Files of the Department of Justice. Judge Isaac C. Parker.

[Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 1875-1896.
1 online resource (4 manuscripts (799 items, 2,885 pages)).


Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790-1920. [More in this series]
Summary note
This collection contains correspondence and documents from Judge Isaac C. Parker, who served as a federal district judge for the Western District of Arkansas and parts of the Indian Territories from 1875 to 1896. Although Parker became well known in Western novels and films as the famous "Hanging Judge," the reality of his career is more complex. Parker came to the court charged with the responsibility of rehabilitating the court's reputation after the corrupt tenure of his predecessor. His jurisdiction included the Indian Territory, where federal law needed to stake its claim alongside Native American law as a way of governing the new settlers on the frontier. This collection provides a record of the unique challenges of running a court on the American frontier. Parker's correspondence discusses relations with federal appointees and other officials and problems with staffing, finances, and the apprehension of criminals. Students of criminal justice will also appreciate the records of murder cases appealed to the Supreme Court in the 1890s. For fourteen years of Parker's term, defendants sentenced in the Indian Territories had no right of appeal. These records show what happened when cases were finally subject to review. This collection also demonstrates Parker's surprising interest in rehabilitating offenders, ensuring humane conditions in jails, reforming the criminal justice system, and advocating for the rights of Native American nations. The collection contains Parker's correspondence relating to housing and guarding the federal prisoners under his care and responding to requests for pardons and commutation of sentences. Finally, the collection contains materials that give insight into why Parker became famous: documentation of the 160 death sentences he handed down during his tenure, including the scheduling of executions early in his career.
  • Date range of documents: 1875-1896.
  • Source institution: National Archives (United States).
  • Images from the source libraries are selected contents of the original collection materials as representative of their value and pertinence to the digital product.
Other title(s)
Judge Isaac C. Parker
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