Alden Chester
Orations, 1871-1888


Quantity: 1 box (0.25 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift of Susan Leath, Town of Bethlehem Historian, July 2016
Processed By: Regina Berry, Student Assistant, State University of New York at Albany, August 2016

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Biographical Note:

Justice Alden Chester was born at Westford, Otsego County, New York, on September 4, 1848, to Alden Chester and Susan Draper. He was educated in the local schools and at Westford Literary Institute. He taught at the institute and worked as a clerk in a village store. At 18 he was a telegraph operator on the Albany and Susquehanna Railroad. He also worked as the editor of a newspaper in Otsego County and an insurance clerk in Boston. He then took up the study of law at Columbia University Law School, from which he graduated in 1871; he was admitted to the bar in 1871, in New York City, and married Lina Thurber that same year.  The couple had a daughter, Amy, born in 1877.

He practiced in Albany with a cousin, Andrew S. Draper, until 1887. (Draper later became president of the University of Illinois and the first Commissioner of Education of the State of New York.) From 1876 to 1882, William S. Paddock was a member of the firm, under the name Paddock, Draper & Chester. From 1887 until 1895, Chester practiced alone. In 1895 he was elected to New York State's Third Judicial District Supreme Court; he was re-elected in 1909, at the end of his first 14-year term. He was appointed to the New York State's Appellate Division by Gov. Benjamin Odell, serving from 1902 to 1909. Although he was the senior associate justice in 1909 and would normally have continued on the Appellate Division and had good prospect of being appointed presiding justice, he returned to the trial bench at the behest of Gov. Charles Evans Hughes to help clear an unusual backlog of cases; he worked so assiduously at this task that he became ill and had to travel to Europe for several months to completely recover. He retired from the bench at the end of 1918, having reached 70 years of age.

In addition to his judicial career, Justice Chester served as deputy clerk of the New York State Assembly from 1874 to 1876; as a member of the Board of Public Instruction of Albany from 1881 to 1884 (and as its president in 1884); as an assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York from 1882 to 1885; and as an assistant corporation counsel of the City of Albany from 1894 to 1895. He also served as president of the Albany Medical College, a trustee of the Albany College of Pharmacy, a governor of Union University, and a special lecturer on the federal judicial system at Albany Law School. He was president of the American Bar Association in 1919.

Chester could trace his ancestry back to English settlers in the early to mid-1600s on both his maternal and paternal sides. On his mother's side, he was descended from Elder William Brewster, who came to America on the Mayflower. Both of his grandfathers were Revolutionary War soldiers and his maternal grandfather was at the battle of Bunker Hill. Justice Chester died February 12, 1934.

Justice Chester was the author/editor of two-volume The Legal and Judicial History of New York (New York: National Americana Society, 1911), and the four-volume Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History (New York, Chicago: American Historical Society, 1925).

Source: Historical Society of the New York Courtsexternal link website.

Scope and Content Note:

The collection contains drafts and texts of speeches and essays written and delivered by Alden Chester at various events, often on national patriotic holidays. The speeches reflect his interest in the history of the United States and his Republican political leanings, as well as his support for the temperance movement. His essay on "The Legal Status of Women" shows him to be in line with conservative views of the time that the rightful place of women was in the home.  Another interesting item is his oration on the health merits of happiness and laughter: "Laugh and Grow Fat."

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Description
1 1 "The Declaration of Independence," draft, New York, April 22, 1871 (27 p.)
1 2 "Parties in the Late Election.  How Will the Recent Prohibition Campaign Effect the Cause of temperance?" Read at Albany County Lodge, I[nternational] O[rder] of G[ood] T[emplars], Beaverwick [sic] Hall, Nov. 24, 1874 (11 p.)
1 3 "The Declaration of Independence," partial essay plus newspaper clipping, ca. 1875 (6 p.)
1 4 "The Presidential Canvass, 1876" (42 p.)
1 5 "An Essay on the Declaration of Independence, Written in Competition for the Prizes given in the Department of Political Science in Columbia Law School, Term of 1870-71, by Alden Chester (member of the senior class), New York 1871."  [Given at] Albany, N.Y.,  July 1878 (31 p.)
1 6 "Remarks at Albany Penitentiary, Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1878." (3 p.)
1 7 "Oration Delivered at East Worcester, N.Y., by Alden Chester of Albany, N.Y., on Decoration Day 1879." (42 p.)
1 8 "The Presidential Campaign 1880." (46 p.)
1 9 "Memorial Day Address, Delivered at Schaghticoke, N.Y., May 30, 1888 by Alden Chester." (21 p.)
1 10 "The Influence of Events and of Men," n.d. (5 p.)
1 11 "The Legal Status of Women, Past and Present," n.d. (40 p.)
1 12 "Laugh and Grow Fat," n.d. (56 p.)
1 13 "Temperance," n.d. (14 p.)
1 14 Partial oration, probably for Decoration Day, pages missing, n.d.  (p.7-15)
Last Updated: May 21, 2021