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Jerome New Frank papers

Call Number: MS 222

Scope and Contents

The Jerome N. Frank Papers are divided into eight series:


The material in these papers reflects Jerome Frank's wide range of interests. Subjects that were of special interest to Frank include: psychoanalysis, legal realism, stare decisis, the jury system, the reform of legal education, the protection of the criminally accused, the protection of civil liberties, the preservation of democratic government in the United States, the refutation of deterministic philosophies, especially those of Hegel and Marx, fact-finding, isolationism, Zionizm and the role of the Jew in America.

The bulk of Jerome Frank's correspondence is divided into four series, each representing a period in Frank's life dominated by his job. Besides correspondence, each of these series includes a subjects file which contains such materials as legal documents, memoranda, legal opinions and printed material, including newspaper clippings and pamphlets related to Frank's work for that specific period. The correspondence in all four series covers a wide variety of topics, including those mentioned above. Frank's correspondents included lawyers, philosophers, teachers, politicians, economists, government administrators, writers and judges. (Consult the folder title listings for names.) There is also some correspondence, including Frank's family correspondence in the last series, in the four remaining series.

CORRESPONDENCE & SUBJECTS FILE PRE-1933 covers Frank's early career as a corporation lawyer, first in Chicago, and then in New York. Most of this correspondence is dated between 1929 and 1933. There is almost no correspondence prior to 1925 when Frank was involved in Chicago politics. Of particular interest is the correspondence in response to the publication of Law and the Modern Mind and the correspondence with philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen.

CORRESPONDENCE & SUBJECTS FILE 1933-1937 covers the period in which Frank served in various capacities in the early New Deal, first with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and then with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and the Power Division of the Public Works Administration. It also includes the period in which Frank returned to private practice in New York. There is correspondence with a number of administrators in the Department of Agriculture in this series, including Paul H. Appleby, Chester C. Davis, George N. Peek, Rexford Guy Tugwell and Henry A. Wallace, most of whom were connected with the purge in AAA in 1935. There are also folders of correspondence and memoranda under subject headings such as "AAA: General Operating Policies," "Marketing Agreements Memoranda," "Codes," "Railroad Reconstruction" and "Public Works Administration." At the end of this series there are copies of Frank's outgoing personal and official correspondence for the period he served as general counsel for AAA. Throughout the series there are memoranda from Frank's subordinates, including John Abt, Abe Fortas, Alger Hiss and Lee Pressman.

CORRESPONDENCE & SUBJECTS FILE 1937-1941 incorporates material covering the period Frank served as commissioner of and as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Together with the correspondence with other SEC commissioners and various government officials, there is correspondence with businessmen and economic writers concerning the economic affairs of the nation.

CORRESPONDENCE & SUBJECTS FILE 1941-1957 covers the final period of Frank's life When he served as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (CA II). This correspondence is mainly of a personal nature since the correspondence and memoranda dealing with the operations of CA II are filed in a separate series.


  1. Opinions
  2. Conference Memoranda
  3. Other Circuit Courts Decisions
  4. Statutory Court Decisions
  5. Correspondence
  6. Calendars
  7. JNF's Docket Books
  8. Miscellaneous Court Business

"Opinions" consists of Frank's written opinions on cases that came before him as a judge on CA II. "Conference Memoranda" is composed of material for cases on which Frank sat, including memoranda circulated among the participating judges, some correspondence and miscellaneous material concerning specific cases. "Other Circuit Courts Decisions" and "Statutory Court Decisions" consist of similar material on cases outside of CA II in which Frank participated. The "Correspondence" in this series is either with other CA II judges or is administrative in nature and does not refer to specific cases. The remainder of the material in this series relates to the administrative business of CA II.

The WRITINGS, SPEECHES & PANEL DISCUSSIONS series is divided into seven sections:

  1. Books
  2. Proposed Books
  3. Articles
  4. Book Reviews
  5. Speeches
  6. Panel Discussions
  7. Manuscript Fragments

The material in this series, which dates from about 1927 to 1957, is indicative of Frank's varied interests. In the first section, there is extensive draft material for all of Frank's books except Law and the Modern Mind and Not Guilty. The "Proposed Books" section contains material for books that were planned but never completed, including a novel and biographies of Charles Evans Hughes, Theodore Roosevelt and Julius Rosenwald. The "Articles" section contains both published and unpublished material and the "Speeches" section contains drafts of lectures as well as drafts of speeches. Many of the speeches date from the period when Frank served on the Securities and Exchange Commission. The series includes research materials and reviews of Frank's writing.

The YALE COURSE MATERIAL series consists mainly of administrative material, including correspondence, class lists and students' grades for the courses Frank taught at Yale Law School from 1946 to 1956. There are also copies of the unpublished book Frank wrote for his course in fact-finding and a few lecture notes.

The PERSONAL & FINANCIAL PAPERS OF JNF & FAMILY series is divided into ten sections:

  1. Charlotte Frank & Max Bernard
  2. Clara New Frank
  3. Florence Kiper Frank
  4. Jerome New Frank
  5. Charles Kiper Estate
  6. Gertrude Wise Kiper
  7. Barbara Frank Kristein
  8. Erik Johan Smith
  9. Miriam Kiper Smith
  10. Photographs

In each section, with the exception of "Photographs," there is personal material relating to the person named. These sections may contain such materials as information and correspondence concerning financial affairs, personal correspondence, writings, biographical information, memorabilia and art work. Letters of condolence on the death of Jerome Frank are filed under "Florence Kiper Frank."

At the end of the papers there are twenty-four linear feet (nineteen cartons) of research material. This unarranged material consists of Frank's handwritten notes and miscellaneous printed and mimeographed pages, as well as annotated pamphlets, newspaper clippings and magazine articles. The material covers innumerable topics and was used by Frank as research sources for his writings, lectures and court work.


  • 1918-1972
  • Majority of material found within 1929 - 1957


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Box 212 is restricted until January 1, 2032 due to privacy concerns.

Existence and Location of Copies

Annotated transcript of Jerome Frank's Columbia Oral History interview is also available on microfilm (1 reel, 35mm.)from Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, at cost. Order no. HM 243.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by Jerome New Frank has been transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

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.

Permission to publish from the transcripts of the oral history interview in Box 181 must be obtained from the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Yale Law School and Mrs. Jerome Frank, 1964; gift of Boris I. Bittker, 1981; and transfer from the Yale Law School, 1986.


Arranged in eight series and one addition: I. Correspondence and Subject File, Pre-1933. II. Correspondence and Subject File, 1933-1937. III. Correspondence and Subject File, 1937-1941. IV. Correspondence and Subject File, 1941-1957. V. United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (CA II). VI. Writings, Speeches, and Panel Discussions. VII. Yale Course Material. VIII. Personal and Financial Papers.


105.25 Linear Feet

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, legal material (including opinions, decisions, calendars, memoranda, and other papers), writings, speeches, Yale course materials, and family and personal papers of Jerome N. Frank, lawyer, government official during the New Deal, author, legal philosopher, teacher, and federal judge. The papers reflect Frank's wide range of activities, interests, and associations, and include important correspondence with many well known government officials, lawyers, philosophers, educators, authors, and judges. The papers and correspondence reflecting Frank's interest in and advocacy of "legal realism," the papers dealing with the politics and programs of the New Deal, and the papers relating to "Learned Hand's Court," the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals are arranged in this collection.

Biographical / Historical

Jerome New Frank was born in New York City, September 10, 1889, the son of Herman and Clara New Frank. Frank's parents were both descendents of German Jews who had come to the United States during the 1840s and the 1850s. Jerome Frank had two sisters, Melanie and Charlotte. When Frank was seven, his father, a successful lawyer, moved his family to Chicago. After attending Hyde Park High School, Frank entered the University of Chicago in 1906 where he studied literature and political science under Charles Edward Merriam. Frank was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude in 1909. At his father's insistence, Frank entered the University of Chicago Law School in the same year but left soon after entering to become secretary to Charles Merriam who had shortly before been elected a Chicago alderman on a reform ticket. Frank attended committee meetings for and with Merriam and conducted inquiries and investigations for the alderman. Returning to law school after a year as Merriam's secretary, Frank graduated in 1912 with the highest average of any student at the law school up to that time. He was also elected to membership in the Order of the Coif.

Frank was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1912 and in October of that year began work as a clerk in the Chicago law firm of Newman, Levinson, Becker and Cleveland. In March 1913 Frank became a member of the firm, which had changed its name to Levinson, Becker, Cleveland and Schwartz. The firm specialized in corporate reorganizations and in corporate financial problems. One of the partners in the firm, Salmon O. Levinson, was well known as an advocate of the "outlawry of war" movement and was one of the authors of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Frank was made a full partner in 1919 and the name of the firm became Levinson, Becker, Schwartz and Frank.

On July 18, 1914, Frank Married Florence Kiper, the daughter of Charles and Gertrude Wise Kiper of Chicago. Florence Kiper was already known in Chicago literary circles as a young poet of some note. Both Frank and his wife were involved in the literary life of Chicago, and their friends and acquaintances included Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson, Harry Hansen, John Gunther, Edgar Lee Masters, Harriet Monroe and Sinclair Lewis. A daughter, Barbara, was born to the Franks on April 10, 1917.

In 1915, Frank was asked by his friend, Ulysses S. Schwartz, to serve on a committee investigating charges made by a resident of Hull House that clothing workers were making so little money that they had to be subsidized by Jewish Charities of Chicago in order to live. The charges were substantiated in the ensuing investigation and the committee issued a report condemning the Chicago clothing manufacturers. Since many of the manufacturers were among the largest contributors to Jewish Charities, the report was not made public.

In 1916 Schwartz was elected a Chicago alderman and again he called on Frank for help, this time in the area of the long-lived Chicago traction disputes. Schwartz was opposed to an ordinance granting a franchise to the street car companies, and with Frank's help mounted a successful attack against the ordinance in the City Council. The ordinance later was passed by referendum. When Schwartz became chairman of the Local Transportation Committee in 1921, he appointed Frank, William H. Sexton and Stephen A. Foster attorneys for the committee. Schwartz and his lawyers produced a plan in which the city would own the traction system, which would be operated by a board of city representatives. The plan was defeated in a referendum in 1925, due in large part to the efforts of Samuel Insull and various political enemies of Reform Mayor William E. Dever. During this period Frank became an unofficial advisor to Mayor Dever. The defeat of the proposed traction ordinance in 1925, however, ended his involvement with the traction problem in Chicago.

During World War I Frank served as an assistant to Joseph P. Cotton who was running the Chicago stockyards for the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover. Cotton, who became undersecretary of state in 1929, was handling meat contracts for the Allied Purchasing Commission. Frank also did some teaching at the University of Chicago Law School during the war, substituting for professors who were in government service.

During the 1920s Frank became deeply interested in Freudian psychology and, on an extended business trip to New York in 1928, underwent six months of intensive psychoanalysis. The analysis aided Frank in overcoming his longstanding dissatisfaction with his career as a lawyer and had a direct and important influence on his first book, Law and the Modern Mind, published in 1930. In this book, Frank explained in terms of Freudian psychology what he thought was man's futile search for certainty in law, specifically, the search for father-authoritative figures. Law and the Modern Mind brought Frank recognition in the academic and legal worlds and established his reputation as a leading proponent of legal realism, a reform movement in law which sought to make judges and courts less dependent on book-law and more responsive to the facts of everyday life.

In 1929 Frank moved with his family to New York and in November of that year he joined the large Wall Street firm of Chadbourne, Stanchfield and Levy. After the publication of Law and the Modern Mind, Frank became friends with some of the members of the faculty of the Yale Law School, including William O. Douglas and Thurman Arnold, and in 1932 he was appointed a research associate there on the Sterling Foundation. During this period, Frank also gave occasional lectures at the New School for Social Research in New York.

After Roosevelt's election to the presidency in 1932, Frank wrote to Felix Frankfurter asking the latter to help him get a job with the new administration. In the spring of 1933 Frank was offered the position of solicitor of the Department of Agriculture. He accepted the job, but his appointment was blocked by James A. Farley who wanted the position for someone else. Frank was then offered the job of general counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He accepted and was sworn in on May 12, 1933. Almost immediately a conflict arose between Frank and George N. Peek, administrator of the AAA, who wanted complete control of the agency. Frank insisted that major policy decisions should be subject to the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace. Tension between the two men increased when Frank succeeded in gaining approval for the creation of a Consumers' Division within AAA. Peek resigned under pressure in December 1933 and was replaced by Chester Davis, but the conflict between the pro-consumer and the pro-farm owner factions grew to such proportions that Davis finally demanded Frank's dismissal. Frank and several of his backers were fired by Secretary Wallace in February 1935.

Prior to joining AAA in 1933, Frank served as a member of the committee headed by Senator Wagner that drafted a version of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The Wagner committee version of the act would have placed a small number of important industries under government codes. This version was rejected (with the exception of section 7a) in favor of one written by General Hugh Johnson and Raymond Moley. Section 7a guaranteed labor the right to engage in collective bargaining and Frank actively lobbied to make sure that it was included in the NIRA. Frank was also responsible for the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in 1933, whose function it was to distribute surplus food to those who could not pay for it, as an alternative to the policy of destroying surpluses in the attempt to raise farm prices. Frank served as general counsel of the FSRC until November 1935.

For almost two years (1933-1935) he also served as an informal advisor to Harry Hopkins when Hopkins was head of the Civil Works Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

Soon after leaving AAA in 1935, Frank was appointed special counsel for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in railroad reorganization matters. He held this position until the end of the year. In December 1935 Frank was appointed consulting legal counsel on a per diem basis for the Power Division of the Public Works Administration. When he accepted this position, the government was in danger of losing several important company cases. Private power companies were challenging the government's right to make loans for the development of local public power companies. Frank won major victories for the government in Alabama Power Company v. Ickes (302 U. S. 464) and in Duke Power Company v. Greenwood County (302 U. S. 485).

In 1936 Frank returned to private practice in New York with the firm of Greenbaum, Wolff and Ernst. During the next two years, Frank wrote Save America First, in which he advocated economic and political isolation for the United States, Frank's views on the subject were already changing by the time the book was published in 1938, however, and he recanted his isolationist views completely shortly before America's entrance into World War II.

On the recommendation of William O. Douglas, Frank was made a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission in December 1937. He became chairman of the SEC in May 1939 when Douglas became a Supreme Court justice. The main job of the SEC during this period was the enforcement of the Holding Company Act of 1935. He also served on the Temporary National Economic Committee while he was a member of the SEC. His book, If Men Were Angels, published in 1942, deals with Frank's views on the role of governmental regulatory agencies and was a direct result of his work on the SEC.

Frank was appointed a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1941. He joined this historic and important court, which included Judge Learned Hand among its members, on May 5, 1941. He served on the court until his death, distinguishing himself as an outstanding judge in the fields of procedure, finance, criminal law and civil liberties. In 1945 Frank published Fate and Freedom, a treatise on philosophy and history, in Which he assailed deterministic philosophies and natural law doctrines that curtailed individual freedom. In 1946 and again in 1954, he was appointed a visiting lecturer at the New School for Social Research. In 1946 he also received an appointment as a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, a position he held until his death. There Frank taught a course in fact-finding in which he emphasized the parts that human fallibility and partisanship play in the trial court processes. In 1949 he published a criticism of the trial court system, Courts on Trial, which grew out of a series of lectures given at Princeton University the previous year. In the last years of his life, Frank a1so taught a course at Brandeis University. His last book, Not Guilty, written with his daughter, Barbara, and dealing with men convicted of crimes they did not commit, was published after his death in 1957.

In addition to his books, Frank wrote many articles for law reviews and magazines and delivered a large number of speeches and lectures. He was a member of the Citizens' Committee for Children in New York and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served on the Advisory Board of The American Scholar from 1947 to 1952. Frank died of a heart attack in New Haven on January 13, 1957. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Additional biographical information may be found in Selected Documents from the Papers of Richard Rovere Concerning Jerome Frank, a microfilm of papers in the, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, of which there is a copy in the Yale University Collection of the Jerome N. Frank Papers. In addition, see The Passionate Liberal: The Political and Legal Ideas of Jerome Frank by Walter E. Volkomer, the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, and the reminiscences of Jerome Frank recorded by the Columbia Oral History Project.

Guide to the Jerome New Frank Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Linda Wrigley
October 1972
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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