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MacChesney, Nathan William, 1878-1954



  • Existence: 1878-1954

Nathan W. MacChesney, Chicago lawyer and Northwestern University trustee, was born in Chicago on June 2, 1878, the son of Alfred Brunson and Henrietta (Milsom) MacChesney. He was a senior partner in the film of MacChesney and Becker in Chicago and a founder of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

MacChesney received his bachelor's degree from the College of the Pacific in 1898 and attended Stanford University on several occasions as a special student between 1896 and 1899. Although he attended the Northwestern University Law School for one year, 1899-1900, MacChesney received his LL.B. from the University of Michigan in 1902 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar later that year.

For the next five decades MacChesney maintained an active legal practice, as senior partner in the firm of MacChesney and Becker in Chicago. He served as the special assistant attorney general of the United States in 1911, and as the special state's attorney for Illinois after 1912. He was awarded an LL.M. from the Northwestern University Law School in 1922. Interested primarily in property and corporation management law, MacChesney served as general counsel for the National Association of Real Estate Boards during the 1920s.

MacChesney's longstanding interest in social issues was reflected throughout his legal career. He prepared cases on the constitutionality of child labor legislation which were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and was one of the founders of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. As a young lawyer, MacChesney worked in social centers, served as an advisor to the Salvation Army, as a trustee of Emerson House and the Olivet Institute, and directed the United Charities of Chicago.

MacChesney combined a wide-ranging legal career with service in behalf of several universities. Between 1908 and 1916, he was a lecturer at the University of Illinois. He served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Northwestern University from 1913 to 1948, and as a Life Trustee from 1948 until his death in 1954. He also served as president of the General Alumni Association from 1922 to 1924. His lengthy tenure as a university trustee involved MacChesney in many of Northwestern's central activities. He devoted more than a decade to the founding and developing of the university's Chicago Campus. MacChesney was also intimately involved in the abortive merger with the University of Chicago in the early 1930s. He served as a consultant on the development of the Law School curriculum, played an important role in the selection of the new university president in 1939, and placed his legal expertise at the service of the university on countless occasions. He was also a major benefactor of the university who frequently contributed substantial amounts in connection with various financial campaigns.

MacChesney also had a distinguished military career, serving in the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. In recognition of his military service, his colleagues and friends addressed him as General MacChesney throughout his life .

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Nathan William MacChesney Papers

Identifier: 1/10
Abstract Most of the material in the collection is concerned with university business, and consequently sheds little light on MacChesney's private life or his military and civic activities. The collection's value lies primarily in its reflection of many of the varied activities undertaken by Northwestern's central administration during the university's emergence as a major American educational institution.
Dates: 1915-1952