Samuel K. Dennis Papers, 1900-1952, MS. 1139

Samuel K. Dennis Papers, 1900-1952

Maryland Historical Society


(Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, March 1999.)

Samuel K. Dennis Papers, 1900-1952
Maryland Historical Society

Contact Information:
Manuscripts Department
Maryland Historical Society Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore MD 21201-4674
Fax: 410.385.2105


Descriptive Summary

Samuel K. Dennis Papers, 1900-1952

MS. 1139

Maryland Historical Society

Baltimore MD 21201-4674



The Ashman v. Ashman and Bledsoe v. Bledsoe cases of this collection had been restricted until 1990. In September 1990, those restricted items were cataloged and placed in the collection for public use. During this time also, some of the correspondence was reorganized and parts of the collection reboxed.

Melinda K. Friend

Ass't Manuscripts Librarian

Baltimore, Maryland

10 October 1990


Biographical Sketch

Samuel King Dennis was born in rural Worcester County, Maryland, in 1874 the son of Samuel King Dennis, Sr. and Sally (Crisfield) Dennis. The Crisfield and Dennis families had traditionally been active in Eastern Shore economic and political affairs. Samuel K. Dennis, Sr. was a prosperous lumber merchant, large landowner, and member of the House of Delegates. John M. Crisfield, the junior Dennis' grandfather, was a widely known Worcester County lawyer, congressman, and confidant of Abraham Lincoln. Attending a preparatory school during his middle teens, it was Dennis' ambition to enter Princeton University with the aspiration of continuing the family tradition of success. When his father died suddenly, the seventeen-year old Dennis was forced to alter his plans. Withdrawing from school, he took up the management of the 2,000 acre family farm. Eight years later, Dennis turned over the agricultural responsibilites to a younger brother when offered employment as personal secretary to Senator John Walter Smith.

Smith proved to be a significant influence upon Dennis. The senator's downhome conservatiove political style clearly rubbed off on his young assistant. Sensing the ambition and ability of Dennis, Smith encouraged him to attend law school. Dennis readily seized the opportunity and subsequently graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1903. Admitted to the bar the same year, he began to fomulated his own plans for a legal career.

In 1904, Dennis left his mentor's employ and successfully sought election to the House of Delegates from Worcester County. After serving one term, he returned to his home county and set up a private practice. The year 1915 saw Dennis secure an appointment as U.S. District Attorney for Maryland, an apparent reward for his active participation in county and state Democratic politics. He held this position for several years, whereupon he reassumed private practice. Always the loyal, useful, and well-connected party supporter, Dennis was named in 1928 to succeed James P. Gorter as Chief Judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore.

As a judge, Dennis acquired a reputation for being both honest and fair. His quick and often caustic homespun wit also gained notoriety. Working diligently, he served on the Administration of Criminal Justice Commission in 1933 and in the early 1940s energetically pushed for the reorganiztion of Baltimore's Juvenille Court. Claiming disenchantment with the bench, Dennis retired in 1944 to once again persue private practive.

Up to the year of his death, Dennis continued to practice law. His ability to judge legal issues with acumen and objectivity resulted in a frequent role as an arbitrator in management-labor disputes. A warm and extroverted man, Dennis

late in life continued to manage an extensive correspondence with friends and acquaintances. Often referred to as one of the state's best know people, his death in 1952 was a newsworthy event.


Scope and Content

The Samuel K. Dennis Papers span the years 1900-1952 with the bulk of the material falling into the period 1944-1952, the years between Dennis' retirement from the Supreme Bench of Baltimore and his death. Correspondence and legal papers relating to his business and personal activities constitute a majority of the items. Contained in the collection also are materials relating to all phases of his legal career, commencing around 1900.

The correspondence section of the collection is somewhat confusing. Mostly general in nature, the correspondence is also broken down by both correspondents and by topic. A large portion of Dennis' papers may have been separated from those appearing in the collection, thus probably explaining the gaps in dates and subjects. The existance of Miscellaneous L and T through Z correspondence may also substantiate the missing papers theory. Dennis preferred to group his correspondence into six groups: 1944-45; 1946-47; 1946-48; 1946-52; and 1950-52. Arrangement of this type creates overlapping correspondence and it is not known why Dennis chose this method. Materials relating to legal cases were mostly kept together. In his general correspondence files, however, can be found items referring to Dennis' legal case work and financial matters.

Correspondence concerns both business and personal matters. As Dennis was semi-retired during the creation of the majority of the items, the personal aspect tends to be rather well represented. Letters are generally to and from such family members as Alfred Dennis, John V. Dennis, Philip C. Dennis, Caroline M. Crisfield and Mrs. Mary Balloch. Friends such as Godfrey Child, D. Princeton Buckey, Dr. Alfred T. Gundry and Harry F. Ogden, among others, are represented in abundance. Letters of note written to Dennis are from Alfred Dennis serving in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps in such places as Oslo, Norway (1947), Italy (1952), and Germany (1946); and letters written by soldiers fighting during World War II. Dennis' involvement in the University Club and the American Red Cross are also represented in the letters from 1946-47. Finally, some correspondence concerns the Maryland Historical Society and Dennis family genealogy.

Legal cases cover issues including divorce, claims for damages, arbitration, reinbursement of debt, and estate management. Dennis was involved in many arbitration cases from 1944-52, many of which were employee grievances:

Taxicab Drivers Union v. Yellow Cab Company, et al.

Freight Drives and Helpers Union. v. Baltimore Transfer

Adkins v. Coastal Tank Lines, Inc

Brewery and Yeast Workers, Soft Drink Worker, and Driver Salesmen Union v. Federal Yeast Company

Martin v. Davidson Transfer and Storage Company

Smith v. Mundy Motor Line

Cummings v. Mushroom Transportation Company, Inc.

Whistler v. Dramer Brother Freight Lines, Inc.

Safe Drivers Association, Inc. v. Belle Isle Cab Company

A significant amount of material exists relating to the Administration of Criminal Justice Commission on which Dennis served. The commission investigated several legal problems, Dennis being apparently most interested in the prevention of lynching in Maryland. Included also are items dealing with George L. Radcliffe's 1946 senatorial primary campaign of which Dennis was chairman.

Other materials contained in the collection relate to the Presbyterian Church, Juvenile Court reorganization, Fidelity Trust Company, as well as material associated with the 1932 controversy over whether or not Dennis was being ethical in serving as both a judge and a director of the Fidelity Trust Bank.


Container List


Sale of Beverly



Accounts, Bills and Receipts, 1911




Correspondence, 1911-1912








Philip C. Dennis, 1929-1935




Charles H. Conley, 1929-1935




W. W. Lanahan and Company, 1929-1937




Col. Joseph L. Wickes, 1929-1943




Arthur C. Dennis, 1931-1935




Mrs. Alfred P. Dennis, 1931-1943




Harry W. Nice, 1934-1937




John Grason Turnbull, 1937-1943




Maryland Attorney General's Office, 1938-1943




E. E. Yaggy, 1940




Wednesday Law Club, 1940-1944




Retirement, 1944





Miscellaneous L, 1932-1935




Miscellaneous T, 1938-1944




Miscellaneous U-V, 1935-1944




Miscellaneous W, 1936-1944




Miscellaneous X-Y-Z, 1937-1944

























1947 January - June





1947 July - December





















1952 January - March





1952 April - November









Financial Records, 1946-1948




Dennis Photographs, ca. 1910-1950




Samuel K. Dennis



Legal Notebooks, n.d.





Speeches and Addresses, 1932-1952, n.d.




Bank Directorship Controversy, 1932




John W. Crisfield biography, 1939-1941




Miscellaneous, ca. 1920-1952




Letters of Endorsement - U.S. District Attorney, 1913-14





Congratulatory Correspondence - U.S. District Attorney, 1914-1915




Newspaper Clippings, ca. 1900-1952




Printed Material, 1931-1948




Campaign Press Releases and Statements Against Blair Lee, ca. 1904-1916




Democratic National Convention, 1923-1924




A Few Relections for the Democratic Members of the Maryland General Assembly on the State-Wide Compulsory Primary, ca. 1910





George L. Radcliffe primary campaign, 1946







Printed material




Speeches and statements




Campaign material




Envelopes and clippings




Senate speech




Political agent appointments






Governor Herbert R. O'Conor



Radio addresses, 1946





John W. Smith



Speeches and addresses, 1904, 1907-1909, 1911-1914, n.d.




Biographical material, ca. 1901-1907




Clippings, ca. 1907




Correspondence, 1907




Photographs, ca. 1907





Senator Whyte



Biographical material, n.d.





Samuel K. Dennis



Presbyterian church, 1925-1941, 1931-1937




BOX 10

Presbyterian church, 1931-1937, 1948-1952




Arbitration cases, 1944-1952




BOX 11

Huber v. Good Humor Ice Cream Company, 1949-1951




Estate of Mary W. and Caroline M. Crisfield, 1929-1935




Estate of Mrs. Belle P. Moore, 1929-1937




Hughes wills, 1947, 1952




Wolf Trust Estate, 1938-1948




BOX 12

Mediation between the Afro-American Newspapers and the United Newspaper Union, 1949-1950




Dudley v. Dudley, 1948-49




George T. Pilchard will, 1950-1951




Wilson, et. al. v. Parlett Gas Company, 1950-1951




Rothman v. National Mutual Insurance Co., 1950




Selby v. Fidelity Trust, et. al., 1936-1947




BOX 13

Hunner v. Beechwood, 1946-1950




Lockerman, Inc. v. Warfield, 1945




Katherine Jeffres will, 1945-1946




Estate of Laura P. Sampson, 1945-1946




Wollman, Platt, Zerwick v. U.S. Baltimore General Hospital, 1949




McCormack v. Turnbull, 1948, 1951




CandP Telephone Co. v. Maryland Federation of Telephone Workers, Inc., 1947




BOX 14

Avrum K. Rifman, 1951-1952




Louise Tuvin, 1948




Longley, et. al. v. Laird, et. al.. 1947




Annie Roberts will, 1947-1948




Hupp v. Hupp, 1948




Lynch v. General Ship Repair Company, 1944-1946




Clark v. Pennsylvania Railroad, 1946-1947




Estate of John M. Requardt, 1945-1946




Helen M. Dennis, 1933-1935




Racing Commission of Maryland, 1946




BOX 15

Stevens v. Stevens, 1947-1948




Penn v. Stevens, 1948-1949




Buckey v. Clemson, 1948




Fales v. Fales, 1947-1948




Rogers v. Rogers, 1944-1949




Sherwood Sutton v. Verna L. Crawford, 1947-1949




Estate of John W. Crisfield, 1926-1935




Ashman v. Ashman, 1949-1952




Bledsoe v. Bledsoe, 1949-1951




BOX 16

Valliant v. Valliant, 1946-1947, 1951-1952, n.d.




United States v. The Dollar Company, 1951-1952




Miscellaneous legal papers, 1944-1948




Court reorganization, 1942




BOX 17

Court reorganization, 1938-1944




American Red Cross, 1948-1951




Fidelity Trust, 1945-1952




Administration of criminal justice system, 1933




BOX 18

Cancelled checks, 1934 - 1937 June



BOX 19

1937 July - December




1938 - 1939




1940 January - June




BOX 20

1940 July - December




1941 - 1942




BOX 21






BOX 22

Check register, 1945 - 1946 January 1948-1949




Financial papers, 1936-1949