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Clarence S. Darrow Collection

Identifier: spe-nhrc-pcd

Scope and Contents

The papers of Clarence S. Darrow consist mostly of his published works, either in pamphlet or in journal form. Included among Darrow’s works are numbers within the "Big Blue Book" and "Little Blue Book" series. These series were edited and published by E. Haldeman-Julius of Girad, Kansas, and consist of essays, exegeses and arguments on a variety of subjects. Journal articles written by Darrow also appear. He wrote on a variety of subjects ranging from agricultural policy to capital punishment, and published in The Rotarion, Plain Talk, Unity, and The Modern World, among others. News clippings in this collection concern Darrow’s activities in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. One folder of personal papers, including correspondence, property deeds and warranties, appears. Finally, a three volume report to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, issued by the National Recovery Board is present in the collection.


  • Creation: 1891 - 1956


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Clarence Seward Darrow, prominent Chicago trial lawyer, was born in Kinsman, Ohio on April 18, 1857. He attended Allegheny College, after which he studied one year at the University of Michigan Law School. He then worked as a lawyer in Youngstown, and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1878. He practiced in Ohio for nine years, before moving to Chicago, where he practiced privately before being appointed assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago. For four years he served as Chief Counsel. In 1894 Darrow became the counsel for the Chicago and North Western Railway. He left this job, however, after siding with Unionists who called a strike of the American Railway Union. Darrow defended Eugene V. Debs on a charge of contempt of a federal injunction, and although he lost the case, he went on to become one of the nation’s leading labor advocates. In 1907 he secured the acquittal of labor leader Bill Haywood for the murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steuneberg.

Darrow defended many others accused of murder, including Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in 1924 for the murder of Bobby Franks. In 1925 he defended John Scopes in a case involving the teaching of evolution and the constitutionality of a Tennessee anti-evolution statute. Darrow’s opposition in that case was great trial lawyer William Jennings Bryan.

Darrow had a long affiliation with the Woodlawn neighborhood, residing at 1537 E. 60th Street for a large portion of his adult life. When he died on March 13, 1938, at the age of eighty, his ashes were scattered into the waters of the Jackson Park Lagoon.


1.75 Linear Feet (in 3 boxes (including 1 photograph), plus 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of published works in pamphlet or journal form, and a small amount of correspondence and news clippings.


Files are arranged alphabetically by format. Within the Big Blue Book Series and Little Blue Book Series, titles are arranged sequentially by issue number. Within journal articles, files are arranged alphabetically by article title.

Custodial History

Given Darrow’s prominence and his long affiliation with the Woodlawn neighborhood, the Historical Society of Woodlawn and the library made an effort to collect a portion of his published works and other relevant materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Funded by the Scholl Foundation, these materials were transferred from the Woodlawn Branch Library in July 1989.

Related Materials

  • Historical Society of Woodlawn
  • Lawndale-Crawford Community Collection, particularly photographs 1.397 and 1.398
  • Woodlawn Community Collection

Guide to the Clarence S. Darrow Collection
Original author unknown. Processed, 1989. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875