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HOLLIS 601675

Thayer, James Bradley, 1831-1902. Papers, 1787-1902: Finding Aid.

Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard Law School

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: HOLLIS 601675
Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Thayer, James Bradley, 1831-1902
Title: James Bradley Thayer, 1831-1902. papers
Date(s): 1787-1902
Quantity: 1 collection (27 boxes, 1 Paige box)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: This collection includes materials relating chiefly to Thayer's writing and teaching career. Includes research notes and drafts for A Preliminary Treatise on the Law of Evidence at the Common Law (1898) and his biography of John Marshall (1901); papers relating to his participation in the writing of the constitutions of North and South Dakota, 1889, and his chairmanship of a committee concerned with Indian legislation, 1887-1892; diary-like letters to his wife, Sophia Bradford (Ripley) Thayer, written while on a Western journey with Ralph Waldo Emerson; and letters to Emerson relating to Emerson's business affairs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The Papers of James Bradley Thayer (1831-1902), attorney, law teacher and legal scholar, were presented to the Harvard Law School Library in 1949 as a gift by his grandson, James B. Thayer (1899-).

Processing Information:

Prepared by Tom Brudney and the Staff, October 1974.

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.

Historical/Biographical Information

Thayer, James Bradley, attorney, law professor, legal scholar.
b. Haverhill, Massachusetts, January 15, 1831.
s. Abijah Wyman and Susan Bradley Thayer.
A.B., Harvard College, 1852.
Graduate work, Harvard University; LL.B., Harvard Law School, 1856.
LL.D., Iowa State University, 1891; Harvard University, 1894.
m. Sophia Bradford Ripley, 1861.
Practiced law in Boston from 1856 until 1874.
Royall Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, 1874-1883 (appointed Royall Professor December 8, 1873); Weld Professor of Law, 1883-1902.
d. February 14, 1902 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Series List

Scope and Contents

The 1700 items in the papers of James Bradley Thayer (1831-1902) span the years 1850 to 1902; a small number of research items used by Professor Thayer date back to the time of James Monroe and Chief Justice John Marshall.
The collection includes correspondence; memoranda; bound and unbound notes and drafts; copies of letters from other institutions used for research purposes; bona fide legal documents and moot court briefs; clippings; and other printed items, some with inscriptions to Thayer, and some with marginalia by Thayer.
The bulk of James B. Thayer's papers related to his teaching years at the Harvard Law School, covering the years 1874 to his death in 1902. The papers include fairly complete notes for the various courses that he taught, particularly for his course on evidence. Most of these notes are entered chronologically by lecture dates in softbound notebooks. These papers covering his teaching years also contain a considerable amount of research materials, research notes and drafts of his various writings such as his casebooks, his Preliminary Treatise on the Law of Evidence at Common Law, occasional journal articles, speeches, and other writings. He collected much research material in connection with his address and published piece on the occasion of the Centennial celebration of the installation of John Marshall as Chief Justice of the United States (1901). Miscellaneous items relating to his Harvard years consist of moot court notes and briefs from his law student and his teaching years, and some general Law School administrative matters.
Two small but interesting groups of papers deserve special mention. One relates to Thayer's participation in the writing of the Dakota Constitution of 1889, the other to his chairmanship of a committee on Indian legislation, 1887-1892. The latter group includes a carbon of a letter of Thayer's addressed to U.S. President Grover Cleveland, dated December 10, 1887.
Thayer's correspondence mainly concerns his publications, including both correspondence with his publishers and "fan mail." There is a small group of miscellaneous personal-professional correspondence covering the years 1863-1902 which is arranged in roughly chronological periods. Two important folders contain his diary-letters to his wife, "Sophy," which he wrote to her on his western journey in 1871 with Ralph Waldo Emerson and a small party of others from the Boston area. In 1884 Thayer published a small volume entitled A Western Journey With Mr. Emerson, based on these letters. There is also a small group of holograph letters of Thayer's addressed to Emerson, covering the dates 1861-1876, but relating mostly to business matters of Emerson's. There is a small group of letters, dating 1890-1897, which Thayer marked "Letters from important persons"; these are mostly letters thanking him for the receipt of reprints of various articles of his, and they include letters from Augustus Noble Hand, Learned Hand, George Shattuck, and William Howard Taft.

Paige Box 1

1 Ledger book recording JBT's sales of his books on evidence and on constitutional law
1 Notebook of cases used in JBT's course on torts
1 Notebook of cases used in JBT's course on constitutional law

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Law -Study and teaching.
Evidence (Law) -Study and teaching.
Indians of North America -Legal status, laws, etc.
North Dakota -History.
Law teachers.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882.
Hand, Augustus Noble, 1869-1954.
Hand, Learned, 1872-1961.
Marshall, John, 1755-1835.
Shattuck, George O.
Taft, William H. (William Howard), 1857-1930.
Thayer, James Bradley, 1831-1902.
Thayer, Sophia Bradford Ripley.