Learned Hand’s Greatest Hits

May 28th, 2013

Learned Hand–whose full name is Billings Learned Hand–recorded a folk song in 1942, which I blogged about a few months ago.

Now, you must have asked yourself, why did Hand record that song? The inestimable Ross Davies has tracked down the origin of that song. From his forthcoming article in the Green Bag.

On Saturday, October 3, 1942, Hand visited the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to record a couple of folk songs.3 He had been corresponding with Harold Spivacke, Chief of the Division of Music at the Library, since the springtime. Apparently, Hand had a version of a folk song (I do not know which, though some of the in-studio conversation points to “The Iron Merrimac”4) that interested Spivacke sufficiently to prompt an invitation. …

Hand was happy to oblige, and plans were made for a recording session in May. …. The result of Hand’s afternoon of recording at the Library was a pair of 16-inch lacquer-on-aluminum disks, each containing about 12 minutes of transcribed sound.


Read on for a great history.

But, Ross didn’t stop there. He dug up and digitized the entire-two sided record, and placed the tracks at his new cool site, Available at. Listen to all the tracks here.

Ross continues to reinvent and redefine legal scholarship. What a brilliant way to do it.

Here was my clip of the video from a few months ago: