechariah Chafee, Jr., law professor, legal scholar and historian, were presented to the Harvard Law School Library in 1957 by Zechariah Chafee 3rd and Peter Seamans, Esq., except for two Paige Boxes of student notes which were given to the Library by Prof. Chafee himself in 1956.

Existence and Location of Copies

The Zechariah Chafee Papers is available on microfilm; see the HOLLIS record for more information.

Researchers are required to use the microfilm copy of the collection.

General note

Material elsewhere

Comparative Literature 181 (Course given in Harvard College): Legal Protection of Literature, Art and Music.

  1. Materials for class use compiled by ZC, 1955.
  2. 2bound volumes of typed, mimeographed material.
  3. 1 set in"Red Set"; Prof. Kaplan has 1 set also

General note

Photos transferred to Art Collection (all black and white) from Zechariah Chafee, Jr., Papers

17 June 1985

  1. 1. Faculty photo 1928
  2. 2. Faculty photo1931
  3. 3. Faculty photo 1948
  4. 4. Faculty photo1949
  5. 5. Faculty photo 1953 [ZC not in picture]
  6. 6. Chafee aboard R.M.S. Queen Elizabeth
  7. 7. 8x10glossy b. and w. photos of oil portrait of ZC, by Cox
  8. 8.8x10 matte b. and w. photos of oil portrait of ZC, by Cox
  9. 9. Bachrach photo of ZC 8x10, b. and w. (3 copies, 1 slightlydifferent) 1938
  10. 10. Photo of Beale
  11. 11.Photo of Williston
  12. 12. Clipping of E.R. Thayer
  13. 13. Cartoon: "Live in Langdell" (clipping)
  14. 14.Photogravure of C.C. Langdell portrait (3 copies)
  15. 15.Photos of two Story portraits
  16. 16. Photo of JeremiahSmith
  17. 17. Photo of H.L.S. faculty in 1901 (proof, in 2sections)
  18. 18. Photo clipping of Langdell Hall,1906
  19. 19. Photo clipping of Austin Hall
  20. 20.Photo clipping of reproduction of Harv. Coll. ca. late 1700's
  21. 21. Snapshot of ZC, sitting in chair, reading
  22. 22.2 copies of 6x8 photo of ZC, ca. 1920 (Marshall Studio,Cambr.)
  23. 23. Photo of ZC and Pollak, ca. 1920's
  24. 24. Photo of ZC with checked tie, 3 views, taken at same time(White Studios) ca. 1930's bust length
  25. 25. 8x10 photo ofZC, at desk, books piled at right of him 1940's (by Harris J.Sobin)
  26. 26. 8x10 photo of ZC, head and shoulders, faceturned to right 1940's
  27. 27. 4 1/2x7 photo of ZC, head andshoulders, face turned to right 1953 or 1954 (Harv. U. NewsOffice)
  28. 28. 4 1/2x7 photo of ZC, head and upper body,holding pipe in right hand (marked: "appeared in Providence Journal,26 Oct. 1947, source unknown")
  29. 29. 20 snapshots of HLSfaculty members, 1925/1926 3 1/2x5 1/2 1 snapshot of classroom
  30. 30. 10 passport (?) photos of ZC, 2 1/2x3 (some areduplicates)
  31. 31. 1 matted photo of ZC, by Sarony, N.Y.(photo size 4 1/2x6 1/2) ca. 1940's
  32. 32. Corr. repictures

Processing Information

Prepared by Erika Chadbourn.

Chafee, Zechariah. Papers, 1898-1957: 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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