Log In | Contact Us| View Cart (0)
Browse: Collections Digital Content Subjects Creators Record Groups

Litchfield Law School collection



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Period documents

Research materials

Printed materials

Contact us about this collection

Litchfield Law School collection, 1773-1990 | Litchfield Historical Society

By Linda Hocking

Printer-friendly Printer-friendly | Email Us Contact Us About This Collection

Collection Overview

Title: Litchfield Law School collection, 1773-1990Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Primary Creator: Litchfield Historical Society

Other Creators: Gould, James (1770-1838), Reeve, Tapping (1744-1823)

Extent: 1.67 Linear Feet. More info below.


The collection is arranged in three series.

1: Period documents, 1785-1835

2: Research materials, 1773-1978

3: Printed materials, 1828-1990

Date Acquired: 01/01/1890. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Gould, James, 1770-1838, Law - Study and teaching - Connecticut, Law--United States--Study and teaching, Law students - Connecticut - Litchfield, Lawyers--Correspondence, Lecture notes - Connecticut - Litchfield, Litchfield Law School, Reeve, Tapping, 1744-1823

Forms of Material: Circulars (fliers), Correspondence, Judicial records, Lecture notes, Notebooks

Languages: English


This collection includes materials pertaining to Tapping Reeve, James Gould, the Litchfield Law School, and alumni of the school.  It was assembled by the Historical Society over a period of years.  Many of the law books used by Reeve and his students are also held by the Society and can be found through the book catalog.  The Society's institutional records document the history of the Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School building.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

In 1773, the newly married Tapping Reeve and Sally Burr Reeve settled in Litchfield where Reeve promptly established a legal practice. The following year, Sally's brother Aaron Burr came to live with them and Reeve began to instruct him in the law. Several prominent residents of Litchfield also sent their sons to Reeve for legal training, establishing his reputation as a teacher and forming the nucleus of what was to become America's first formal school of law.

As the number of students increased, Reeve began to develop a series of formal lectures that prepared students to take the bar exam and practice law. In the years following the Revolution most lawyers taught through the apprenticeship system because there were no schools that offered law degrees. Reeve’s decision to pass on his legal knowledge through formal organized classes distinguished him from others who were training new lawyers. By 1784 the number of students enrolling outgrew the space in Reeve's parlor office, prompting Reeve to construct a one-room school building next to his house.

Through his lectures, Tapping Reeve sought to train his students in legal principles and their application to any legal situation. Reeve and his eventual partner James Gould, developed a detailed eighteen month course of lectures, covering every aspect of legal practice. Students took copious lecture notes that they then carefully re-copied and had bound into leather volumes. These volumes provided the Litchfield Law School graduates with the basis of their office law libraries. The students then used their bound notes as reference manuals for the rest of their careers.

Alumni of the Litchfield Law School had a tremendous impact on the development of the new nation, shaping the creation of the American legal and judicial systems, and profoundly influencing subsequent developments in legal education. Reeve's emphasis on a system of legal principles rather than local laws and statutes, his use of legal cases in teaching, his establishment of student moot courts, and his division of lectures into subjects, all shaped legal education as we know it today.

The Law School attracted over 1,200 students from 13 states and territories to study in Litchfield. Graduates formed a network of leadership and influence that encompassed public service, business, and other areas of American life. Ultimately, the small law school would educate two US vice-presidents (Aaron Burr and John C. Calhoun), as well as 14 governors, 14 members of the federal cabinet, 28 U.S. Senators, 100 members of the House of Representatives, three Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and many other state and local public officials.

This collection includes materials pertaining to Tapping Reeve, James Gould, the Litchfield Law School, and alumni of the school.  It was assembled by the Historical Society over a period of years.  The student images were originally collected for display on the walls of the Tapping Reeve House.  When the house was reinterpreted in 1998, the photos were relocated to the Litchfield Law School Collection.

Many of the published law books used by Reeve and his students are also held by the Society and can be found through the book catalog.  The Society's institutional records document the history of the Tapping Reeve House and Litchfield Law School building.  There is no known comprehensive collection of Tapping Reeve's personal or business papers though collections such as this contain examples of his correspondence and legal work.

Subject/Index Terms

Gould, James, 1770-1838
Law - Study and teaching - Connecticut
Law--United States--Study and teaching
Law students - Connecticut - Litchfield
Lecture notes - Connecticut - Litchfield
Litchfield Law School
Reeve, Tapping, 1744-1823

Administrative Information

Repository: Litchfield Historical Society

Accruals: Gifts of Mrs. Nathan Rochester Child (1902); Jeannie Gould Lincoln (1908); Mrs. Emily N. Vanderpoel and Capt. Edgar Van Winkle (1915); George Gould Lincoln (1916); John D. Champlain, Jr. (1919); Grace Bigelow (1925); Esther Thompson (1931); Samuel Fisher (1932); Samuel A. Herman (1932); George Dudley Seymour (1932); Augustus N. Hand (1933-18-0); Katharine P. Loring (1933); Mary Floyd Williams (1942); Floyd R. DuBois (1946); Dorothy Telfair Mills Parker (1946); Floyd R. DuBois and Frank DuBois; Mrs. Mendenhall (1950); Epaphroditus Peck (1950); Mrs. G. Glen Gould (1955); Floyd L. Thoms (1968); Mrs. Lamar M. Fearing (1972); John D. Taylor (1979); Jane Endicott (1986); Mariam Greenberg (1988); Oliver Wolcott Library (1991); Museum purchase (2002); Malcolm and Carol Bramley (2004).

Alternate Extent Statement: 4 boxes and 50 volumes

Access Restrictions: The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Acquisition Source: Various

Acquisition Method: Gift and purchase

Related Materials:

Related to Series 1: Lecture notes: George Catlin Woodruff's student law lecture notes (5 volumes) are in the Woodruff Family Collection, Litchfield Historical Society. Reeve Collection, Litchfield Historical Society. Student law lecture notebooks are located in many repositories including: the Lillian Goldman law Library, Yale Law School, http://morris.law.yale.edu; Harvard law Library, www.law.harvard.edu/library; Columbia Law School Library, www.law.columbia.edu/library/collections/special; and the Connecticut State Library, www.csl.org.

The Samuel Fisher collection contains research notes and correspondence from Fisher's effort to create a comprehensive catalog of Litchfield Law School students.  His catalog is also held by the Society.

Many other collections contain personal and business records of Litchfield Law School students.  Some collections related to Tapping Reeve can be found at:

Reeve Family Papers at Yale University Manuscript and Archives http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/mssa.ms.0686

Related Publications: Many of the law books used by Reeve and his students are in the Society's collection.  Find them by searching the online book catalog.

Preferred Citation: Litchfield Law School collection, Litchfield Historical Society, Helga J. Ingraham Memorial Library, 7 South Street, P.O. Box 385, Litchfield, Connecticut, 06759.

Finding Aid Revision History: A finding aid for the Student Lecture notes was created in 2005.

Other Note:

Processing of this collection in in progress. Please contact archivist@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org for more information.

Contact the Museum Curator curator@litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org for information about the Material culture/objects related to the Litchfield Law School.


This collection was processed with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Other URL: http://www.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org/lawschool/index.php

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Period documents, 1785-1835],
[Series 2: Research materials, 1773-1978],
[Series 3: Printed materials, 1828-1990],

Series 3: Printed materials, 1828-1990Add to your cart.
This series contains printed materials, both published and unpublished, covering the topics of legal education, the Litchfield Law School, and the students and instructors of that school.
Sub-Series 1: Catalogues of StudentsAdd to your cart.
Catalogues of students who attended the Litchfield Law School
Folder 1: Catalogue of the Law School at Litchfield, Connecticut, 1849Add to your cart.
Three copies of the 1849 catalogue of students.  One belonged to Lewis B. Woodruff and contains marginalia and several pages of added notes; the second was given to a Mr. Bigelow from Seth Preston Beers; a third bears no inscription but contains several pages of added notes.
Folder 2: Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School, 1828Add to your cart.
Two copies of Catalogue of the Litchfield Law School from 1793 to 1827 Inclusive published by the students printed by S. S. Smith of Litchfield, Conn.
Folder 3: Litchfield Law School Catalog of Scholars, undatedAdd to your cart.
Two copies of The Litchfield Law School Catalogue of Scholars Interesting Memoranda.  Appears to be early 20th century.
Folder 4: Reprint of 1900 the Litchfield Law School, 1900Add to your cart.
Reprint of earlier Law School catalogs together with images of Reeve, Gould, the school buildings, and residences of the instructors.  Compiled by George M. Woodruff of Litchfield and Archibald M. Howe of Cambridge, MA.  Printed by the press of the Litchfield Enquirer.
Sub-Series 2: Litchfield Historical Society Publications, 1911-1990Add to your cart.
Printed materials and publications of the Litchfield Historical Society pertaining to the Litchfield Law School.
Folder 1: Litchfield Law School, 1930 Aug 29Add to your cart.
Address by Samuel H. Fisher delivered at the Tapping Reeve House Litchfield, Connecticut before the Litchfield Historical Society August 29, 1930 printed by the Enquirer Print, Litchfield, Connecticut.
Folder 2: Litchfield Law School Sketches, 1930Add to your cart.
"A Brief Historical Sketch of America's Pioneer Law School" printed in 1930 and sent with a fundraising flier to raise money to purchase the Tapping Reeve House and to restore and furnish the house and Law School.  Includes a list of sponsors including William Howard Taft; printer's proof of the same brochure; later undated sketch titled "The Litchfield Law School."
Folder 3: Presentation of the Reeve Law School building to the Litchfield Historical Society at Litchfield, Connecticut, 1911 Aug 22Add to your cart.
Published speeches given the day of the presentation of the Law School, images of the speakers, town, Reeve and Gould, and various buildings, and a brief history of the Historical Society and its buildings.
Folder 4: Tapping Reeve House, 1947 Jul 10Add to your cart.
Guide to the rooms of the Reeve House "From information compiled for the Litchfield Garden Club and the Litchfield Historical Society by the Flower Show Committee especially prepared for the exhibit of eighteenth century flower arrangements given under the auspices of the Garden Club at the Tapping Reeve House."
Folder 5: Tapping Reeve House & Law School brochures, 1950-1990Add to your cart.
Three tri-fold brochures printed by the Litchfield Historical Society for the Tapping Reeve House & Law School
Sub-Series 3: Other publicationsAdd to your cart.
Miscellaneous articles about the Law School appearing in a variety of print sources; a few are in unpublished form.
Folder 1: Case and Comment, 1959 Jul-AugAdd to your cart.
Publication subtitled "The Lawyer's Magazine" contains an article on p. 40, "Litchfield: America's First Law School" by Elizabeth Muhlfeld.  The article is a reprint from the November 1958 Boston Bar Journal.
Folder 2: First Law School in America, undatedAdd to your cart.
Flier for a hand-colored print of the Litchfield Law School published by The Osborne Company of Clifton, New Jersey.
Folder 3: Georgia Commentary, 1950 MarAdd to your cart.
Georgia State Library publication featuring a sketch on its cover believed to have been of Judge Gould's study in his home (Sheldon Tavern).  The article on p. 2 refers to a volume in the DeRenne Collection of the Georgia State Library which contains the sketch.
Folder 4: House of Judge Tapping Reeve of Litchfield, 1931 Jan 29Add to your cart.
Typed text of a broadcast about the Tapping Reeve House.  Unattributed, place of broadcast is not noted.
Folder 5: Litchfield County Traveler, 1980Add to your cart.
The monthly publication of the Litchfield Hills Travel Council contains an entry about the Tapping Reeve House & Law School.
Folder 6: Litchfield, First American Law School, 1950Add to your cart.
Article by Burton S. Hill published on p. 220-231 of the Spring 1950 edition of the Michigan Alumnus.
Folder 7: Litchfield Law School, 1920 Aug 1Add to your cart.
Typescript of an historical address given by Simeon F. Baldwin at the bi-centennial anniversary of the founding of the town.
Folder 8: Litchfield Law School 1775-1833, 1933Add to your cart.
Publication by the Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut Committee on Historical Publications written by Samuel H. Fisher.
Folder 9: Long Island Forum, 1941 NovAdd to your cart.
Article about Tapping Reeve and the Litchfield Law School titled "Lawyer from Long Island" by Mildred Reeve Peabody on p. 261.
Folder 10: Lure of the Litchfield Hills, 1961 JunAdd to your cart.
Includes an article titled "Tapping Reeve and the Connecticut Federalists" by Joel Sandulli.
Folder 11: My Country, 1968 SepAdd to your cart.
"America's First Law School" by Herbert S. Jones p. 2-7.
Folder 12: Newspaper Clippings, 1930-1976Add to your cart.
News clippings on various topics pertaining to the Tapping Reeve House & Litchfield Law School.
Folder 13: Old Law School Building in Litchfield, Connecticut, 1928Add to your cart.
Booklet compiled by Arthur E. Bostwick containing photos and quotes pertaining to the Litchfield Law School.
Folder 14: Pilgramage of Old Houses, 1937Add to your cart.
Brochure listing historic houses in Litchfield including the Tapping Reeve House.
Folder 15: Telephone Bulletin, 1965 NovAdd to your cart.
Article titled "Autumn in Litchfield" provides information about Litchfield's history and depicts two local children's tour of the Tapping Reeve House.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Period documents, 1785-1835],
[Series 2: Research materials, 1773-1978],
[Series 3: Printed materials, 1828-1990],

Page Generated in: 0.761 seconds (using 232 queries).
Using 3MB of memory. (Peak of 3.3MB.)

Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign