200 Years of Philadelphia Legal History at Auction

200 Years of Philadelphia Legal History at Auction

Portraits from the Jenkins Memorial Law Library come to auction

10/29/2018     News and Film

Freeman's November 14 sale of American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts will bring to auction nearly 500 lots of important artwork and furnishings, across all collecting areas. Notably, the auction concludes with more than 60 portraits of prominent lawyers from the Library of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the oldest association of lawyers in the United States.

In 1802, a group of 71 lawyers met and established the Law Library Company of the City of Philadelphia to share law books. The first location of the Law Library Company was a room in Independence Hall. Over the next two centuries, the Library grew in size and moved six times, including to locations such as the Athenæum and Philadelphia City Hall. The name of the organization evolved to the Law Association of Philadelphia and, ultimately, to the Philadelphia Bar Association. The Library of the Philadelphia Bar Association was renamed The Theodore F. Jenkins Memorial Law Library in 1967.

Along with the purchase of legal books and manuscripts for the Law Library, portraits and sculptures were purchased and presented to honor and celebrate current and past figures of importance to the local and national legal community. The first portrait to hang on the Law Library walls arrived in 1825. By the 1830s, the Library of the Law Association of Philadelphia had some of the city's finest portraits, painted by Thomas Sully, John Neagle, Henry Inman and others. The lawyers depicted in these portraits were often among Philadelphia's most famous citizens-renowned orators, educators, community and legislative leaders, as well as highly successful litigators. Through the years, the Philadelphia Bar Association has treasured and conserved the collection.

As the Jenkins Memorial Law Library prepares to move to smaller quarters, the Philadelphia Bar Association has decided that it is time that the collection's paintings and sculptures find new, respectful and responsible owners. Freeman's is honored to assist the Philadelphia Bar Association with this effort.

Highlights from the collection of portraits to be offered include Lot 419, a portrait of Horace Binney (1780-1875), by Thomas Sully (1783-1872) (estimate: $5,000-10,000). Binney graduated from Harvard in 1797 and was admitted to the bar in 1800. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was twice offered nomination to the Supreme Court, refusing both. Also by Sully is Lot 421, a portrait of Joseph Reed Ingersoll (1786-1868), who served as a Whig member of the House of Representatives and held the position of Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary (estimate: $4,000-6,000). Lot 412, a portrait of Edward Tilghman (1750-1815) by Philadelphia native Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), depicts the distinguished Philadelphia lawyer who was once offered the position of Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (estimate: $5,000-8,000).

The portraits, as well as the entire auction, will open for public exhibition beginning Saturday, November 10, and continuing through Tuesday, November 13, at Freeman's Philadelphia headquarters.

View the complete collection today.