Letters, #79-81, 1891
Scope and Contents
The papers span the period 1868-1999 although the vast bulk date from the late-1880s to 1943, the year of Wigmore's death. Wigmore was an inveterate correspondent and a person of catholic interests. The papers include material of considerable importance to the investigation of law, legal scholarship and the work of legal and quasi-legal institutions such as bar associations and organizations promoting, for example, the study of criminology, international law, and comparative legal institutions. The papers also are replete with the documentation of more mundane concerns such as Wigmore's health, finances, family matters, and hobbies.
The papers of John Henry Wigmore are prodigious in volume and scope. They document not only the long and productive career of an eminent legal scholar but also reflect upon many of the most significant issues and developments of jurisprudence during the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. The Wigmore papers are organized into eight major categories: biographical materials, general and subject correspondence, materials relating to the Northwestern University School of Law, military records, items concerning his work and travel in Japan and materials germane to the study of Japanese law and legal customs, speeches and minor publications, books and other major publications, and music. Many materials of non-standard format, particularly oversized items, are arranged at the end of the papers; thereafter these are arranged into categories as enumerated above.
Biographical materials fill more than seventeen boxes and include items pertaining to Wigmore's education and to his many awards and honors; clippings; personal financial records; health records; travel diaries and memorabilia; and correspondence between Wigmore and his wife, Emma. Of special note are the many encomiums from friends and colleagues collected by Albert Kocourek and intended for publication in a memorial volume.
Biographical materials are topically categorized with folders arranged alphabetically by their topical headings. Items within folders will be found in chronological order with undated items, where present, at the back of each folder. Researchers seeking general information relating to major events in Wigmore's life or material of a personal nature should review and consult this category of the papers.
General and subject correspondence forms the bulk of the collection, filling over one hundred boxes. Included are both incoming and copies, usually carbons, of outgoing letters. Most of Wigmore's correspondence with other individuals or with institutions and organizations will be found here. Correspondents represented include, for the most part, other legal scholars or academics in fields tangential to law, prominent lawyers and judges, officers and representatives of bar associations and professional societies, Northwestern University School of Law alumni, close friends, and relatives.
The correspondence and related materials pertaining to institutions and organizations commonly concern professional associations such as bar and other juridic associations, both domestic and foreign; colleges and universities and especially schools of law; courts and governmental agencies; foundations; publications such as newspapers, magazines and journals; and publishing companies. Of particular note are sizable bodies of material relating to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws; the Society for American Fellowships in French Universities; the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory; Little, Brown, & Company, Wigmore's major publisher; the Legal Aid Bureau, Legal Aid Society, and National Association of Legal Aid Organizations; the International Congress of Comparative Law; files on notable cases of criminal law; civil air regulations, the Bureau of Air Commerce, and the nascent field of air law; the Association of American Law Schools; the American, Illinois, and Chicago bar associations; the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology; and the American Judicature Society.
The folders containing general and subject correspondence are arranged alphabetically by name of individual or entity with whom or with which Wigmore dealt. Also, at the beginning of each letter of the alphabetized files will be found one or more folders of general correspondence between Wigmore and individuals or organizations whose family or corporate names begin with that letter. Letters within these folders, themselves arranged alphabetically, represent single or infrequent transactions between Wigmore and his correspondents. Letters within all the other correspondence folders are arranged chronologically.
Wigmore's endeavors as dean of the Northwestern University School of Law are represented by nearly fifty boxes of material. These are organized further into the following subcategories: administration and finance, endowment and building fund records, building design and interior decoration, the Gary Library, faculty, curriculum, and students and alumni. Within these subcategories folders are arranged in alphabetical order by topical headings.
Materials relating to administration and finance are useful particularly for the information they contain on foundation support of School of Law programs.
Wigmore was involved intimately in the fundraising and planning for School of Law facilities especially Levy Mayer Hall and the Gary Library. The design and especially the decoration of Levy Mayer Hall and the development of the Library's collection are documented in great detail.
Faculty records generally concern routine personnel matters such as hiring and course assignments or other activities which normally fall within the purview of a dean.
Curricular files, arranged by course title or content, include syllabi, examination questions, lecture notes and, on occasion, student papers or other works for courses Wigmore taught.
Finally, student and alumni files contain correspondence, often routine in nature, frequently pertaining to School of Law fundraising or to matriculation, course requirements, and graduation. Topical files on student organizations, prizes, scholarships, and student military service during the two world wars are located here.
Wigmore's military career, which was a source of great personal pride, is documented by correspondence, memoranda, reports, and graphic materials. His service during World War I as a member of the staff of General Enoch H. Crowder, Judge Advocate General, and with the Selective Service division of the Provost Marshall General is particularly well-documented. Wigmore offered critical appraisals of the American war effort in “The Conduct of the War in Washington: A Critique of Men and Methods” and “Military Justice during the War.” Some of Wigmore's correspondence with Northwestern alumni and students in uniform and his School of Law “Soldiers' Newsletter” may be found in this category.
Wigmore's work and travels in Japan and his research relating to Japanese law and legal customs are represented by thirteen boxes of correspondence, subject files and research materials. The correspondence is arranged, for the most part, chronologically and dates from both the 1890s and from the period 1935-1942. The subject files largely pertain to Wigmore's teaching career at Keio University, 1889-1892, as well as to his lecture engagements and travel through Japan in 1935. Wigmore was an outstanding scholar of Japanese law and a leader of the project to compile and translate the private laws of the Tokugawa era. He was a witness to a crucial period in Japanese history -- the establishment of a parliamentary government in 1890, a friend and colleague to a number of important Japanese, and an outspoken supporter of Japan during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The correspondence of Emma Wigmore and her mother, Frances Vogl, to their family in Boston and captioned under the heading “Letters of an American Bride from Japan in the 90s,” offer views both of quotidian Japanese life and customs and of the interests and activities of the expatriate community in Japan.
Finally, for his work on the Study of Private Law in Old Japan, Wigmore gathered a considerable amount of research materials. These included translations of Japanese legal writings as well as untranslated and original sources relating to Japanese law. He viewed the Study as an opportunity to examine the evolution of a society's law without Western influence. With the help of a team of translators and a body of sources from which to work, Wigmore managed to complete four volumes of the work before returning to the United States in 1892. Materials from the Study comprise the majority of his files pertaining to Japan.
Wigmore returned to Japan in 1935, in part to resume work on the Study. Rising tensions and, ultimately, war between the United States and Japan foreclosed its completion during Wigmore's lifetime. Researchers should be aware that much of Wigmore's correspondence relating to Japan will be found with the General and Subject Correspondence Files. Noteworthy among his correspondents were S. Kurino, Kentaro Kaneko, and Kenzo Takayanagi and the occidental scholars Basil Hall Chamberlain, Lafcadio Hearn, Frank Brinkley, and Gustave Boissonade.
While he remains known for his monumental Treatise on Evidence, Wigmore was the author or editor of other major works of legal scholarship. In addition, he wrote hundreds of articles, comments, and reviews for both professional journals and the popular press. A heralded speaker, Wigmore traveled often and widely to address topics in contemporary legal scholarship before members of the bar, law students, and academics. He spoke frequently before general audiences on contemporary legal issues.
Wigmore's public addresses and writings are grouped into two sections: speeches and minor publications and books and other major publications.
Speeches and minor publications are arranged into folders alphabetically by article or speech title when available or, alternately, by name of publication of speaking venue. Material includes clippings, reprints, and typescript or handwritten drafts. Correspondence pertaining to a particular article or speech is sometimes included with that article or speech.
Materials concerning Wigmore's books and other major publications are arranged first by title and thereafter by type of documentation. Many of the titles are represented by considerable amounts of correspondence and promotional materials relating to production concerns, sales, and distribution. Manuscript drafts and proofs are available for some titles. Noteworthy are the copy books Wigmore prepared in connection with his “Treatise on Evidence.”
The last major category of Wigmore's papers relates to his lifelong love of music. Wigmore enjoyed composing comic airs for gatherings of lawyers and law students but also wrote love songs and lachrymose and sentimental ballads. He was especially proud of “We'll See Them Through,” a martial, patriotic number written during the First World War. Compositions and related correspondence are arranged in folders by song title or sometimes by venue of performance. Oversize materials, typically pieces of sheet music, are housed in one dropfront box.
For ease in handling and economy in boxing and shelving, many items of non-standard or oversized formats have been arranged at the end of the papers and include biographical materials, correspondence, School of Law records, military records, and lantern slides from Wigmore's speaking engagements and lecture tours. These are enumerated in the container list of this inventory.
Completing the series is a small amount of correspondence of Sarah B. (Sallie) Morgan, secretary to John Henry Wigmore. This correspondence relates primarily to the management of John and Emma Wigmore's estates in the years immediately following their deaths.
- From the Collection: Wigmore, John Henry, 1863-1943 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
School of Law curricular and student and alumni materials (Boxes 159-172 and 237-240) may contain sensitive materials; consultation with University Archivist required prior to use.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.
From the Collection: 254.00 Boxes
Language of Materials
From the Collection: English
Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US