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Accession Number 9973
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Papers of Homer Stille Cummings, 1850-1956, Accession # 9973, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.
The papers were a gift to the library from Professor Carl McFarland, School of Law, University of Virginia, on 14 December 1976. They were originally deposited in the library on 21 June and 26 July 1974.
The only son of Uriah and Audie Schuyler (Stille) Cummings, Homer Stille Cummings was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 30 April 1870. He received his early education at the Heathcote School in Buffalo, New York. In 1891, he graduated from Yale University with the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy, and two years later, he took an LL.B. degre from Yale Law School. Subsequently, he received several honorary degrees in law, from Rollins College, Lake Forest Univesity, and Oglethorpe University, in 1934, Lincoln Memorial University and John Marshall College of Law, in 1935, and Pennsylvania Military College in 1938. Admitted to the Connecticut STate Bar, he commenced in 1895 a long legal career by practicing law in Stamford where he became a member of the firm of Fessenden, Carter, and Cummings. He practiced alone from 1900 to 1909, then organizing the firm of Cummings and Lockwood with Charles D. Lockwood.
In 1900, Cummings was elected mayor of Stamford, and subsequently twice re-elected. For two years, he was president of the Mayor's Association of Connecticut, and from 1903 to 1909, president of the Stamford Board of Trade. Elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention and Democratic National Committeeman for Connecticut in 1900, he held the latter position of twenty-five years. He was nominated by his party for the position of representative-at-large in Congress, but the Republican majority in Connecticut was such that there was little chance of election. From 1913 to 1919, he was vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Cummings was early on a strong supporter of Woodrow Wilson, and identified with the progressive wing of the Democratic party.
Cummings served as state's attorney for Fairfield County from 1914 to 1924. During this period, he was involved in the famous case of State V. Harold Israelin which he successfully cleared an innocent man of a murder charge. During World War I, Cummings was a member of the Connecticut State Council of Defense. In 1916, he was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, losing by a narrow margin. He was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 1919, and was chosen temporary chairman of the Democratic National Convention at San Francisco in 1920. His keynote speech at the convention staunchly defended the accomplishments of the Wilson administration. Again a delegate to the party convention in 1924 in New York, he was a leader of the McAdoo forces, and was chairman of the committee on resolutions.
In 1925, Cummings resigned from the Democratic National Committee to devote himself to the practice of law. He acted as special trial counsel in important cases in many jurisdictions, and gained further experience in the areas of monopoly, civil rights, and procedure. In 1930, Governor Trumbull appointed him head of an investigation of conditions at the Connecticut State Prison.
Cummings was a firm supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 and assisted in the organization of his campaign. A delegate-at-large to the Chicago convention of the party, he acted as one of the floor leaders for Roosevelt and made a speech seconding his nomination. He campaigned actively for Roosevelt in the months that followed. After the election, it was announced that Cummings had been offered the position of governor-general of the Philippines. But on the sudden death of Senator Thomas J. Walsh, who had been selected for the post of attorney general, Roosevelt drafted Cummings for this post. It was at first assumed that Cummings would serve only temporarily and that he would eventually assume the Philippines post, but his work as attorney general was so valuable that the president asked him to remain.
Cummings played an influential role in the Roosevelt administration. In the early days of 1933, he assisted the president by drawing up emergency legislation such as the Emergency Banking Act, and several executive orders relating to gold. He reorganized the Department of Justice, and greatly strengthened the power of the Federal Bureau of Investigation by proposing comprehensive anti-crime legislation relating to kidnapping, national bank robbery, extortion, and racketeering. Personally interested in the prison division of the department, hew as responsible for substantial improvements in the federal penal system. Many new institutions, including Alcatraz Prison, were constructed under his administration. Cummings attempted to break up monopolies, and directed the Justice Department to start proceedings against some of the large oil companies. In his own opinion, his most important accomplishment was the reform of civil procedure in the federal courts. He persuaded Congress to pass a law giving the justices of the Supreme Court authority to prepare and promulgate, in September 1938, uniform rules of practice in the federal courts. The purpose of this measure was the elimination of as much legal technicality and red tape as possible from the federal judicial system.
In his first four years in the cabinet, Cummings was asked to defend the constitutionality of many New Deal enactments. He was successful in the case of dollar devaluation, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other measures, as they were upheld by the Supreme Court. But Roosevelt was frustrated by the fact that the court did declare unconstitutional some important New Deal enactments including the National Recovery Administration. The president's dismay set the stage for the most controversial episode in Cummings' career, the Supreme Court Reorganization Bill, better known as the court-packing bill. Cummings suggested a plan by which the president could appoint a new justice or federal judge to the bench for each judge who had served at least ten years, who waited more than six months after his seventieth birthday to resign or retire. The president would be allowed to appoint up to six new justices to the Supreme Court, and forty-five new judges to lower federal tribunals. The result , of this plan, Cummings and Roosevelt hoped, would be the appointment of men of a more liberal attitude, better disposed toward the New Deal philosophy than the sitting justices. The president attempted to present the bill as a proposal designed to maximize efficiency, but his true intentions were obvious. Spring on an unsuspecting Congress and nation in February 1937, the court-packing bill aroused widespread opposition; many people interpreted the plan as an attack on the Supreme Court and the Constitution. The bill was ultimately defeated by the senate, but it destroyed Democratic unity and strengthened the anti-New Deal coalition in the process. Cummings was subsequently involved in a primary "purge" campaign, in which the administration attempted to unseat some of the Democrats in Congress who had assisted in the defeat of the court-packing measure.
In 1938, Cummings was chosen by Argentina and Chile to arbitrate the Beagle Channel Islands controversy. Cummings resigned his post on January 2, 1939, and practiced law in Washington with the firm of Cummings and Stanley, subsequently Cummings, Stanley, Truitt, and Cross. He personally argued many cases in circuit courts and in the Supreme Court.
He was the author of four books: Liberty Under Law and Administration(1934); Federal Justice, with Carl McFarland (1937); We Can Prevent Crime(1937); and The Tired Sea(1939) as well as numerous articles and speeches.
Cummings was a member of the First Congregational Church, Stamford, and a trustee of George Washington University. He belonged to many organizations, including the American Society of International Law, the American Law Institute, the American Judicature Society, the Yale, Metropolitan, and Burning Tree Clubs, the Masons, Old Fellows, Elks, Eagles, Phi Alpha Delta, and Omicron Delta Kappa.
Cummings married Helen Woodruff Smith in June 1897. They had one son, Dickinson Schuyler Cummings, born in June 1898. They were divorced in October 1907. In December 1909, Cummings married Marguerite T. Owings, from whom he was divorced in 1928. He married May Cecilia Waterbury in August 1929. She died in 1939. In 1942, he married Julia Alter, who died in February 1955. Cummings died of heart failure at his home on September 11, 1956, at the age of eighty-six.
The papers of Homer Stille Cummings consist of 171.2 feet (ca. 124,000 items) of correspondence, memoranda, diaries, speeches, articles, legal case files, daily schedules, photographs, daguerreotypes, engravings, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, films, phonograph records, memorabilia, and other items, for the years 1850 (1890-1956) relating to Cummings' long career as lawyer, Democratic Party leader, and attorney general in the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Family, legal, political, and official papers reflect Cummings' far-ranging activities and interests; the value of the papers lies in their unusual scope and breadth. The collection includes Cummings' correspondence, telegrams, and memoranda with Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a group of papers that document his role in the historic court-packing struggle.
Cummings' political papers fall into two major categories, one group ranging from 1899 to 1933, and the second from the time he assumed a post in the Roosevelt cabinet until his death in 1956. There are few papers, unfortunately, relating to his tenure as mayor of Stamford, Connecticut. The bulk of the material in the first category was generated by his service with the Democratic National Committee; the corresponded between Cummings and Wilson, which resolves around party politics, national affairs, and various individuals, sheds light on Wilson and politician. In a number of interesting memoranda, Cummings discussed Wilson and described various meetings with him. In his capacities as vice-chairman and then chairman of the National Committee, Cummings corresponded extensively with Democratic party leaders and government officials, including Vance c. McCormick, William G. McAdoo, Cordell Hull, and Edwin M. House. His involvement in matters in his home state is documented by much material on Connecticut politics, the investigation of the Connecticut State prison at Wethersfield in 1930, and the Harold Israel case.
The second group of political papers primarily relate to Cummings' tenure as attorney general, and reveal his continuing interest in Democratic Party politics. He corresponded with many government officials, political leaders, members of Congress, and judges, such as Benjamin N. Cordozo, James A. Farley, David Fitzgerald, J. Edgar Hoover, Robert H. Jackson, and Harry S. Truman. The topics of the letters include national affairs, politics, Justice Department policy (FBI material has been reviewed and declassified by the FBI), judicial reform, and the international situation. Cummings' correspondence with Roosevelt reveals the close working relationship between the two men and highlights Roosevelt's political career. Their letters concern the administration of the Justice Department, the progress of New Deal legislation, and related juridical matters. Of particular interest are correspondence and papers concerning the reorganization, or court-packing, plan, and the gold cases. Memoranda, case files, circulars, press releases, and printed material supplement the correspondence of the attorney general.
The collection includes a number of family papers, ca. 1890-1956 of Cummings, his mother, wives, and son. Much of this material is of a financial and legal nature, relating to taxes, divorce proceedings, and estates. There is correspondence between Cummings and his wives Marguerite T. Owings Cummings, and Julia M. Alter Cummings, and his son Dickinson Schuyler Cummings. Letters about the annual Homer S. Cummings Golf Tournament, miscellaneous school notebooks and travel diaries, are also found here.
The many speeches and articles included in the collection reflect Cummings' own interests and official responsibilities, and cover such topics as national and Connecticut politics, criminal justice, judicial reorganization, and international affairs. There is also speech research material and related correspondence. A number of speeches by other individuals on a wide range of subjects, especially members of the Justice Department speaking on crime suppression, are in the collection.
In Cummings' personal and political diaries, 1919-1956, he recorded his daily activities and described meetings, trips, and his colleagues. These diaries are a very valuable source in themselves, because Cummings was a shrewd and seasoned commentator on political affairs. The drafts of his books Federal Justiceand The Biography of a Department, correspondence about these books and The Selected Letters of Homer S. Cummings, and research material for projected books on military law and the Lands Division, indicate Cummings' research-writing interests. There are many source files, with abstracts of legal and historical data, used for Federal Justice.
Cummings' flourishing law practice in Stamford, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., is documented by correspondence, papers, and many legal case files.
The Cummings Papers contain a wealth of non-print material that is another valuable resource for students of twentieth-century America. There are many professional and personal photographs of Cummings, his colleagues and family, daguerreotypes, and ambrotypes, a series of engravings of the attorney generals, political cartoons, and miscellaneous certificates. Films, phonograph records, scrapbooks, and memorabilia round out the collection. Some of the scrapbooks contain correspondence and photographs as well as newspaper clippings.
The papers arrived at the library largely in folders with Cummings' original headings, and in rough chronological order. There was a general correspondence file marked "A.G. (Attorney General) Personal," with Cummings' correspondence and papers for his years as attorney general and beyond, and clusters of papers concerning other aspects of his career. Cummings' folder headings have been retained, and the folders have been groupd in several broad categories, and then arranged either chronologically or alphabetically. See the specific descriptions below for details. The material within each folder is in chronological order. Following is the list of the series:
I. Family Papers, ca. 1890-1956 (Boxes 1-43)
II. Political Papers to 1933, 1899-1933 (Boxes 44-68)
III. Correspondence of the Attorney General and post-Attorney General, 1933-1956 (Boxes 69-207)
IV. Speeches, 1886-1950 and Articles, 1918-1945 (Boxes 207-233)
V. Diaries, 1919-1956, Literary Papers, ca. 1750-1953, (Boxes 234-255 and Source Files)
VI. Law Firm Papers, 1909-1934, 1939-1953, and Legal Case Files, ca. 1915-1933 (1928-1956) (Boxes 256-258)
VII. Miscellaneous Papers, 1892-1953 (Boxes 259-263)
VIII. Photographs, 1870-1953, Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes, ca. 1850-1870 (Boxes 264-280)
IX. Newspaper Clippings, 1888-1955 (Boxes 281-283)
X. Engravings of United States Attorney Generals (in prints file)
XI. Scrapbooks, 1896-1956
XIII. Index Files, ca. 1850-1938
XIV. Legal Case Files, ca. 1915-1933
XV. Legal Case Files (Post-Attorney General Years), ca. 1939-1956
XVI. Certificates, 1887-1947
XVII. Political Cartoons, 1933-1945
XVIII. Miscellaneous Items, 1792-1950
XIX. Motion Picture Films
XX. Cased Photographs, ca. 1850- 1870
XXI. Phonograph Recordings, 1920- 1953
DESCRIPTION OF SERIES
Series I: Family Papers
This series consists of general personal correspondence and papers of Cummings; his mother, Audie S. Cummings; his four wives: Helen W. Smith Cummings, Marguerite T. Owings Cummings, May Cecilia Waterbury Cummings, Julia M. Alter Cummings; and his son Dickinson Schuyler Cummings. Much of the material is of a financial nature. Cummings' own papers are place first, followed by the other family members in alphabetical order by first name. The papers of each are arranged by topic, and chronologically therein. The items within each folder are in chronological order.
1. Homer S. Cummings Papers, ca. 1890-1956: This group includes correspondence re: personal affairs, business, investments, taxes, and the Homer S. Cummings Golf Tournament. There are also miscellaneous notebooks, travel diaries, and Christmas cards. The general correspondence is place first, followed by the Golf Tournament correspondence and miscellaneous items.
2. Audie S. Cummings, Papers, 1921-1925: This group of correspondence and papers of Cummings relates to Audie S. Cummings' (1846-1924) estate.
3. May Cecilia Waterbury Cummings (4 November 1898-9 August 1939) Papers, 1909-1955: Letters of Cecilia Cummings, and correspondence and papers relating to her estate and other financial affairs, comprise this group.
4. Dickinson S. Cummings (17 June 1898-10 October 1953) Papers, 1905- 1953: This correspondence principally concerns the estate of Dickinson S. Cummings, but there is a little correspondence between father and son.
5. Helen W. Smith Cummings (11 December 1864-13 October 1954) Papers, 1909- 1955: This material relates to the divorce of Cummings and Helen W. Smith Cummings, and to her estate.
6. Julia M. Alter Cummings (1906-13 February 1955) Papers, 1936-1956: This papers include correspondence between Cummings and Julia, letters of congratulations on their marriage, and condolences on her death.
7. Marguerite T. Owings Cummings (1878-??) Papers, 1909-1955: Most of these papers concern the divorce of Cummings and Marguerite, and her estate, and include some correspondence between them.
Series II: Political Papers to 1933, 1899-1933
This series includes correspondence and papers on the following topics: politics in general, Connecticut politics in particular, the Connecticut Women Suffrage Association, and the Democratic Town Committee. Cummings' service on the Democratic National Committee is amply documented by letters concerning strategy, finance, publicity, campaigns, the Speakers' Bureau, women's suffrage, and prohibition. He corresponded with many political leaders and government officials including Newton D. Baker, Josephus Daniels, Carter Glass, H.T. Gregory, Edwin M. House, Cordell Hull, W.D. Jamieson, William G. Madoo, Vance C. McCormick, J.C. McReynolds, and Henry Morgenthau. There is later correspondence, ca. 1931-1932, relating to the presidential campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt, with James A. Farley, George H. Combs, Louis Howe, Daniel C. Roper, and Frank C. Walker.
This group includes one box of Woodrow Wilson material, including correspondence between Wilson and Cummings, and a series of telegrams exchanged by the two when Cummings was serving as chairman of the Democratic National Convention in 1920. The correspondence principally relates to Democratic party affairs and the work of the National Committee. There is also a draft of a speech by Wilson, and a number of interesting and detailed memoranda written by Cummings about Wilson.
In addition to the political correspondence, there are papers relating to the Harold Israel case, and to the investigation of the Connecticut State Prison at Wethersfield in 1930.
The papers are arranged by topic, and the subject groupings are placed in a chronological sequence. The material within each folder is arranged chronologically.
Series III: Correspondence of the Attorney General and from the Post-Attorney General Period, 1933-1956
This series consists of two groups of papers: 1) a general correspondence file and 2) miscellaneous papers.
1. General Correspondence File: Cummings kept his general correspondence files, which was labeled "A.G. Personal," when he left his post and continued to add to it until his death. It contained political, official, and personal correspondence and papers. The heading "A.G. Personal" has been retained. A number of folders with material that is similar in content, which may well have been part of the original file, have been labeled "Correspondence of H.S.C.," and interfiled with the "A.G. Personal" folders. Some of the files relate to a specific individual, others to a topic. The folders have been placed in alphabetical order by subject, and the items within each folder in chronological order. For each letter of the alphabet, first there are several folders marked "General," where correspondence was placed for individuals or topics that did not have a separate file of their own.
This correspondence relates to Cummings' service as attorney general, his active involvement in Democratic party politics, and general interest in national and international affairs. Cummings correspondence with a wide range of government officials, members of Congress, judges, Democratic leaders, personal friends, and associates. The letters cover such areas as Justice Department policy and administration, crime, judicial reform, the national political climate, New Deal legislation, and foreign affairs, with a focus on Latin America. The many persons with whom Cummings correspond include Alben Barkley, Benjamin N. Cardozo, Tom C. Clark, James A. Farley, David Fitzgerald, Felix Frankfurter, J. Edgar Hoover, Robert H. Jackson, Jesse Jones, William A. Julian, Brien McMahon, Harlan F. Stone, and Harry L. Truman. Cummings maintained files on many organizations, including the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. There are some interesting files on the Dominican Republic, including correspondence between Cummings and Generalissimo Trujillo. In addition to the political and official material, there are letters of a purely personal nature, largely pertaining to Cummings' social life.
The researcher is cautioned that the very rich correspondence in this group cuts across individual and topical areas. Material relating to J. Edgar Hoover, or judicial reform, for instance, is contained in many disparate folders.
Of particular interest is correspondence between Cummings and Roosevelt, 1917-1945, which has been placed at the end of the first group in the series. The principal topic is Democratic party politics, with a focus on Roosevelt's political career. The letters also touch on Justice Department policy, pending legislation, legal cases, and appointments. There is some material here on the court-packing struggle, but the researcher is referred as well to the judicial reorganization papers in the miscellaneous section of this series. Some correspondence of a personal or social nature, including invitations and thank-you notes, is contained here, as are a few Roosevelt speeches. Finally there are several letters from Roosevelt to Cecilia Cummings and a few written by Eleanor Roosevelt to Cummings.
The "White House" Folders under "Correspondence with Government Agencies," in the Miscellaneous section of this series also contain correspondence between Cummings and Roosevelt.
2. Miscellaneous Papers. This is an additional group of correspondence, papers, and other items generated by Cummings' service as attorney general. The papers are arranged alphabetically by topic, and within each topic chronologically. The items in each folder are in chronological order:
a) Cummings' calendar of daily appointments, 1933-1938
b) Correspondence of the attorney general with various government agencies, 1933-1938: In his official capacity as attorney general, Cummings corresponded with staff members of other government agencies about matters of mutual concern. Of chief interest here is the correspondence with the White House, primarily concerning Justice Department affairs. Cummings corresponded with Roosevelt, his assistants, and secretaries.
c) Department of Justice Papers, 1933-1938: (1) Case Files: These legal case files are arranged by their designated number; (2) "Unclassified" Circulars: These departmental circulars were directed mainly to U.S. attorneys, clerks of U.S. district courts, and U.S. marshals. They are in chronological order; (3) Circulars, Press Releases, and Papers: The items have been grouped by topic, such as crime suppression, and war risk legislation, and arranged alphabetically; (4) Memoranda: Memoranda to and from Cummings with various divisions of the Justice Department, such as the FBI, the pardon attorney, and subordinates such as Ugo Carusi and Alexander Holtzoff, are found here. They are arranged alphabetically. Of special interest are the F.B.I. memoranda, between Cummings, J. Edgar Hoover, and their assistants. A number of Hoover speeches are located in this sections; (5) Miscellaneous Items, 1933-1939: A few lists, notes, and other papers have been placed at the end of this group.
d) Supreme Court Papers: This important group covers the gold cases which Cummings argued before the Supreme Court, and the controversial Judicial Reorganization (court-packing) Plan. (1) Gold Cases, 1933-1938: Correspondence, papers, and printed material are included, and are chronologically; (2) Judicial Reorganization, ca. 1787- 1952: [a] rough drafts of the plan; [b] correspondence and memoranda are grouped by subject, and arranged in a chronological sequence; [c] hearings are arranged chronologically; [d] speeches are arranged chronologically; [e] research material, including lists, graphs, notes on historical precedents of the plan, and printed material, in that order, chronologically; [f] newspaper clippings are in chronological order.
Series IV: Speeches and Articles
1. Speeches, 1886-1950: This series includes speeches by Cummings, speech research material, and related correspondence. They reflect his interest in law and politics and the progress of his career, and can be divided into four distinct periods.
The speeches from 1886-1916, delivered at a variety of civic and fraternal politics, bimetallism, and Robert Burns, and evidence young Cummings' growing political maturity.
Speeches for 1916- 1932 include politics, America's role in international affairs, and the World Court.
A number of national campaign speeches, 1932-1938, including Cummings' address seconding the nomination of Roosevelt at the Democratic National convention in 1936, are contained here. Attorney General Cummings delivered many speeches about crime control and the administration of criminal justice, specifically on firearms control and police training procedures. There are a number of addresses on judicial reorganization.
A few speeches, 1938-1948, regarding the war effort and public service, round out this group. The collection includes some speech research material, 1914-1953, such as newspaper and magazine clippings. Finally, there are a number of speeches by other individuals, and quite a few by members of the Justice Department on crime suppression, the New Deal, and the presidential campaign of 1936.
Following Cummings' own arrangement, his speeches are divided into two groups which are in chronological order by date of delivery. The first group is a "pure" speech file, and contains all his speeches for the years 1886-1948, the second group has speeches for the years 1926, 1933-1938, 1950, paired with related correspondence, usually letters in praise of the topic and delivery requesting copies. The research should note that the second series is not complete even for its year range, but that it does contain many of the corrected drafts of the addresses. The material is arranged as follows: (a) "Pure" Speech File, arranged chronologically; (b) speech file with related correspondence, arranged chronologically; (c) speech research material, arranged chronologically; (d) speeches by other individuals, arranged alphabetically by last name; (e) speeches by members of the Justice Department, arranged chronologically; (f) speeches by members of the Justice Department re: crime suppression, arranged chronologically.
2. Articles, 1918-1945: Cummings' articles are largely about crime and the penal system, though there are a few about the world court and the mission of democracy. They are arranged chronologically. There are a number of articles about Cummings, 1934-1940, all of which are comments upon and evaluations of Cummings as attorney general.
Series V. Literary Papers
1. Diaries, 1919-1956: Cummings kept a "Personal and Political Diary" from 1919-1946, in which he discussed his political and official activities including meetings and trips. These diaries offer an insider's view of Democratic politics and government, especially during the Roosevelt administration. Cummings also discusses personal and family matters, and social engagement. From 1947 to 1956, Cummings labeled his diaries "personal" only, but these contain many political references as well. There is also a travel diary and play about a trip to Hawaii, a housekeeping diary, and a medical diary. Appointment books for 1926 (1931-1955) round out this group. The material is arranged in the following order: (a) Personal and political diaries, travel diary, and housekeeping diary, arranged chronologically; (b) appointment books, arranged chronologically; (c) medical diary.
2. Literary Papers, 1750-1953: This group of papers relating to the publication of Cummings' books in chronological order. There are book reviews of Liberty Under Law and Administration, 1934-1935. For Federal Justice, on which Cummings collaborated with Carl McFarland, there are many source files with abstracts of legal briefs and historical data, ca. 1750-1938, notes, memoranda, drafts, correspondence, and book reviews, 1936-1937. There are drafts of The Biography of a Department, 1938, and correspondence regarding The Selected Letters of Homer S. Cummings, 1938-1941, edited by Carl Brent Swisher. There is also research material for projected books on the Lands Division of the Justice Department, 1828-1953, and on military law, 1804-1839. Cummings may well have worked with McFarland again on these last two projects.
Two card indexes, listed by subject, contain acts about the duties and powers of the attorney general. A card index to Cummings' own library completes the literary papers.
The twenty-six diaries, 1919-1926, of Homer Stille Cummings document a long career of public service and offer an insider's perspective on politics and government during years of great change in American life. By virtue of his position on the Democratic National committee, and as attorney general in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Cummings participated in historic events and associated with many other powerful people. As his role in the famous court-packing struggle indicated, his legal expertise made him a very important member of the Roosevelt cabinet.
All but the first volume of the diaries pertain to the period 1932-1956, and the most substantive are those for the years 1932- 1939. Cummings labeled the diaries and "Personal and Political," though there is very little personal material before 1939. He recorded his daily activities - meetings, conferences, official duties, speeches, telephone conversations, and social events - and occasionally wrote in a contemplative or analytical vein. The entries range from the schematic to the highly detailed. Extremely loyal to both Woodrow Wilson and Roosevelt, he described meetings with them very thoroughly, sometimes quoting them verbatim. Reflecting Cummigns' unique personality and strong sense of public service, these diaries are a valuable source for the study of an important but neglected figure. Researchers interested in Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the Democratic party would find them very useful.
The earliest dated diary (1919 April-1928 November) principally describes Cummings' travels around the country on behalf of the Democratic National Committee prior to the election of 192. There are no entries for the period 1921 April through 1923, very few for 1924 October-November, none for 1925-192, and a few for 1928 October- November. Some sections of the diary are written in the third person, probably by Cummings' secretary, Charles F. McGuire. The entries are, in the main, brief and factual in nature, recording Cummings' itinerary, speeches, meetings, and related organizational matters; there is very little analysis. Cummings did write at length about several interviews with Wilson, in which the two men discussed party politics, the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, the campaign and the election of 1920. At two points in the diary, Cummings refers to other memoranda, which have been pulled from the body of his papers and inserted in the appropriate places.
The diaries for the years 1932-1938 are much more substantial than the first volume. Except for the second volume (1932 January-1933 April 7) the volumes cover a calendar year, and include, at the end, the attorney general's calendar of daily appointments. The diaries document Cummings' active involvement in Roosevelt's campaign for the presidency in 1932; Cummings conferred extensively with Democratic leaders including David Fitzgerald, Edwin M. House, Louis Howe, and Roosevelt about the political situation in various states, strategy, and the Democratic National convention. He devoted many pages to the process of selecting Roosevelt's cabinet, and described the transition between administrations.
From the time he became attorney general, Cummings wrote extensively about his duties at the Justice Department, conferences with colleagues and associates, legislation, legal cases, appointments, testimony before Congressional committees, speeches, and trips. Specific areas of emphasis in the diaries included the judicial reorganization, or court-packing, plan, the gold bills, crime bills, tax cases, the N.R.A., and other "alphabet agencies." Cummings carefully recorded the business transacted at Cabinet, Executive Council, and National Emergency Council meetings, which rant he whole gamut of New Deal concerns: unemployment, relief efforts, labor and agricultural unrest, fiscal policy, business trends, visits of foreign leaders, and international affairs. Cummings described the views and behavior of individuals present, especially the present, and expressed his own opinions. Possessed of a ready wit, Cummings often wrote about the jokes and humorous incidents that lightened potentially grim Cabinet meetings. He devoted many pages of the diaries to Roosevelt, describing their meetings, telephone conversations, and social occasions in the White House. They discussed politics, Justice Department matters, appointments, domestic affairs, and especially the Supreme Court controversy. Except for Roosevelt, Cummings did not stress other individuals in the diary to any great extent, though there are references to other persons, including Harold Ickes, Cordell Hull, Henry Wallace, Raymond Moley, and Henry Morgenthau.
Besides administrative matters, Cummings also discussed strictly political subjects such as patronage, the Democratic National Convention of 1936, and the campaign of that year. The diaries indicate that he continued to be involved in Connecticut politics. By nature a very sociable man, he wrote about the numerous dinners, receptions, and cocktail parties, that he attended in an official and personal capacity, trips at home and abroad, and his annual golf tournaments at Pinehurst, North Carolina. Cummings also wrote a little about his wife Cecilia and son Dickinson S. Cummings.
Following his retirement the cabinet in January 1939, Cummings devoted himself to his law practice and personal affairs. But he remained an interested observer of politics and government, describing various Democratic National Conventions, candidates, and elections. He was still especially interested in Connecticut politics, and wrote at length about the career of his friend Senator Brien McMahon. Cummings met, advised, and socialized with many of his former colleagues. The diaries also document his association with diplomats from the Dominican Republic, and a memorandum describing Cummings' visit to that country in 1946 has been inserted in the appropriate place. In addition to recording his activities in a schematic fashion, Cummings occasionally reminisced about past experiences. The diary for 1944 in particular contains several references to events in the years 1832-1937.
VI. Law Firm Papers, 1909-1934, 1939-1953,
and Legal Case Files, ca. 1915-1933 (1928-1956)
This group consists of a few legal papers, mainly correspondence and documents, and many legal case files. They fall into two groups, the Cummings and Lockwood material, 1909-1934, and the Cummings and Stanley (later Cummings, Stanley, Truitt, and Cross) material, 1939-1953. Most of the correspondence is between the partners and relates to various cases and financial matters. The papers are grouped by subject and then arranged chronologically; the legal case files are arranged chronologically.
Series VII. Miscellaneous Papers,
There are a few miscellaneous papers, arranged as follows: (1) List of autographs of Cummings given out 1933-1939; (2) correspondence and papers regarding biographical information about Cummings, 1933-1953, arranged chronologically; (3) certificates, 1911-1956, arranged chronologically; (4) U.S. dollar bills and German bank notes; (5) programs, 1892-1950, arranged chronologically with bound volumes placed behind the folders; (6) souvenirs and mementoes, ca. 1922-1949; (7) first issue stamps, with related correspondence, 1934-1938.
Series VIII. Photographs, 1870-1953,
Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes, ca. 1850-1870
Many excellent photographs, of a personal and professional nature, are found in this collection. Of the approximately three thousand items, most date from the period of Cummings' active involvement in national political life, 1919-1939. The professional group of photographs contains portraits of Cummings himself, numerous autographed professional portraits of such persons as Edwin Alderman, Hugo Black, J. Edgar Hoover, Harry Hopkins, Charles Evan Hughes, Robert M. LaFollette, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, Alfred Smith, Adlai Stevenson, Harry Truman, Gene Tunney, and Woodrow Wilson. There are many group pictures of Cummings at work with colleagues and with friends, 1919- 1953; and several formal portraits including the 1904 meeting of the Mayor's Association of Connecticut, and the 1912 Democratic National Executive Committee, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 1933. The group pictures of Cummings with his colleagues taken prior to 1933 consist largely of his activities at the Democratic National Conventions of 1920 and 1924. The 1933-1939 portion of the professional photographs show Cummings in a wide variety of activities in his capacity as attorney general, including: participation in national conferences and conventions, such as the 1936 Democratic National Convention; visits to prison facilities; and delivering speeches at occasions such as the 1936 Illinois State Fair and the graduation of the Ninth Session of the F.B.I. National Police Academy in 1938. There are several portraits of Roosevelt's cabinet. The 1940-1953 group of pictures includes shots from Pinehurst, North Carolina, golf tournaments, the 1944 and 1948 Democratic National Convention, and Cummings' visits with Dominican Republic President Raphael Trujillo and other Latin American diplomats in the late 1940s.
The personal photographs in the collection relate to the following subjects: parents and ancestors, including Cummings' mother, father grandmother, cousins, aunt, and uncle; Cummings as a child, dating from the late 1870s; his early acquaintances, including persons of the Buffalo Unitarian Church and Sunday school; friends and professors at Yale University; interior and exterior views of buildings, including the Chicago house where Cummings was born in 1870, his parents' estates at Ruthven, Akron, New York, and Cummings' own home in Stamford, Connecticut. Following the early family photographs are portraits of Cummings' wives, Helen Smith Cummings, May Cecilia Waterbury Cummings, and Julia M. Alter Cummings, and then a large number of photographs and postcards from the vacations which Cummings took from 1926 to 1945. Among the places he visited were Hawaii, Europe, Latin America, and the Mideast.
A final miscellaneous group of photographs includes undated photographs of architectural monuments, paintings, art work, scenes from South America, Great Britain, Pinehurst, North Carolina and elsewhere in the United States, and a large number of photographic negatives. Several photograph albums relate to Cummings' family, acquaintances, and buildings of his youth, his 1934 trip to Hawaii and the Rocky Mountains, his 1938 trip to Minoqua, Wisconsin, and drawings and photographs of prison facilities built in 1938 while Cummings was attorney general.
The photographs are divided into three parts. The first portion of the collection, comprising photographs from Cummings' professional life, contains, first, autographed professional portraits of Cummings' acquaintances, alphabetically arranged, second, professional portraits of Cummings, followed, third, by group pictures of Cummings and his colleagues, arranged chronologically.
The second portion of the collection, the personal photographs, is also chronologically arranged. These photographs are grouped in the following order: primarily late nineteenth century family photographs; photographs of family residences, 1870-1935; portraits of Cummings' wives; a chronologically arranged series of folders relating to Cummings' travels abroad and his leisure activities (especially from the period of his marriage to Julia Cummings); and miscellaneous undated photographs.
The final portion of the collection contains photographic negatives, followed in turn by artistic reproductions, original drawings and poems, and photograph albums.
A few ambrotypes and daguerreotypes round out the collections. The subjects include Cummings' parents Uriah and Audie Cummings, his maternal grandparents, great-uncle, and other relatives.
- Box 1George P. Ingersoll to Mrs. Uriah Cummings, Mrs. Cummings to HSC 1910 June-1916 October
- Box 1Correspondence and Papers re: the estate of Palmer, Cummings and Cummings Cement Company v. Palmer Cummings 1913 Sept.-1915 March
- Box 1Correspondence and Papers of HSC mainly re: investments in Hudston-on-the-Bay real estate 1917 Jan.-1934 Dec.
- Box 1Joseph E. Davies to HSC 1919 Aug. 14
- Box 1Correspondence re: Dickinson S. Cummings' steam driver automobile 1920 June-1923 Oct.
- Box 1Correspondence of HSC re: purchase of stock in International Merchant Marine 1920 December-1921 March
- Box 1Correspondence, notes, and papers of HSC, including passports and letters of introduction, mainly re: European travel ca. 1921 June-1933 April
- Box 1Business Correspondence and Papers of HSC, mainly re: stocks 1922 January-1936 July
- Box 1Correspondence and Papers of HSC mainly re: stocks in the Stamford Gas & Electric and Connecticut Power Company 1922 April-1935 November
- Box 1Correspondence and Papers of HSC, mainly re: stock in the Western Connecticut Title and Mortgage Company 1922 June-1935 November
- Box 1Correspondence and Papers of HSC, mainly re: an income tax appeal, ca. 1929 1922 September-1932 December
- Box 2Correspondence and Papers re: HSC's Federal Street property, Stamford Connecticut ca. 1922 December-1939 July2 folders
- Box 2Correspondence and Papers of HSC, mainly re: stock in the Stamford Trust Company 1923 February-1936 July
- Box 2Correspondence and Papers of HSC, mainly re: mortgage wtih the McNeil Terminal Company 1924 March
- Box 2Correspondence and Papers of HSC, re: the possible purchase of land in Florida 1925 March
- Box 2Correspondence and Papers of HSC, re: investments in Indian Head Land Company 1925 June, 1931 May-1946 May
- Box 3Financial Papers of HSC re: property in Town of Norwalk ca. 1925 September-ca. 1934 January
- Box 3Correspondence of HSC, mainly re: the Stamford Land Company investments in Florida 1925 Oct.-1941