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tv   History of Supreme Court Robes  CSPAN  August 9, 2021 3:12am-4:10am EDT

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>>
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[laughter] so the next time we see it is 1888 and amy swisher harvey through the virginia agricultural tobacco exposition and with that antiquity section and by 1892 they look worked at the john marshall house in those years previously and at this point they are back in the family home. they had a nephew that the call to the road was tucked away. now at the space.
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mrs. during the harvey sisters. and so it's probably in there. >> and then in 1962 of doctor mason in the room with the enormous conservation effort over 600 hours of work. the marshall house was transferred to the stewardship of the virginia antiquities and in 1913 the house was open to the public on that opening weekend the star attraction for the harvey sisters.
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when emily died in 1920 it was part of the permanent collection. what has been exhibited in various spots around the house generally shown in the mansion including the smithsonian 1967. for many years of display, exposure to late light and stress on the fibers by hanging at have compounded to the fragility of the remarkable object. sometimes it is the worst enemy. that make it more sensitive and those to be involved in the processing of black fabric and then that structure and also increases the rate so also to be sensitive to changes of temperature and
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humidity as well as exposure to uv rays. with the many years of display and needed the intervention. since 2005 and only put out for special occasions and here is jennifer with the associate justice sotomayor or when she came to the house to pay a visit. and in partnership with the john marshall center civics and then to support the conservation effort. many of whose names are listed on the slide in and very capable hands of the textile conservation working on priceless artifacts from around the world from the
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chinese to the very own kermit the frog. so that was fascinating i encourage you for a webinar that we recorded a couple of weeks ago. but here is the basics of what he did. want to spend 300 hours on the conservation project with a condition of the road with the many campaigns of previous restoration work you can see the different types of patches that were there. so those that are in line with best practices of conservation and those that they were intended to do and in some cases they can remove those completely and with those
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unstable textiles. and to carry out the extensive surface cleaning that i learned throughout the process they could keep what they vacuum off is a very sensitive low powered vacuum so he also brought me a vacuum bag full of dirt from john marshall's road. they didn't what to do with it. it has an important purpose and archaeological context. but it's now in our collection. so now i went to show you a before and after shot. and we designed a case that would be a responsible way to store this textile. that is matched by the enormous scale measuring six
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by 7 feet to help keep the temperature and humidity's stable with motion activated led lighting. what the environment that was stable as we could make it. and that is how most of the damage what happened to the artifact at this point. and then to develop the goal in the new case. so i invite you to come see the road and its new case and the other exhibits at the john marshall house but only at a pretty surface level so i am delighted to pass things on to jim.
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>> let me and share my screen. >> that was excellent. thank you. so now it's my pleasure to introduce jim is a 1989 graduate serving as united states naval officer before embarking on a museum career with a masters degree from the george washington university and his first job was as a museum technician and in 1996 he joined the office and associate curator since 2002 when he's not working with a collection he researches the institutional history of the courts and those like the judicial robe. this is right up his alley and
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we are thrilled to have them here today so with that i will turn it over to you. >> now let me share my screen. so before we get started i want to say my think used to a couple of people thank you for inviting me to do this webinar. so to figure out what happened and when the black robe actually happened for 20 years. also thank you preservation virginia and all the donors for finally getting the project to completion i have e-mails from 2005 talking about this project so congratulations to you all for finally getting it done in making it happen little excreta look forward to coming down to richmond someday soon
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to take a look at it. and those the office who hears me talk about robes all the shares also the supreme court historical society i showed this article to her and she has patiently encourage me to complete it for many years and i appreciate her patients and encouragement even though i don't know a lot of answers that we can go ahead and have this article published in the next journal of historical society and then this webinar so to get the story back out if we can learn more about the early robes. so now to talk about john marshall and the supreme court building if you have not visited and not only illegal history but in the institutional history of the
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court and as we alluded to earlier there are traditions that are cheated to john marshall but in the 19th century we don't know but that dates back to john marshall comment so people started to put agency to the stories to attribute that on purpose and there is a reason for doing that and the most obvious is to switch to the black robe. it has been told that he purposely chose the black robe to go against the colorful robes the judges were wearing prior and that was the attempt to show republicans simplicity and leadership with the core and unfortunately i'm here to tell you that story is not true. now i have some proof to share that and hopefully you will
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agree with my conclusions. estate upon his knees decorated and party colored robes so people looked at the quote and said that since john marshall got there and that is where it moves into the other realm of giving marshall agency rather than we don't know who did this. so this is a quote most people sources why marshall gets credit. we have to remember when john marshall came to washington in 1800 he was secretary of state and this is the capital building 18 oh one in a
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borrowed conference room and marshall gets appointed in and sits with the court on february. and i cannot imagine in those two weeks so the story just doesn't really hold up with scrutiny with another image of the robot known to the court back in the 1970s. so to talk about it was started 1793 and then to negotiate the jay treaty there are letters in the family that suggest his nephew actually
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posed in the chief justice robes that was delivered in 1794 she immediately hung it up on a wall in her houses was a family portrait i don't think anyone saw very much and not intel 1815 i found the first the first engraving of this portrait that was widely produced so it wasn't seen that much but people knew it was the chief justice robe john adams when he saw the engraving row back to the publisher there's my friend john j so this starts to develop over the jay robe over time and then the painting is prominent when it appears in the supreme court in 1877 and
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then it is above the mantle in the justice robing room people come in and ask about the road. what is jay wearing? and is engraving by currier and ives and with the highest judicial officer in new york swearing in george washington. that jay borrowed this road from livingston but that just doesn't hold any water when you realize that the road is still with us so here is the john jay robe is this is in the smithsonian and it looks very much like what we saw in gilbert stuart's portrait. there are some slight differences the sleeve length is different there is an inner sleeve and an outer peace.
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the red is faded the white trim is there it is very similar to what we saw on the portrait. this was sent to the core in the 18 eighties. somewhere this robe came from is an academic robe and there is a story it is from the university of eden borough that gave jay an honorary degree but justices were already wearing robes so then coming from the university of dublin and then the harvard robe is one that is the most talked about the most recently published they did a war jay and degree in 1790 but there is no note he gave him any
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type of robe and he did not attend the ceremony so this is from some university doesn't hold water either. so eventually the robe comes back because the court can't take it so it goes to the smithsonian and where it is today. they have taken very good care of it like the john marshall robe has been very well cared for through several contribution on —- we will see some robes that did not get the same treatment so where does the robe come from? why does it look the way it does? there are some that would've been around at the same time the american colonies moving to independence wearing a doctor that is very similar in style to the jay robe a more traditional with the white for and edging.
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this is what people would have known for legal attire for the mid- 18 century. so when the colonies so the massachusetts judge and that the massachusetts war robes and one of the greatest portraits i've ever seen of a judge of the colonial supreme court of north carolina but the fabric literally three-dimensional he comes out of the painting it is fabulous. so what happens when the new supreme court is created this is the building that they met the merchants exchange building that was at the foot
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of broadway in new york city they met on the second floor at the open-air market but we think they close the market and there is documentation very little there is no description what the judges were they just its own business there were no cases to hear. and there is when they ended there is no decision about what they word where and there is a letter to james who is an associate justice who is in north carolina whose brother and i write him a letter says he didn't make a decision you should wear the bar down on circuit of black simple role that lawyers would use to argue in the english courts. we are pretty sure they didn't wear any robes at the first of the court and then there is
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one commentator who knows that prior to the wearing of robes they were simple that black so we head towards philadelphia and from john j this has a robe transaction so justices write letters and mentioned wanting to pay for robes we don't have anything that talks about why they are deciding that where they are starting to get the robes and pay for them. this is one of the associate justices borrowing money to pay george douglas $53 and change for a robe. george douglas am not exactly but there is a father and son in new york city who are
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merchant tailors and they were right around the corner basically from the merchant exchange building where the court was meeting and jay lived. so my suspicion is this is the key player for the early robes came from. connected with the douglas trading company that has branches in scotland and my suspicion is these early robes may have been ordered from overseas and sent to the court. because it takes almost two years for them to finally arise. there's a lot of questions we still don't know but that gives some clues that the justices are starting to get robes. then there is an interesting letter coming from thomas johnson who joins the court 1791 after john rutledge design on —- resigns and also
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can you oblige me to have address made for me intended for the other judges so those that have ordered their robes to get once he can match everybody else has on but what i found interesting is that at the end he says i should have inclined against it but i'm not too perverse as to be singular to be seen as an different. so he was against wearing robes so there was some dissent even if they wanted to wear these colorful robes. but this definitely shows johnson wanted a robe and wilson writes back and says your robe has been made. we know it was made. so what happens if every 1792 the court comes to meet right by independence hall there is a courtroom of the supreme court this is where the
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justices first were a unique set of judicial designed robes not anything else and here is a picture of it. so those trying to show what the early court might have look like you only when i found was not great but here it is. there are newspaper articles in the correspondent says he's very highly please with the appearance of the judges of the supreme court and the robes of justice and that of every spectator. the justices are wearing robes. we think it's about connecting to that legal tradition on —- tradition that they wanted to have dignity and decorum and that is the reason why they chose to were the robes. now almost immediately people don't like the robes.
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and as they develop in the 17 nineties and here and the newspaper article by a pseudonym of russell i cannot determine who that was that he addresses this of the judges and there is a long diatribe how they should not wear this and it should be simple republican virtues and no robes at all. he actually mentions he went to the court and found them to be and scarlet and trimmed. or it is an intentional slight to connect to the english judges earlier he saw the black coats so that's the one person that confirms that before they came out they were not wearing robes so you have
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two sides of the argument trying to figure out what the judges are and they are in a continue to do so through 1793 and 1794 and 1795 there is a letter from john rutledge the associate justice that resigned who comes back as chief justice under a temporary commission and rights to james iredell that he has just got into town in philadelphia. he will sit with the court and rates i would be obliged after the court rises you would give me a site of your gown if mr. j or mr. blair's robe is here can i get it to eric tomorrow so he's trying to find a robe to wear to match because it shows he thinks jay, who was chief justice and blair associate justice are wearing the same robe and it was interchangeable so that is another clue that all robes
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look the same. so jay is back in new york at this point because he uses it to paint the portrait so it stays with the jay family. so possibly blair who resigned a few months before is available. we just don't know. that is 1795. so now to where the colorful robe and then there is this portrait of william paterson. he was the same judicial role than we think the states 1797. the artist came to america members as early as it could have been painted so somewhere in the time period. so this is only 6 inches by 8 inches it is very small and done in two hours and handed
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to the person who is getting the portrait done right after. the fact paterson is wearing the robe is indicative he was wearing it literally having his portrait done and he would not know about the jay's family portrait he had to be in this row. but there isn't a lot of documentation for that the others are side-by-side these are the only two from life portraits we have been able to locate to show these robes. if you were to turn jay into profile it would be similar and it looks very wide and but you cannot tell that on the angle. so what happened to all the other robes? what happened to them? this is that i have been able to determine. we know john robb on —- john
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didn't have a row because he left in the first ordered them and then comes back as chief justice and is looking for one. then james wilson and cushing there is nothing about their route robe anybody could locate so if anybody out there knows anything about their robes please contact me. so the assumption is he had a robe or robe was made for him. but the robe is in the portrait for paterson so it could be the same robe. it's possible that johnson retires or resigns and then just says it's brand-new and never used it's possible. you will notice i left out somebody. james iredell and this changes the piece of the narrative.
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he's on the court from 1790 to 1799. and thanks to ross davies as a professor at george mason, there was mention of his role being on exhibit. i found the north carolina historical exhibit. the exhibits actually go back into the 18 nineties. and somewhere in this exhibit was james robe. i have not been able to spot it that the catalog says even at this point this row suffered from that terrible times. it's in bad shape. so not to shock anybody but unfortunately this is the state of the iredell road. is now in the collection of
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the north carolina museum of history. i think them very much for letting me come down two years ago to take it out of storage preventing is been out of its box for years because of the condition. but laid it out so we can take a look and see what is going on. you will notice right away. it is all black. no better white pieces. that shocked me. that led me down to what we're doing today. the main body of the robe is completely gone whenever the textile terms are that the weave is completely gone but you can see the sleeves those in her sleeves are intact the top part is fairly intact and these are actually the outer sleeves remember they are red and white pieces on the sleeves? so that this would be attached to the inner sleeve.
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you can tell they have a weird sheen to them. it's hard to tell them trying to work with the two museums to get that to robes side by side so they can be looked at. what you notice right away there are very similar attributes. this is the outer sleeve. they have the same treatment but they are not on the back of the sleeves but assimilate to the same treatment and seems to be more decorative and doesn't have a function that i can tell. they still retain their red color i am not sure what is real and what conservation pieces are added but until they could be looked at by a textile her but there are enough similarities to think they are very close the
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related. so the salvage is so in the john marshall they have as well so another thing to tie all these things together i'm guessing it's very high quality and that's it they were using for the roads so i found interesting here there is a piece of fabric that has that reddish color of the faded jay robe and this is a remnant of the stole so it was altered to become a black robe at some point until further studies are done we won't know for sure but that seems to be what happened.
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>> in 1796 we have two new justices from the supreme court. they are both known to have life portraits and this is later engraving. this is the reason why there is a practical reality we don't have the colorful robes we ordered them from england so it will take a year let's change to the black robe. that is the one scenario and the reason why they did this. also building animosity of the anti- federalist complaining about the court wearing the robes and say let's tone it back and do something a little more acceptable. we don't know were still trying to figure that out. that just yesterday literally after the tweet went out about this webinar the professor
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from indiana university sent me an e-mail saying did you know about this letter it has always confused me because he ordered a black satin robe and this is dated april 1799. so washington joined the court under a recess commission so he must have known at that time or soon thereafter he needed a black robe which pushes the date of the switch april 1799. the letters from a friend of his says she will have it ready for him when he arrives august 1799. so i hope more things will be generated from this talk and the article being published. colorful robes 92 through 95.
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not sure what happens between 96 and 90 a and then from 1799 and on tall black robes were warned so john marshall cannot be given credit for this anymore. also an interesting topic and there are a couple of anecdotal things but so far they have not held up to any scrutiny and a recently found a letter of story returning costumes to the federal circuit court in 1824. maybe that is when this happened and with that one document that references may have survived i have may not been able to locate it.
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are there more archival records there hopefully there are so is it from 18 oh one and this is from chief justice tommy and the frederick county historical society in frederick maryland is in remarkable shape so that makes me think it's from the 18 fifties may be more than the 18 thirties to become chief justice and that could lead some clues to where his robe was made if you were chief
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justice your robe was taking care of that maybe not if you were associate justice because this is another that i found. the robe of the associate justice barber. it is in terrible shape that you can see from the picture. they were afraid to even touch it because it would literally fall apart. the construction to be looked at me be very close to marshall's because in 1836 or maybe there is an idea there is some research potential if you want to figure that out with the marshall robe. so then 18 forties we have photography and court robes become known to everybody and you can document the robes a little bit better. we acquired a robe we thought was from ten years ago and to
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look at all these images probably when he was teaching at harvard as a law professor and has a change over time. a lot of these are open in the front and how that plays out but then the present-day court and it was taken just a few weeks ago and they all wear black robes but there are slight differences among the different justices even here with a plain black robe. you may remember justice rehnquist pet gold on his
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sleeves there is no rule that says they have to but that change in 1799 that led to this to becoming iconic and that has spread throughout most of the courts in the united states and some places around the world so with a totally great way to think of the robe the portrait of chester harding is amazing it is a document of what we think the court room where it look like working on this massive portrait. it never happened. and that chair is right here they make laws. these are few and far between and i appreciate the preservation taking the time.
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>> so john marshall always be the great chief justice. these are two images from the supreme court building thank you for listening. if anyone has the robes that would share them. i you enjoyed listening and maybe we have time for a couple of questions. >> also your research is
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invaluable. so i mentioned that earlier but if it wasn't for you i don't think it would've been half of what it could've been so thank you for that. so where was it displayed? and didn't want to go to deep into it. but the exhibit took place and i don't know where in richmond and there was the main central structure that i imagined but it was simple they were quite representative of the classics
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and that is a focus which i find fascinating and then at the same time and those expositions across the globe. so it is telling from the harvey's sisters i think this is something worthy of displaying. otherwise i deafly advise going down the rabbit hole. >> . >> so what would have been at
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the time? >> it seems to me to be a lot of money so it could be the other things that jay was charging with the merchants and have not taken the time the justices were not making that much and that is a pretty substantial sum so it seems odd to me the justices
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continue to pay for. >> yes they supply their own robes and i have heard of those stories but that they actually requested from the government to have the robes paid for and the government denied that request it's one of those very sketchy stories and i'm hoping one day to track it down but i was not able to before all this happened. >> . >> but what about the robe? but they didn't keep it? >> i do know there is one story i have been trying to focus on robes but the story that is usually told the massachusetts judge who wore a
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way again continue to war other wigs going out of style where the court was sitting anyway. and that he wore the way the first day it was coming together but then he was so embarrassed he took it off. so tracing it back to the 18 thirties so the generation before because it was so horrible and everybody agreed and it was so on point that the problem is i cannot find anything to substantiate earlier than 1986 when they wrote this article. to manufacture this amazing story between jefferson and
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hamilton and ehrenberg of course of course that's who he would use. that even then he said they are sending letters back-and-forth with a dialogue. there is just no evidence of any of it. i think it is made up. [laughter] >> along those lines there are questions that eight forward, there is a lot of growing tension. but the federalists are still mostly in charge.
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ellsworth comes in as a chief justice he is eight federalists one of the senators drafting the judiciary acts and stuff like that, chase is a staunch federalists, it gets in trouble for being so pro- federalists they try to impeach him later. so i think the change may have something to do with that. my gut instinct it is a practical decision based on where are we going to get these from getting something that is more simply available and can be made quickly pretty think you'd noted in howard's lecture, which i listened to was john marshall was sloppily put together the construction is not very good. it implies it was probably made in the united states not by the professional road maker in england. i think there is some level of should probably think about getting rid of the chemical vowel and some of the justices did not like it.
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the letter of thomas a johnson indicated. as the membership chains i think there's a let's get rid of the robes. i think james wilson has something to do with all of this. he dies in 1798 there's not enough votes in the conference to keep wearing the robes so they switched. >> one last question were to the modern businesses get their robes from. >> there some that sell judges robes to everyone so they can get them from them. then there are some people who actually get them from overseas. there are some nice aerobic making done in england and france. i do not note the current justices are wearing. i note some of the prior justices, justice ginsburg had a rowboat from france.
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so, they can get them from a variety of sources it's not that hard to find a judicial robe these days. >> that's good to know. [laughter] >> in case you need one. [laughter] well, that is about at the end of our time. thank you so much for joining us in this webinar. it was an absolute pleasure. for all of you,. [inaudible] you should bring people back to visit. >> no word yet. one day soon. >> all right. but, any details you wanted to talk about about the article, where people could fight it? >> the articles in the next issue of the journal of supreme court history which is put out by the supreme court historical society. i believe it's published online already. the paper copies are being
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printed and will be sent out soon. the historical science society has a separate website than the court itself. you can check out their website to, to look into it. >> the supreme court historical society? >> the supreme court historical society is the official name. >> is an amazing article. and soy the atlanta
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history center's keen on research center. >> i was born in florida my dad was in the navy. he went up work with the faa in south carolina until 1971 we got transferred to the center and hampton and has been here ever since. >> okay. >> the jew go to school worded to go to school? >> so into high school here griffin high school graduate 1976. >> did you enter military service then?

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