The Letter of the Law

Over the course of the semester, Erik Berner has been researching the books in the Legislation section of the St. Ignatius College library catalog to determine if the Jesuits intended to found a law school in the 1870s. In a previous post he concluded they did not have the books to do so in 1870. In wanting to understand why the Loyola Law School was founded nearly forty years later in 1909, he looked at the motivations of another Jesuit school, Marquette University in Milwaukee, in founding its law school for inspiration. Since that post, Loyola’s Assistant University Archivist Ashley Howdeshell brought a very interesting letter to Erik’s notice …  

Since my initial research and blog post on the history of Loyola’s law school, I have found, at the recommendation of Ashley Howdeshell, Assistant University Archivist at Loyola, a helpful book entitled, The First 100 Years: The Centennial History of Loyola University Chicago School of Law by Thomas M. Haney, detailing the history of Loyola’s law school. In 1906, the Trustees of what was then St Ignatius College considered expansion of the college into a university after thirty-six years of established success among the immigrant population of Chicago. A group of Catholics practicing law in Chicago (two of them graduates of St. Ignatius and another a graduate of Georgetown’s law school) approached President Henry J. Dumbach, S.J. and the Trustees about founding a law school as the first professional school in the expansion. Below is a copy of the letter that they sent to the Trustees. The request was unanimously approved.

These ambitious lawyers were ready to establish the law school immediately in 1906, but St. Ignatius had already begun classes for the year. It was also at the start of a period of transition that would lead to the renaming of the institution as Loyola University in 1909 and the transfer of the college from Roosevelt Road to Rogers Park in 1912. Rather than immediately establishing itself as the Loyola University Department of Law (which it would be re-christened upon its incorporation into the university in 1909), the institution opened in September 1908 as the Lincoln College of Law, the first law school in the United States named after Abraham Lincoln. Classes were, much as at Marquette, offered at night at the new school’s surprisingly prime location near City Hall and the Cook County Courthouse. The new law school catered to working Catholics and immigrants who could not receive an education at the exclusive Northwestern or University of Chicago. Though what would eventually become the DePaul University College of Law had been in operation (as Illinois College of Law) since 1897, it was not incorporated into DePaul until 1912, making the Loyola University Department of Law the first Catholic law school in the city of Chicago.

Letter to Fr. Dumbach requesting a Law School, page 1 date original: January 13, 1906 date digital: May 2016 Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections. Vice President's Diary of St. Ignatius College. page 171-172. Scanned at 600 dpi color

Letter to Fr. Dumbach requesting a Law School (13 January 1906), page 1
Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections. Vice President’s Diary of St. Ignatius College. page 171-172.

Letter to Fr. Dumbach requesting a Law School, page 2 date original: January 13, 1906 date digital: May 2016 Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections. Vice President's Diary of St. Ignatius College. page 171-172. Scanned at 600 dpi color

Letter to Fr. Dumbach requesting a Law School, page 2
Courtesy of Loyola University Chicago Archives and Special Collections. Vice President’s Diary of St. Ignatius College. page 171-172.

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One thought on “The Letter of the Law

  1. […] Last spring I explored whether the Jesuits at St. Ignatius College (precursor to Loyola University Chicago) might have been trying to found a law school at the end of the nineteenth century. Nearly forty years elapsed between the founding of the St Ignatius College and the founding of its law school. The college’s original library catalog provided potential evidence of whether the Jesuits intended to educate students for the law earlier, as I explored in my posts here and here. […]

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