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Carl Brent Swisher papers

Identifier: MS-0411

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Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection was created during Swisher's tenure at the Johns Hopkins University. The correspondence deals largely with Swisher's professional projects; his work on the Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes devise as well as the various books he authored. The typescript of The Supreme Court in the Taney Period, Dr. Swisher's volume of the work funded by the Holmes devise, is included in series 1. Correspondence dealing with his other works can be found throughout series 2.


  • Creation: 1913 -1995


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

Collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Carl Brent Swisher was born on April 28, 1897 in Lewis County, West Virginia. His parents were farmers, but his father, James Edwin Swisher, occasionally worked as a country school teacher. Swisher's mother, Annie Gertrude Reger, gave birth to three children; Grace Leslie (1892), Margaret Elizabeth (1898) and Carl Brent.

Carl Swisher went to school in a one room school house in West Virginia. In 1918 he was drafted by the US Army, but was rejected for health reasons. He returned home and enrolled at West Virginia Wesleyan College. He was forced to work full-time to pay his own way through college, which led to more health problems. Swisher left school and moved to California in 1919 to live with his cousin, Albert Willis Swisher. He was able to return to academics in 1929 after the death of his father left him with a modest inheritance.

In 1923, Swisher enrolled at Pamona College with a major in Political Science. He received his A.B. from Pomona in 1926, and his M.A. in 1927. His thesis was entitled Motivation and Political Technique in the California Constitutional Convention. He would later expand this into his first published book. Swisher was accepted as a PhD candidate at the Robert Brookings Graduate School of the Brookings Institution. While there he met his future wife, Idella Gwatkin, also a PhD candidate. They were married on August 19, 1929. Afterwards, Idella accepted a position with the League of Women Voters while Swisher stayed on at Brookings. Under a Fellowship, he worked to finish his biography of Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field which he later published as Stephen J. Field: Craftsman of the Law.

In 1930, Swisher was given an appointment as instructor in government at Columbia University. He held the position until 1935, when he left to serve as special assistant to the US Attorney General for two years. Swisher joined the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University in 1937 as an associate professor and was appointed Thomas P. Stran Professor of Political Science in 1938. During his tenure at Hopkins, he also served as a visiting lecturer at several universities, including University of Chicago, New York University, Boston University, Columbia University, Whittier College, University College, London, Claremont College and Salzburg. He continued writing and publishing books and articles throughout his career, including his biography of Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney.

In 1957 Dr. Swisher was one of eight authors chosen to write the official history of the US Supreme Court. The work was sponsored by the Permanent Committee for the Oliver Wendall Holmes Devise and financed partially by funds left to the US on the death of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Carl Brent Swisher died on June 14, 1968 at the age of 71. He was survived by his wife Idella and his two daughters, Carolyn Swisher Mathiasen and Mary Virginia Swisher.


15.91 Cubic Feet (11 record center cartons, 2 letter size document boxes, 5 flat boxes (15.5 x 10.5 x 3 inches))

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Mary Virginia Swisher, daughter of Carl Brent Swisher, after the death of her mother, Idella Swisher in January of 2001. The papers were transferred directly to the Special Collections department from the home of Carl and Idella.


Accession 09-10.34 added in 2011.

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Holly Callahan on July 31 2008. Some items were posthumously added to the collection and some of the file titles were added by Idella or Virginia Swisher on the later files.

Carl Brent Swisher papers
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA