In a new collection, the HLS Library is providing a rare glimpse into the life and mind of the most widely cited U.S. Supreme Court justice in history.
The library’s collection of materials on Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. LL.B. 1866—including the letters he sent his parents when he was a 23-year-old lieutenant colonel during the Civil War, and the death mask that was made just hours after he died—is now available online as part of a multiyear digitization project.
The first phase of the project, which included the digitizing of manuscript items related to Holmes’ service in the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army as well as Holmes’ annotated copy of his seminal work “The Common Law,” was completed this March. The project’s second phase is in development and will include the digitizing of additional manuscript materials and the creation of an interpretive Web presentation.
Funding for the Holmes Digital Collection comes from a generous gift from Norman B. Tomlinson Jr. ’51.
- A ribbon medal from the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, a U.S. patriotic order formed by officers of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps after the assassination of President Lincoln
- Holmes’ wooden gavel
- Civil War-era American Telegraph Company telegram
- Death mask created just hours after Holmes’ death in 1935
- Container by the Pow-Wow Superior Court, an HLS moot court club, in 1882-83, when Holmes was an HLS faculty member
- 1720 Eye Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., residence of Justice and Mrs. Holmes (photo taken in 1930)
- American Civil War uniform patch, worn by Holmes during his service in the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the Union Army
- A page with notation from the chapter on “Early Forms of Liability” in “The Common Law” by Holmes, 1881
- A painted tin ammunition box that Holmes used as a lunch box when he served on the U.S. Supreme Court
- A Civil War portrait of Holmes at age 22
- Excerpt from Holmes’ Civil War diary: “There are a great many things of course, thoughts, occupations, and events during which I wish I’d kept memoranda during my past life. ...”