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Judge Norris S. Barratt papers


Judge Norris S. Barratt papers
Barratt, Judge Norris S.
Collection number:
18 items
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
State of Maryland and Historical Collections
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

The Papers of Judge Norris S. Barratt, a Philadelphia lawyer and author of Barratt's Chapel and Methodism, consist of fourteen letters he received from James H. Preston sent during Preston's first term as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, (1911-1915) and three of Barratt's letters sent to Preston. The letters are both political and personal in nature. Also included are an invitation to a Symbolic Silver Service for James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, at Baltimore's City Hall and two pamphlets on Baltimore and Mayor Preston.

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Preferred citation:

Judge Norris S. Barratt papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

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Historical Note

Norris Stanley Barratt was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 23, 1862, to James and Mary (Irvine) Barratt. Barratt grew up in Philadelphia, where he built his life and career. He was admitted to the city's bar in 1883 and, from 1890 to 1901, he served as Philadelphia's Assistant City Solicitor. In 1901, Barratt became First Assistant District Attorney for Philadelphia County and, in 1902, he began a ten-year term as Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. In 1909, Barratt received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Temple University.

Barratt was active in a number of Philadelphia clubs and organizations. In 1895, he became a member of the Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and, from 1908 to 1912, served as a member of the Grand Lodge and on the Library Committee. In 1902, Barratt was named President of the Young Republicans of Philadelphia. From 1902 to 1905, he was a member of the Library Committee of the Law Association of Philadelphia and a member of Council, Colonial Society of Pennsylvania, from 1907 to 1912. He was elected Historian of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution and also Chairman of its Board of Managers.

Norris Barratt authored numerous historical texts on Barratt family genealogy and Pennsylvania-related subjects, including Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, 1727-1907 and Outline of the History of Old St. Paul's Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Perhaps most notably, he wrote Barratt's Chapel and Methodism, published in 1911. Barratt's great-great grandfather, Philip Barratt, of Kent County, Delaware, donated the land in Frederica, Delaware, on which Barratt's Chapel, known as the "Cradle of Methodism," was built in 1780. In Barratt's Chapel and Methodism, Norris Barratt chronicled the meeting of Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury at the Barratt homestead in 1784. That meeting resulted in the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America.

Barratt married Ellen Levering of Baltimore, Maryland, in October 1904. They had four children, three of whom lived to adulthood. Norris Barratt died in 1924 and is buried at Barratt's Chapel Cemetery in Delaware.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Papers of Judge Norris S. Barratt consist of fourteen letters he received from James H. Preston sent during Preston's first term as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, (1911-1915) and three of Barratt's letters sent to Preston. The letters are both political and personal in nature. Also included are an invitation to a Symbolic Silver Service for James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore, at Baltimore's City Hall and two pamphlets on Baltimore and Mayor Preston.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The source of the collection is not known.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by Christie Lutz, August 2004. Guide revised by Jennie A. Levine, September 2004.

Processing note:

The letters were placed in acid-free folders and stored in an acid-free box.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Jennie A. Levine, September 2004.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized in a single series:

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1911-1915 (18 items)

The series consists of correspondence between Norris Barratt and Mayor James H. Preston of Baltimore. The letters span the first of Preston's two terms as Baltimore mayor. James Harry Preston was born in Harford County, Maryland, in 1860. He attended St. John's College in Annapolis and the University of Maryland Law School, from which he graduated in 1881. While he was practicing law, Preston was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1889, winning re-election in 1893. He became Speaker of the House in 1894. After becoming involved in Baltimore City politics, he was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners in 1904. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1910 but was elected Mayor of Baltimore in 1911. Preston modernized much of the city of Baltimore, a significant portion of which had been destroyed in the Great Fire of 1904. During his two terms as mayor, he oversaw the completion of sewerage and water systems and roads. James H. Preston died in 1938.

Preston's ambitions for Baltimore, as well as his interest in Norris Barratt's experience and opinions, are evident in a number of his letters to Barratt. Indeed, in a December 1911 letter, Preston included a pamphlet entitled "A Few Important Facts About Big Busy, Bustling Baltimore," touting it as the best place in the United States for business and the "cheapest American city in which to live in comfort," where "tenement house life, with its unfortunate influences plays relatively no part." In a July 1911 letter, Preston solicited Barratt's advice on using water from McCall's Ferry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, for Baltimore's water supply. In May 1913, he expressed interest in discussing with Barratt the widening of St. Paul, Howard, and Calvert Streets in Baltimore, and, in August of that year, he queried Barratt about his knowledge of a particular consulting firm for city, port, and terminal planning. Preston also expressed interest in electric signs outside Philadelphia's City Hall, as he considered placing similar ones in Baltimore. At Preston's request, in January 1915, Barratt sent him a Philadelphia flag, while Preston and a flag commission were creating a design for a city flag for Baltimore.

Preston, a Democrat, and Barratt, a Republican, corresponded about political issues, but the specific topics they discussed in their letters are fairly vague. Preston did mention his support of Barratt during a re-election campaign and, upon Barratt's re-election as judge, Preston offered words of congratulation and reassurance. In his own political life, Preston seemed to lament his lack of control over decision-making and his lack of leisure time. In a letter dated November 13, 1913, he remarked, "I have about concluded to go back to the law - I can make more money and be my own master - go away when I please - spend my summers in Europe..." In a July 20, 1915, letter, Preston advised Barratt not to run for mayor. Indeed, in several letters Preston offered negative thoughts on serving in the office of mayor and, in one of these, advised Barratt to "stay out of the Mayoralty. There is nothing to it."

In a number of letters, Preston mentioned his hope of spending time with the Barratt family in New England; Cape May, New Jersey; and other vacation destinations. Preston repeatedly invited Judge Barratt to visit the Preston family at home in Baltimore as well and expressed an eagerness to give Barratt a tour of Baltimore. In 1912, Judge Barratt's wife, known as Nellie, became ill. In a January 1913 letter, he expressed his great relief at her recovery and invited Barratt and his family to spend time with the Prestons at a beach so that his wife might further recuperate.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, July 1911- July 1915 series 1box 1folder 1

Related Material

Biographical information on James H. Preston is located at the Maryland State Archives (MSA SC 3520-1703). The Maryland Manuscripts Collection at the University of Maryland Libraries contains two items relating to James H. Preston: MDMS 13, Letter from J. H. Preston to O. E. Weller, 1917, and MDMS 2022, Advertisement encouraging manufacturers to move plants to Baltimore, 1919. Correspondence from James H. Preston is also located in the Papers of Edwin Warfield, University of Maryland Libraries.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

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