Research

The National Bankruptcy Archives Documents the History of Bankruptcy

C. Jordon Steele, September 2008

The National Bankruptcy Archives was established in 2000 as national repository of materials relating to the history of debtor-creditor relations, bankruptcy, and the reorganization of debt. The archives is located at Biddle Law Library on the campus of Penn Law School in Philadelphia.

The National Bankruptcy Archives collects organizational records, personal papers, and other collections relevant to the history of bankruptcy and insolvency legislation, regulation, and administrative and judicial determination.

In recent years, the National Bankruptcy Archives has worked to improve access to its expanding repository. Significant collections in the National Bankruptcy Archives include:

  • The Lawrence P. King Papers. New York University Law School Professor Larry King served on a number of congressional commissions that were convened to analyze and reform bankruptcy law. He served in important leadership roles in the National Bankruptcy Conference, an association of bankruptcy professionals that left an indelible impact on bankruptcy law. King also edited Collier on Bankruptcy, a reference series that became the leading treatise on bankruptcy law during King's 40-year tenure as editor.

  • The Kenneth N. Klee Papers. As associate counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the late 1970s, UCLA Professor Ken Klee played a crucial role in drafting what became the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, the most dramatic revision of bankruptcy law since the 1930s. The Klee papers include drafts of bankruptcy legislation, handwritten notes, and letters from members of congress who were central to the revision of bankruptcy laws.

  • The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges Records. The National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges was created in 1926 to provide continuing legal education for bankruptcy judges and to advise Congress on pending bankruptcy legislation. This collection contains records that reflect the judges' success in professionalizing and mobilizing the bankruptcy bench, including their efforts to gain federal judicial status.

  • The Randall J. Newsome Oral History Collection. During the 1990s, Judge Randall J. Newsome conducted oral histories with some of the most important figures in the field of bankruptcy law, including Harvard Law Professor Vern Countryman, Lawrence P. King, Asa Herzog, and George Treister. This collection includes taped oral histories and transcripts of Newsome's interviews. It's a great collection for anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of the major issues surrounding bankruptcy law.

All of the National Bankruptcy Archives' collections are fully organized and open for research. Finding aids are available via the archives' web site at http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/archives/bankruptcy/.

The National Bankruptcy Archives continues to acquire collections of materials that reflect milestones in the history of bankruptcy law. If you have any additional questions regarding the National Bankruptcy Archives, you can contact Jordon Steele, Archivist, at steelej@law.upenn.edu.

—C. Jordon Steele, Certified Archivist, is archivist of the Biddle Law Library Archives at Penn Law School.