Thursday, February 25, 2016

Historical Martindale-Hubbell Directories Online

HeinOnline recently added a collection of historical Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory volumes, along with scans of its predecessor titles, Martindale's American Law Directory and Hubbell's Legal Directory. Taken together, the collection includes American lawyer directories spanning nearly a century, 1868-1963, and will certainly be a valuable resource for legal historians, genealogists, and other researchers.

The directories offer location-based listings of law firms and attorneys (with alphanumeric codes providing educational background, reputational rankings such as "estimate of legal ability," estimated worth, and "promptness in paying legal bills"). Other features (which vary by the publication and time period) include lists of law schools and universities, specialized listings for selected non-U.S. attorneys, judicial directories, and even summaries or digests of state or foreign laws.

Take, for example, the earliest listing in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory for Duke Law School's most famous alumnus, Richard Nixon, who returned to his home state of California following his 1937 law school graduation. Nixon first appears in the geographic listings for Whittier, California (population 14,822) in the 1939 edition of the directory:

Richard Nixon's first appearance in Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (1939).
Each listed lawyer for the city has codes after his name, which provide some biographical clues about his education and law practice. Some lawyers and law firms also have a separate, more detailed biographical listing (reminiscent of a late-20th-century Yellow Pages ad), for which the geographic listing provides a cross-reference where applicable. The other number and letter codes can be deciphered with the "Confidential Key" and "Symbols" lists that came with each volume of the directories. Unfortunately, the Hein collection appears to have omitted a scan of this page for 1942, which appeared on the inside front cover of most directories, before the title page which marks the start of the online volumes. (At least some confidential keys and symbol pages do appear in Hein for other years, usually in a "Supplement" section of the volume.)

The images below were taken from the library's print archive of Martindale-Hubbell volumes, dated 1942:
"Symbols" legend from 1942 edition of Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

"Confidential Key" page from 1942 edition of Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

To fully decipher the Richard Nixon entry (or any other lawyers or firms listed), researchers would need to consult the geographic listing, the lists of colleges/universities and law schools, and the confidential key and symbols. In Nixon's case, the listing provides only information that's easily accessible elsewhere by now: born in 1913, graduated law school in 1937, attended Whittier College ("C.940" on the university/college/law school list) for an A.B. degree and Duke University ("L.228") for his LL.B. For other attorneys listed in Martindale, though, the codes can reveal more about their reputation and finances – Nixon simply hadn't been practicing law long enough to merit those codes yet.

Although more difficult to use without easy access to the confidential keys and symbols, the online Martindale-Hubbell law collection will undoubtedly be beneficial for historical research on particular lawyers. Searching in the format "Lastname, Firstname" (with quotation marks) is likely the most efficient way to quickly scan the available results (although results will vary with middle names or initials). For other potential sources of information about attorneys (both current and historical), check out the library's research guide to Directories of Lawyers or Ask a Librarian.