Working closely with the Curator of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Society seeks to identify and obtain -- through deed of gift or purchase -- items of particular relevance to the Court. Special emphasis is placed on acquiring unique items and items that fill gaps in the Court’s existing collection. The collection includes pieces of furniture, decorative items and artwork, original antique newspaper clippings, historic photographs and drawings, diaries, scrapbooks, ledgers, histories, biographies, genealogies, maps, audio and video recordings of oral history interviews, color slides and films. Items owned by the Society are used in the Supreme Court Building itself and are utilized in exhibits mounted for the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Supreme Court Building. Some of the graphic arts items are used as illustrations in publications produced by the Society.
The collection is processed, cataloged, preserved and stored according to current archival practices by the members of the Office of the Curator of the Court. The items in the collection are available for research and interpretive needs. Work is underway to provide a database for these materials that will be accessible through the internet.
In concert with the collections portion of the Acquisitions program, the Society has commissioned portraits of past and recent Justices to provide images of all members of the Court. Many of these portraits are displayed in public areas of the Supreme Court Building. In addition, the Society has provided funds to enable the maintenance of portraits and other items in the collection.
Past special projects include the manufacture of scale models of the current Supreme Court Chamber and the Restored Supreme Court Chamber where the Court sat in the US Capitol Building. Costs associated with the production of these models were paid by the Society. The models are displayed in the Lower Great Hall for visitors to view.
Below are samples of the items acquired by the Supreme Court Historical Society:
Silhouette of Chief Justice John Marshall
Silhouette of Chief Justice John Marshall, c. 1840-1890
Framed anonymous hollow-cut silhouette of Chief Justice John Marshall, depicted in his robes and sitting in a chair, facing right, holding a sheaf of papers out in front of him. Written below in faded ink is "John Marshall/Chief Justice U.S."
Chief Pencil Sketch of Charles Evans Hughes,
Pencil Sketch of Charles Evans Hughes, c. 1939-1941
Lightly drawn bust-length pencil sketch of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes by Austrian artist Oskar Stoessel. It is probably a preliminary sketch, drawn from life, for Stoessel's etching of Hughes, a copy of which was acquired through the Supreme Court Historical Society in 2006. Hughes' face has been drawn and shaded in detail while his shirt collar and tie are barely rendered. Signed in pencil is "St" [Stoessel]. This is the fourteenth piece by Mr. Stoessel in the Court's collection, and the first drawing.
Agnes Stone Watercolor, c. 1930-1958
Mexican Landscape by Agnes Stone, c. 1930-1958
Watercolor landscape of a small Mexican village by Agnes Stone, wife of Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone. Interestingly, on the back of the painting is another of a Maine fishing scene, also in watercolor. She clearly favored the Mexican landscape, for it was facing out when the framed piece was purchased, and was also signed (the Maine scene appears to be unfinished, and is unsigned). Mrs. Stone was an accomplished amateur painter who showed often in the mid-Atlantic, with three solo exhibits at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in the 1930s and 1940s.
Agnes Stone Watercolor, c. 1930-1958
Maine Fishing Scene by Agnes Stone, c. 1930-1958
(back of Mexican Landscape)
Photograph of Chief Justice William H. Taft, c. 1926. Framed, bust-length formal photograph of Chief Justice Taft, by Barnett Clinedinst. Inscribed by Taft to Lee Basye, Assistant Attorney General of Nebraska .
Photographs of Harlan F. Stone
Top left: Justice Stone seated in his robes, March 2, 1925. The press caption reads, in part: "Justice Stone has already been sworn in by Chief Justice Taft and is seen [here] for the first time in his judicial robes."
Top right: Justice Stone standing on the sidewalk outside his home, February 1, 1937. Press caption reads, in part: “Justice Stone has been seriously ill for the last three months. Several important decisions have been awaiting his return to the Bench."
Bottom left: Justice Stone rowing near his summer home in Isle au Haute, Maine, August 11, 1937.
Bottom right: Justice Stone with his wife Agnes in the back seat of a car, on their way to the annual State Reception to the Judiciary, hosted by President Roosevelt at the White House, January 6, 1939.
In addition, a bequest of several items relating to Justice Gabriel Duvall was made to the Supreme Court by the late Dr. & Mrs. William L. Guyton. Mrs. Guyton was a descendant of Justice Duvall. Their bequest includes:
An oil portrait of Justice Duvall, by an unknown artist, mid-19th Century.
A framed engraving of Justice Duvall, by Saint-Memin, 1806.
An engraving of Justice Duvall by Albert Rosenthal, 1888.
A hand-painted copy of the Du Val family coat of arms.
These four acquisitions were made in 2011
A cabinet card print of Justice Robert C. Grier by M. P. and A. I. Rice.
A full-length portrait albumen carte de visite of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, photographed by the Studio of Mathew Brady. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase is shown standing next to a decorative column base, wearing a dark suit and thick bow tie. Drapery hangs above the base, and an armchair is behind him. The print is mounted on cardstock with the name “Salmon P. Chase” written in pencil below.
A bust-length oil portrait of Justice John McLean, unsigned and undated. Justice McLean is shown wearing a black jacket over a white shirt and a black neck tie. His right hand rests under the breast of his jacket. This portrait likely dates from the period of McLean’s service on the Court and may possibly be attributed to the artist G. P. A. Healy.
A three quarter-length oil portrait of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, painted by George Burroughs Torrey. Chief Justice Hughes is shown wearing his judicial robe and holding a roll of documents. His left hand rests on a copy of the U.S. Reports. The portrait was originally painted for the Lawyer's Club in New York City and exhibited there until the club dissolved in the 1970s. It was donated by Kenneth S. Hughes, a descendant of Chief Justice Hughes.