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Tucked-Away Treasures

Three Supreme Court books, each more than a century old, were discovered recently at the Ohio Statehouse. Take a look inside these priceless volumes for a glimpse into a bit of Court history.

Photos by Katie Monahan, except where noted.

  • These three Supreme Court books were dusted off recently and delivered to the Court’s library.

  • The largest of the three, labeled “Voucher Record” and held together with hefty metal fasteners, tracked to the penny the money paid to various vendors from 1914 to 1923. Note the calligraphy.

  • Each entry was numbered in order in red ink. Notable highlights: Payments made in 1914 to Remington and Underwood typewriter companies and to Western Union Telegraph.

  • Justices on the bench in the “South Court Room” when the Supreme Court’s home was on the Ohio Statehouse grounds from 1901 to 1974. The photograph, believed to have been taken in 1904, gives a good reference for the inventory list in upcoming slides. PHOTO CREDIT: Ohio History Connection.

  • This book has a beautiful, intricate cover that feels leather- and suede-like.

  • Inside, the typewritten pages contain an inventory of the Supreme Court’s property. A Feb. 15, 1912 letter from the Court’s marshal and law librarian (dual duty!) to the state auditor indicates that the inventory was required by legislation.

  • More from the property inventory. Under “Main Corridor” (left), note the portraits listed as “beyond value,” including a crayon one of Judge Noah Haynes Swayne. It’s unclear why his was done in a different medium. On the right, the contents of the “Porter’s Storeroom” lists a window-cleaning harness and 30 radiator hoods.

  • This book cart was recovered from storage when the Supreme Court moved in 2004 from the Rhodes Tower to its current location in the former Departments Building. The cart, which appears to be logged in the inventory, has a pulley system running from a steering wheel to the unusual tires. It still rolls, and the Court library uses it for displays.

  • A close-up of “The Law Library” inventory list, which includes two mentions of “book truck” – one valued at $35 and the other at $30.

  • Here’s a 1901 picture of the law library at the Statehouse. Can you match the inventory list on the prior slide to some of the items pictured? “Cuspidors” are spittoons, by the way – and each came equipped with a mat in case of bad aim.

  • This business letter was found in the book. Note the formality, especially in the closing.

  • The “Exchange List” documented the states where copies of the “Ohio State Reports” – the Ohio Supreme Court’s decisions – were shipped from 1913 through 1920. According to a notation, the Ohio Secretary of State handled this function until 1910.

The Ohio Supreme Court Law Library learned last year about three books found in the Ohio Statehouse archives. The books belonged to the Supreme Court, and the law library took official steps to acquire them. Two of the books log information from the early 1900s, and the third has entries dating back to 1858. Preserved within their delicate pages are meticulously handwritten accounts of Court expenses from those time periods, along with a catalog of the Court’s property made in 1911.