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Brewer family papers

Call Number: MS 99

Scope and Contents

The Brewer Family Papers consist primarily of the papers of David Josiah Brewer, Justice of the Supreme Court, although papers of other members of the Brewer family are also included. The collection has been arranged into two series: DAVID JOSIAH BREWER and BREWER FAMILY. The former consists of the correspondence, writings, scrapbooks, photographs, and personal papers of Justice Brewer. These materials provide a wealth of biographical information about David Josiah Brewer. They are not, however, particularly helpful in tracing the development of Brewer's ideas as a jurist; rather, they provide insight into his character, his family life, and his role in public life as a well-known lecturer on national and international affairs. (The bulk of his Public Papers are in the Library of Congress.)

The correspondence of David Josiah Brewer includes his business and legal correspondence, as well as correspondence with family and friends. Many of the letters are related to Brewer's frequent speaking engagements, to publishing and editing ventures, to investments, or to family business matters. Some of the correspondence is related to specific legal cases.

In Brewer's correspondence are letters from Supreme Court Justices Peckham, Brown, and Harlan, the latter writing in 1893 from the Bering Sea Arbitration Court in Paris. Other correspondents represented in the collection are: Timothy Dwight of Yale; Henry Wade Rogers, Dean of the Yale Law School and a President of Northwestern University; Judge James C. Jenkins, Dean of the Marquette University Law School; William F. Warren, President of Boston University; H.J. Dennis, state librarian of Kansas (re: Republican and Populist confrontations in the Kansas state legislature in 1892); William M. Randolph, a Memphis lawyer (re: Tennessee politics during the Hayes Administration); and Maria Longworth Storer (re: President Theodore Roosevelt's removal of her husband Bellamy as ambassador to Austria-Hungary). Unfortunately, there are only one or two letters from each of the individuals mentioned above. Brewer's correspondence with family members is, in general, more substantial. The two major correspondents in this category are Brewer's first wife, Louise Landon Brewer (twenty-seven letters) and his daughter, Henrietta Brewer Karrick (approximately seventy letters and telegrams from David Josiah Brewer).

One small segment of correspondence is made up of letters of David Josiah Brewer and others pertaining to the Anglo-Venezuelan boundary dispute. The twelve letters, which are grouped together, date from 1896 to 1904. Among the correspondents are: Clements R. Markham, president of the Royal Geographic Society of London; Lord Salisbury, of the Foreign Office; Severo Mallet-Prevost, secretary to the Venezuelan Frontier Committee; and John M. Hay, Secretary of State.

The writings of David Josiah Brewer are composed primarily of addresses and published articles. There are also, however, letters to the editor, a few judicial decisions and instructions to juries, poems, and notes. Among Justice Brewer's notes is a typescript of the treatise on international law written for the Cyclopedia of Law and Procedure (1906) by David Josiah Brewer and Charles Henry Butler. The typescript contains corrections and editing in longhand by Brewer. Many writings of David Josiah Brewer are to be found in the three scrapbooks kept by Brewer himself from 1856 until his death in 1910.

Brewer's addresses, both manuscript and published, were delivered during the years 1865 to 1910. There are approximately eighty addresses in the collection. The articles, nearly fifty in number, date from the late 1860's to 1910. Brewer's articles and addresses cover a wide range of topics, most of which are still relevant today. Discussing international affairs, he spoke about the dangers of imperialism ("The Spanish War, a Prophecy or an Exception?"), the need for arbitration of international disputes and the limitation of armaments (addresses at the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration). On other occasions, Brewer spoke to national needs and problems. The growth of big corporations, the use of the injunction, the misuse of public office for private gain, a new role for women in American society, and the education of blacks in the U.S. were some of his topics. As one might expect, the courts and the legal profession provided material for a number of articles and addresses. The Supreme Court, legal ethics, the right of appeal (which Brewer proposed to eliminate) and the education of lawyers were among his favorite subjects. As a judge, he was very concerned with the problems of individual liberty and the idea of the State. A life-long Congregationalist, David J. Brewer often addressed church groups and wrote for religious publications on Christian life and the future of the church. He spoke of service to others at meetings of organizations like the Y.M.C.A. and the American Missionary Association; he spoke of public service at colleges and universities such as Yale.

In addition to "Correspondence" and "Writings," Series I also contains "Special Files," consisting of biographical material and memorabilia, financial records, and photographs. Here one will find three scrapbooks of David Josiah Brewer, which cover the years 1856 to 1910, a scrapbook of Louise Landon Brewer (1881-1898), and three scrapbooks (1901-1910) kept by Emma Mott Brewer, Justice Brewer's second wife. The scrapbooks, especially those kept by Brewer himself, are an excellent source of biographical information. There are clippings and articles written about Brewer during his lifetime, as well as sketches of his life published with memorial tributes. Other items included in "Special Files" are Brewer's diplomas, honorary degrees, certificates, and a large number of invitations, programs, and souvenirs (principally of social events in Washington from 1890 to 1910). The financial records of David Josiah Brewer include both personal and business papers. There are contracts, bonds, receipts, and an account book listing family expenses and legal clients. A few financial papers pertaining to legal cases are also found here. Among the photographs in this series are portraits of David Josiah Brewer and other members of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as photographs belonging to Brewer.

The "Subjects File" of Series I contains copies of many official documents of the Anglo-Venezuelan Boundary Commission, including reports, historical and geographical evidence presented by Great Britain, Venezuela, and impartial experts, memoranda issued by both sides, and a copy of the treaty of arbitration signed by the two countries in 1897. Another portion of the "Subjects File" is composed of writings of others on international law and arbitration collected by Justice Brewer. Finally, there is a small amount of clippings, statistics and memorabilia pertaining to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Series II, BREWER FAMILY, consists of the correspondence, writings, diaries, personal papers, clippings and photographs of five generations of Brewers, from the early nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.

Josiah Brewer (1796-1872) is the only family member represented by a sizable amount of material. The father of David Josiah Brewer and a missionary to Smyrna from 1827 to 1838, Josiah Brewer established several schools for girls in Asia Minor. Upon his return to the U.S., he worked as a prison chaplain in Wethersfield, Conn. (1839-1842), as editor of the Union Missionary Herald and other religious publications (1842-1843), as director of the Elm Street Female Seminary in New Haven (1850-1857). Pastor of a church near Stockbridge, Mass., from 1857 to 1866, Josiah Brewer died in Stockbridge in 1872. His correspondence contains letters written to him from nineteenth century educators and clergymen throughout the U.S. and from American missionaries in all parts of the world. There are also six of his sermons and a biographical sketch.

The bulk of the correspondence contained in Series II is between members of the Brewer family. One exception is the correspondence of Mrs. Emma Mott Brewer, which includes letters from people in Washington society and condolences on the death of her husband, David Josiah Brewer. Another exception is the correspondence of Mrs. Frances Landon Woods, the sister-in-law of David Josiah Brewer, which includes two letters of Benjamin Harrison and two of Chief Justice Melvin Fuller. Of special interest are copies of letters written during the Civil War by Lt. Marshall Bidwell Brewer, the brother of David Josiah Brewer, to members of his family in the North. During the summer of 1862, when the letters were written, Marshall Brewer was stationed at Camp Belger, Baltimore.

There are few writings within the series. Diaries were kept by Frances Landon Woods in Kansas City, Missouri, during the years 1880 and 1885, and intermittently by Frances Adele Brewer, daughter of David Josiah Brewer, during the years 1890 to 1895. There is an article on Tarsus written in 1904 by Elizabeth Hale Brewer, a missionary and teacher in Greece.

Three other collections are closely related to the Brewer Family Papers: the Bidwell Family Papers, the Field Family Papers, and the David Brewer Karrick Papers. The Bidwells and the Brewers intermarried on two occasions: Theodosia Bidwell (1766-1841) married Eliab Brewer (1770-1804), the grandfather of David Josiah Brewer; and Henrietta Whitney Brewer (1831-1901), the sister of David, married Lawson Bennett Bidwell (1833-1922). The Field and Brewer families are related through David J. Brewer's mother, Emilia Ann Field (1807-1861). The papers of David Brewer Karrick, the grandson of David J. Brewer, contain the correspondence of Henrietta Brewer Karrick and her husband, James Lawson Karrick, as well as many letters from members of the Brewer family.

Additional information on the Brewer family genealogy can be foundhere.


  • 1714-1954
  • Majority of material found within 1820 - 1930


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts of David Brewer Karrick, 1951; David B. Hall, 1957; and Mrs. Charles H. Parker, 1965.


Arranged in two series: I. David Josiah Brewer Papers. II. Brewer Family Papers.


13.75 Linear Feet (21 boxes, 1 folio, 4 v.)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, writings, speeches, scrapbooks, photographs, diaries, and other papers, primarily of David Josiah Brewer, lawyer and justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The material includes Brewer's personal and family papers, although there are some papers relating to public matters, notably the Anglo-Venezuelan boundary dispute. Also included are papers of five generations of Brewer family members, including Josiah Brewer (1796-1872), the father of David Josiah Brewer. Nearly all of the family material consists of correspondence and is largely related to family matters.

Biographical / Historical

David Josiah Brewer was born in Smyrna, Asia Minor, on June 20, 1837. He was the son of Rev. Josiah Brewer, a missionary to Turkey who established several schools for girls in Smyrna and neighboring regions. David J. Brewer's mother was Emilia Ann Field, a sister of Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field and of Cyrus W. Field, who laid the first Atlantic cable.

Upon their return to the United States in 1838, the Brewer family settled in Wethersfield, Connecticut, where Josiah Brewer was chaplain of the state prison. He held subsequent positions as editor, teacher and pastor, and moved with his family from Hartford, to New Haven, to Middletown, Connecticut, and finally to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

While in Middletown, David J. Brewer entered Wesleyan College at the age of fourteen. After two years, he transferred to Yale, his father's Alma Mater. In 1856, he graduated from Yale with honors. Brewer studied law at the office of his uncle, David Dudley Field, and at the Albany Law School, from which he received a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1858.

Deciding to go West, the young lawyer established a practice in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he married Louise Landon in 1861. That same year Brewer was appointed commissioner of the federal circuit court for the district of Kansas. He began his judicial career in 1862, when he was elected judge of the probate and criminal courts of Leavenworth County. Three years later, in 1865, Brewer became judge of the first judicial district of Kansas, a position he held until 1869, when he assumed the post of city attorney of Leavenworth. Elected a justice of the Supreme Court of Kansas in 1870, at the age of thirty-three, Brewer served for fourteen years, winning re-elections in 1876 and 1882.

President Arthur appointed Brewer to the federal circuit court for the eighth circuit in 1884. Five years later, he received an appointment from President Harrison to succeed Stanley Matthews on the U.S. Supreme Court. Brewer assumed his duties as associate justice in 1890 and served for twenty years until his death in 1910.

One of Brewer's colleagues on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court was his uncle, Stephen J. Field, who served from 1863 to 1898. Another, Justice Henry B. Brown, was a classmate of Brewer's at Yale.

Brewer was president of the commission created in 1895 to settle the boundary dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela. In 1898 the matter was settled by arbitration. His work on the commission deepened his concern for international peace and reinforced his belief in arbitration as a peaceful means of settling international disputes. Justice Brewer participated in most of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration and was a vice-president of the American Society of International Law.

The son of a missionary, Brewer was actively involved in a number of charitable organizations, such as the American Missionary Association, the American Bible Society, and the Associated Charities of Washington, D.C. He shared his father's concern for the rehabilitation of prisoners, especially during his years in Leavenworth.

While in Washington, D.C., Justice Brewer was a member of the faculty of the Columbian Law School (now the law school of George Washington University). In 1902 he delivered the Dodge Lectures at Yale on American citizenship and was in constant demand as a speaker, lecturing extensively across the country.

A trustee of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and a founder of the Intercontinental Correspondence University in Washington, D.C., Justice Brewer also found time to edit two collections entitled World's Best Essays and World's Best Orations.

In 1896 one of his four daughters died, followed by his wife in 1898. Emma Miner Mott became Brewer's second wife in 1901. Brewer himself died at his home in Washington on March 28, 1910.

For a chart outlining the genealogical relations of the Brewer family, please consult the Genealogical Chart.

Guide to the Brewer Family Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Katharine Morton
March 1972
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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