Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft Donate Historical Records to Yale University Library

Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library is acquiring historical records dating back to 1803 donated by Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft, the oldest continuously-operating law firm in New York City.

The materials, which will go to Sterling’s Manuscripts and Archives department, include documents from Henry W. Taft (Class of 1880), brother of William Howard Taft (Class of 1878), 27th president of the U.S. and 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; Walbridge S. Taft (Class of 1907), Henry’s son; Cornelius W. Wickersham Sr.; Charles E. Strong; John L. Cadwalader; and George W. Wickersham. The firm’s client list includes members of New York’s foremost families such as the Astors, Belmonts, Whitneys and Vanderbilts. The firm also represented many artists, such as songwriter W. C. Handy and playwright Eugene O’Neill, the latter of whose materials are held in a collection at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Cadwalader is one of the world’s premier law firms. Founded in New York City in 1792, Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft (CWT) started as a one-person law firm serving the needs of a largely agrarian nation. In 1818, founder John Wells formed a partnership with George Washington Strong (Class of 1803), a prominent member of New York society. After the deaths of Wells (1823) and Strong (1855), descendants of Strong and others continued the firm.

By 1878, Charles Strong headed the firm, representing the leading business, social and cultural organizations of the day. That same year, John L. Cadwalader, a former assistant secretary of state, joined Strong, catapulting Strong and Cadwalader into the elite ranks of firms representing major corporations. George W. Wickersham, an antitrust expert, joined Cadwalader in 1883, while Henry W. Taft joined in 1889. The firm officially became known as Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft in 1914. Today, CWT has over 400 attorneys with offices in New York, Charlotte, Washington, D.C. and London.

In addition to directly documenting the legal profession and the growth of corporate law firms, CWT’s records offer insight into the economic and social history of New York City in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Manuscripts and Archives department’s collections of personal and professional papers documenting American legal history are among its strongest and most historically significant holdings. The CWT archives will be joining such notable collections as the papers of Alexander Bickel, Abe Fortas, Jerome Frank, Potter Stewart and Harry Weinberger.

Totaling over 300 boxes, the files include bound suit registers recording the steps taken in litigated cases, real estate registers, financial ledgers and charge records, client files, general firm administrative records and correspondence and partners’ correspondence and scrapbooks.

The Manuscripts and Archives department promotes and sustains the research and teaching missions of Yale and serves as the document repository of the Yale community by making its extraordinary collections of primary source materials available for study. The resources and services of Manuscripts and Archives are available to all members of the Yale community, as well as researchers from outside the University.

Don Glascoff (Class of 1967) will present the gift on behalf of the firm at a public announcement set for September 26. Also scheduled to attend are Jonathan Wainwright (Class of 1965) and Jay McDowell (Class of 1959), both members of CWT. Tom Mariam, of CWT, is also available for more information at 212-504-6458.

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