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Law School Releases Digitalized Letters of Clarence Darrow

JULY 9, 2010—On June 24, the University of Minnesota Law Library released 473 letters written by and to Clarence Darrow that have been transcribed and made available digitally. The letters can be searched by year, name, or key words, and the original handwritten or typed document appears opposite the transcription.

The released letters are only part of the more than 900 letters that make up the Darrow collection, which is housed in the Law Library's Riesenfeld Rare Books Research Center. They span a period of 60 years, beginning with the earliest known letter written by Darrow as a teenager and ending with one written shortly before his death. The correspondence is with family members as well as with influential people of the time, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, and Sinclair Lewis. Additional letters will be added to the site as transcription and digitization are completed.

Acquisition of "The Papers of Clarence Darrow" established the Law Library as the foremost repository of Darrow materials and marked its one millionth volume. Volume 1,000,001 was an electronic database composed of Darrow's greatest cases and secondary materials, designed specifically for the Law Library and donated by Thomson-West Publishing. Books, photos, and narratives about Darrow's life and legal career are also included in the collection.

Many items in the collection were discovered by Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi partner Randall Tietjen, a Darrow historian. During visits with a Darrow granddaughter, he learned of boxes containing hundreds of letters, documents, and photos, which the Darrow family wanted to go to a research institution. The Law Library acquired the collection in 2004.

Acquisition was coordinated by Associate Director for Library & Educational Technology Michael J. Hannon, who researched and authored the commentary that accompanies the letters and is responsible for the content of the site. Many additional Law Library staff members contributed to design, collection, development, transcription, and digitization for the site and continue to maintain it.

The Clarence Darrow Digital Collection can be found at http://darrow.law.umn.edu/index.php. Click on "The Letters" to view and search the transcribed correspondence.

Portrait of Judge Heaney

Click image to view digital collection.