Scope and Content of the John Marshall Harlan Collection

The John Marshall Harlan Papers at the University of Louisville extend from 1835-1930, with the bulk written during Harlan's court years, 1877-1911. 

The Archives retained the Law Library's original arrangement, dividing them into two groups--bound and unbound manuscripts. The twenty four boxes of bound material reflect Harlan's early career in Kentucky. Here are fifteen volumes of business ledgers from estates and guardianships, nineteen volumes of business and case records from Harlan family law firms, and three volumes of opinions and correspondence relating to the tenures as Kentucky Attorney General of John Marshall Harlan and his father, James. Eight letter press books, 1864-1881, and two political scrapbooks mostly predate Harlan's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Five of the scrapbooks contain letters and clippings on Harlan's more controversial judicial positions: the Civil Rights Case (1883), the Income Tax Case (1895), the Northern Securities Case (1904), and the Standard Oil Case (1911).

The unbound manuscripts occupy fourteen boxes and seven reels of microfilm. Much of this material is incoming correspondence for the court years, 1877-1911, arranged in chronological order. For some years, the letters are alphabetized; undated material is found at the end of each folder. This correspondence includes family letters, letters from Presidents Hays, Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, and Taft, and several folders on subjects such as the Bering Sea Arbitration. There are also speeches, opinions, a catalog of Justice Harlan's books, and a number of papers written by students in the classes Harlan taught in Constitutional Law at George Washington University.

A microfilm edition of these papers is available through purchase from the University of Louisville Archives. Another major collection of John Marshall Harlan papers is housed at the Library of Congress, and a smaller collection can be found at the Filson Club, Louisville, Kentucky. His correspondence appears in other collections; for example; the Benjamin H. Bristow Papers, Library of Congress; the Horace Gray Papers, Library of Congress; and the Augustus E. Willson Papers, Filson Club, Louisville, Kentucky.