Union College of Law

Founded in 1859 as the law school for an older, now defunct University of Chicago, the Union College of Law became Northwestern University School of Law in 1891.1 Arthur H. Simms was an alumnus.

When Simms attended, the school was located at 80 Dearborn Street (1880 to 1889) or 40 Dearborn Street (1889 to 1893).2

There is a guide to Records of the Union College of Law maintained at Northwestern, and archivist Kevin Leonard (per phone conversation October 21, 2015) also referred me to James Rahl and Kurt Schwerin’s Northwestern University School of Law: A Short History (1960) for relevant information. Also see James E. Babb’s 1889 article in The Green Bag, which includes photographs and profiles of faculty at the Law Institute at that time.3 Babb also discusses debates over the methods of legal instruction, and explains his preference for textbooks, lectures, and recitation over retort and case studies:

Upon all these differences as to methods of instruction, it is believed that the Union College of Law has occupied wisely conservative ground. It makes daily recitation from approved textbooks the basis, supplemented by lectures from time to time as the students become sufficiently acquainted with the elementary principles to profit by an exposition of their relations and interdependence. All the while the students are accustomed to the exposition of particular cases, and are taught how to study, analyze, and judge them, also how to draught the papers used in the practice of law. No doubt, if the school could be sustained by the bar and the public in its desire to extend its course of instruction to three years, the third year would, to a very largely increasing extent, be taken up with lectures and original work in decided case.

According to Babb, from its establishment, the college offered a course of study that involved “two years of nine months each,” and a detailed curriculum with course titles and facutly is provided (336). It boasted, according to Babb, a library of 22,000 books, “doubtless one of the largest Law Libraries in this country” (338).

An article in the Chicago Legal News gives brief statistics about numbers of graduates by year, as well as a history of the institution and a founding gift of $5,000 by Thomas Hoyne, while another makes an announcement about Fred M. Burrows, a “young colored man who graduated some two years ago from the Union College of Law of this city.” (Burrows appears in the same commencement program as Simms.) An issue of The Law Student’s Helper contains a profile of another member of the 1889 class, Milton O. Naramore, as well as a memoir by an 1880 graduate who had grown up as a farm boy and struggled financially to make it through school. Both publications have frequent ads for the college.

According to a letter to the editor in The Crisis in 1975, a woman (Ada H. Kepley) graduated from the school as early as 1870.

For other African American graduates of the college before 1900, see J. Clay Smith, Jr., Emancipation, available for preview on Google Books and the Cook County Bar Association website. William L. Dawson was another famous African American graduate of the school in the early twentieth century.

Another famous alumnus was future governor of Illinois Frank O. Lowden, who graduated valedictorian from the college in 1887 (completing the two-year program in one) and married Florence Pullman, the daughter of the famous railroad car, perhaps making plausible a memory of Arthur H. Simms that he had once met Pullman.

One alumnus (Frank H. Childs, Class of 1883) recalled that “the diploma admitted to the Illinois Bar without examination.”4

In 1892, an ugly split between one of the school’s most well known faculty led to the creation of the Kent College of Law.

See also a biographical sketch of Thomas Hoyne, the school’s founder.

  1. See the 1891 charter for the newly joined schools on Google Books in a multivolume history of Northwestern University by Arthur Herbert Wilde.

  2. rahlschwerin1960, p. 9.

  3. James E. Babb, “Union College of Law, Chicago,” The Green Bag 1, no. 8 (August 1889), 330-338, link.

  4. rahlschwerin1960, p. 11.