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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS13193511

The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. papers

Chiefly correspondence, biographical and family papers, together with drafts of writings, diaries, autographs, clippings, and memorabilia. The bulk of the collection is dated 1861-1935.

Dates

  • 1715-1938.

Physical Description

38 linear ft.

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.

Extent

1 collection

1 collection

The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Papers, 1715-1938 contains the papers belonging to Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. that were handled by Palfrey, Holmes’ executor, after his death. The majority of the documents fall between 1861 and 1935, though there are a few family records that date back to the seventeenth century.

The collection consists mainly of correspondence between Holmes and his family and friends. The six primary correspondents are Lewis Einstein, Felix Frankfurter, John Chipman and Nina Gray, Harold Laski, and Frederick Pollock. Holmes also had less frequent correspondence with hundreds more friends and acquaintances, and the collection contains most of the letters received by Holmes in these cases. There is also significant correspondence between Holmes and his family, as well as his wife Fanny’s family, the Dixwells. Of note is the cache of letters Holmes sent home documenting his experiences in the Civil War along with other war-time records such as his diary.

In addition to correspondence, Holmes held on to some of his docket books from his time on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the United States Supreme Court. The collection also contains a significant amount of financial documents such as bank statements and receipts.

In the description of the material, the following should be noted:
  1. Oliver Wendell Holmes refers toJustice Holmes; his father is referred to as Oliver Wendell Holmes(Dr.)
  2. EJH refers to Edward Jackson Holmes, the nephew ofOliver Wendell Holmes; his father is referred to as Edward JacksonHolmes (brother of Oliver Wendell Holmes)
  3. A.L.S. standsfor autograph letter signed, A.M.s. stands for autographmanuscript.
  4. Visual material and objects that were partof the John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) collection of Oliver WendellHolmes Jr. Papers have been transferred to the Art and VisualCollections. All visual materials were digitized in 2009 and can beaccessed through VIA.
  5. Within each series and/or subseries individualitems or folders are identified by box and folder number. Forexample, 3-5 before an entry signifies box 3, folder 5

Historical/Biographical Information

  • March 8, 1841, b. Boston, Mass. to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, poet and essayist (1809-1894) and Amelia Lee (Jackson) Holmes.
  • 1861A.B., Harvard
  • 1861-1864Served 3 years with 20th Mass. Volunteers, lt. to lt. col.; mustered out July 17, 1864 with rank of captain.
  • 1866LL.B., Harvard
  • 1867Admitted to Massachusetts bar
  • June 17, 1872m. Fanny Bowditch Dixwell (died 1929)
  • 1886LL.D., Yale
  • 1870-1871Instructor in Constitutional law, Harvard College
  • 1870-1873Editor, American Law Review
  • 1873-1882Member, law firm of Shattuck, Holmes and Munroe
  • 1880Lecturer on Common law, Lowell Institute
  • 1882Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • 1882-1899Associate Justice, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court
  • 1895LL.D., Harvard
  • 1899-1902Chief Justice, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court
  • December 4, 1902-January 12, 1932Associate Justice, Supreme Court of U.S.
  • 1909D.C.L., Oxford
  • 1910LL.D., Univ. of Berlin
  • 1912LL.D., Williams
  • March 6, 1935Died
Author:
March 8, 1841,
b. Boston, Mass. to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, poet and essayist (1809-1894) and Amelia Lee (Jackson) Holmes.
1861
A.B., Harvard
1861-1864
Served 3 years with 20th Mass. Volunteers, lt. to lt. col.; mustered out July 17, 1864 with rank of captain.
1866
LL.B., Harvard
1867
Admitted to Massachusetts bar
June 17, 1872
m. Fanny Bowditch Dixwell (died 1929)
1886
LL.D., Yale
1870-1871
Instructor in Constitutional law, Harvard College
1870-1873
Editor, American Law Review
1873-1882
Member, law firm of Shattuck, Holmes and Munroe
1880
Lecturer on Common law, Lowell Institute
1882
Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
1882-1899
Associate Justice, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court
1895
LL.D., Harvard
1899-1902
Chief Justice, Mass. Supreme Judicial Court
December 4, 1902-January12, 1932
Associate Justice, Supreme Court of U.S.
1909
D.C.L., Oxford
1910
LL.D., Univ. of Berlin
1912
LL.D., Williams
March 6,1935
Died
Editor: Kent's Commentaries (12th ed.), 1873
  1. The Common Law (lectures at Lowell Institute), 1881
  2. Speeches , 1891, 1913
  3. Collected Legal Papers , 1920

Series List/ Description

  1. Series I. Major Correspondence, 1874-1935 1874-1935 The six subseries in this Seriesrepresent Oliver Wendell Holmes' most prolific correspondents: LewisEinstein, Felix Frankfurter, John Chipman Gray, Nina Gray, HaroldLaski, and Frederick Pollock. Much of this correspondence is of apersonal nature.
  2. ___Subseries A. Einstein, Lewis, 1909-19351909-1935
  3. ___Subseries B. Frankfurter, Felix, 1912-19341912-1934
  4. ___Subseries C. Gray, John Chipman, 1875-19151875-1915
  5. ___Subseries D. Gray, Nina, 1888-1932 1888-1932
  6. ___Subseries E. Laski, Harold, 1916-19351916-1935
  7. ___Subseries F. Pollock, Frederick, 1874-19341874-1934
  8. Series II. General Correspondence, 1849-1935 1849-1935 The General CorrespondenceSeries was divided into two subseries based on the original order ofthe collection as it was received by the library, though they coverthe same time period, and many correspondents may be found in bothsubseries. Little of Oliver Wendell Holmes's correspondence in thisseries seems to be of a casual, unsolicited nature. Hiscorrespondents were predominantly close family friends, distantrelatives, European acquaintances, professional associates,etc.
  9. ___Subseries A. Correspondence from Receipt # 1, 1877-1933 1877-1933
  10. ___Subseries B. File Drawers, 1849-19351849-1935
  11. Series III. Massachusetts. Supreme Judicial Court, 1882-19021882-1902

    Docketentries, in the handwriting of Oliver Wendell Holmes, relating tocases heard by the full court of the Supreme Judicial Court,1899-1902.

  12. Series IV. U.S. Supreme Court, 1902-19311902-1931

    This Seriesincludes petitions for certiorari, hand-written notes by OliverWendell Holmes, docket entries for the October term, 1931, andoriginal actions and appellate cases, arranged chronologically byfiling date.

  13. Series V. Family and Personal Material, 1715-1938 1715-1938 This Seriesconsists of old Holmes, Wendell, and Jackson family material; Dr.Oliver Wendell Holmes items; Oliver Wendell Holmes' diaries, lettersand Civil War material; and Fanny B. Holmes items.
  14. ___Subseries A. Family and Ancestors, 1715-1935.1715-1935.
  15. ___Subseries B. Civil War, 1861-18661861-1866
  16. ___Subseries C. Personal, 1857-19381857-1938
  17. ___Subseries D. Scrapbooks and Clippings, 1902-19321902-1932

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) Collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Papers, 1715-1938, was donated to the President and Fellows of Harvard University on May 20, 1948 by Methyl Palfrey.

Existence and Location of Copies

The entirety of the John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) Collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Papers, 1715-1938 has been digitized. To access individual folders, please click the appropriate link in the container list below. This collection also comprises part of the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Digital Suite , which brings together all of the digitized holdings of the Harvard Law School Library by or about Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Processing Information

In 2011 the collection known as the Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935), Papers 1637-1967, was reprocessed by Margaret Peachy. Five new collections were created from this one collection:
  1. The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945)Collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Papers, 1715-1938;
  2. The Mark DeWolfe Howe Research Materials On Oliver WendellHolmes, Jr., 1858-1968;
  3. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,Addenda, 1818-1978;
  4. The Edward J. Holmes Collection ofOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Materials, 1853-1944;
  5. Letters from Holmes to Lady Castleton Small ManuscriptCollection.
The decision to reprocess the original Holmes papers was based primarily on two factors. First, the original Holmes donation (i.e. the material gathered by his executor John G. Palfrey) had been corrupted by the inclusion of additional material over many years from various sources, which combined to create a collection that misrepresented the original donation. Second, this practice of adding to the original collection resulted in a complex and difficult to use finding aid.
Link to catalog
Title
Holmes, Oliver Wendell. The John G. Palfrey (1875-1945) collection of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Papers, 1715-1938: Finding Aid.
Author
Harvard Law School LibraryCambridge, MA 02138
EAD ID
law00240

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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