Irving G. Vann
Papers, 1863-1918; bulk, 1895-1913
|Quantity:||3 boxes (ca. 2.0 cubic ft.)|
|Access:||Open to research|
|Acquisition:||Gift from Albert Vann Fowler in November 1944|
|Processed By:||Abigail L. Fahrenwald Simkovic, Student Assistant, University at Albany, April 2013.|
Related Exhibit: Governor Sulzer Impeached
Irving Goodwin Vann (1842-1921) was born on his parents' farm at Willow Creek in the town of Ulysses, Tompkins County, New York, on January 3, 1842. He was the only child of Samuel R. Vann and Catherine H. Goodwin Vann. His great-grandfather on his father's side, Samuel Vann, had been a lieutenant in the Revolutionary War. His grandfather on his mother's side, Joseph Goodwin, fought in the War of 1812.
Vann received no formal education until he attended the Trumansburg Academy in preparation for college. He also spent a year of study at Ithaca Academy, which enabled him to enroll at Yale College in 1859. After struggling his first year to catch up with his more formally-schooled classmates, Vann graduated with his class in 1863. During his time at Yale Vann was an active member of the then literary society, now famous fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon.
Initially pursuing a career in education, Vann became a high school principal and teacher in Owensboro, Kentucky. Although his employers urged him to continue in that field, he resigned after a year and began to study law at the office of Boardman & Finch in Ithaca, New York. In the fall of 1864, he entered Albany Law School, graduating in the spring of 1865. Although he never returned to a full-time teaching career, the cause of public education was one he championed throughout his time as both mayor and judge. Later in life Vann lectured at the Syracuse, Albany, and Cornell law schools.
Upon his graduation from Albany Law School, Vann accepted a position at the Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C. In less than a year, however, he returned home to central New York, joining the law firm of Raynor & Butler in Syracuse. Thus began an illustrious career in private practice in a succession of law firms bearing his name: Vann & Fiske, Raynor & Vann, Fuller & Vann, and Vann, McLennan & Dillaye. Irving Vann became an accomplished appellate lawyer.
Vann married Julie Florence Dillaye (1846-1934), the daughter of a prominent Syracuse real estate developer, on October 11, 1870. The couple had two children: Florence (1871-1942) and Irving Dillaye (1875-1944). Vann was an active member of the Syracuse legal community, was one of the founders of the New York State Bar Association, and served as an early president of the Onondaga Bar Association. He also served as president of a number of civic and philanthropic organizations, including the Woodlawn Cemetery Board and the Onondaga Red Cross Society, and was a member of many others, including the New York State Historical Society and the Albany Historical Society. He founded the Onondaga Country Club and was its first president in 1898, and was active in a number of social organizations, including the Century Club, the Fort Orange Club, and the University Club. Though a member of the liberal wing of the Republican Party, Vann remained popular with all partisan party members while participating extensively in local political affairs.
Vann's return to work in the private sector after the completion of a one-year term in 1880 as mayor of Syracuse was short-lived. In 1881 his party nominated him to run for Justice of the Supreme Court in the Fifth Judicial District. He won by a margin of over 11,000 votes. Justice Vann served on the Supreme Court trial bench until 1889 when he began the first of his two associations with the Court of Appeals. When a Second Division of the Court of Appeals was created in 1889 to address the court's overwhelming case load, Vann was one of seven Supreme Court justices from throughout the state who were appointed to decide appeals sitting as a separate body from the original court. Justice Vann served on the Second Division until it was dissolved in 1892 at which time he returned to the trial bench. At the conclusion of his first term on the Supreme Court in 1895, Justice Vann was endorsed by both parties to run for re-election.
In 1896 Governor Levi P. Morton appointed Vann to the Court of Appeals, filling the vacancy created when Judge Rufus W. Peckham, Jr., was elevated to the United States Supreme Court. Since a Court of Appeals judgeship was then an elected position, Vann soon found himself running in a statewide election. He again proved his strength as a candidate, winning by a majority of 243,180, which at that time was the largest majority ever achieved by a state officer in a contested election.
Upon the completion of his 14-year term, Vann was nominated by both parties and succeeded at being re-elected to a second term in the fall of 1910. He served on the Court of Appeals until January 1, 1913, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Following his retirement, he continued to serve the people of New York State as the official referee appointed to hear claims arising out of the construction of the barge canal.
During his tenure on the Court of Appeals, Irving G. Vann authored a number of significant opinions. Perhaps the most well known is In Re Totten (179 NY 112 ), in which the Court articulated the common law rules applicable to what has come to be known as a "Totten Trust." This cogent statement remains black-letter law, Irving G. Vann's opinion having been cited by the Court of Appeals as recently as 2003 (see Eredics v. Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 100 NY2d 106, 110 ). Equally significant was his decision in Tabor v. Hoffman (118 NY 30 ), where Vann articulated fundamental principles that have since governed trade secret law, i.e., distinguishing between the free imitation of a competitor's product and the stealing of product secrets through bribery or other wrongdoing. But the opinion that best displays Irving G. Vann's personality and literary skill is Smith v. United States Casualty Co. (197 NY 420 ) in which the court held that, under the common law, a person has the right to change his or her name at will as long as the alteration is done in good faith and for an honest purpose. In this opinion Vann cited historical instances of figures changing their names from Roman politicians to Romantic poets.
Vann had an extensive knowledge of history, art, and literature that was displayed in many of his sentencing speeches. His home library contained more than 10,000 volumes, many of which were rare.
Vann spent much of his leisure time outdoors, collected antique firearms and was known as an avid sportsman until advancing years and ill health limited his activity. That he had lost none of his literary deftness was evident when, in 1913, he addressed the University Club in Albany. In a speech entitled "Yale Fifty Years Ago," the manuscript of which is in this collection, Vann described life as a student in New Haven from 1859 to 1863. He gave the talk at the end of 1912 on the last day of his life on the court "before becoming disqualified by constitutional softening of the brain," he said.
In 1913 Vann, with D-Cady Herrick [sic] and others, defended Governor William Sulzer during his impeachment trials. Although involved in the preparation of the defense, poor health prevented Vann from being present at the actual court proceedings. After the trial Vann refused to accept any payment for his work, claiming that since he was already an employee of the state, further remuneration was not required.
Vann died at his home in Syracuse on March 22, 1921. He was survived by his wife and their children. Their daughter, Florence, married Albert Perry Fowler (1867-1915), and it was their son, Albert Vann Fowler (1904-1968), who donated this collection to the New York State Library.
Scope and Content Note:
The correspondence in this collection covers 40 years of Irving G. Vann's life, and encompasses pieces from his personal, business, and political correspondence. The correspondence not only provides one with an extensive picture of Vann's personality, it also gives one a detailed picture of his involvement in various social causes, such as his suggestions for the improvement of the government's execution of the death penalty. Many of the items in his correspondence are related to his political career, including many letters containing his recommendations for various people to political positions including presidents, vice presidents, governors, and judges. There are letters from two presidents in the correspondence: two from William Howard Taft, one as president-elect and one as president, and two from Theodore Roosevelt, both from his time as governor of New York. The correspondence deals with many topics in the political and social realm: labor regulations, the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, various New York bar associations, capital crimes and their trials in New York State versus other states, Republican politics in New York, and the New York State Civil Service Committee. Most of his personal correspondence concerns the lives of other judges and their families.
The speeches in the collection provide not only a broad view of Irving G. Vann throughout his life, but also a broad representation of America and the American politics of his time. During his time at Yale Vann was a member of the then college literary society, now fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon. The earliest speeches in this collection are dissertations compiled for presentation and defense within his college literary society meetings. The later speeches in the collection date from the last decade of his life. The political topics covered by Vann in his speeches include Reconstruction, the impeachment of Andrew Jackson, the American legal system, Abraham Lincoln, the rise of modern medicine, women and the suffrage movement, the Panama Canal, public education in America. The speeches also include samples of his sentencing speeches, including three for capital crimes. Several of the speeches are directed towards Vann's Jewish constituency.
A large quantity of materials in this collection relates to the impeachment of Governor William Sulzer in 1913. There are manuscript drafts of Governor Sulzer's defense by Irving G. Vann, D-Cady Herrick, and Alton Parker, as well as many published court copies of the proceedings of the impeachment trial. Within the correspondence are letters and telegrams from Alton Parker discussing the scheduling of the trial. The scrapbook in Box 3 contains many clippings from New York State newspapers, at least two of which are in German, about the impeachment case. Each of the clippings was marked by the scrapbook's creator with the origin and date of the clipping. Within the scrapbook also are pieces of correspondence between counsel on the case and between counsel and Governor Sulzer, as well as a copy of the series of telegrams in support of Governor Sulzer that were sent to New York State periodicals. A bound copy of the Court of Impeachment Testimony, which contains the arguments, witnesses, and exhibits from the trial, is also in the collection. The entirely of this is found within Box 2; however because of the degradation of the binding this copy of the Testimony has been separated into folders by the date of the proceeding, with the original order of the publication respected.
The holdings of the Onondaga Historical Association in Syracuse, New York, include a series of scrapbooks of clippings relative to the political and judicial career of Judge Irving Vann; scrapbooks containing invitations to banquets, memorial services, receptions, bar association activities, and the White House, 1892-1914; and a scrapbook of appointments and correspondence, related chiefly to judicial politics and activities, 1865-1891.
Box and Folder List:
|Letters by Irving G. Vann.|
|Letters to Irving G. Vann.|
|1||2||Letters to Irving G. Vann, A-C.
|1||3||Letters to Irving G. Vann, D-J.
|1||4||Letters to Irving G. Vann, K-O.
|1||5||Letters to Irving G. Vann P-S.
|1||6||Letters to Irving G. Vann T-W.
|Letters neither by nor to Irving G. Vann.|
|Letters to Judge Peter B. McLennan.|
|Printed and typed materials relating to the impeachment of Governor Sulzer.|
|1||11||"Argument of Louis Marshall on Motion to Dismiss for Want of Jurisdiction," printed, 1913.|
|1||12||"Impeachment of Gov. Sulzer - Read the Evidence Yourself," publication, 1913. In delicate condition.|
|1||19||Newspaper- Syracuse, N.Y., Evening Herald, August 4, 1882.|
|Court of Impeachment Testimony|
|2||2||"Index of Proceedings"|
|2||3||Proceedings of September 18, 1913. Pages 1-16.|
|2||4||Proceedings of September 19, 1913. Pages 17-142.|
|2||5||Proceedings of September 22, 1913. Pages 143-244.|
|2||6||Proceedings of September 23, 1913. Pages 245-392.|
|2||7||Proceedings of September 24, 1913. Pages 393-556.|
|2||8||Proceedings of September 25, 1913. Pages 557-708.|
|2||9||Proceedings of September 26, 1913. Pages 709-812.|
|2||10||Proceedings of September 29, 1913. Pages 813-900.|
|2||11||Proceedings of September 30, 1913. Pages 901-1020.|
|2||12||Proceedings of September 1, 1913. Pages 1021-1096.|
|2||13||Proceedings of October 2, 1913. Pages 1097-1110.|
|2||14||Proceedings of October 6, 1913. Pages 1111-1186.|
|2||15||Proceedings of October 7, 1913. Pages 1187-1292.|
|2||16||Proceedings of October 8, 1913. Pages 1293-1414.|
|2||17||"Index of Proceedings"|
|2||18||Proceedings of October 9, 1913. Pages 1415-1542.|
|2||19||Proceedings of October 10, 1913. Pages 1543-1640.|
|2||20||Proceedings of October 13, 1913. Pages 1641-1644.|
|2||21||Proceedings of October 14, 1913. Pages 1645-1700.|
|2||22||Proceedings of October 15, 1913. Pages 1701-1702.|
|2||23||Proceedings of October 16, 1913. Pages 1703-1824.|
|2||24||Proceedings of October 17, 1913. Pages 1825-1871.|
|3||2-56||Newspaper clippings relating to the William Sulzer impeachment, 1913.|
|3||61||TLS Louis Marshall to Irving G. Vann, August 19, 1913.|
|3||64||Excerpt from the Knickerbocker Press, August 11, 1913.|
|3||76||TLS Judge Frank Hiscock to Irving G. Vann, Albany, N.Y., February 25, 1914.|
|3||77||TLS William Sulzer to Irving G. Vann, December 8, 1916.|
|3||79-88||Copy of telegrams in support of William Sulzer sent to newspapers by William Sulzer's office, August 17, 1913.|