Guide to the Samuel Fox Mordecai papers, 1869-1985
Samuel Fox Mordecai (1852-1927) was a lawyer who served as Dean of Trinity College Law School from around 1905 to 1927.
The collection covers mainly the period between 1871 and Mordecai's death in 1927 and largely consists of correspondence and some law-themed periodicals.
- University Archives, Duke University
- Mordecai, Samuel Fox (1852-1927).
- Samuel Fox Mordecai papers, 1869-1985
- Language of Material
- 2.0 Linear Feet, 1,500 Items
- For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Contents of the Samuel Fox Mordecai Papers span from 1869 to 1985 with the bulk dates 1871-1923 and include correspondence, telegrams, receipts, grade reports, volumes, clippings, other printed material, and photographs. The Papers are arranged into three series: Correspondence and Miscellany, 1869-1985; Printed Material, 1912-1932; and Photographs, 1938 and undated. The correspondence is arranged chronologically. Most of the collection was arranged by the former Manuscript Department before being transferred to University Archives.
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Collection is open for research.
In off-site storage; 48 hours advance notice is required for use.
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Arranged chronologically, the correspondence makes up about 85% of the collection. Some of the 19th century papers are oversized. Most of this early material is related to law cases when Mordecai practiced in Raleigh. Little is revealed of Mordecai himself, mainly the cases he worked. Of particular note, however, is correspondence related to the Royal Coal and Coke Company of Coal Creek, TN in 1894-1895, when Mordecai served as president of the company. Much of the correspondence from 1897-1899 consists of requests from lawyers and others to purchase copies of his publications "Mechanics' Liens in North Carolina" and "Negotiable Instruments Law in North Carolina". Around the turn of the century there appears more and more letters from lawyers requesting Mordecai's opinion on particular cases or problems.
After being named Dean of the Law School, much of Mordecai's correspondence turns to administrative matters: correspondence with former and potential students; queries regarding possible faculty positions; and questions about courses and course requirements. Letters of note include those from women in 1917 and 1921 asking about admittance to the law school. (Though women could practice law in NC and women were admitted to Trinity College during this time, they were not admitted to Trinity Law School. The first woman enrolled in the School of Law in 1927.)
Correspondents include: William P. Few; William H. Wannamaker; Henry Mordecai (SFM's son); and Louis R. Wilson, the Librarian of the University of North Carolina. Also included is correspondence with lawyers and former students. Discarded material consisted of correspondence between Mordecai and printers and publishers across the country regarding detailed publication matters such as proofs, errors, and billing questions.
One folder within box 2 contains clippings which date from 1897 to 1927. These include advertisements/reviews of Mordecai's publications, court calendars, obituaries newsprint), and oversize page proofs from Mordecai's Law Notes.
Among the later materials are 1953 and 1985 letters from a friend and former students recounting memories of and stories about Mordecai. The 1985 letter and memoir of P.H. Crawford is particularly valuable in documenting Mordecai's colorful relationship with his students in and out of the classroom. Also included is Mordecai's 1869 grade report from Oxford (NC) Classical and Mathematical School and an undated letter tracing Mordecai genealogy.
The remainder of the collection consists of grade reports and copies of Mordecai's publications. The folder of grade reports from classes he taught dates from 1912-1923. The reports contain the name of the course, the date, and the individual students' grades.
Publications included: Law Notes -- Corporations (1919); Law Notes -- Bailments and Carriers (1920); Law Notes -- Real Property (1916, 2 copies); and a bound copy of Mordecai's Law Lectures (1907, 1251 pages). Publications not written by Mordecai: Progress of Legal Education (1922, Washington Conference and the Association of American Law Schools) and a tribute and portrait presentation to Mordecai (1932, Alumni of the Law School -- 3 copies). Also included is a bound volume of Mordecai's Latin notes at the University of Virginia, 1870-1871.
Photographs include various portraits including Samuel Fox Mordecai; Peggy Mordecai; and SFM and Pompey Ducklegs. Several photographs noted below are from the Grimes family. General Grimes was the father of Bettie Grimes later Mrs. Samuel Fox Mordecai.
Samuel Fox Mordecai was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1852, the son of Ellen M. and Samuel Fox Mordecai. He was educated in private schools in Virginia and North Carolina, graduating from the Oxford (NC) Classical and Mathematical School. Between 1870-1875, Mordecai attended the University of Virginia. Primarily a self-educated man, there is no indication that he received a degree from the University of Virginia.
The North Carolina Supreme Court admitted Mordecai to the bar in 1875, beginning a 50 year career of legal work and scholarship. Mordecai practiced in Raleigh with his partner Richard H. Battle. From 1900 to 1904 he also lectured three times a week at Wake Forest College. Mordecai's success in these positions coupled with his early publications led to his reputation throughout the state as an excellent lawyer and accomplished scholar.
Following the creation of a law school at Trinity College, Mordecai was named senior professor and chosen to serve as the school's first dean when it opened in 1904. He served in this capacity until his death in 1927. During these years Mordecai was known throughout the campus and the legal community as an able administrator, dedicated teacher, and prolific scholar. He published pamphlets and lectures that were requested from lawyers and legal scholars across the state.
In 1875 Mordecai married Elizabeth D. (Bettie) Grimes. They had nine children: Alfred, Bryan Grimes, Edward Walker, Elizabeth Davis, Ellen, George Washington, Henry Lane, Margaret Lane, and William Grimes. Samuel Fox Mordecai died in Durham on December 29, 1927.
- Mordecai Family Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
[Identification of item], Samuel Fox Mordecai papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The Samuel Fox Mordecai papers were received by the University Archives as a transfer in 1938-1985; 2007.
Processed by Archives Staff, July 2006
Encoded by Kimberly Sims, September 2006
Updated by Sherrie Bowser, September 2007
Updated by Alyssa Reichardt, November 2007
Accessions A73-103, A80-232, A85-34, A38-1868, UA2007-0040 were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.
Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and our local Style Guide.
This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.