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HOLLIS 601625

Frankfurter, Felix. Papers, 1900-1965, bulk 1939-1962: 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 601625
Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
Title: Felix Frankfurter Papers
Date(s): 1900-1965 (inclusive), 1939-1962 (bulk)
Date(s): 1939-1962,
Date(s): 1914-1965,
Date(s): 1920-1935,
Quantity: 236 boxes (45000 items)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Materials relating to Frankfurter's work on the Supreme Court. Includes material pertaining to court committees of which Frankfurter was a member, California vs. Arizona, and the historic cases of Rosenberg, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Westinghouse, together with Alexander Bickel's research and Frankfurter's memorandum on the Legislative History of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The so-called Court Papers of Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965), attorney, educator, public servant, judge, were presented to the Harvard Law School as a gift under the terms of his will, dated 8 May 1959. The bulk of these papers was received by the Law School in September 1962. Mrs. Elsie Douglas, who had been Justice Frankfurter's secretary for many years and who was given authority under the terms of the above-mentioned will to decide on the scope of the Court Papers, determined that Frankfurter's Sacco-Vanzetti papers should be included in the Court Papers and these files were transferred to the Harvard Law School Library in April 1966. Small groups of additional materials have been received since that time, essentially from family and friends of the Justice.

Processing Information:

Processed by Erika Chadbourn, 1968-1970.

Conditions Governing Access:

Nearly all of this collection is available on microfilm. For preservation reasons, we ask that researchers please consult the microfilm rather than the originals.
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.

Existence and Location of Copies:

The Felix Frankfurter Papers is available on microfilm; see the for more information. Researchers are required to use the microfilm copy of the collection.

Related Material

Historical/Biographical Information


  • 1882, Nov. 15
    • Born, Vienna, Austria
    • Son of Leopold and Enuna (Winter) Frankfurter
  • 1894
    • Immigrated with parents to New York City
  • 1902
    • A.B., College of the City of New York
  • 1906
    • LL.B., Harvard Law School
  • 1906-1910
    • Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York
  • 1911-1914
    • Law Officer, Bureau of Insular Affairs, U.S. Department of War
  • 1914-1920
    • Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
  • 1920-1939
    • Byrne Professor of Administrative Law, Harvard Law School
  • 1915
    • Publication of A Selection of Cases Under the Interstate Commerce Act (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. 706 p)
  • 1917
    • Major and Judge Advocate, Officers' Reserve Corps, U.S. Army
  • 1917-1918
    • Assistant to the Secretary of War
    • Secretary and Counsel to the President's Mediation Commission
  • 1918
    • Assistant to the Secretary of Labor
  • 1918-1919
    • Chairman, War Labor Policies Board
  • 1919, Dec. 20
    • Married Marion A. Denman (died 1975)
  • 1922
    • Publication of Criminal Justice in Cleveland, with Roscoe Pound (Cleveland: Cleveland Foundation. 729 p.)
  • 1927
    • Publication of The Business of the Supreme Court, with James M. Landis (New York: Macmillan Co. 349 p.; reprinted 1928)
    • Publication of The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti (Boston: Little, Brown. 118 p.; reprint, 1954)
    • Publication of Mr. Justice Holmes and the Constitution (Cambridge, Mass.: Dunster House Bookshop. 53 p.)


Series List

Scope and Contents

The Court Papers of Felix Frankfurter span the years 1900 to 1965, the bulk of the material falling into the period of his active years on the Supreme Court of the United States, 1939 to 1962.
The collection contains correspondence (both letters received and carbons of those sent); handwritten, typed and printed drafts; slip sheets; proof sheets; lists and tabulations; loose-leaf folders of typed material; memoranda; reports; dockets; bibliographies; research materials and notes; legal and legislative documents; clippings; other printed items such as books, pamphlets, reprints of articles and speeches, some inscribed, some with marginalia; photos; microfilm; phonographs; and items of memorabilia such as honorary degree certificates.
The bulk of the papers consists of Frankfurter's case files of opinions and memoranda (168 MS boxes and seven bound volumes) spanning the years 1939 to 1962. Frankfurter retained his files for all the cases in which he wrote opinions of the Court, concurrences with the majority, dissents, concurrences in dissents, and memoranda. Case files run from one folder to forty folders relating to Arizona v. California (370 U.S. 906, 930), forty-two folders for McGowan v. Maryland (366 U.S. 420), and forty-three folders for Baker v. Carr (366 U.S. 186). Some or all of the forthcoming materials may be found in these case files: first drafts, usually typed, with corrections; the various stages of printings of the opinions, also with holograph corrections and/or additions; research materials such as copies of law review articles; research notes and memos by the law clerks; memos of Frankfurter to his clerks; his memoranda to the weekly conference of the justices; correspondence with the other justices relating to particular points in Frankfurter's drafts; the circulation of a copy of the final printing of the opinion to each of the other justices, with their signatures and responses on the reverse of the last page; copies of exhibits introduced in Court; fan mail; and clippings.
Additional materials on three major cases, namely Ex parte Quirin (317 U.S. 1), United States v. Westinghouse (339 U.S. 261) and California v. Arizona (370 U.S. 906, 930), were placed in Paige boxes [commercial 12" by 15" cartons] # 12, 1S, 16 17, and 18. Also placed in Page boxes were Justice Frankfurter's black-bound set of all of his opinions (24 v.), together with memoranda which he circulated but did not publish, containing subsequent annotations bearing on these cases, and the bound Journals of the Supreme Court (17 v.).
Complementing this segment of the Justice's papers are fourteen MS boxes of so-called Court Miscellany consisting of these major groups: Frankfurter's correspondence with the Justices who sat on the bench with him, correspondence with administrative officers of the Court, e.g., clerks, marshals, and librarians; personnel and other matters pertaining to his law clerks; materials relating to Supreme Court committees on which Frankfurter served, e.g., the Rules Committee; twenty-four folders of mail received complimenting on or criticizing specific opinions of Frankfurter, a subject file of background material and memos relating to particular issues involved in some of the appeals, such as Church and State, civil liberties, contempt, freedom of speech, habeas corpus, juries, patents, press and crime, and wiretapping.
These two Series (Series A, CASE FILES OF OPINIONS AND MEMORANDA, and Series B., COURT MISCELLANY) are a rich field for the researcher to explore, especially as they cover such an extensive span of years (23), a time of dramatic changes in the make-up of the Court, and a period of divisive national issues.
Besides documenting the step-by-step process of a judge's opinion writing, they illustrate other day-to-day concerns of the justices, such as certiorari decisions calendar and appointment matters, and relations with the non-judicial administrators of the Court. Of special significance in these two Series are Frankfurter's exchanges "brethren." Comments on cases in which he himself was writing are contained in the individual files for specific cases. Cases in which the other justices were writing and general Court matters are discussed in Sub-series B. 1., Correspondence with Justices.
Major correspondents in Series B.' COURT MISCELLANY are:
Frankfurter's correspondence with Harlan F. Stone (500 items) commenced in 1925 and includes general, professional, and personal matters prior to 1939.
Although Justice Frankfurter did not write the opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), the landmark school desegregation case his folders relating to this case (28 folders) illuminate the endeavors of Frankfurter and his associates who urgently pressed for and in the end obtained, a unanimous decision (written by Chief Justice Earl Warren). These files also contain his law clerk Alexander Bickel's research materials and drafts for, and Frankfurter's memorandum on, "The Legislative History of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Throughout the years following his resignation from the Harvard Law School faculty, in January 1939, Justice Frankfurter remained intensely loyal to Harvard: for instance, all of his law clerks were chosen for him from the editorial board of the Harvard Law Review. His correspondence and subject files in Series C., HARVARD MISCELLANY, document his lively interest in and concern for teaching friends, searches for top officers of the University, especially for the presidency in 1953, appointments in general, fundraising, scholarship, and publication matters, and his participation in special events such as the John Marshall Bicentennial celebration and conference at the Harvard Law School titled "Government Under Law," at which Frankfurter delivered the opening address.
Correspondence is with his former Harvard colleagues, with Harvard alumni, and with his law clerks after the clerkship year. There is a certain amount of material pertaining to his own teaching years, e.g., class assignments and examination questions; his files for the so-called Harvard Crime Survey (1926-1933) were transferred to the Manuscript Division at a later time, and may be found in Series G., ADDENDA, 1.
Additions, 1966-1976. Major correspondents in the HARVARD MISCELLANY group of papers are:
Biographical-bibliographical items in the Frankfurter papers consist essentially of responses of his many friends to his elevation to the Supreme Court of the United States in January 1939. Other items are of a peripheral nature, e.g., invitations to social functions and reprints of speeches. The Stanford bibliography of December 1962 (unpublished), which is included, will be superseded by an updated and expanded bibliography of writings by and about Frankfurter, to be published by the Harvard Law School Library concurrently with this Inventory, as part of the Law School's Felix Frankfurter Centennial celebration.
Among the materials which receive some of the heaviest use of the Frankfurter collection are his Sacco-Vanzetti files, which were transferred to the manuscript Division in 1966 and 1970. These papers cover the years 1920 to 1935, the main body falling in the 1927 and 1928 period. Essentially they consist of correspondence relating to Frankfurter's Atlantic Monthly article and book on the case, the pronouncement of the death sentence by Judge Webster Thayer, Frankfurter's newspaper controversy with Dean John Henry Wigmore of Northwestern University Law School, the report of the so-called Lowell Committee last minute efforts to save the two men' post-execution reactions, and the plans for and publication of the transcript of the Dedham trial, together with Vanzetti's Plymouth trial transcript, by Henry Holt and Company (1929), including fund-raising efforts for this project. Major correspondents include: Charles C. Burlingham, Elizabeth Glendower Evans, Bernard Flexner, Osmond K. Fraenkel, Robert Grant, Norman Hapgood, Arthur Dehon Hill, Julian Mack, John F. Moors, and Thompson, the counsel for the Defense during 1926/1927.Clippings and pamphlet folders contain many items that are now out of print or difficult to obtain, such as material about or originated by the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee.
The importance of this group of materials is enhanced by the existence of two other equally significant groups of Sacco-Vanzetti materials in the Manuscript Division, namely, the Defense and Prosecution files (26 MS boxes) which are strong for the 1920 to 1926 period, and Herbert B. Ehrmann's research for his two books and his Harvard Law Review article on the case. The latter group covers the period 1926 to 1966 (18 MS boxes), and it includes a complete file of letters received from Frankfurter, a close friend of Ehrmann, Boston attorney and junior counsel for the Defense from May 1926 to August 1927.
Two separate sets of scrap-books containing original clippings and cartoons relating to the case are among the holdings of the Law Library's Treasure Room.
A large correspondence sequence in Harvard's Frankfurter papers is the letters which he received from his long-time close friend Learned Hand, U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York (1909-1924) and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge for the Second Circuit (1924-1961). These letters cover a span of fifty years (1911 to Hand's death in 1961); the twenty-five folders contain close to six hundred items. This exchange, being utterly candid, makes a unique source for the documentation of the personal lives of these two men, their triumphs and tribulations, their hopes and frustrations. The correspondence is of a personal nature, discussing personal matters, Harvard University in general and the Law School in particular, mutual friends, national politics, the New Republic and its editors, the Supreme Court and its personalities. This particular group is additionally enhanced by the existence of Frankfurter's letters to Learned Hand in the Learned Hand papers of the Harvard Law School: that sequence consists of 926 items, beginning with 1910 and ending in 1961.
Since the initial transfer of the bulk of the Frankfurter papers, important additions have been received. These include memorabilia, photos, honorary degree citations, printed items, and significant correspondence files. These correspondence files may be original letters which the donors had received from Frankfurter or photocopies of such letters. As the letters of some of these recipients addressed to Frankfurter are in Series A and B, several of the sequences complement each other. Major correspondents in Series G., ADDENDA, are: Alexander M. Bickel, Carl A.L. Binger, Herman L. Blumgart, McGeorge Bundy, Grenville Clark, Alfred E. Cohn, Walter D. Fisher, Paul A. Freund, Augustus Noble Hand, Irving J. Helman, Louis Henkin, James W. Hurst, Eldon R. James, Wilber G. Katz, Philip B. Kurland, Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis, Vincent L. McKusick, Daniel K. Mayers, Nathaniel L. Nathanson, E. Barrett Prettynan, Jr., Walter V. Schaefer, Robert E. Sherwood, Arthur E. Sutherland, Abraham Tulin.
Both sides of the correspondence between Felix Frankfurter and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., spanning the years 1912 to 1934, are contained in the Oliver Wendell Holmes' Jr., papers, also in the Manuscript Division of the Harvard Law School Library. This correspondence (413 letters) consists of the original letters exchanged between the two men and typescripts prepared by the Professor Mark DeWolfe Howe of the Harvard Law School in preparation for his biography of Justice Holmes. This correspondence has not been published.
Additional Frankfurter letters, in most cases complete sequences, may be found in many other papers in Harvard Law School Library's Special Collections, including in the papers of: Charles C. Burlingham, Zechariah Chafee, Jr., Lon L. Fuller, Sheldon Glueck, Henry M. Hart, Mark DeWolfe Howe, Manley O. Hudson, John M Maguire, Calvert Magruder, Edmund M. Morgan, Roscoe pound, Thomas Reed Powell, Austin W. Scott, Charles E. Wyzanski, Jr.
The Harvard Law School Library holds ten volumes of holograph student notes which Felix Frankfurter took while a student at the Harvard Law School. These notes cover the following courses; Bills and Notes; Conflict of Laws; Corporations; Criminal Law; Equity III (Quasi-Contracts); Partnership; Pleading; Property I and III; Torts. In addition, the Library holds notes of students in courses which Frankfurter taught. AU of these notebooks are entered in the Library's card catalog.
The bulk of Felix Frankfurter's correspondence/subject/writings files was presented by him to the Library of Congress; his Zionist papers were deposited with Hebrew University In Israel; and his letters to Louis D. Brandeis are all the University of Louisville. The holograph notes of Frankfurter's interviews with Justice Brandeis during the summers 1922 through 1926 are in the Harvard Law School's Louis D. Brandeis papers. The Library of Congress has embarked upon the microfilming of its contingent of Felix Frankfurter papers.

Container List


Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: HOLLIS 601625
Repository: Harvard Law School Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
Title: Felix Frankfurter Papers1900-1965 (inclusive), 1939-1962 (bulk)1939-1962,1914-1965,1920-1935,
Quantity: 236 boxes (45000 items) English
Abstract: Materials relating to Frankfurter's work on the Supreme Court. Includes material pertaining to court committees of which Frankfurter was a member, California vs. Arizona, and the historic cases of Rosenberg, Sacco-Vanzetti, and Westinghouse, together with Alexander Bickel's research and Frankfurter's memorandum on the Legislative History of the Fourteenth Amendment.

List of Digital Content

For a description of entire collection choose "Full Finding Aid" above