History of the Collection

Mr. Brandeis first demonstrated an interest in the University of Louisville in the early 1920s. In 1925, the Justice proposed to his brother Alfred, a Louisvillian, a plan to make the University a major center of academic research. Though he later withdrew his offer of financial support for the University's School of Law, he carried out his decision to donate his personal papers, books, and pamphlets. Furthermore, Brandeis encouraged the University of Louisville to acquire additional research material, made specific suggestions for purchases, and donated funds to catalog, bind and shelve them.

The first Brandeis papers arrived in Louisville in the fall of 1936. Those string-tied packets of correspondence and reports on Palestine constitute Series 6 (Zionism/Palestine) of the microfilm publication. Other shipments followed, and in the fall of 1938 Brandeis directed the Boston law firm of Nutter, McClennen & Fish--successors to Brandeis, Dunbar & Nutter--to forward to the University those files that related to his pre-Court activities as a "people's attorney" (filmed as Series 1.) While Brandeis insisted on a general policy of keeping his papers closed during his lifetime, he did allow Alpheus T. Mason to examine them for his biography, Brandeis--A Free Man's Life (1946).

In September, 1978, forty-two years after Brandeis' initial gift, Nutter, McClennen & Fish donated their remaining Brandeis legal files to the University of Louisville's Archives & Records Center. This recent acquisition largely documents the jurist's work in estate planning with the firm of Warren & Brandeis, 1879 - 1897, and as senior partner in Brandeis, Dunbar & Nutter, 1897 - 1916. It also provides additional evidence of Brandeis' activities as an attorney for Progressive causes, and contains personal financial records. Approximately 20 percent of this recent accretion was restricted by the law firm, while the remainder was filmed as Series 10, Warren & Brandeis/Brandeis, Dunbar & Nutter, 1881 - 1947.

The bundles that Justice Brandeis sent to the University of Louisville remained in storage until 1940, when Professor Mason began work on his Brandeis biography. At that time, Pearl Weiler (later Von Allmen) was employed to arrange the voluminous collection, commencing a long association with the Brandeis Papers that continued after she was named Law School Librarian. Mrs. Von Allmen retained the donor's subject titles and arranged them chronologically within eight broad topical categories. At the same time, she created a subject card index that has since been lost. Finally, she prepared a folder title list for each series that served as the primary finding aid for the papers.

When materials were added to the papers by family members and Professor Mason, only those relating to the New England railroad merger (a topic within Series 1) were interfiled. The remainder was arranged separately and microfilmed as Series 9 (Addendum) of this edition. After processing was complete, the Brandeis Papers were housed at the University of Louisville School of Law, most recently in a conference room dedicated to the Herman Handmaker, an alumnus of the law school. Interestingly, urns containing the cremated remains of both Justice and Mrs. Brandeis are interred beneath the School of Law's front portico.

In 1970, Thomas L. Owen, assistant director of the Archives and Records Center, University of Louisville, observed the critical deterioration of many of the Brandeis documents. With the support of the director of the Archives & Records Center, Dr. William J. Morison, and the encouragement of the University's School of Law, Owen secured a grant in 1977 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to preserve on microfilm the Brandeis Papers at the University of Louisville, numbering more than 250,000 items.

Selected portions of the Brandeis Papers at the University of Louisville had been microfilmed previously. In 1943, the Zionist Archives in New York City underwrote the cost of microfilming Brandeis' "Zionism/Palestine" papers and in 1955, Dr. Charles J. Kennedy, University of Nebraska, had the "merger" clipping scrapbooks filmed. In 1979, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, issued a commemorative eight-reel microfilm edition of Brandeis' published speeches and writings entitled "The Public Papers of Louis D. Brandeis," that included many printed items from the Brandeis Papers in Louisville. In addition, selected Brandeis Papers at the University of Louisville were the subject of Melvin I. Urofsky and David W. Levy's five-volume letterpress edition of Letters of Louis D. Brandeis (1973 - 1980.)

The Brandeis researcher will find four additional collections at the University of Louisville that complement the material found on this microfilm. While many volumes have been scattered, remnants of the book and pamphlet collection that the Justice donated to the University of Louisville can be found at the University Archives and in the Ekstrom and Law School libraries. In addition, the University Archives preserves photocopies of Brandeis correspondence gathered from around the world by Professor Levy for the five-volume edition of The Letters of Louis D. Brandeis. The Levy photocopies are arranged chronologically and are an excellent supplement to the original Brandeis Papers housed at the University. Brandeis correspondence is also found in the University President's and University Library's office files for the 1920 - 1945 period, also housed at the University Archives. Finally, the University Archives administers that portion of the Brandeis law files that was not filmed. Permission to examine those restricted files must be secured from Nutter McClennen & Fish in Boston. In addition, there have donations and additions to the collection that have occurred after the microfilming project was completed. Those items and be found listed at the end of the Addendum series.

Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Library

University of Louisville

2301 South Third Street

Louisville, Kentucky 40208

Google Map

Regular Hours

Mon-Thur. 8am - 6pm (6pm - 9pm law student hours)

Fri. 8am - 6pm

Sat. 9am - 6pm

Sun. (1pm - 9pm law student hours)


tel 502.852.0729

fax 502.852.8906


Social Media

Law Library Facebook pageLaw Library Twitter feedLaw Library news feed  UofL Law Library Instagram