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Webster College of Law

Chicago, Illinois




HathiTrust has catalogs for 1912-13 and for 1920-21.  Webster College advertised regularly in the Chicago Eagle--source of the 1913 ad (right)--and in journals such as Union Postal Clerk.

Webster ad_edited.jpg


Webster College of Law was founded to provide an opportunity for those "who are obliged to earn their own living in the day time" to earn a law degree.  Therefore, all classes were held between the hours of 6:30 and 10:00 pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Students were able to attend two classes during this time, but multiple sections of each class allowed for individual attention.   Advertisements point out that the "course of study given equals the standards of the University Law Schools."


Classes were conducted by a large faculty of judges and practicing attorneys.  Above the goal of teaching  points of law to each student was an overarching goal to  "develop a legal mind and to train him in the art of legal reasoning."  So in an early version of today's problem-based teaching/learning strategy,  students were required both to make practical application of points of law and also to induce legal concepts from a study of specific cases.




Bricks and Mortar

Initially classes were held in rooms on the fourth floor of the National Life Building, 29 South La Salle Street, at "the center of the 'Loop" district.


At some time prior to 1920 the college had moved two block north and east to a new fireproof building at 14 West Washington, were it occupied the entire third floor.  In addition to classrooms, office and lecture hall, the floor contained a law library, open daily for students.   This new location was advertised as being only a few blocks from the Federal, Cook County, and Chicago Municipal courts, giving students easy access to the proceedings.

(right) 1908 Postcard view of National Life Insurance Building.  (< accessed 2-13-2017

Webster College of Law had a chapter of Delta Theta Phi, a professional law fraternity.   Students were instructed in "court room oratory, argumentation and debate."  Not surprisingly, Webster offered a debate society, the only listed extracurricular activity.  


Overall enrollment in 1920 was 100.  This figure included at least two females. (See image left) In 1919 the Dallas Express reported that B. F. Blaine, a W.C.L. graduate, was the Texas state organizer of the Negro Business League.


A newspaper article  notes that the school "later was consolidated with Kent College of Law."  


Czech-born Josephine Payer was a member of the Junior class of 1920.

(Image from

Enrollment began with fifty students and increased.  In the second year, the school boasted of 128 matriculates.  The first year of the three-year program was open to high school graduates.  Enrollment went down in 1919 when the Illinois Supreme Court removed a number of high schools from the accredited list, requiring graduates from these schools to take an entrance test at one of the state's three major universities.  Later. the Illinois Law Review noted that enrollment had grown by 50 percent.   The college also offered a post-graduate course, leading to an LL.D. degree


Given the structure of Webster College of Law--night classes for working students-- it is difficult to see how it would have supported any sports programs.  However, College Football Data Warehouse shows a 1920 game against De Paul, a 14-0 loss.


Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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