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Air Law Institute (Chicago, Ill.)



The Air Law Institute, affiliated with the Northwestern University Law School, was founded in 1929 to foster the development of American air law and provide information about air law worldwide. These goals were promoted by: providing scholarships and fellowships for its participants; issuing reports and opinions on matters relative to air law; sponsoring an air law Summer Institute and the ensuing, annual National Legislative Air Conference (a precursor of the National Association of State Aviation Officials); sending participants to international conferences and sponsoring lectures nationally; building a comprehensive reference library; and publishing two journals, the Journal of Air Law and the Journal of Radio Law, financed by private contributions.

The Institute was organized as a not-for-profit corporation, and was patterned after the German Institut für Luftrecht. The Institute’s reach spanned both academia and business, as evidenced in the fact that the president of its Board of Directors was Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The Air Law Institute was in operation until 1940.

To a considerable degree, the Institute owed its existence to the drive of its first director, Law School professor Frederick Dow Fagg, Jr., himself a former aviator with combat experience in World War I. An air law expert of renown, Dr. Fagg at various times served as secretary of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, legal counsel to the Illinois Aeronautics Commission and the Federal Aviation Commission, consultant in the revision of the federal Civil Air Regulations, and as director of the Federal Bureau of Air Commerce. Immediately before coming to Northwestern in 1929, Dr. Fagg had been an exchange professor at the Institut fur Luftrect, where he drew inspiration for a similar research institution in the United States. Upon his return he was recruited by Northwestern to become managing director of just such a project. An extended biographical sketch of Dr. Fagg in the Fred Dow Fagg, Jr. (1896- ) Papers, 1937-1957 (Series 5/3, Northwestern University Archives), documents the range of Fagg’s aeronautics career, along with other facets of a man committed to aeronautics, education, the law, and government.

The Journal of Air Law, a quarterly first published in 1930, was initially a collaborative effort among the law schools of Northwestern University, the University of Southern California, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale University. This collaboration reflected Dr. Fagg’s intention to elicit the participation of law schools located in strategic urban nodes of air traffic in major sections of the country (Tulane University in New Orleans was also invited to participate but declined). After one issue Yale’s participation was withdrawn, after one year that of Washington University as well, and by 1936 the collaboration of Southern California had lapsed, leaving the Journal solely in the hands of Northwestern.

The Journal was published from 1930-1942 by the Northwestern University Press and, when publication was resumed after a war-related hiatus lasting from 1942 to 1947, by the Northwestern University Schools of Law and Commerce under the auspices of the NU Institute of Aeronautics. In 1939, in fact, the Schools of Commerce and Law teamed up to edit the Journal, whose name was changed accordingly to the Journal of Air Law and Commerce. In the late 1950s the Journal’s administration was transferred to the NU Transportation Center. The Journal is still published today, but in 1961 its operations were assumed by the Institute of Aerospace Law at Southern Methodist University.

The first managing editor of the Journal of Air Law was Dr. Fagg himself, while members of the various editorial staffs included both Dean John H. Wigmore of the NU Law School as associate editor and a designated student editor. Editorial boards were comprised of international academic, corporate, and civilian and military government experts, and in the Journal’s early years representatives of each of the constituent law schools were included on the board. Its contents included lengthy articles by acknowledged authorities, editorials, notes and comments by law students, legal digests of relevant cases and texts of relevant documents, and book reviews. The information available on readership reveals that in 1932 there were about 300 subscribers scattered over forty states and sixteen foreign countries, and suggests that they were comprised of members of the legal profession, government officials, industry officials, and academics who specialized in the study of air law.

The Journal of Radio Law was established in 1931 when it became apparent to the editors of the Journal of Air Law that the volume of materials being submitted to them on radio law, some of which appeared in their journal, warranted the establishment a separate publication. A member of the Northwestern University Law School faculty, Louis G. Caldwell, was engaged as editor of a discrete journal of radio law under the auspices of the Northwestern University and University of Southern California Law Schools. Like its sister publication, the Journal of Radio Law was managed in conjunction with the Air Law Institute and came out quarterly. Its base of subscribers differed somewhat from that of the the Journal of Air Law in that it was composed to a significant degree of media organizations. Although its circulation statistics for 1932 do not seem to lag far behind those of the successful Journal of Air Law—250 subscribers in thirty-two states and twelve countries—the Journal of Radio Law was published for little more than a year before it disappeared.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Records of the Air Law Institute

Identifier: 17/22

This series is comprised of administrative records of the Air Law Institute, and covers roughly the first half of the Institute's existence. The series as a whole is made up almost exclusively of correspondence, most of which issued from or was addressed to the office of Fred Fagg.

Dates: 1929-1935