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Fred E. Inbau (1909-1998) Papers

Identifier: 17/28

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Scope and Contents

The Fred E. Inbau Papers fill twenty-one boxes and span the years 1930 to 1998, with the bulk of the papers dating between the 1970s and the mid-1990s.

Biographical materials include curricula vitae, biographical sketches, and obituaries; awards and honors; and press releases and clippings. One folder contains autographed title pages from article reprints sent to him by colleagues. All materials are arranged in chronological order within the respective folders. The newspaper clippings have been divided into those focusing specifically on Inbau, and those in which he is quoted as an expert on such topics as scientific crime investigation or Miranda.

Inbau's involvement in the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (SCDL) is reflected in folders containing general historical information about the facility, newspaper clippings, and a copy of the Outline of Scientific Criminal Investigation (1936) to which he contributed. On a more personal level, there are materials relating to the Tallmadge Murder Case (1936), in which Inbau was involved as an investigator; a transcript of the Bancroft Library's 1976 interview with Inbau about the SCDL; and correspondence between Inbau and original members of the SCDL (1981-1996). Also of interest is Inbau's report and correspondence regarding efforts to get back items that were taken from the Lab during its transfer from the Law School to the Chicago Police Department.

Inbau's correspondence files demonstrate the wide ranges of Inbau's circle of correspondents and interests. Since Inbau was scrupulous about keeping carbons or photocopies of his outgoing correspondence, both sides of most exchanges are represented in the files, along with relevant articles and case citations, newspaper clippings, and Inbau's notes. Correspondents include his former students, co-authors, colleagues and combatants. Inbau also served as a consultant in a number of cases involving Miranda or the acceptability of scientific evidence (handwriting, polygraph, etc.); the correspondence, reports, notes and other materials relating to those cases are filed by case name.

Of particular note among the correspondence files are those entitled "Far East Friends" and "Japanese Correspondents," which contain correspondence with Japanese, Chinese, Thai and other colleagues involved either in translating Inbau's books or in studying his methods. That these relationships often developed into friendships is evidenced by the greeting cards and personal letters exchanged between Inbau and these students and colleagues. "Judges and Justices" with whom Inbau corresponded between 1982 and 1996 included David Souter, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and John Paul Stevens. Additional correspondence with these and other judges can be found in the "Recommendations" files and scattered within the files on Miranda and specific cases. Photocopies of two lengthy letters (1929 and 1935) to Inbau from ill-fated aviator Fred Noonan (whom Inbau considered "a good friend") are accompanied by two unidentified printed poems. Inbau's long-time interest in the Lindbergh kidnapping case (especially the examination of Bruno Hauptmann) is reflected in a folder of correspondence, notes, and clippings dating between 1937 and 1996.

Inbau's teaching materials include lecture notes or exam questions from courses he taught between 1961 and 1979, plus a lecture from 1990. His lecture notes provide a revealing glimpse into his teaching, speaking, and writing style: they consist of magazine anecdotes, clippings from newspapers and law journals, and citations from court cases, all pasted onto pieces of paper interspersed with scribbled notes and quotations (see, for example, "Criminal Law: Defense/Ethics Notes, 1961-66"). Also included in the teaching materials are a student paper that Inbau particularly valued and a handful of brochures from Short Courses [Note: most Short Course materials have been processed separately; see Series 17/7 (Short Courses for Prosecuting Attorneys, 1936-80) and Series 17/8 (Short Courses for Defense Lawyers, 1958-79).]

While Inbau's involvement in such organizations as the Chicago Crime Commission can be documented in one or two folders, there are extensive records of the Americans for Effective Law Enforcement (AELE). AELE files include organizational materials (annual reports, promotional brochures, position papers, publications, and correspondence), as well as amicus curiae briefs filed between 1967 and 1997. The briefs are organized by court (district, state, and federal) and then sequentially by case number and date.

Because Inbau felt so strongly about the issue, materials relating specifically to Inbau and Miranda have been grouped together, although his reactions and writings on this topic can also be found in many other locations in the series. Most of this sub-series consists of materials Inbau collected--notes, briefs, articles from newspapers and journals--about Miranda, dating between 1979 and 1998. Also included in this sub-series are clippings and correspondence in response to Inbau's most significant articles about Miranda, "Over-reaction--The Mischief of Miranda" (1982) and "Miranda--Is It Worth the Cost?" (1988). One folder contains correspondence with Paul Cassell of the University of Utah College of Law, who sent Inbau an article on the social costs of Miranda. Cassell participated, with Inbau, in the 1996 "Dump Miranda?" debate at Northwestern University School of Law. Materials relating to this debate are also included in this sub-series.

Inbau regularly spoke at conferences and before professional groups of lawyers and law-enforcement personnel in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. As in other areas of his life, he kept careful records of correspondence, travel details, and fee payments for these appearances. His lectures, speeches and conference participation files comprise three rough categories of materials: General files, individual files, and speech notes. One general speech folder contains printed or typed copies of speeches delivered between 1945 and 1968, arranged chronologically. Three general folders contain correspondence, notes, and programs relating to Inbau's speaking engagements between 1973 and 1993. Individual folders house bulky "Proceedings" or the records of individual speeches or conference participation that generated a good deal of related correspondence. These folders are arranged chronologically, based on the span dates of the correspondence surrounding the presentation date itself. Folders show the title of the speech and/or the organization to which it was presented. Speech notes, consisting of anecdotes, clippings, quotations and scribbled notations, give a sense of Inbau's semi-extemporaneous speaking manner.

Inbau wrote for a wide range of publications, from the Northwestern Law Review to trade journals for police officers and retail security managers. Reprints and original print copies of Inbau's articles date between 1936 and 1994. Articles include two of Inbau's most controversial pieces, "Over-reaction--The Mischief of Miranda" (1982) and "Miranda--Is It Worth the Cost?" (1988)--also referred to as "The Cost of Miranda." The response to these articles is found in the sub-series on Inbau and Miranda (Box 10). Unpublished articles and stories (including a children's book and a synopsis of a proposed novel to be co-written with Inbau's son) are placed in folders following the chronological sequence of published articles.

Correspondence, contracts, royalty statements, promotional materials and reviews make up the extensive publications files. For publishers for whom Inbau produced several books, such as Chilton and Williams & Wilkins, materials are further organized by book title and arranged chronologically by publication date. Correspondence includes that with editors of the books, as well as letters to and from Inbau's co-authors, such as James Thompson and Andre Moenssens. Some reviews of individual books have been included in these publishing files; in addition, a separate folder contains chronologically-arranged book reviews.

Photographs used in Inbau's books--particularly Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases--include negatives and black-and-white prints, some glued to cardboard and captioned, some uncaptioned. Most of these images were used in the section on Firearms Identification; these include powder-burn or bullet-circumference graphs, while some depict actual gunshot wounds in cadavers.

A leatherette case holds black-and-white 3"x4" slides that were probably used in Inbau's Law School classes, illustrating firearms identification, polygraph, questioned documents, and other material covered in the course.

Addition, Box 21 A copy of Inbau’s annotated revision of his casebook, Cases on Scientific Evidence, has been added to the series at Box 21, Folder 1.


  • 1930 - 1998
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1970 - 1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.


21.00 Boxes

Language of Materials



The Fred E. Inbau Papers, spanning the years 1930 to 1998, document his work with the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, as a professor at Northwestern University' s Law School, as an opponent of the Miranda Act, and as a prolific writer and speaker.


To a large extent, the papers are organized according to Inbau's original order--foldered by theme or correspondent. They are grouped into the following subseries: biographical materials; Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory; correspondence (arranged alphabetically by the surname of the correspondent, topical heading, or organization name); teaching materials (organized alphabetically by course title); organizations (arranged alphabetically by name); Inbau and Miranda (arranged chronologically when dates exist, with the many undated items placed in separate folders); lectures/speeches/conferences (arranged in chronological order by date of meeting); articles/reprints (arranged chronologically by publication date); publications (in alphabetical order by publisher).

Method of Acquisition

The Fred Inbau Papers were donated to the University Archives on August 10, 1998, as Accession Number 98-152. Materials from the University Archives' biographical files were incorporated into the Papers.

Related Materials

John H. Wigmore Papers (Series 17/20), Leon Green Papers (Series 17/29), Short Courses for Prosecuting Attorneys, 1936-80 (Series 17/7), Short Courses for Defense Lawyers, 1958-79 (Series 17/8), Scientific Crime Detection Lab (General Files: School of Law)—all in the Northwestern University Archives.

Separated Materials

Ten cubic feet of duplicate and extraneous materials were discarded. One cubic foot of Northwestern University publications and other Northwestern-related items was added to the Archives' serials holdings and General Files; reprints by Northwestern University faculty were placed in the respective faculty members' biographical files. One folder of material relating to John Henry Wigmore was added to the Wigmore Papers (Series 17/20). A master's thesis on the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory by Keith Barbera (Johns Hopkins, 1997), originally presented to Inbau, was added to the Archives' General Files on the SCDL. Photographs (including many photographs of Short Course attendees from the 1950s to the 1970s, as well as photographs of Inbau himself, and of his Illinois and Louisiana Bar Association certificates) were separated and added to the University Archives' Photographic Collection.

Three certificates were added to the University Archives' Diplomas and Certificates Collection (1949 and Undated: American Society of Questioned Documents Examiners Honorary Membership; 1975: State of Alabama Attorney General's Office, Appointment to Honorary Staff).

Processing Information

Janet C. Olson, July 2002

Guide to the Fred E. Inbau (1909-1998) Papers
Janet C. Olson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US