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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601621

United States Wickersham Commission records


Records of a commission chaired by former U.S. Attorney General George Wickersham, also known as the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement. Bulk of the material relates to prohibiton and narcotic law enforcement and the cost of administration of criminal justice.


  • Creation: 1928 - 1931

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.


19 linear feet (38 boxes, 3 Paige boxes)

The approximately 7,000 items in the papers of the United States Wickersham Commission span the years 1928-1931. The collection includes correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, transcripts, press releases, notes, financial statements, form letters, briefs and reports, drafts and outlines of reports, news clippings, and printed items.

The papers in the collection relate to the activities of the United States Wickersham Commission. Appointed by President Herbert Hoover in May, 1929, pursuant to an act of Congress, the members of the Commission were charged with the responsibility of "studying exhaustively the entire problem of the enforcement of our laws and the improvement of our judicial system, including the special problem and abuses growing out of the prohibition laws". The Commission was chaired by George W. Wickersham and included among its members Henry W. Anderson, Newton D. Baker, Ada L. Comstock, William I. Grubb, William S. Kenyon, Monte M. Lehman, Frank J. Loesch, Kenneth Mackintosh, Paul J. McCormick and Dean Roscoe Pound of the Harvard Law School. Under Wickersham's leadership the Commission pursued its studies under eleven headings: namely, Prohibition, Delinquency, Criminal Justice and the Foreign Born, Lawlessness in Law Enforcement, Penal Institutions, Probations, and Parole. By June 26, 1931, the date of the Commission's last meeting, it had completed and signed reports on all of the subjects undertaken.

While the papers in this collection cover the entire scope of the Commission's investigation, the bulk of the material deals with its work in the area of Prohibition law enforcement and the cost of the administration of criminal justice. For a detailed description of the content of these papers, see the Series Description.

Important segments of papers relating to the work of the Wickersham Commission may also be found in the following collections in the Manuscript Division of the Harvard Law School Library: Roscoe Pound Papers, Miriam Van Waters Papers.

Series List

  1. Series I. Correspondence, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 7 boxes.

    The bulk of the correspondence in this series pertains to prohibition and the cost of the administration of criminal justice while a small portion of its deals with the Commission's work on narcotic law enforcement. The principal correspondent on prohibition matters was Dean Roscoe Pound, who was directly involved in the Commission's study of prohibition law enforcement, while the principal correspondent on the cost of the administration of criminal justice was Sidney P. Simpson, chairman of the subcommittee that dealt directly with this subject. Other important correspondents include J. Edgar Hoover, George Wickersham, George W. Norris, Newton D. Baker, Henry W. Anderson, Ada Comstock, and Kenneth Macintosh. The material in the series covers the years 1929-1931.

  2. Series II. Reports and Drafts of the Commission, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 6 boxes

    The material in this series consists of reports prepared by the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement on such topics as juvenile delinquency, organized crime, prohibition, federal and state law enforcement and the enforcement of deportations. The material in this series consists of holographic drafts and typescripts of reports, minutes of meetings, memoranda, printed matter, press releases and typescripts of statements and interviews.

  3. Series III. Circulars to the Commissioners, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 9 boxes.

    The material in this series consists of evidence and source material submitted to the Commission in order to enable it to study various aspects of law enforcement in the United States. The circulars are numbered from 1-344 and deal with all of the aspects of the Commission's investigation. The material consists of reports, memoranda, lists of suggestions, and books received by the commissioners, congressional bills, statistical surveys, statements made by various individuals, briefs, presidential messages, stenographic transcripts of meetings and conferences of experts.

  4. Series IV. Prohibition and Narcotics materials, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 5 boxes.

    The material in this series consists of the data and findings of the Commission's subcommittee on prohibition and narcotic law enforcement. It includes clippings, reports, circulars, memoranda, outlines, drafts of reports, charts, graphs, statistical information, printed matter and galley proofs, and handwritten notes.

  5. Series V. Cost of Crime Materials, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 13 boxes.

    The material in this series deals with the Commission's study of the cost of crime and the administration of criminal justice. It includes memoranda, printed matter, typescripts, reports, holographic drafts, statistical data and clippings relating to the cost of crime and the administration of criminal justice.

  6. Series VI. Fiscal and Miscellaneous papers, 1929-1931, 1929-1931, 1 box.

    The material in this series relates to the expenditures and financial mechanics of the Commission's operation. It consists primarily in vouchers and records of income and disbursements.

  7. Series VII. Paige Boxes 3 Paige boxes.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of the Wickersham Commission were turned over to the Harvard Law School Library by Dean Roscoe Pound, a member of the Commission, and Professor Sidney Post Simpson, who served the Commission as Director of the "Study of the Cost of Administration of Criminal Justice". No specific correspondence file exists which relates to the transfer of these papers.

Processing Information

Prepared by John J. Feeney, Jr., May 17, 1975.

United States. Wickersham Commission. Records, 1928-1931: 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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