William Draper Lewis Personal Correspondence
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library [Contact Us]3460 Chestnut Street, Biddle Law Library, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3406
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William Draper Lewis was born in Philadelphia in 1867, the son of Henry and Fannie Hannah Wilson Lewis. On June 22, 1892, he married Caroline Mary Cope. They had four children, Henry, Alfreda Cope, Anna, and William Draper Jr. The Lewis family resided in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Lewis was educated at Germantown Academy and then attended Haverford College, graduating with a B.S. in 1888. In 1891, he received both a law degree and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He lectured in economics at Haverford from 1890 to 1896, and in 1891 was an instructor in legal history at the Wharton School. In 1892, he became editor of the American Law Register, one of the oldest legal periodicals of the time. In 1896, he joined the law department at the University of Pennsylvania as dean of the school and professor of law.
Under Lewis' leadership the law school flourished as he recruited new faculty, broadened the curriculum, and strengthened the collections of the Biddle Law Library. He played an instrumental role in the development of the case system of teaching law-a system first used at Harvard and now in general use by the principal law schools of this country. He also raised enough money to move the school out of the old criminal court buildings in Independence Square and into its own facility and current West Philadelphia location near the rest of the University. He served as Dean until 1914 but continued on the faculty until 1924.
During his tenure as Dean, Lewis produced a number of scholarly works including his own edition of Blackstone's Commentaries (1897); casebooks on such topics as interference in trade and equity jurisdiction; and an eight-volume collection of essays on Great American Lawyers (1907-1909). With George Wharton Pepper he prepared a twenty-three-volume Digest of Decisions and Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Law, 1754-1898 (1898-1906).
Originally a Republican, Lewis was a friend and admirer of Theodore Roosevelt and followed him into the Progressive Party in 1912. He served as the chairman of the platform committee of the first and second Progressive National Conventions in Chicago in 1912 and 1916 and was the unsuccessful Bull Moose nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania in 1914. In 1919, he published the Life of Theodore Roosevelt with an introduction by William Howard Taft. In 1923, Lewis became the founding director of the American Law Institute (ALI). The ALI had been conceived by a committee of distinguished lawyers, judges, and legal scholars, known as "The Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization for the Improvement of the Law." In addition to Lewis, this committee included Elihu Root, George Woodward Wickersham, Harlan Fiske Stone, and Benjamin Nathan Cardozo. Alarmed by growing dissatisfaction in the country over the administration of justice, the sponsors of the ALI hoped to establish a center for the improvement of the American law. Their particular goal was to combine the resources of all branches of the profession to produce a massive restatement of the common law, a critical summary and evaluation of the state of legal doctrine under different topical headings. Under Lewis' directorship the ALI completed the its first Restatement of the Law. Lewis served as director of the ALI until ill health forced his retirement in 1947.
As a family man, educator, administrator, and director Lewis inspired respect and deep affection in those around him. His earnestness, diligence and his warm personality were often mentioned by his colleagues as historically significant factors in the success of his professional projects.
Lewis died at his summer home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, after a long illness in 1949.
The William Draper Lewis Personal Correspondence document Lewis' personal life and span the years 1874-1949. A letter from Lewis to his mother written at age six and a letter from his son Henry to his widow Carrie written the year after his death are also included. The collection includes letters to and from his wife, children, grandchildren, and friends. The collection documents Lewis' observations and opinions on the current events of his time, and his roles as husband, father, grandfather, and friend.
William Draper Lewis' personal correspondence eventually passed from him to his daughter Anna Kneedler. She collected additional letters from family members with a view toward someday seeing them all "typed up" for the family. The letters were transcribed and arranged in chronological order by Sarah Bean Williams, who then edited them into the book Affectionately, Father: The Personal Letters of William Draper Lewis 1867-1949. This collection includes both the original letters and Williams' transcriptions.
Betty Marshall Kitchel Lewis, wife of Lewis' son Henry, formally transferred ownership of the papers of William Draper Lewis to the Biddle Law Library of the Law School of the University of Pennsylvania on July 15, 1997.
An item-level container list is available offline in spreadsheet form.
Processed by Melissa Backes in September 1997.
- University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Jordon Steele
- Finding Aid Date
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