My collecting story… Z.C. in Solvang, CA…

May 15, 2020 by  
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Below we continue our series in which we post the “stories” graciously submitted by our collecting friends during the pandemic of 2020.

I wanted to decorate my courtroom when I had an active trial schedule, and finally hit upon the way to do it and make it meaningful: I would create collages of famous trials in American history. I found there was a whole cottage industry of autograph dealers. I also discovered this bounty on Rare & Early Newspapers and searched the internet for whatever images of the trials might be available. Twenty six collages were the result, starting with the Salem Witch Trials (signature of the chief judge, Samuel Sewell, a 1692 London Gazette, and reproduction of the painting in the Massachusetts State House, and plaques) Trial of John Peter Zenger (signature of Andrew Hamilton, a 1735 Zenger newspaper, a copy of a painting of the trial and explanatory plaques). Proceeding through the Boston Massacre Trial, The Writs of Assistance case, The Trial of the Amistad Mutineers, The Dred Scott Case, The Trial of Dan Sickles, The Scopes Trial, to the Army/McCarthy Hearings.

The civics and American History classes in the local high schools would come and visit. Santa Ynez High School, where I live, would assign a particular trial to a group and each group would write a report after coming up to the courtroom for an afternoon of my presenting the collages to them and answering their questions. After a couple of years and as a courtesy, the high school assigned a student to build a website for extra credits He made the collages interactive so that a viewer could click on any section and bring that part up for closer reading. It became apparent to him that the archivally correct framing and non-glare glass made the written plaques I had created from quotes in various books blurry and difficult to read. To correct this, he carefully re-typed the plaques, which, of course was very time consuming. He finished eight of them before he went off to college. Then, I lost my free web host and was unable to get the disks on which the student had written the interactive program. I paid another fellow to re-create the website, and although I thought it was interactive, he was unable to accomplish that. There are simply photographs of the collages with the plaques recreated in a display unrelated to their place in the collage and photos of some of the parts. Sorry for that. I will try to get it interactive again just as soon as I can find the affordable technician. I also have enough material for ten more collages. Of course, now I know to photograph them in the cut mat before the glass is installed in the frame.

As retirement loomed, the question arose of “What now?”. Luckily, I had an opportunity to be interviewed by C-SPAN’s Yellow Bus tours of interesting sites and it was viewed by the assistant dean of Pepperdine’s law school in Malibu, where the collection is now on permanent loan. I created an educational website which used to be quite popular judging from the emails I received with questions about the cases. It is still up and running even if not interactive at the present. It is: www.historictrials,com That site contains a link to the C-SPAN archives where the twenty minute Interview can be found.

As I say in the website’s introduction: “Here are the stories, then, of lawyers who took up the cause of their clients in adverse circumstances and used their talents and skills to achieve what seemed just at the time. Let us hope there will always be learned men and women of the profession that will rise to the challenges”.

As an aside: I recently created collages of Civil War events, but haven’t yet framed them as they are really rather large which means rather large framing costs and I have yet to find a place to house them. I just finished a collage of a friend from high school who got to Vietnam in time for Tet, and within four months was awarded a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. Such courage is more than remarkable. It’s on the website even though it has nothing to do with lawyers or trials. He is looking for a place to display it. Perhaps our high school; perhaps one of the military museums.

Thank you for tolerating this long exposition. Lawyers are worse when it comes to conciseness, and retired ones are the worst.

As additional “stories” are posted they will be available at: MY COLLECTING STORY. We did this many years ago as well – and their posts are also included.


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