Baltimore City seal - click for Home The Baltimore City Circuit Court
& Baltimore Bar Library Art Collection
in Connection with the Maryland State Archives

MSA SC 5590

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Mitchell Courthouse and Battle Monument            
Interior of Baltimore Bar Library
Exterior of Courthouse East  
Portraits and Artworks in the
Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse

Portraits in the
Baltimore Bar Library

Portraits and Artworks in
Courthouse East

In June of 1896, upon the laying of the cornerstone for the courthouse now named for Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., U.S. Senator William Pinkney Whyte urged the members of the legal profession to honor the memory of their leaders by displaying their portraits on the walls of the building, "that they may excite the rising generation of lawyers to emulate their example." Today, more than a hundred years later, the Baltimore City Circuit Court, encompassing the Mitchell Building as well as Courthouse East, contains more than 85 portraits of people who have served the Court from its earliest history through to the present day. The collection includes the work of such celebrated American artists as Thomas C. Corner, Charles Yardley Turner, Simmie Knox, R. McGill Mackall and Edwin Howland Blashfield. The history of the Baltimore City Circuit Court and Bar can be traced through the faces in these portraits. In addition, five murals depicting pivotal scenes in Maryland history are part of the permanent architecture of the Mitchell Building.

The idea of preserving and properly documenting the portrait paintings and their locations was first championed by Joseph R. Byrnes in 1936 , then a deputy clerk, who would later become an Associate Judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City, a Maryland Senator and president of the Maryland Senate. In subsequent years, this cause was furthered by his son the Hon. John Carroll Byrnes, along with the Hon. James F. Schneider, and the Hon. M. Brooke Murdock. Judge Schneider, as historian and archivist of the Court, amassed a tremendous amount of information about the individual portraits and their provenances, forming the nucleus of a historical catalogue of the collection. Today, the art collection continues to be preserved and enlarged under the direction of The Baltimore Courthouse and Law Museum Foundation, Inc.

In recent years, the Portrait Committee of the Baltimore City Circuit Court has sought the expertise of museum professionals to advise on the display and preservation of these important historical works of art. In the summer of 2004, to enhance public access to the collection, the Court sponsored an internship at the Maryland State Archives to create a catalogue of the portrait collection. As part of this project, each portrait was digitally photographed and complete biographical information about the subject was assembled.

Not every judge who presided on the Sumpreme Bench and Circuit Courts of Baltimore City were honored by having a portrait painting of their likeness on display at the courthouses. However, photographs of past and current judges adorn the fourth, fifth and sixth floors of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse.

The dimensions indicated in this catalog include the portraits and their frames. Many of the portraits on display in the courthouses are of judges and lawyers considered to be the leading legal minds of their day. These honored men were named by a courthouse committee as the pre-eminent Maryland lawyers and judges of the 18th and 19th Centuries. The names of these pre-eminent men are inscribed around the plaster frieze at the base of the dome of the Supreme Bench courtroom in the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

As part of the centennial celebration of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse, forty-eight judges and lawyers were honored as the preeminent Baltimore lawyers and judges of the 20th century. A board of 22 respected members of the Baltimore bench and bar made the selections. To be eligible for nomination several factors were established: the honoree had to be deceased; the nominee needed to have a significant connection to Baltimore City; and the nominee not only had to excel in the legal profession, but also had to have performed meaningful public good outside of the profession itself.

Research and design by Christopher J. Kintzel, Registrar, Special Collections

This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

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