Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights

-Michelle Page

The Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights was established in 1981 as part of the Project for the Study of Human Rights at George Mason University.  The Center examined the formation of the Bill of Rights and the ways that landmark document was influenced by George Mason of Gunston Hall.  It also coordinated an annual lecture series known as “The Legacy of George Mason,” and published these lectures through the George Mason University Press.  The lectures focused largely on the histories of states and countries that established bills of rights as well as the effects of the First Amendment.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to process records from the Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights.  These records date back from the time the Center was established in 1981 all the way to 1992.  Material in this collection includes videotapes from “The Legacy of George Mason” lecture series, photographs, address lists, audience survey forms, bibliography of human rights, organizational bill of rights, documents on advisory committees as well as a number of associations and institutional societies.  It also contains records pertaining to correspondence, grants proposals, budgets, and conferences, among other things.

While processing this collection I came across a folder containing hand drawn portraits of Supreme Court Justices Hugo Black and Felix Frankfurter from 1982.   Both these portraits were done by Oscar Berger and were provided to the Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights by The National Portrait Gallery.

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Autographed sketch, drawn from life of Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Box 19, Folder 5. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives, speccoll@gmu.edu.

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Autographed sketch, drawn from life of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Box 19, Folder 5. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections and Archives, speccoll@gmu.edu.

In addition to the above portraits I came across this photo, given to the Center by the Library of Congress, that is visually appealing and captures a piece of history.

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Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 11, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

These are photos taken during the Center’s “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1982 and 1983.

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1982. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 19, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1983. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 20, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

 

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Photograph taken during a “Legacy of George Mason” lecture series in 1983. Center for the Study of Constitutional Rights records, Collection #R0007, Box 19, Folder 21, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

 *Ms. Page is an archival student assistant at Special Collections & Archives and working towards her MS in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area finding aid updated

The League of Women Voters (LWV) was founded in 1920 by Carrie Chapman Catt, a leader in the women’s suffragist movement. Its purpose is to encourage citizens to participate actively in government by supporting the party of their choice. While the LWV is a nonpartisan organization, and therefore does not support individual candidates, it does take a position on issues of a national, state, and local scale selected by the membership. In the past the LWV has garnered support for such issues as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and equal opportunity for women in government.

I recently had the opportunity to update the finding aid for the League of Women Voters of the Fairfax area with new accessions from 2012 and 2013. Within these new accessions I noticed a folder for the Observer Corps with materials dating from 1970 to 1980. Inside the folder is an Observer’s Manual from the League of Women Voters of Michigan. I was instantly interested. What is the Observer Corps, I wondered. The graphic on the manual is of a young woman peeking from behind a notebook.

Observer’s Manual, League of Women Voters of Michigan, December 1970. League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area records, Collection #C0031, Box 72, Folder 2. Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Apparently members of the Observer Corps go to meetings of interest, observe the proceedings, and report back to the League through a short report that is featured in a bulletin. A position description from 1980 specifies qualifications such as: “1. Interest in government and desire to learn. 2. Ability to keep eyes and ears open and mouth shut. 3. Reliability.” According to issues of the Fairfax Voter from 2010 and 2012 it seems that the Fairfax league has restarted their Observer Corps and is looking for interested individuals.

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth!

Key to the city of Fairfax from the Joseph L. Fisher papers, Collection #C0028, Box 116, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

Although we don’t collect a lot of political memorabilia, this key to the city of Fairfax from the Joseph L. Fisher collection is a pretty cool piece. It was given to Fisher on July 4, 1979.

Fisher’s career, spanning over fifty years, included planner member of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia’s 10th congressional district (1974-1981), Virginia Secretary of Human Resources, special assistant to the president of George Mason University, and president of the National Academy of Public Administration. In addition, Fisher was deeply involved in community activities, having been chairman of the Arlington County Board, chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), president and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments (COG), and moderator and chairman of the board of the Unitarian Universalist Association. He also wrote several books, including World Prospects for Natural Resources (1964) and Resources in America’s Future (1963).

The Joseph L. Fisher collection relates to Fisher’s career as an economist, educator, and U.S. Congressman. The materials include lectures and comments on conservation and natural resources, scrapbooks, pamphlets, appointment books, and correspondence. Materials that relate to his political career in U.S. House of Representatives include correspondence, speeches, press releases, reports, newspaper clippings, issue papers, testimony, statements, questionnaires, background publications, guidelines, charts, and legislation.

The finding aid for the Fisher collection has been recently updated.

Newly installed public phones ready for local and long distance calls

Detail from "Drugs store", Midwest commercial architecture photograph collection, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University.

The newly digitized Midwest Commercial Architecture Photograph Collection consists of 32 photographs depicting commercial buildings in rural northwestern Ohio with Central Union Telephone Co. signs indicating recently installed telephones. There are a variety of commercial buildings present in the photographs, as well as telephone poles, merchants’ signs, displays of goods, customers, horse drawn wagons, and bicycles. Three of the photographs do not depict buildings but, instead, one is of a telephone operator office, and the two others depict three men posing humorously for the camera. The photographs date from the early 1900s.

The details shown here are examples of signs found in the photographs. Details above are from “Laundry office”, “House with telephone sign”, and “Piper’s Grocery storefront”. Details below are from “Building with Bell telephone sign”, “Lease & Twining storefront”, and “A.D. Baumhart: The Druggist Store”. Each image of a telephone sign links to the larger photograph.

The Central Union Telephone Company was originally based in Chicago and in 1883 took over the Midland Telephone Company, a Bell organization also based in Chicago. Many Bell patents expired in 1893 and 1894 resulting in an increase of competing telephone companies. By the early 1900s the Central Union Telephone Company was headquartered in Indiana and was organized to develop telephone service in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. Mergers in the telephone industry in the early 1900s resulted in Central Union Telephone becoming part of Indiana Bell, Illinois Bell and Ohio Bell. In 1920 Central Union Telephone Company was purchased by the Ohio Bell Telephone Company which emerged from the Cleveland Telephone Company. In the 1920s telephone service in Ohio was unified under Ohio Bell. [More information can be found at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History].

Images from other collections that feature the Central Union Telephone company in Ohio and Indiana can be found on SC&A’s Pinterest board.