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COLLECTION Identifier: HOLLIS 601620

Herbert B. (Herbert Brutus) Ehrmann papers


Papers chiefly relating to Ehrmann's involvement in the Sacco-Vanzetti case as junior counsel for the defense and his research and writings (1927-1969) on the case. Includes much correspondence (1915-1965) with Felix Frankfurter; letters (1920-1927) written by Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to various persons; material pertaining to Ehrmann's participation with the Massachusetts Commissions on Capital Punishment and on Unemployment, the Massachusetts Judicial Council, the Massachusetts Defenders Committee, and other State agencies; and draft material for two projected autobiographical works, tentatively entitled Adventure of Living and Education of a Liberal.


  • Creation: 1906-1970

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Access to these papers is governed by the rules and regulations of the Harvard Law School Library, and in addition by the terms of the agreement between Sara R. Ehrmann and the Harvard Corporation (see CASE FILE at Curator's desk).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.


27 boxes

The Herbert B. Ehrmann Papers span the years 1906 to 1970. The collection includes correspondence, notes, drafts, proof sheets, reports, memoranda, tables, legal documents, book reviews, fan mail, publicity items, bibliographies, clippings, maps, street plans, charts, journal issues, pamphlets, miscellaneous printed items, press releases, editorials, fragments of unpublished manuscripts, photographs, posters, awards, and citations. Photographs have been transferred to the Art Collection.

The main body of the material relates to Herbert B. Ehrmann's involvement in the Sacco-Vanzetti case (Commonwealth v. Sacco and Vanzetti) as junior counsel for the defense for the period May 1926 until just before the execution in August of 1927. Also included are materials related to his research on and writings about the case during the ensuing forty-two years (1927-1969). The titles of the two books he wrote on the Sacco-Vanzetti case are: The Untried Case: The Sacco-Vanzetti Case and the Morelli Gang (1st ed. 1933, 2nd ed. 1960), and The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth V. Sacco and Vanzetti (1969).

Another significant contingent of the collection (approximately 300 items) is Ehrmann's correspondence with Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) which spans the years 1915-1965. Ehrmann and Frankfurter were very close friends. A third important segment of the papers is a group of eighty original letters (A.L.S.) of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti to various individuals, written from their respective prisons, and covering the period 1920-1927. None of these letters of Sacco and Vanzetti have been published in full text; only excerpts from a few of the early ones have appeared in print.

Other activities represented in the papers are materials relating to Ehrmann's participation, in various capacities, in Massachusetts public agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission on Capital Punishment, on Unemployment (1915-1916), the Massachusetts Defenders Committee (1964-1967), and the Massachusetts Judicial Council (1934-1937). There is also a sizeable amount of draft material of two projected autobiographical works, tentatively entitled Adventure of Living and Education of a Liberal.

Among Ehrmann's correspondents, besides Felix Frankfurter, were: Morris B. Abrams, Louis D. Brandeis, John Dos Passos, Morris L. Ernst, David Felix, Bernard Flexner, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Alvan T. Fuller, Arthur J. Goldberg, Erwin N. Griswold, Norman Hapgood, Arthur Garfield Hays, Arthur Dehon Hill, Hubert H. Humphrey, Gardner Jackson, Jacob K. Javits, Paul U. Kellog, Edward M. Kennedy, Robert Morss Lovett, Robert H. Montgomery, Micjael A. Musmanno, Endicott Peabody, Roscoe Pound, Elliot L. Richardson, Francis Russell, Leverett Saltonstall, Upton Sinclair, William G. Thompson, and Joseph N. Welch.

Materials relating to Herbert B. Ehrmann's activities as a member and president of the American Jewish Committee were separated from the Papers and transferred to the archives of the American Jewish Committee. Materials relating to Ehrmann's authorship of staged and unstaged plays were transferred to the Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Historical/Biographical Information

  • Dec. 15, 1891b. Louisville, Kentucky. s. Hilmar and Ernestine (Heissman) E.
  • 1912A.B., cum laude, Harvard University; LL.B., Harvard Law School, 1914
  • May 12, 1917m. Sara Emilie Rosenfeld; children: Hilmar Bruce, Robert Lincoln
  • 1915Admitted to the Massachusetts bar, and began practice at Boston
  • 1921-1970Member of law firm Goulston & Storrs
  • n.d.Board of Directors, U.S. Trust Company, Boston
  • 1915-1919Chairman, Women's Clothing Wage Board of Massachusetts
  • 1918-1919Member, War Labor Policies Board
  • 1919Director, Industrial Relations Division, U.S. Shipping Board
  • 1926-1927Counsel (with William G. Thompson) for Sacco and Vanzetti
  • 1934-1937President, Hale House Association, Greater Boston Federation of Neighborhood Houses
  • 1933-1937Trustee, Massachusetts Training Schools
  • 1934-1937Member, Massachusetts Judicial Council
  • 1939-1945Member, Massachusetts Civil Service Commission
  • n.d.Referee and panel chairman, N.W.L.B.
  • n.d.Arbitrator, American Arbitration Association
  • n.d.Trustee of Social Law Library, Boston
  • 1959-1961Member, American Jewish Committee; president; honorary president, 1961-1970
  • 1970Died

  1. The Untried Case: Sacco and Vanzetti and the Morelli Gang, 1933; new edition, 1960.
  2. The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth v. Sacco and Vanzetti, 1969.
  3. "Sacco and Vanzetti: The Magnetic Point and the Morelli Evidence." ( Harvard Law Review, vol. 79, no.3), Jan. 1966.
  4. Under This Roof (play), 1940.
  5. (With Reginald Heber Smith) "The Criminal Courts" (Part I of the Cleveland Foundation Survey of Criminal Justice in Cleveland ), 1921.
  6. "Felix." In Felix Frankfurter: A Tribute, ed. by Wallace Mendelson, 1964.
  7. "Administration of Criminal Justice" in Annals of Political Science.
  8. Also author of book reviews, memorials, and miscellaneous unpublished pieces, including unpublished fragments of an autobiography.

Series List

  1. Series I. Correspondence
  2. ___Subseries A. GeneralThis seriesspans the period from 1914 until Ehrmann's death in 1970; however,the main body of the correspondence falls within the period of the1960's. Correspondence includes letters received and carbons ofletters sent. The correspondence is of a general professional nature.Some of it deals with Ehrmann's writings on Sacco-Vanzetti in ageneral way; correspondence which relates specifically to his variouswritings or to his research on Sacco-Vanzetti is kept with thosewritings and his research material. Correspondence with members ofthe American Jewish Committee which relates specifically to Ehrmann'sinvolvement with the Committee and various projects of the Committeehas been transferred to the American Jewish Committee.
  3. ___Subseries B. Felix Frankfurter

    The correspondence between Ehrmann and Felix Frankfurter spans the years from 1915 up to the time of Frankfurter's death in 1965. Ehrmann and Frankfurter, and their respective families, were close friends. The materials include discussion of important cases, such as the Sacco-Vanzetti case in which both correspondents were actively involved, discussions of persons in the news, Harvard matters, and personal correspondence. Correspondence contains letters sent and letters received.

  4. Series II. Sacco-Vanzetti
  5. ___Subseries A. The Untried Case This material relates specifically to the publication of the two editions of Ehrmann's The Untried Case: Sacco and Vanzetti and the Morelli Gang, in 1933 and 1960, respectively. Included are reviews, letters from important persons, correspondence, fan mail, clippings, and advertising material. The items span the period from 1928 to 1964.
  6. ___Subseries B. The Case That Will Not Die This material includes initial correspondence with publishers concerning the book, typed drafts of chapters with corrections, re-typed chapters, some galley proof,fan-mail, pictorial material, reviews, and clippings. Most of the chapters include notes which were made by Miss Sorrentino, who checked the MS and typed some of the chapters. The Case That Will Not Die: Commonwealth V. Sacco and Vanzetti was published in 1969. See also Addenda, which contains a printer's manuscript of of The Case That Will Not Die.
  7. ___Subseries C. Research Included here are items relating to the Sacco-Vanzetti case, to developments since the defendants' executions, and to books and articles other than Ehrmann's relating to the case or to certain aspects of the case. The sub-series consists of correspondence, various printed items, notes, drafts, reports, and briefs; it is arranged alphabetically by subject and spans the forty-three years of Ehrmann's research.
  8. ___Subseries D. Chronological Correspondence Series Ehrmann kept these items separate from his other Sacco-Vanzetti files. The original order of their arrangement has been preserved. A number of the correspondents have entries also in some of the other series and sub-series of the Ehrmann Papers.
  9. ___Subseries E. The Letters of Sacco and VanzettiThis sub-series consists of a group of original letterswritten by Sacco and Vanzetti during their time of imprisonment. Onlya few excerpts of the 1923 period were published from these lettersin Mrs. Elizabeth Glendower Evans' pamphlet Outstanding Features ofthe Sacco-Vanzetti case ... [1924]. None of these letters were everpublished in full text, and none were included in theFrankfurter-Jackson edition of letters [1928].
  10. ___Subseries F. ClippingsClippings arearranged in a roughly chronological order; no attempt was made toarrange them within each folder, nor to trim or otherwise repairthem. There are Photostats of newspaper items of the 1920 period inthe group of materials which are oversize [see end of Inventory].
  11. ___Subseries G. Printed Soft-bound MaterialThese are some items which Ehrmann collected during his researchfor his Sacco-Vanzetti writings. Most of these are now out of print.They include Vanzetti's The Story of a Proletarian Life, andBackground of the Plymouth Trial.
  12. Series III. Professional Activities Other ThanSacco-Vanzetti

    Material in this seriesrelates to some of Ehrmann's activities in connection with his lawfirm and with local, state and national endeavors to improve theadministration of justice and to reform legal procedures andlegislative statutes. Included are reports, briefs, correspondence,and drafts.

  13. Series IV. Writings and Speeches Other ThanSacco-Vanzetti

    Items in this series spanalmost 60 years in Ehrmann's life, from his high school compositionsto the middle 1960's. They are in draft form, typescript and printedform. Several are chapters of projected but unfinishedautobiographical works.

  14. Series V. Biographical Material

    The items in this series relate mainly to Ehrmann's college andlaw school reunions and alumni activities. A certain amount ofbiographical information on Ehrmann may be gleaned from the chaptersof his unpublished and unfinished autobiographical works in SeriesIV.

  15. Series VI.Miscellany

    Itemsincluded are mainly background material that Ehrmann collected onsome of the controversial figures and issues of his time. There arealso a small number of personal items.

  16. Series VII. Oversize Material: Memorabilia

    This group includes citations and Photostats of newspapersrelated to the Sacco-Vanzetti case.

  17. Series VIII. Addenda

    Material was processed, Spring 2001 and July 2004. Container list indicates wherematerial of this series was inter-filed with the material of series Ithrough VII.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Papers of Herbert B. Ehrmann, lawyer and author, were presented to the Harvard Law School Library as a gift in December, 1970, by Mr. Ehrmann's widow, Sara R. Ehrmann.

Processing Information

Prepared by Erika S. Chadbourn, January 1972.

Ehrmann, Herbert B. (Herbert Brutus). Papers, 1906-1970: Finding Aid. HOLLIS 601620
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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