“Names Deserving of Consideration for Court Vacancy,” 1962

To prolong the discussion of the John F. Kennedy library, that institution has been quite good about posting interesting documents from the Kennedy Administration online.

One such document, from March 1962, is titled “Names Deserving of Consideration for Court Vacancy.” This memorandum, authored by Ted Sorensen, lists possible candidates for the vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created when Justice Charles Whittaker retired. Ultimately, the nod went to Byron White. (The memo can be found within this batch of posted documents.)

If you’d like, slip back into a “Mad Men” state of mind and take a guess as to who appeared on the list. One hint: the list is divided into four categories: (1) Members of the Administration and the Senate, (2) Members of the Federal Judiciary, (3) Members of the State Judiciary, and (4) Members of the Bar and Academic Community. I’ll post the answers after the jump, along Sorensen’s recommendation to the President.

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Shifts In Law Professors’ Views

A friend of mine, Scott Rafferty, wrote a tremendous senior thesis at Princeton back in the 1970s on the enforcement of civil rights laws during the Kennedy Administration. As part of his research, Scott interviewed a bunch of former attorneys for the Civil Rights section of the Department of Justice. Scott typed out his interview notes and donated them to the John F. Kennedy presidential library, where they remain today, and where I consulted them a few weeks ago.

Rafferty’s notes of his interview with John Doar contain an interesting observation by Doar. Referring to the Kennedy Administration’s failure to rely heavily upon the Fourteenth Amendment as a basis for the enforcement of civil-rights laws, Doar said (and here Scott may have paraphrased Doar, but I’m going to quote his notes), “You have to consider what the Fourteenth Amendment meant in 1960. The difference of what the law school professors thought was constitutional in 1960 and what they thought was constitutional in 1965 was just incredible.”

I don’t know if Doar was correct that there was a marked shift in opinion among law professors on this issue over this brief span. Regardless, his comment got me to thinking about what other issues may have witnessed similarly dramatic, swift shifts in the prevailing views of the professoriate (without prompting by significant intervening changes in the law, mind you).

Gay marriage came immediately to mind, due to the ongoing evolution of popular opinion on the topic, but my hunch is that a majority of law professors have supported gay marriage for at least 20 years now, and before then, it was less a matter of committed opposition than a general failure to consider the possibility of gay marriage at all. Another, more likely possibility might be a shift with regard to the merits of isolationism prior to World War II. I have absolutely no sense of the midcentury scholarship on this point, however, and isolationism represents more of a political issue than a legal one. So I can’t think of another example, at least not offhand. I wonder if other professors can.

From the Archives: The ACLU Urges RFK to Prosecute (1963)

It’s strange to see ACLU brass support a criminal investigation, as occurred yesterday when executive director Anthony Romero issued a statement relating that it was “imperative that the Department of Justice thoroughly examine whether the [Trayvon] Martin shooting was a federal civil rights violation or hate crime.”

Strange, but not unprecedented. Back in 1963, the executive director of the ACLU wrote Robert F. Kennedy to encourage Kennedy’s Department of Justice to pursue more cases under 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal civil-rights statute. John de J. Pemberton wrote his letter to RFK to discuss the filing of Moses v. Kennedy and Hoover, a lawsuit that sought to compel the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute, where appropriate, section 242 violations that were occurring non-stop in Mississippi.

(Aside: The lawyers for the plaintiffs in Moses were William Kunstler and William Higgs. Everyone still knows who Kunstler was. Higgs not so much, which is a shame; he’s one of the lost legends of the civil rights movement and had a fascinating, if short, life. A few snippets here and here.)

In his letter to Kennedy, de J. Pemberton wrote:

It is our understanding that few if any Section 242 prosecutions have been instituted in Mississippi within the past few years. With the dramatic increase in civil rights activity in the South, the need for protection and assistance, as demonstrated by the Moses suit, is made all the more imperative.We urge as forcefully as possible that the Department of Justice give serious attention to the questions raised in the Moses suit.

Ultimately, Moses was thrown out of court, as it had to be, with the judge concluding that the ”complaint must be dismissed because it seeks remedies which, in the context of the above pleadings, this Court has no power to grant.” (The district court’s decision tossing the case can be found at 219 F.Supp. 762.)

After the jump, I’ve posted photographs of de J. Pemberton’s letter, Burke Marshall’s response on RFK’s behalf, and de J. Pemberton’s reply. (These documents can be found in Box 76 of the Burke Marshall papers, within the Department of Justice Record Group at the National Archives in College Park.)

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Goldman Sachs: Always a Step Ahead (1963)

I recently visited the John F. Kennedy Library and Archives in Boston. The facility has the best view of any archives I’ve visited — a panoramic vista of Boston Harbor, as observed through the upper reaches of a four-story glass wall.

I went to Boston to do some research on civil-rights prosecutions during the Kennedy Administration. I’m interested in why prosecutors do and don’t bring prosecutions that have ample factual support, but stand a high risk of jury or judicial nullification. Civil rights prosecutions back in the 1960s implicated this sort of dynamic, leading me to riffle through the papers of some Department of Justice attorneys.

Of whom Burke Marshall was one. I’ll write a longer post on Marshall some other day. It suffices here to say that Marshall had a truly fascinating career: head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division under Robert F. and John F. Kennedy; general counsel of IBM back when IBM was IBM; longtime Yale Law School professor. In any event, while going through the Marshall papers, I came across an interesting memorandum, which provides the basis for this post.

This memo dates from June 20, 1963, nine days after President Kennedy gave an important speech on civil rights. The memo was written William vanden Heuvel — Bobby Kennedy’s assistant at the Department of Justice. In it, vandel Heuvel encourages his boss to meet with leaders of the New York bar and encourage them to hire more any even just one African-American attorney. Vanden Heuvel observes that the white-shoe law firms of the era had all the racial sensitivity of a 1940s Warner Brothers cartoon, noting that among high-end Wall Street legal practices, “There is no law firm that has a negro law associate, much less a negro partner.”

He then holds up a role model:

A breakthrough in the legal, financial and insurance worlds of Wall Street would be significant, at least as the New York City employment situation is affected. There is a disposition among Wall Street leaders to cooperate in this crisis. For example, Goldman Sachs hired its first negro employee (an assistant librarian) yesterday. This was  a deliberate effort to indicating [sic] an urgent appreciation of the President’s speech.

So, what can we learn from this, other than the unsurprising fact that Wall Street law firms were glacially slow at integration? Well, call me cynical, but one take is that Goldman Sachs has been politically adroit for at least a full half-century now.

Changing One’s Mind

As the years pass, even absent shifts in binding precedent it’s altogether possible that some judges, tasked with evaluating state laws that outlaw gay marriage, simply may change their mind and find a prohibition on the practice unconstitutional, after previously upholding such a ban.

If these judges need rhetorical support for such a volte-face, I recently came across this nice passage by Justice Robert Jackson (did he ever write any other kind?), defending his change of position on a point before the Court:

Precedent, however, is not lacking for ways by which a judge may recede from a prior opinion that has proven untenable and perhaps misled others. See Chief Justice Taney, License Cases, 5 How. 504, 12 L.Ed. 256, recanting views he had pressed upon the Court as Attorney General of Maryland in Brown v. State of Maryland, 12 Wheat. 419, 6 L.Ed. 678. Baron Bramwell extricated himself from a somewhat similar embarrassment by saying, ‘The matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then.’ Andrew v. Styrap, 26 L.T.R.(N.S.) 704, 706. And Mr. Justice Story, accounting for his contradiction of his own former opinion, quite properly put the matter: ‘My own error, however, can furnish no ground for its being adopted by this Court * * *.’ United States v. Gooding, 12 Wheat. 460, 478, 6 L.Ed. 693. Perhaps Dr. Johnson really went to the heart of the matter when he explained a blunder in his dictionary—‘ Ignorance, sir, ignorance.’ But an escape less self-depreciating was taken by Lord Westbury, who, it is said, rebuffed a barrister’s reliance upon an earlier opinion of his Lordship: ‘I can only say that I am amazed that a man of my intelligence should have been guilty of giving such an opinion.’ If there are other ways of gracefully and good naturedly surrendering former views to a better considered position, I invoke them all.

McGrath v. Kristensen, 340 U.S. 162, 177-78 (1950) (Jackson, J., concurring).

A quick Westlaw search reveals 15 judicial citations to this passage over the intervening 63 years, indicating that the nation’s judiciary as a whole admits error oh, once every four years or so.

Photographs of Segregated Southern Bus Facilities, circa 1960

On a recent trip to the National Archives, while researching something quite different, I came across a statement filed by the Department of Justice in connection with a petition to the Interstate Commerce Commission. The petition, filed in 1960 or thereabouts, related to segregation in Southern bus facilities; the DOJ’s statement in support of ICC rulemaking included, as an appendix, photographs that government employees had taken of some of the bus stations at issue.

I thought that some of the photographs were interesting, in a Walker Evans-y way, and I hadn’t seen them elsewhere. So I took my own pictures of the pictures, which appear (along with their captions, as found in the DOJ’s statement) below. The pictures below are copies of copies of copies, so my apologies for the image quality. (And my apologies for the captions, which are of course a product of the times.)

Greyhound Bus Station, Selma, Alabama White Restaurant

Greyhound Bus Station, Selma, Alabama Colored Lunch Room

Continental Trailways Bus Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

Trailways Bus Station, St. Petersburg, Florida

Trailways Bus [Station], Tampa Florida

Greyhound Bus Terminal, Middlesboro, Kentucky

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I Guess You Had to Be There, But Still Better than the “Harlem Shake”: “The Great Nine” (1890)

From the The New York Morning Journal, February 5, 1890:*

“The Great Nine.”

A Supreme Court song and dance which should have been performed yesterday.

We are the dread judicial nine, who rank high over all,                                                       We sit upon a narrow bench in a little stuffy hall;                                                                   We tinker Constitutions and decisions we reverse,                                                               And when a muddle’s very bad we often make it worse.

For (chorus)

We are the Nine,                                                                                                                   The terrible Nine,                                                                                                        (Privately fond of good dinners and wine;)                                                                         But, dressed in our gowns,                                                                                                     And our most solemn frowns,                                                                                                  Our dignity really is adamantine!

(Here Mr. Justice Harlan danceth a Kentucky reel.)

We are the nine upon whose law the gravest things depend;                                        Some suits, if we were not at hand, would never reach an end;                                      With a whisper we can make the biggest corporations howl;                                            And we fear neither angered House, nor Senatorial scowl;

For

We are the Nine,                                                                                                                      The eloquent Nine,                                                                                                                 Stronger than Congressmen tho’ they combine;                                                                      Decked in our gowns,                                                                                                         And our mightiest frowns,                                                                                                     Our dignity really is adamantine!

(Here the Chief-Justice performeth a Parisian pirouette.)

Yes, we’re the Nine above whose word no President can go,                                                It really makes us dizzy to think how much we know;                                                           But at times we like amusement, so we take of cards in a deck;                                      And play poker on the Bench while we sample extra sec

For

We are the Nine,                                                                                                                 The frolicsome Nine,                                                                                                    Merriest when we’re invited to dine;                                                                                     But draped in our gowns,                                                                                                    And stateliest frowns,                                                                                                          Our dignity really is adamantine!

(Here Mr. Justice Field snatcheth a Caifornia fandango.)

Second Chorus.

Oh, yes!                                                                                                                              Our dignity really is adamantine                                                                                Rhadamantine.                                                                                                              McAdamantine!

(Here Mr. Justice Lamar indulgeth in a Mississippi hoe-down, after which all join in a grand walk-around.)

 * I haven’t pulled the microfilm of this newspaper. The song comes from what purports to be a reprint of February 5, 1890 edition of the Morning Journal, as found within William Rehnquist’s papers at the Hoover Institution.

March 30, 2013 UPDATE: Ted Frank has raised the possibility of this song being a modern satire, merely imitating an 1890s routine. Obviously, more research must be done to verify the authenticity of this song, which research will have the ancillary benefit of providing more fodder for future columns. Any feedback from persons with knowledge would be appreciated, and attributed. As matters stand, the evidence still supports the authenticity of the song, but if the facts change, additional reports will assuredly follow.

Annals of Privacy-Enhancing Devices: The Delcon Security Telephone (1961)

With all the ongoing fuss over government surveillance, it’s like 1961 all over again. But I doubt that we will see a comeback from the Delcon Security Telephone, advertised in this vintage brochure and cover letter.

The Delcon Security Telephone was a “scrambler” designed to defeat eavesdropping and wiretapping efforts by the government and assorted ne’er-do-wells. Per its promotional brochure, as attached to a regular phone the Security Telephone “converts the human voice into unintelligible jargon, which can be identified vaguely as the sound of a voice, similar to the effect of a phonograph record played backwards.” Only those who had their own, similarly coded Delcon Security Telephone on their end of the line could decipher this gibberish.

Was the Delcon phone useful? Well, as the cover letter brags, it did play a part in the “Murchison-Alleghany Proxy Fight,” which sounds fascinating, but not so fascinating that I’m actually going to find out what it was. The product’s principal drawback: it weighed 24 ounces, which seems just a couple ounces short of a Shakeweight. But with long-distance rates being what they were back in 1961, maybe the handset’s weight saved its purchasers money in the long run, by making certain that confidential calls got to the point.

“Aviation Now as Safe as Football”: The Fatalities of Flight (Popular Mechanics Magazine, July – August 1911)

I am always on the lookout for discussions of a novel technology’s risk profile. So I was quite happy when I recently came across a series of two articles published in Popular Mechanics back in July and August 1911, titled “The Fatalities of Flight.”

These articles argued that “much of the responsibility for aeroplane fatalities is misplaced.” The first three paragraphs of the July 1911 piece convey the flavor of the series:

Of technical matters with which he has only the slightest acquaintance the man in the street inevitably takes a most superficial view. In nothing is this better illustrated than in the popular attitude toward the fatalities of aeronautics.

At the outset came the thrills inspired by man’s first real conquest of the air–by machines capable of real dynamic flight–controlled, fairly stable, and of fast-improving safety. Then promptly followed in the popular imagination and its unfailing mirror, the yellow press, a frenzied exploitation of the horror stories that writers more clever than accurate could spin about the occasional fatalities, which naturally enough have attended the latest development in engineering and transportation. As a matter of course in this sensational exploitation little account has been taken of such ordinary human frailties as recklessness and carelessness—usually considered only in their relations to the commonplace activities and mishaps of life. Instead, every aviation accident has been regarded as a catastrophe utterly avoidable, absolutely inescapable—inherent in the very fact of human flight itself.

As a result many otherwise well-informed persons have come to view aeronautical progress as the development of a most desperate and dangerous folly, and to see in every aviator a money-mad participant in a carnival of death, and in every flying ground a shambles.

***

In trying to debunk the prevailing perception of airflight as inherently risky, the author notes that “according to the most reliable statistics obtainable” regarding “power-driven aeroplanes,” there have been “no more than forty-seven fatal accidents with such machines.” He also makes a keen observation regarding how people perceive risk:

Men are prone to appraise casualty by its horror rather than by its statistics, and the thought of one individual tumbling from the skies grips harder on the popular imagination than the slaughter of a few scores in a factory fire, or a million deaths from tuberculosis.

The August 1911 article is equally interesting. Its author’s introduction includes the following passage:

. . .

Aviation, considered as a sport, and wholly disregarding the prospect of its assuming vast industrial importance, is even less dangerous than football. Statistics compiled concerning this game, as played by American college teams, shows that of the membership of some 200 football elevens, totaling some 2,500 players, 60 were killed during 1909 — a mortality considerably higher than the present annual maximum of 37 men killed in aeroplane accidents from May 15, 1910, to May 15, 1911, out of a total of about 2,000 licensed and unlicensed aviators.

. . .

The main text of the article, meanwhile, begins with:

It is most manifest that very nearly all the aeroplane accidents so far have been clearly due to to careless construction or assembling, or flying under bad conditions of wind or locality, to incompetent driving, to distinctly reckless exhibition stunts, or to clumsy experimenting.

The article then presents a table detailing all known aeroplane accidents to date, along with the perceived reasons for each mishap.

Anyway, it’s a very, very intriguing series (with pictures!), at least if you are interested in prevailing perceptions of the risks associated with novel technologies.

Before closing, I should note that the author of the series, Victor Lougheed, wasn’t altogether unbiased in portraying most aeroplane accidents as the product of preventable error. Lougheed was the author of a text, “Vehicles of the Air,” which taught the reader how to “Make [Their] Own Flying Machine.” Per an advertisement for the book in the July 1911 edition of Popular Mechanics, “With the information afforded by this book any one of ordinary mechanical abilities, and with very little money, can build and operate machines of known flying capabilities.”

***

UPDATE: Popular Mechanics later would print several additional articles that updated the death tolls associated with early aviation. Examples can be seen here (August 1912), here (January 1913; titled “Aviation Now as Safe as Football”), here (February 1914), and here (February 1915).

Law Faculty Salaries, Circa 1940

I just returned from the Association of American Law Schools conference, in New Orleans. I was sick for most of the weekend, which kind of sucked. Nevertheless, I had several opportunities to walk around the city, which was lovely. Except for Bourbon Street near Canal Street, that is. Which remains a pit.

Anyway, for nostaglia’s sake I dug this old AALS memorandum out of storage last night. The memo, which dates from March 1940, announces the site of the 1940 AALS convention (Chicago! In December!) and relates the results of an extensive survey of faculty salaries that the organization had conducted. From this survey, one learns that as of 1939-1940:

  • the average salary of a full professor at reporting law schools was $5,521; of an associate professor, $3,607. According to the ol’ Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, $5,521, as of 1940, had the same purchasing power as $90,789 did in 2012.
  • one school – I am guessing Harvard Law, though it may have been one of the two schools that did not respond to the survey – spent $291,500 on faculty salaries. After that institution, there was a pretty steep drop-off in this type of expenditure, and only five schools spent more than $100,000 on faculties salaries, overall.
  • at the other extreme, a bunch of law schools spent less than $20,000 on total faculty salaries, and a few spent less than $10,000. To put the latter figure in perspective, if my memory is correct, at least a few top-flight Yale Law and Harvard Law professors were making more than $10,000 a year, apiece, during this era.

 

 

Hillary Rodham and Edward Bennett Williams (1971)

So, a while ago, I was working through portions of Edward Bennett Williams’ papers at the Library of Congress. Most of you probably already know that Williams was one of the most famous trial lawyers of the last century, the so-called “Man to See.” What’s less known is that in addition to his courtroom work, Williams also taught courses, off and on, at Georgetown and Yale Law Schools.

I mostly was interested in the content of the Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment courses that Williams taught at Georgetown Law in the late 1940s and early 1950s. These were the first classes dedicated to these topics that I’ve seen offered at any law school, and I’m curious about their content. Unfortunately, Williams’ papers didn’t include the syllabi for these classes, or their final examinations, so I was left to draw some spotty inferences from Williams’ terse notes regarding the cases (e.g., Boyd, Weeks, Olmstead) he taught.

Anyway, this post isn’t about those classes. Williams also taught a Constitutional Litigation course at Yale Law School back in 1971. For whatever reason, Williams kept his students’ final papers for this class. One of Williams’ students was Hillary Rodham. The future Secretary of State’s final paper in the course critiqued a (then) recent article by United States Court of Appeal Judge Henry Friendly, on the subject of the Fifth Amendment and the right to avoid self-incrimination.

I’m not going to post Rodham’s essay, because it’s not like she ever intended for it to reach an audience any broader than Williams himself. But I will say that it’s a fine paper, especially for what I believe to have been a pass-fail class. A class that was held on Saturday, no less. Portions of the essay lapse into law-student-speak, but that’s perfectly understandable, given the status of its author at the time.

All this said, I thought that individuals performing research on Rodham / Clinton, for a biography or otherwise, might find the essay interesting and worth reviewing. If any of you want to check out the paper, it can be found in Box 47 of Williams’ papers, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

From the Reagan Presidential Library: Glue sniffing? Did you have sex in high school or junior high? Do you buy or sell pornography? The (Draft) Background-Check Questionnaire and Other Documents Relating to the Kennedy Nomination

Today, I’ll share one last set of documents from the Reagan Presidential Library. These materials, which I found among the papers of White House lawyer Arthur Culvahouse, relate to the nomination of Anthony Kennedy to the United States Supreme Court.  

I’ve posted the documents as a single PDF file. The posted papers include a short memo that describes the vetting that had been performed on Kennedy and a memorandum from Culvahouse to President Reagan in advance of the latter’s meeting with Kennedy to screen him as a possible nominee.

If you scroll down several pages, you’ll get to the most interesting of the documents: what appears to be a draft questionnaire, listing the due-diligence background-check questions to be asked to Kennedy (there are actually two such questionnaires; one short and one long). Reading through the lengthier questionnaire, you might start to wonder why anyone would ever want to be a Supreme Court nominee. The questionnaire asks, inter alia:

Relating to Kennedy’s junior-high and high-school years:

Did you have sex in high school or junior high? If so, How often? How many different girls? Where? Were there any pregnancies? Were there any abortions? Did you ever contract venereal disease? Did you use contraceptives?

Did you ever engage in any aberational [sic] sexual activity?

Do you have any bitter friends, e.g., bitter girlfriends?

Did you ever use drugs? Glue sniffing? Parents prescription drugs? Did you attend partires [sic] where drugs were used? (Interestingly, the types of drugs inquired into shifts as the questionnaire moves from Kennedy’s high-school to his college years, and beyond; later versions of this question in the questionnaire substitute marijuana and cocaine for parents’ prescription drugs.)

Relating to Kennedy’s college years:

Were you rejected by any colleges? If so, what was the basis for rejections?

Were you a member of a fraternity? If so, What hazing was there? Were there racial or religious restrictions? What was the fraternity’s reputation? Were there any bizarre rituals? Did the fraternity engage in sexual harassment?

Relating to Kennedy’s law-school years:

What was the most unpleasant or embarassing thing that happened to you while in law school[?]

Relating to Kennedy’s present personal life:

Do you buy or sell pornography?

Have you ever abused your wife?

Have you ever had an extramarital affair?

Has your wife ever had an abortion?

***

Just in case you thought that the questionnaire was a tiny bit invasive, the question “Have you ever engaged in kinky sex?” does have a line drawn through it, suggesting that Kennedy was spared from having to answer.

The Patent Crisis, Circa 1912

This article from precisely a century ago, titled “When Is a Patent Not a Patent?,” comes from a 1912 edition of the magazine Current Opinion. The article discusses the “almost tyrannical power of the patentee over his patent for a period of seventeen years,” such that “a patentee may dispoze [sic] of an article controlled by him under any conditions, no matter how arbitrary or fantastic, which he may prescribe.”  The author notes that Congress has before it several bills that would reform the patent process, including a proposal for mandatory licensing that has “thrown manufacturers, investors, and their organs into a panic.” The third and final page of the article also features an interesting (if dated) photograph captioned, “How Patents Are Filed.”

From the Reagan Presidential Library: More John Roberts Memos

There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours than browsing through John Roberts’ old memos from his White House counsel days. As a junior staffer in the Reagan Administration, Roberts brightened even the most prosaic report with his Atacama-dry wit, and his legal analysis (and judgment) were almost always extremely impressive.

I don’t believe that any of the Roberts memos that I’ll share below represent heretofore unknown “discoveries.” Indeed, some of the documents that I’ll discuss (and some that I won’twere posted online by the National Archives back in 2005, with the media poring through them at that time. But some of these memos were overlooked during the Roberts nomination process, and in any event, it’s been a while since anyone has taken a look at them. Chief Justice Roberts’ tenure on the bench may have imbued some of these documents with additional meaning. Or not. (You can click on the dates if you want to check out the memos, which I’ve posted online.)

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Trove (Australia), and Wagon Mound

All zero of my Australian readers certainly know all about this already, but the National Library of Australia’s Trove service offers a very nice, free, searchable collection of old newspapers, photographs, maps, books, etc. Within these resources, one can find, say, old news reports regarding the fire that would lead to the famous Wagon Mound case.

Here is the best story I could find about the fire (a [blurry] photograph also accompanies the article). Meanwhile, two pages later, the same newspaper carried a seemingly unrelated story (to the editors) about how the master of the Wagon Mound was fined 25 pounds for allowing oil to leak from the ship.

The first of these articles contains a few particularly interesting quotes, given how Wagon Mound is relied upon for its discussion of foreseeability. An iron worker is quoted as saying, “We have been expecting a fire here,” and, “It had to come sooner or later with so much oil about.”  Another interview subject relayed a co-worker’s comment that “that oil slick is on fire at last.”

The articles also underscore how the fire was, like Ron Burgundy, a pretty big deal, posing a substantial threat to safety. According to the story, eighty men had to flee the flames, with four jumping in the water (was this a smart idea, under the circumstances?) to get away from the conflagration.