Contents and Arrangement

Lawrence Speiser Records, 1951-1970

23 boxes

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

Series 2, Lawrence Speiser Records, 1951-1970, relates to his work in Washington, D.C. and also his work in San Francisco in connection with the National ACLU and the Northern California affiliate. Case files comprise the bulk of this series, with some cases filling several folders. Case files typically contain correspondence, briefs, drafts of pleadings, and research notes, and are interfiled with regular subject files. Case files from the early 1950s concern cases brought by Speiser in California regarding the illegality of requiring loyalty oaths by qualifiers of certain tax exemption status, including veterans and churches. Also included in this series is a folder of correspondence from 1968 to 1969 of Victoria Popkin, Assistant Director of the Washington Office.

The following headings in this series contain substantial material.

The Assembly and Public Protest section contains case files related to federal employees' right to protest, including records regarding a case in which a U.S. Post Office employee was dismissed for writing to a newspaper and another case in which employees of the U.S. Geological Survey were dismissed for testifying before a committee as private citizens. Other cases include State of California v. Amdur which involved the denial of a permit to use a public sidewalk, and Koel v. Resor regarding the defense of the American Nazi Party's right to wear their uniforms at the burial of George Lincoln Rockwell in a national cemetery.

The Censorship section contains substantial material on the case involving Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. Other cases include Mass v. U.S. detailing the publication of the "Valachi Papers" which disclosed information about organized crime; cases involving the publication of Overseas Weekly and its distribution to the Armed Forces; and a case involving Lawrence Ferlinghetti's bookstore and its sale of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Also included in this section are materials about the Cunningham Amendment which called for the Post Office to censor Communist materials.

The Church-State heading contains material on conscientious objection for religious and non-religious reasons; loyalty oaths (other items also can be found under the "Loyalty and Security" heading), including a case, Torcaso v. Watkins, in which Roy Torcaso refused to swear an oath to God upon his receipt of a notary public's commission and was then denied the commission; a case repudiating the requirement of loyalty oaths in California in order for churches to gain tax exemption; and background information on a public school in Swanton, Vermont which proposed connecting its building to the building of a religious school. (Note that material about non-religious conscientious objectors can be found under the "Conscientious Objector" heading.)

The Court Proceedings section contains documents relating to civil liberties violations in court procedures and sentencing including areas such as: parole, mental illness, alcoholism, habeas corpus, contempt of court, capital punishment, extradition, denial of counsel, double jeopardy and the handling of juveniles. A well-documented case is Brown v. U.S. which deals with juveniles as witnesses.

The Federal Agencies section documents civil liberty issues in relation to federal agencies such as the Agency for International Development (AID); Civil Service Commission; Department of Justice; Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Peace Corps; Treasury Department; and branches of the Armed Forces that deal with non-military personnel.

Loyalty and Security contains some California cases, including those involving the requirement of the swearing of an oath in order to obtain veteran's tax exemption, a major case being Speiser v. Randall involving Speiser himself; and the requirement of an oath for tenants to live in public housing (part of the Gwinn Amendment for which there is a substantial amount of information in this section). Also included is information and cases involving the defense of federal employees considered security risks for their various relations and associations.

Rights of Mentally Ill includes materials relating to the case of Lynch v. Overholzer in which the defendant was judged sane and then pled guilty, but was then found innocent by reason of insanity and subsequently committed to a mental institution. And a file containing correspondence regarding Ezra Pound's commitment and the attempts by his wife to have him released.

The Selective Service heading includes a case file for National Student Association v. Hershey from the late 1960s which was a reaction to a directive by Lewis B. Hershey, head of the Selective Service Board that threatened war protesters with reclassification and possible loss of draft deferments.

Other headings included in this series include Freedom of Movement which details issues concerning visas, passports, and naturalization; Illegal Police Practices, which includes a significant amount of material on search and seizure, false arrest, and illegal detention. Military Justice involves due process violations in military court including: security clearance, discharge for aliens, discrimination, and denial of right to counsel. Subjects covered under Voting Rights include poll taxes, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and several folders on reapportionment and the Dirksen Amendment.

This series also contains significant case file material, primarily transcripts, of the proceedings of U.S. v. F.C.C., a case concerning the application for a license involving International Telephone and Telegraph, Inc. (ITT) and the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the ACLU's concern that the merger of ITT and ABC would create a broadcasting monopoly.


No arrangement action taken or arrangement information not recorded at the time of processing.

Collection History


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Tom Rosko in Spring 1995. Finding aid written by Tom Rosko in Spring 1995.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Lawrence Speiser Records; American Civil Liberties Union Washington, D.C. Office Records, MC190, Public Policy Papers, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (mudd): Box 13-35

Find More