Centennial Digital Exhibit > The 1915 Collection
When the Harris County Law Library opened on October 1, 1915, the collection assembled by the board of directors of the Law Library Association, the organization that created the Law Library, represented more than two years worth of work. The board's first purchase included Texas, national, and federal reporters, and Texas statutes supplied by T.H. Flood & Co. - a bookseller headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The initial collection cost $2,460 - the equivalent of more than $58,000 today - and was one of the most extensive legal collections in Houston. Additionally, the early collection benefited from donations made by local attorneys. Many of the volumes acquired a century ago - distinguishable by the stamp of the Law Library's founding association - are maintained in the Law Library's Historical Collection and are still used periodically by researchers - making the return on investment substantial. On this page, you will find a variety of information about The 1915 Collection, including the works and the benefactors who made it possible.
Gammel's Laws of Texas
In 1915, Gammel's Laws of Texas was the most popular source among Texas attorneys for staying current on the state's constitution and statutes. Volumes like the 1913 edition pictured here were purchased by attorneys throughout the state from the Austin bookstore of Danish immigrant, H.P.N. Gammel. After immigrating to Austin by way of Chicago and Galveston, Gammel stumbled onto an interesting business opportunity when, in 1881, he collected wet pages of legislation left in street around the burned Capitol, dried and sorted them, and then published an edited copy of the recovered documents. The initial ten-volume set, titled Gammel's Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, quickly became a popular item in legal libraries across Texas and Gammel's work became the standard for Texas legislative publishing. Today, the work remains sought after among researchers for referencing Texas legislation from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and century-old copies can still be found in the Law Library's Historical Collection.
Texas Reports was the official case reporter for the Supreme Court of Texas from 1846 to 1962. In 1915, this set would have been the best option for attorneys who needed to read reports of controlling case law decided by the state's high court. Additionally, it was the only option for finding Texas Supreme Court cases decided before 1886 because these cases were not reported in the South Western Reporter. In addition to cases, the set also contained amendments to court rules and other news pertinent to the practice of law through the state. As a result, Texas Reports was an important component of the Law Library's early collection.
In 1915, case reports were written by Alfred E. Wilkinson, whose name appear on the spine. Wilkinson, an attorney and former county judge, served as the reporter of the Supreme Court of Texas from 1896 until his death in 1932. At the time, case decisions were recorded and disseminated by reporters who attended court proceedings rather than in the form of opinions written by judges as is the practice today.
The popular citator, Rose’s Notes on the United States Supreme Court Reports, was a mainstay of the Law Library’s early collection. Compiled by Walter Malins Rose, of the San Francisco bar, and published in that city by Bancroft-Whitney, Rose’s Notes combined summaries of U.S. Supreme Court cases with citation to subsequent citing federal and state supreme court cases. For landmark cases, Rose also included analysis in the form of essays with annotations to pertinent law. Although Shepard’s Citations was already a popular resource by the time the Lawyers’ Library Association purchased Rose's 1899 edition, many attorneys preferred the added summaries and analysis to the “bald unclassified numerical tables of citations” – Rose's contemptuous description of his competitor’s work. The preference for Rose’s Notes continued and the Law Library acquired the revised edition in 1917 and updated volumes until publication ceased in 1926.
As for those scornful “numerical tables” found in Shepard’s work, history has been kinder thanks in large part to their technology-friendly format. Beginning in the early 20th century, Shepard’s offered the first “online” legal research services in the form of subsequent citation history that could be telegraphed to attorneys for a fee. Additionally, the simplicity of Shepard’s Citations made it better able to keep up with booming court activity. The preface to the 1917 edition of Rose’s Notes suggests that the number of citations to U.S. Supreme Court cases “since…1899 is equal, if not greater, than in all the years prior to that time” – a pace the annotated work may not have been able to match, especially considering its competitor had grown to report citations for all jurisdictions. Today, Shepard’s Citations continues to be offered online at the Law Library and Rose’s Notes is available in our Historical Collection.
Lawyer’s Edition of the U.S. Supreme Court Reports began as a project commencing in 1882 to reprint all U.S. Supreme Court cases at a time when complete sets of U.S. Supreme Court reports were difficult and expensive for most lawyers to obtain. After the reprinting project was complete, the Lawyer’s Co-Operative Publishing Company continued to report current U.S. Supreme Court cases, providing the full text of the official reports along with annotations and summaries of briefs. The set also included a “later case service,” which provided new citations and annotations for cases reported in prior volumes. Today, the Law Library also collects U.S. Reports and West’s Supreme Court Reports, providing absolutely complete coverage of Supreme Court cases. However, in 1915, the Lawyer’s Edition represented the best option for ensuring complete access to binding authority from the nation’s high court despite the difficulty of transmitting opinions from Washington, D.C. to Houston.
In 1915, use of the Law Library was restricted to members of the Lawyers Library Association. Membership was limited to stockholders in the association who purchased shares for $25 - that's $581 in today's economy! In lieu of cash payment, many members donated materials from their personal libraries to help build the shared collection. Some of these donations remain in the Law Library's Historical Collection and many still bear the donator's name on the spine. The volume pictured here - Greenleaf on Evidence, Redfield's Edition - was donated by Judge Charles E. Ashe, the first president of the Lawyer's Library Association.
The Law Library's early collection grew substantially thanks to donations from the prominent oil and gas attorney, Judge James L. Autry. In 1918, he donated $5,000, which was a very significant sum considering it equaled the Lawyers Library Association's entire initial stock offering. Following his death in 1921, Judge Autry also bequeathed $10,000 for library materials. The only request to accompany these generous donations was that the law library "always be open to the free use of struggling young lawyers" - a request the Law Library honors still today.
Judge Autry's generosity can still be seen in the Law Library's Historical Collection. Many of the books purchased with donated funds bear a spine label that reads "Lawyers Library Association | James L. Autry Donation," like the volumes of Lawyers' Reports Annotated pictured here.