Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Trial by combat in Delaware

May 13th, 2014 No comments

This week’s Game of Thrones episode has put the medieval practice of trial by combat in the spotlight. Gawker and Above the Law both have interesting articles on the practice. Although this Time article claims trial by combat has never happened in the United States, it was requested once in Delaware. In McNatt v. Richards, a 1983 case in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, defendant Freedom Church of Revelation, challenged the plaintiff to trial by combat to the death. Vice Chancellor Maurice A. Hartnett, III was not amused and admonished the defendant that “… challenge of trial by combat to death is not a form of relief this Court, or any court in this country, would or could authorize. Dueling is a crime and defendant is therefore cautioned against such further requests for unlawful relief.”

In case you’re wondering why a pro se defendant would file a “rambling tirade which asserts various preposterous allegations and claims” challenging someone to trial by combat, the answer is of course, tax scam.

The Dover poisoned candy murders

April 11th, 2013 No comments
Elizabeth Dunning

Murder victim Elizabeth Dunning, from an illustration in the San Francisco Call

One evening in August 1898 in Dover, Delaware, the family of ex-congressman John B. Penington sat together on the porch of their house on the Dover Green. Mr. and Mrs. Penington, their son, two adult daughters and their grandchildren were relaxing after dinner. Two neighbors stopped by to say hello. One of the daughters, Elizabeth Dunning, had received a box of chocolates in the mail earlier that day, and she passed the candy around for her family and friends to enjoy. Later that night, everyone who had eaten the candy got sick. Elizabeth Dunning and her sister, Ida Deane, had eaten more candy than the others. Within a few days, both women were dead. Food poisoning was originally suspected, but tests on the candy proved it had been laced with arsenic.

The candy had been sent with no return address but a San Francisco postmark. Included in the box was a handkerchief and a note that read “With love to yourself and baby, love, Mrs. C.” When informed of his wife Elizabeth’s death, her husband John P. Dunning, immediately suspected his mistress, Cordelia Botkin.

John P. Dunning

Photo from “The Staff Correspondent”

Born in Delaware, John P. Dunning studied to be an attorney, but the staid life of a provincial Dover lawyer wasn’t for him. He became a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press, traveling the world to cover stories of war and natural disaster. In 1889 he was sent to Samoa to cover the growing tension there between Germany and the United States. Dunning arrived in time to witness the destruction of the fleets sent by the two countries in a terrible cyclone. His story was sent by the AP to newspapers around the world, including the New York Times.  His coverage of the cyclone and courage in rescuing victims of the disaster made him a well-known reporter.

Dunning and his wife Elizabeth had a daughter and moved to San Francisco, where Dunning worked for the Associated Press. At some point, Elizabeth and John separated, Elizabeth and her daughter moving back to Dover to live with her parents. Dunning stayed in San Francisco, where he began an affair with Cordelia Botkin. Botkin was also married and separated from her husband.

cordelia botkin

Cordelia Botkin, illustration from the San Francisco Call

At the outbreak of the Spanish American War in 1898, Dunning was sent by the Associated Press to Cuba to cover the war, where he covered the exploits of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Before he left, he told Cordelia that after the war he’d be going home to his wife in Delaware. Not long afterward, his wife and her sister were dead.

Cordelia Botkin was soon arrested and charged with the murder of Elizabeth Dunning. Her trial was a huge sensation, with front page coverage in newspapers all over the country. The case had everything needed for a sensational story: adultery, prominent people, the clash between small town values and big city sophistication, and a murder committed by the latest technology, poison by mail.

Cordelia Botkin steadfastly maintained her innocence and hired some of the finest lawyers in San Francisco, but she was found guilty of murder in December 1898. In 1901 her conviction was overturned (People v. Botkin, 132 Cal. 231, 64 P. 286 (1901)) because of improper jury instructions. She was tried and convicted again in 1904 and sentenced to life in prison. She appealed again but this time her conviction was upheld People v. Botkin, 9 Cal. App. 244, 98 P. 861 (1908). She died in San Quentin prison in 1910. John Dunning preceded her in death, dying in Philadelphia in 1907 at the age of 44.


John R. Alstadt, Jr. With Love to Yourself and Baby. Dorrance, 2001.

Charles Sanford Diehl. The Staff Correspondent. Clegg Co., 1931.

Thomas S. Duke. Celebrated Criminal Cases of America. J.H. Barry, 1910.

The San Francisco Call‘s extensive coverage of the trial is available at the California Digital Newspaper Collection.


National Poetry Month

April 4th, 2013 No comments

April is National Poetry Month. The law and poetry have more in common than you might think, maybe because lawyers have to be good writers. A few Widener faculty have published articles about poetry and the law. Mary Kate Kearney of the Harrisburg campus has written The Propriety of Poetry in Judicial Opinions, about the use of poetry by judges in their opinions. Another Harrisburg faculty member, Randy Lee, has written an article about Bruce Springsteen, Bruce Springsteen’s Hope and the Lawyer as Poet Advocate.

On the Delaware campus, Alan Garfield once published a humorous poem about Sherwood v. Walker, the famous contract case about a cow. For some reason, Sherwood v. Walker seems to spark the muse in many lawyers because there are a lot of poems inspired by that case. And even a song:

Categories: Delaware, Miscellaneous Tags: ,

Delaware weird laws are local

January 8th, 2013 No comments

Rehoboth Beach boardwalk 1931. Someone might be disrobing behind a beach chair.

This is going to be my last post on weird laws of Delaware. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed researching them. Today I’m going to look at a number of weird laws on disparate subjects that all have one thing in common. See if you can figure out what it is.

In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware:

No person shall change clothes in his or her vehicle.

status: mostly true [It’s only illegal if your car is in a public place. Feel free to change in your garage.]

§ 198-14. Disrobing in public. No person shall disrobe under the boardwalk, on the beach or in any vehicle while such vehicle is parked upon any public street or way or other public place in plain view of the public.

One may not whisper in church.

status: mostly true [It’s only illegal if you are disrupting or disturbing the congregation. If the congregation wants to have an all whispered service they can go ahead.]

§ 198-23. Disturbing religious worship and lawful assemblies. A. No person shall disrupt or disturb any congregation or assembly met for religious worship by noise, talking or whispering, or by rude or indecent behavior, or by profane language within their place of worship, or within 300 feet of the place of worship.

No person shall pretend to sleep on a bench on the boardwalk.

status: true [This is a perfectly normal law for a beach town, except for the “pretending” to sleep clause. I guess the local judges got tired of people using the “I wasn’t really asleep” defense.]

§ 198-30. Sleeping on boardwalk. No person shall sleep, lie or occupy as a sleeping quarter, or under the guise of pretending to sleep on the boardwalk, any bench located on the boardwalk in any pavilion located at the end of any street or on any bench located on any street.

Changing into or out of a bathing suit in a public restroom is prohibited.

status: true

§ 198-15. Changing clothes in comfort station prohibited. No person shall change his clothing from bathing suit to street clothes or otherwise within the comfort stations maintained by the City.

Six-year-old girls may not run around without being fully clothed.

status: true [But this is a deliberately obtuse reading of the law. Obviously 60 year old women are equally prohibited from topless bathing.]

§ 198-13. Topless bathing suits prohibited. No female over the age of five years shall wear a topless bathing suit or otherwise fail to cover her breasts with less than a full opaque covering of any portion thereof below the upper portion of the nipple.

Alcohol may not be served in nightclubs if dancing is occurring on the premises at the same time.

status: true [Actually nightclubs that allow dancing may not serve alcohol at all, no matter when the dancing is occurring.]

§ 134-13. Alcoholic beverages prohibited. No person shall sell, give, dispense, provide or keep or cause to be sold, given, dispensed, provided or kept any alcoholic beverage on the premises of any dance hall establishment.

In Lewes, Delaware:

It is illegal to wear pants that are “firm fitting” around the waist

status: not true [This is one of the most commonly cited weird Delaware laws on the internet. It is definitely not in the current Lewes code of ordinances. It is possible it used to be a law but I can’t check because we don’t have older city ordinance for Lewes in our library.]

Did you figure out what they all have in common? They are all local laws, municipal ordinances that have been passed by a town or city in Delaware. Many of the laws cited on weird laws websites are often local laws. Laws passed to deal with local problems do often seem strange when taken out of their local context. For instance, many of the laws from Rehoboth Beach were probably passed to deal with the problems of a beach town, by trying to discourage nightclubs, stop day trippers from changing out of their bathing suits on residential streets, and keep drunk college students from sleeping on the boardwalk. Many beach towns have similar laws.

Legal research classes don’t spend much, if any time teaching how to research local laws, but these laws can greatly affect your clients’ everyday lives, so it’s worthwhile taking the time to learn how to find them. The internet has made researching local laws easier than it used to be. Many cities and towns have their municipal codes available on their website. There are also two companies that specialize in creating municipal codes, Municipal Code Company and General Code and many local codes can be found free on their websites. For more information on researching local laws, I’d recommend reading this excellent article by Mary Whisner of the University of Washington.

Photo credit: Delaware Public Archives. Board of Agriculture Glass Negative Collection.,6621

For more information on local laws see: Mary Whisner. Enact Locally. 102 Law Library Journal 497 (2010)

There’s an app for that…

December 11th, 2012 No comments

Boy howdy is there ever an app for that…this all started because I read about an app developed by New York Law School’s Mendik Library.  I looked them up in the iTunes App Store and happened to click the “related” option and down the rabbit hole I went.  For an even more detailed list of apps see the libguides prepared by UCLA & University of Akron.

Handy Apps for Law Students

Fastcase – a free legal research application.  It contains cases and statutes from all 50 states.  There are 3 ways to search: by citation, keyword, or browse the statute collections.  It can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store and can be used on the iPhone & the iPad.  There is also an Android version.

LawStack – it is described as a “law library in your pocket.”  With this app you get the US Constitution (as amended 5/5/92), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,    Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy  Procedure (effective as of Dec. 1, 2011).  You can also add the DE Code, New York Code, & CFR.  This is a free app available for download at the iTunes App Store.

CaseBriefs – it includes these features which are aimed at law students: student briefs, course outlines, & law school exam preparation materials.  It is a free download from the iTunes App Store.

U.S. Code – the entire U.S. Code for your iOS device, where you will be able to access all the federal statutes without using the internet.  Available for free from the iTunes App Store.

iStudiez Pro – award-winning app that helps you (the busy student) organize your life.  It offers many ways to organize your schedule and is available for purchase from the iTunes App Store for $2.99.  There is an    iStudiez Lite which is free but is not as feature rich.

Law School Dojo – this app will help take some of the boredom out of studying.  “It offers hundreds of multiple choice questions to learn legal doctrine,     vocabulary, and procedure, along with random legal trivia.” Available to download for free from the iTunes App Store (there are additional versions e.g. quizzes on torts, Civil Procedure, etc but these are not free).

OpenRegs – with this app you will be able to take the Federal Register with you no matter where you go.  It is free and available for download from the iTunes App Store.

LexisNexis Law School Q&A Series –  this app is available to download for free from the iTunes App Store, each in app purchase is $14.99.  It is the Q&A exam prep series as an interactive app.  It includes 27 subject areas (available as in app purchases): Civ Pro, Evidence, Torts, Constitutional Law, Crim Pro, Constitutional Law etc.


The Onion makes joke about the Delaware General Corporation Law

November 30th, 2012 No comments

The Delaware General Corporation Law of 1899, with ancient mystical notations

I’m kind of late in noticing this but I just found this article. In 2010, satirical newspaper The Onion published 20,000 Sacrificed In Annual Blood Offering To Corporate America, which includes this reference to the Delaware General Corporation Law: “A joyful noise filled the hall as the priest pulled the first virgin’s heart from her chest and recited the ancient, mystical section 102(a)(3) of the Delaware General Corporation Law.”

Like much of the Onion it’s only mildly amusing, but whoever wrote that actually read the Delaware General Corporation Law. Section 102(a)(3) is “The nature of the business or purposes to be conducted or promoted. It shall be sufficient to state, either alone or with other businesses or purposes, that the purpose of the corporation is to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be organized under the General Corporation Law of Delaware, and by such statement all lawful acts and activities shall be within the purposes of the corporation, except for express limitations, if any;”

If you were going to intone a section of the Delaware General Corporation Law, which one would you pick? I think I’d go with section 397 “Whoever prints or publishes this chapter without the authority of the Secretary of State of this State, shall be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned not more than 3 months, or both.”

Weird laws, blue laws, Delaware laws

November 18th, 2012 No comments
Horse and Jockey

Horse and jockey at Delaware Park in the 1940s, not on a Sunday.

It’s time for another look at the weird laws of Delaware. This time I’m taking a look at what you can and cannot do on Sunday in Delaware. You may have seen this cited on the internet as a weird Delaware law:

Delaware prohibits horse racing of any kind on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Status: True

Yes it’s true, Title 28, section 906 of the Delaware Code reads, “There shall be no horse racing of any kind on Good Friday or Easter Sunday.” You might think that this is just an old law that was accidentally left on the books, but it was only passed in 1973 (59 Del. Laws 1973, ch. 25, § 1), and is actually a liberalization of the state’s earlier law which banned horse racing every Sunday.

Horse racing was just one of the many activities that used to be banned in Delaware on Sundays. Laws reserving Sunday as the Sabbath and a day of rest were brought to the American colonies from England and existed in all of the original colonies. They were commonly called “blue laws.” Interestingly, no one seems to agree on why, it may have been because they were originally printed on blue paper, or possibly, because the Puritans and their strong religious scruples were often called “blue” as in “bluenose.”

Delaware’s early Sunday laws were strict but typical of their time. The 1852 Delaware Code prohibited the performance of “any worldly employment, labor, or business, on the Sabbath day (works of necessity and charity excepted)…” Delaware law also prohibited leisure activities such as “fishing, fowling, horse-racing, cock-fighting, or hunting game” on Sundays, as well as assembling to “game, play or dance.” (Revised Statutes of the State of Delaware chap. 131, sec. 4 (1852))

A 1939 petition to the Governor of Delaware, asking him to support a referendum allowing movies to be shown in Wilmington on Sundays.

By 1953 the Delaware Code no longer banned all work on Sundays, but still banned horse racing, along with auctions, dances, theatrical performances and motion pictures, at least in unincorporated areas. Incorporated areas were permitted to make their own rules, but these activities could not be held before noon or between 6 PM and 8 PM. Also banned on Sunday was barbering (24 Del.C. (1953) § 415) but, curiously, not ladies hairdressing, which eventually led to a Delaware Supreme Court case which held that the law was “… an unjust and unreasonable attempt to discriminate against this class of persons [barbers]; that its effect is not to benefit the interests of the public; and that it constitutes an arbitrary interference with private business.” Rogers v. State, 57 Del. 334, 339, 199 A.2d 895, 897 (1964)

Sunday closing laws as a whole were never found unconstitutional and have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court. (McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420 (1961), Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Super Mkt. Inc., 366 U.S. 617 (1961), Two Guys v. McGinley, 366 U.S. 582 (1961), Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599 (1961)) Many states in the U.S. still have restrictions on Sunday activities.

Currently in Delaware besides the ban on horse racing on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, liquor can only be sold on Sundays between 12:00 noon and 8:00 p.m. (4 Del. Code § 709) (with some exceptions for small wineries, distilleries and breweries), hunting is prohibited on Sunday (except fox hunting with dogs) (7 Del. Code § 712), taking shellfish for commercial purposes (with some exceptions) is prohibited (7 Del. Code § 1904), “adult establishments” must be closed, (24 Del. Code § 1625), and you can’t use drifting gill nets until after 4 p.m. on Sunday (7 Del. Code § 923). Luckily for me it’s not illegal to write blog posts on Sundays.

UPDATE: The story of how 500 people were arrested in one day and the Delaware blue laws were finally repealed.

Photo credits:

Delaware Public Archives. Delaware in World War II Collection.,10024

For more information on blue laws see:

Neil J. Dilloff, Never on Sunday: the Blue Laws Controversy, 39 Md. L. Rev. 679 (1980)

Lesley Lawrence-Hammer, Red, White, but Mostly Blue: The Validity of Modern Sunday Closing Laws Under the Establishment Clause, 60 Vand. L. Rev. 1273  (2007)


Arguendo, play based on 1991 Supreme Court case, at Philly’s Live Arts Festival

August 23rd, 2012 No comments

This year’s Philadelphia Live Arts Festival includes a production of a work in progress, Arguendo. Produced by New York theater company, Elevator Repair Service, the play dramatizes the oral arguments in Barnes v. Glen Theatre 501 U.S. 560, a 1991 Supreme Court case about whether a state ban on public nudity violated the freedom of expression of exotic dancers at two strip clubs. There’s a good article about an earlier New York production of the play in The Paris Review. Arguendo will be performed Sunday, September 16 at 1:00 PM at the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia.

Supreme Court photo from Wikimedia Commons

Categories: Miscellaneous Tags:

Play recreating trial of abolitionists Garrett and Hunn to be performed at New Castle County courthouse museum

August 7th, 2012 No comments

New Castle Courthouse Museum

A new play based on the 1848 trial of Delaware abolitionists Thomas Garrett and John Hunn will be performed at the New Castle County Courthouse Museum, the scene of the original trial. In 1848 the two men were tried for violating federal law by helping the Hawkins family escape from slavery in Maryland. They were found guilty and heavily fined.

The interactive play is one of a series written by local playwright Colin Adams-Toomey There will be three performances of the play, August  18th, 19th and 21st. See the News Journal for more information.

Delaware Legal History on Pinterest

June 14th, 2012 No comments

I love looking at historic photos. If you’d like to look at a collection of historic photos of Delaware attorneys and other legal subjects gathered from all over the internet, I’ve started a Pinterest page on Delaware legal history. These are mostly photos from the Delaware Public Archives which has a great online photo collection. There are also some from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Bloody Bloody Louis McLane

Louis McLane, Delaware lawyer, politician, and member of Andrew Jackson's Cabinet

In which I bring together two of my favorite topics, local history and local theater

I saw a fun production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson this past weekend at Wilmington’s City Theater Company. I’d recommend catching it if you can take a break from finals. It has everything: rock and roll, men in tight pants, dancing, fake blood, obscenities, and the entertaining but historically and politically incorrect story of Andrew Jackson.

There’s only one thing missing from this fine production and that is Delaware’s own member of Jackson’s cabinet, Louis McLane! He was left out of the play, probably “in the interest of narrative economy” as the play says. Also probably because he really wasn’t very funny.

Louis McLane was born in 1784 in Delaware. His father, Allen McLane, was a Revolutionary War hero and Collector of the Customs for the District of Delaware, which basically means he was chief tax collector at the port of Wilmington. Wilmington was a major port at the time so he made good money. At 15 Louis became a Navy midshipman and went to sea, but after one voyage he resigned, possibly because he was terribly seasick.

After he left the Navy, Louis went to school at the Newark Academy and then read law with James A. Bayard. While studying to be a lawyer he fought a duel with a fellow law clerk and was shot in the groin. He later had 13 children so it couldn’t have been too serious. He volunteered for an Artillery Company during the War of 1812 but never saw any action.

Louis McLane lived in this house at 606 Market St in Wilmington. It has been remodeled so many times there is probably little left of the original house.

McLane started a law practice and went into politics. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1817, where he served for 10 years and became Chairman of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He left the House when he was elected to the Senate in 1827.

McLane belonged to the Federalist Party, one of the original political parties which had pretty much died out in the rest of the country but was still popular in Delaware, which has always been a bit slow to change. McLane became a friend of Martin Van Buren and admirer of Andrew Jackson and led his wing of the Delaware Federalists into Jackson’s party. In return for his support McLane hoped for a cabinet position or to be named to the Supreme Court. He was disappointed however to be made Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain. This may sound like a great position but it didn’t pay all that well and involved a lot of expense as he had to bring his whole family over to Britain in a boat and they still didn’t have steamships so it wasn’t a fun crossing. Then you had to live in London, one of the world’s most expensive cities and entertain lavishly, so it wasn’t a profitable job.

Luckily for McLane, Andrew Jackson got mad at his entire cabinet because their wives were rude to somebody and decided to replace them. McLane was made Secretary of the Treasury which would have been great, except for one big problem. The Bank of the United States. I have never understood the whole Bank of the United States thing, but the important point is that Andrew Jackson was against the Bank of the United States and McLane was for it. McLane refused to withdraw the federal treasury money from the Bank so Jackson replaced him and made him Secretary of State instead. McLane didn’t have much better luck as Secretary of State. He was trying to resolve the French Spoliation claims (which involved the French owing us money and not paying it back) when Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s Vice President and McLane’s old friend, went behind his back and solved the problem himself. McLane was so mad he resigned from the Cabinet and never spoke to Van Buren again.

McLane retired from politics, left Delaware and moved to Baltimore where he became president of the Morris Canal & Banking Company and later the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He made a further brief foray into national politics when he was named Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain again by James K. Polk. But he never got to be a Supreme Court Justice. Louis McLane died in Baltimore in 1857. From what I’ve read about McLane it’s hard to tell whether he would have been relieved to not be portrayed as a prancing aristocrat in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson or angry that he was left out. One way or the other he probably would have challenged somebody to a duel.

Photo credits:  Wikimedia Commons and

A much less silly and more scholarly version of Louis McLane’s life can be found in: John A. Munroe. Louis McLane: Federalist and Jacksonian. Rutgers University Press, 1973.


Art in the law library: law, legal education and research in the similitude of a tree

April 18th, 2012 No comments

This painting of a tree, by Donna Sciarra, hangs behind the reference desk in the Widener Law Library. In 2000, when the library was remodeled, Eileen Cooper, our library director at the time, had the idea to commission the painting celebrating the roots and future branches of legal education. The inspiration for the tree imagery was a photocopy of an old print, titled “The Common Law in the Similitude of a Tree.” This picture had been found by our archivist, David King, but no one was sure where it had originally come from.

We made efforts to track the origin of the print down, but aside from the title and the copyright notice by “R.C. Bierce, counselor at law,” we had little to go on. We searched reference works, the internet and posted on listservs, but we found no trace of the print or the artist.

But how quickly things change on the internet. A few months ago I decided to research the print again and quickly found a copy of the print in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.  It had been originally published in 1878 by Cook & Co. A little more careful searching in Google Books and Google News, led me to the artist, Royal C. Bierce.

R.C. Bierce was born in Connecticut in 1808. He moved with his family to Portage County, Ohio where he read law with John Crowell of Warren, Ohio and became a lawyer. Bierce settled in Wisconsin in 1845, teaching school for a few years before establishing a law practice. During the Civil War he served as Colonel of the Bad Ax County, Wisconsin militia. He was the editor of a local newspaper, the Sparta Eagle. R. C. Bierce was also the uncle of the famous writer Ambrose Bierce.

The tree in Bierce’s print illustrates Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law of England. Like Abraham Lincoln and other lawyers in early America, Bierce “read the law,”  serving as a clerk to an established attorney and learning law by reading cases and commentaries on law such as Blackstone or Coke.

The lettering on the base of the tree, “The Objects of the Law are Rights and Wrongs” is from Book 1 chapter 1 of Blackstone.

… the primary and principal objects of the law are rights, and wrongs. In the prosecution therefore of these commentaries, I shall follow this very simple and obvious division; and shall in the first place consider the rights that are commanded, and secondly the wrongs that are forbidden by the laws of England. William Blackstone, Commentaries *122

The divisions of the branches of the tree into topics also follows the outline of Blackstone’s Commentaries. There is a long history of using trees to illustrate legal systems and as an aid to memory. I’ve been unable to discover if this print was meant as an aid in studying Blackstone or was intended as a decorative print for the lawyer’s office, to remind him of his younger days spent reading the law.

This print illustrating the basics of legal education in the 19th century provided the inspiration for the Widener Law library’s painting illustrating the current branches of law and legal education. The growth of the internet and the increased digitization of information allowed me to make the connection between the two.


Art in the law library, mystery painting

April 10th, 2012 No comments

I really like this painting of a handsome brooding young man but unfortunately we know very little about it. It’s been hanging in the library for a few years now and was once in another building on campus. But no one seems to know where it originally came from.

Some internet research has turned up practically nothing about the artist either. It is signed Alice Emmons. A painting by the same artist was sold by KFAuctions in 2011, but the auction house could find no record of the artist.

There is a mention in a 1955 issue of Life of an Alice P. Emmons exhibiting a painting at the Corcoran Gallery but I can’t tell if it’s the same artist. The signature looks somewhat different.

If anybody knows anything about the painting or Alice Emmons the artist, please either leave a comment or email me.

Art in the law library, two portraits of Dean Arthur Weeks

March 28th, 2012 No comments

Portrait of Dean Arthur Weeks by Diane Keller

Many of the portraits hanging in the law library are of former Deans or local judges and let’s face it, sometimes they do start to look alike. But if you’ve ever thought that there are two different portraits of the same person hanging in the library, you are not imagining things. But why does the law library have two portraits of Dean Weeks?

Arthur Weeks was Widener’s second Dean. Serving from 1974 to 1980, he was responsible for Widener Law’s successful accreditation by the ABA. In recognition of his service, the first graduating class commissioned a portrait of him in 1980. The portrait was done by artist Diane Keller. Unfortunately, it did not prove to be a popular success. Weeks was posed in front of a colorful oriental rug and students started referring to it as the “shower curtain portrait.” At one point it was stolen as a student prank.

Portrait of Dean Arthur Weeks by Edward Lis

So a second portrait was commissioned, this one by Edward Lis. The second portrait was hung at the law school and the first was quietly forgotten. No one was certain what had happened to it until one of our librarians discovered that Arthur Weeks had it in his home. Dean Weeks and his wife donated the portrait back to the law school and now both portraits hang proudly in the law library.

You can see more of Diane Keller’s work at her website and on the streets of Philadelphia where she has painted several of the city’s famous murals, including Italian-American icons Frank Sinatra, Frank Rizzo, and Mario Lanza.

Edward Lis died in December 2011. He painted portraits of many prominent people in the Philadelphia area as well as landscapes and taught at the Norristown Art League. You can see several of his portraits of PolishAmericans on the Poles in America Foundation’s website.

Delaware’s silent sentinels, Delaware women in the fight for women’s suffrage

March 23rd, 2012 No comments

Delaware's Mabel Vernon marches to the White House

In a previous post, I covered the role of Delaware women in the struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Women from Delaware also played an important part in the long and difficult struggle to get the amendment proposed and passed by Congress. The National Woman’s Party, founded in 1916, was a women’s rights group that used more militant tactics to get the attention of politicians and the public.

One of the leaders of the NWP was Delawarean Mabel Vernon. Born in Wilmington in 1883, her father was a newspaper editor. She attended Swarthmore College, where she met Alice Paul, who would become the leader of the NWP. After college Vernon worked as a teacher until Paul asked her to work as an organizer for the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and NWP. She organized local protests and nationwide tours and became an accomplished speaker. In 1916 she led a group of activists who unfurled a banner and heckled President Wilson during a speech to Congress.

A policewoman (in white) arrests Delawarean Annie Arniel (center left) for picketing the White House

In 1917, the NWP decided to step up pressure on President Wilson and organized pickets in front of the White House. Calling themselves “silent sentinels” the women picketed the White House, in Lafayette Park and at other government buildings. In June 1917 the police began arresting picketers. Initially they were usually released without charge, but when the protests continued the penalties became more serious. Alice Paul and other women were sentenced to up to 6 months in Occoquan Workhouse. Some prisoners held hunger strikes and were force-fed by prison authorities. Released prisoners were sent on nationwide tours by the NWP and spoke to crowds wearing their prison uniforms.

Catherine Boyle, of New Castle, Delaware, holds a suffrage flag

A number of Delaware women were among the protesters. Seven served jail time: Mabel Vernon, Florence Bayard Hilles, Annie J. Magee, Naomi Barrett, Annie Arniel, Catherine Boyle, and Mary Brown. Annie Arniel of Wilmington, who had worked in a munitions factory, spent the most time in jail. She was arrested 8 times and spent a total of 103 days in jail. After one of her arrests Arniel told the Sunday Star, a Wilmington paper, “We were good enough to work in the steel plant and help load shells for the battle-fields of France, but we are still not good enough to vote, it seems. Can anyone see justice in this?”

The National Woman’s Party continued the protests until 1919 when Congress passed the 19th Amendment.

Photo credits: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Library of Congress and Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

For more information see:

Annie L. Arniel, the Iron-Jawed Suffragette. Webpage by Ken Menard.

Ford, Linda G. Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman’s Party, 1912-1920. University Press of America, 1991.

Mabel Vernon: Speaker for  Suffrage and Petitioner for Peace. Interview by Amelia R. Fry. Bancroft Library. Suffragists Oral History Project.

Stevens, Doris. Jailed for Freedom. Boni and Liveright, 1920.

The Suffrage Movement in Delaware. Historical Society of Delaware

Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party. Library of Congress.