TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary of the Collection

Administrative Information

Biographies of Mary Field Parton and Clarence Darrow

Scope and Content of the Collection

Organization

Selected Search Terms

Related Material

Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, 1909-1975

Series 2: Miscellaneous Material, 1913-1974

Series 3: Works, n.d.-1938

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Inventory of the Mary Field Parton-Clarence Darrow Papers, 1909-1975


The Newberry Library
Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610-7324
USA
Phone: 312-255-3506
Fax: 312-255-3646
E-Mail: specialcolls@newberry.org
URL: http://www.newberry.org

Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Lisa Janssen, 2003.

©2003.


Descriptive Summary of the Collection

Creator Parton, Mary Field, 1878-1969
Title Mary Field Parton-Clarence Darrow Papers,
Dates 1909-1975
Extent 0.6 linear feet (2 boxes)
Abstract Material relating to the friendship between Clarence Darrow and journalist Mary Field Parton, which includes sixty-one of his letters to her, several other letters, short articles by Darrow, clippings, and photographs. Included are numerous transcripts of Darrow's letters, a biographical sketch of Parton, and excerpts from her journal that refer to Darrow, all done by Parton's daughter Margaret Parton (Hussey).
Language Materials are in English.
Repository Newberry Library, Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections
Collection Call Number Midwest MS Parton
Collection Stack Location 3a 38 10

Administrative Information

Cite As

Mary Field Parton-Clarence Darrow Papers, The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Provenance

Gift of Margaret Parton Hussey, 1981.

Processed by

Virgina H. Smith, 2003

Access

The Mary Field Parton-Clarence Darrow Papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Mary Field Parton-Clarence Darrow Papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

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Biographies of Mary Field Parton and Clarence Darrow

This collection, preserved and annotated by Mary Field Parton's daughter, Margaret Parton Hussey, concerns the relationship between Mary Field and Clarence Darrow. Darrow, the great Chicago labor and criminal defense lawyer, met Mary Field, social worker and journalist, in 1908 in Chicago at a rally for a Russian revolutionist. They immediately became friends and remained so until Darrow's death in 1938.

Darrow had been practicing in Ohio as a corporation lawyer, when he arrived in Chicago in 1887. There he became associated with Judge (later governor) John P. Altgeld, and under his influence turned to labor law. Within a few years Darrow defended, among others, Eugene V. Debs who was charged with contempt in the 1894 Pullman strike, and William D. Haywood, accused of conspiracy to assassinate the former governor of Idaho. In 1911, Darrow went to California to defend John J. and James B. McNamara, labor leaders charged with dynamiting the L.A. Times Building. Though they were found guilty, Darrow saved them from a death sentence. This trial essentially ended his support from labor groups and he never got another major labor case.

Returning to Chicago, Darrow began to specialize in criminal cases, of which his most spectacular was his defense of the young murderers, Leopold and Loeb. Again, though they pleaded guilty, Darrow saved them from the death penalty. Then in 1925 he attracted national attention as the defense at the trial of John T. Scopes in Dayton, Tennessee. Though Scopes was found guilty of teaching the theory of evolution, the agnostic Darrow dramatically and effectively outsmarted the fundamentalist Williams Jennings Bryan in the courtroom.

Clarence Darrow had a pessimistic, even gloomy, attitude toward life, but it did not deter him from taking on the defense of many poor and powerless clients throughout his life. Renowned for his spell-binding courtroom addresses and for the acid wit he displayed in his popular public debates and lectures on many subjects, Darrow enjoyed the limelight. As well as speaking, he wrote eight books and many essays and stories, on a wide range of literary, social and economic topics that interested him, such as his opposition to capital punishment, his fervent patriotism during World War I, his religious and philosophical skepticisms, his belief in the civil rights of Negroes, and so on.

Darrow was married first to Jessie Ohl, with whom he had his only child, Paul, in 1883. They divorced in 1897 and in 1903 he married Ruby Hammerstrom. Though apparently he had many women friends throughout his life, they remained a couple until his death in Chicago in 1938.

Mary Field was born in Kentucky in 1878. The family later moved to Detroit and after graduating from the University of Michigan, she worked in Chicago in several slum settlement houses. Through her interest in and reporting on the labor movement, she met Clarence Darrow, whom she immediately and enthusiastically deemed a great man, and to whom she became an intimate and devoted friend.

Mary Field, by 1912 celebrated as a tough-minded reporter for articles she wrote for Organized Labor, sometimes would investigate prospective jurors for Darrow's trials. She was with Darrow when he was being tried and eventually acquitted of bribing a juror in the McNamara brothers case.

Mary Field had moved from Chicago to New York in 1909, but Darrow remained her friend and also her benefactor, sending her money from time to time. She was a talented writer, and Darrow introduced her to Theodore Dreiser, who was at that time editor of The Deliniator, a popular women's magazine. The assignments Dreiser gave her got her started in new directions, and soon she was writing for America Magazine as well and enjoying literary and social success in New York.

In 1913 she married Lemuel Parton, a San Francisco newspaperman. They had one daughter, Margaret, who also became a journalist. After Lem died in 1943, Mary Field Parton lessened her reporting activities, though according to her obituary she did research for the planned parenthood movement, wrote book reviews and edited a book on the life of Mother Jones, the famous labor organizer. She died in 1969.

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Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence, mainly sixty-one letters (some with transcriptions) from Clarence Darrow to Mary Field Parton, and a few other letters to and from Darrow, including two from miner J. Hanrahan and the L.A. County Socialist Party, supportive of Darrow during his trial for bribery in 1912. Also, a small collection of Margaret Parton Hussey's letters concerning her mother's papers and a sketch of her mother's relationship with Darrow, plus some transcripts from Mary Parton's journal which refer to Darrow. Also, clippings, playbills for Henry Fonda playing Darrow, a few photographs of Darrow, five works presumably by Darrow (some unsigned).

Narrative descriptions of the subject matter, types of material, and arrangement of materials are available through the Organization section of the finding aid.

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Organization

Papers are organized in the following series:

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Selected Search Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Newberry Library's public catalog. Researchers desiring additional materials on a particular topic should search the catalog using these headings.

Names

  • Darrow, Clarence, 1857-1938
  • Field, Sara Bard, 1882-1974
  • Older, Frement, 1856-1935
  • Parton, Margaret, 1915-1981
  • Parton, Mary Field
  • Steffens, Lincoln, 1866-1936
  • Wood, Charles Erskine Scott, 1852-1944

Subjects

  • Correspondence -- Illinois -- Chicago -- 1901-1950
  • Lawyers -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Legal assistance to the poor -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Man-woman relationships -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Manuscripts, American
  • Orators -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Practice of law -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century -- Sources
  • Trials (Bribery) -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- 20th century -- Sources

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Container List

Series 1: Correspondence, 1909-1975

Letters from Clarence Darrow to Mary Field Parton, 1909-1930, many with transcriptions copied on acid-free paper. In his letters Darrow often praises Mary for her writing skill and how much her letters mean to him. He discusses friends and acquaintances, his own career, issues of the day, books read, travel, and his pessimistic philosophy. Friends mentioned frequently include Fremont Older (editor of the San Francisco Call), Sara Bard Field and Charles Erskine Scott Wood (sister and brother-in-law of Mary Field Parton), and Lincoln Steffens. Many letters mention speeches he has given; he talks about his defense of communists and the poor and downtrodden; and in 1912 he provides updates on his Los Angeles trial for bribing a witness while defending the McNamara brothers. He expresses opinions on the war, prostitution, women's suffrage, reformers, radical journalists, the condition of the Negro, and many other topics. He also talks about books he has read and describes his 1920's trip to Italy, Egypt, and Palestine, and a summer spent in Fish Creek, Wisconsin.
Also four letters from Darrow to others; a letter to Mary Field Parton from F.D. Gardner, a financial contributor of Darrow; three letters of support to Darrow, from miner J. Hanrahan, Mayor Brand Whitlock and L.A. County Socialist Party; letters of Margaret Parton Hussey regarding her mother's papers.
Arranged alphabetically by writer.

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, undated
1 2 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1909-1910
1 3 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1912
1 4 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1913
1 5 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1914
1 6 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1915
1 7 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1916-1919
1 8 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1920-1921
1 9 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1922-1927
1 10 Darrow, Clarence to Mary Field Parton, 1928-1930
1 11 Darrow, Clarence to Mrs. Breen (n.d.); Sarah (n.d.); C.E.S. Wood (1914); Lem Parton (after 1926), n.d., 1914, 1926
1 12 Gardner, F.D. to Mary Field Parton, March 27, 1913
1 13 Hanrahan, J. to Clarence Darrow, Aug. 3, 1912
1 14 Los Angeles County Socialist Party to Clarence Darrow, Aug. 17, 1912
1 15 Parton, Margaret to and from Leo Cherne, 1961
1 16 Parton, Margaret to and from Library of Congress, 1974
1 17 Parton, Margaret to Lila Weinberg, 1975
1 18 Whitlock, Brand to Clarence Darrow, Jan. 3, 1910
1 19 Original photocopies of Margaret Parton's transcriptions of Darrow letters to Mary Field, 1909-1928
1 20 Photocopies of Darrow letters, 1909-1930

Series 2: Miscellaneous Material, 1913-1974

Clippings, obituary, photographs, playbills.
Arranged alphabetically by type of material.

Box Folder Contents
1 21 Clippings, 1913-1957
1 22 Obituary of Mary Field Parton, 1969
1 23 Photographs of Clarence Darrow, undated
1 24 Playbills for the stage play Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow, 1974

Series 3: Works, n.d.-1938

Five items (two unsigned) by Darrow; Margaret Parton's sketch of her mother; transcribed excerpts from the diary of Mary Field Parton.
Arranged alphabetically by author.

Box Folder Contents
1 25 Darrow, Clarence: "Conduct and Profession" (printed), n.d.
1 26 [Darrow, Clarence]: "Eulogy for John Howard Moore," [1916]
1 27 Darrow, Clarence: "Greeting to the League to Abolish Capital Punishment," May 28, 1937
1 28 [Darrow, Clarence]: "Letter on World War I," n.d.
1 29 Darrow, Clarence "The Ordeal of Prohibition" (printed), n.d.
1 30 Parton, Margaret: Sketch of the life of Mary Field Parton, n.d.
1 31 Parton, Mary: journal entries (transcriptions), 1925-1938

Related Material

Four scrapbooks were kept by Darrow's first wife, Jessie Ohl Darrow, and his son Paul. See Midwest MS Darrow.

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