William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok papers

This collection documents the personal and professional lives of William Curtis Bok (1897-1962) and Nellie Lee Holt Bok (1901-1984). Curtis Bok (he rarely went by "William") worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia and was elected to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and later to th...

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Bibliographic Details
Main Authors: Bok, Curtis 1897-1962. (Creator), Bok, Nellie Lee Holt 1901-1984. (Creator)
Collection:William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok Papers
Collection Number:3096
Format: Manuscript
Language:English
Subjects and Genres:
Online Access:Link to finding aid
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LEADER 15306ntc a2200721 u 4500
001 ead-3096
008 160331i18361991xx eng d
040 |e dacs 
041 0 |a eng 
099 |a 3096 
100 1 |a Bok, Curtis  |d 1897-1962.  |e creator 
245 1 |a William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok papers  |f 1836-1991  |g 1905 - 1984 
300 |a 26.0 Linear feet  |f ; 70 boxes, 36 volumes 
351 |b I. Curtis Bok, 1905-1962; 22 boxes, 5 volumes a. Personal, 1905-1964; 13 boxes, 5 volumes b. Professional, 1921-1962; 9 boxes II. Nellie Lee Holt Bok, 1897-1991; 38 boxes, 23 volumes a. Early education, Stephens College, and World Tour, circa 1906-1991; 6 boxes, 4 volumes b. Correspondence, 1917-1984; 12 boxes c. Personal, circa 1900-1986; 10 boxes, 11 volumes d. Organizations and interests, 1897-1984; 4 boxes e. Calenders, dayplanners, and notebooks, 1920-1984; 6 boxes, 8 volumes III. Holt, Giannini, and related families, 1836-1991; 4 boxes, 8 volumes IV. Oversized papers and printed materials, 1856-circa 1980; 6 boxes 
500 |a Processing Information: Approximately forty volumes and a number of rolled items from this collection are undergoing conservation treatments and are unavailable. Once conservation work is completed, the volumes will be returned to the collection and the finding aid will be updated.  
506 |a Some materials in the collection have been restricted due to their senstitive nature. These include: Curtis Bok mixed legal and financial papers (Box 11), Curtis Bok Estate tax return (Box 43, folder 11), and a medical notebook (Box 57, Folder 8). Please see the itemized box and folder list below for information on when these papers will be made available. 
520 |a This collection documents the personal and professional lives of William Curtis Bok (1897-1962) and Nellie Lee Holt Bok (1901-1984). Curtis Bok (he rarely went by "William") worked as a lawyer in Philadelphia and was elected to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and later to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. During his tenure on the Supreme Court he oversaw the famous obscenity case Commonwealth v. Gordon, which has yet to be overturned. He married twice, first to Margaret Adams Plummer in 1924, and then to Nellie Lee Holt in 1934. Nellie Lee was born in Nebraska and worked as an educator at Stephen's College, Columbia, Missouri. Between 1926 and 1927 she traveled around the world on behalf of the college interviewing various educational and religious leaders, including Mohandas Gandhi. She maintained a tradition of civic engagement throughout her life. The collection also documents to lives of their children (Curtis had three children with his first wife and two with Nellie Lee) and the Holt and Bok ancestors, but to a lesser extent. Housed in sixty-nine boxes and four volumes, these materials span from the 1830s to the 1990s, and are comprised of a rich assortment of items from correspondence, clippings, and photographs, to book manuscripts, speeches, and court papers. Additional material includes estate papers, vital records, date books, calendars, journals, printed materials, financial papers, and ephemera.  
520 |a The William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok papers include sixty-nine boxes and four volumes and document the histories of the Boks and their respective families. The collection is arranged into four series, and the first two series are broken down further into subseries. Within each series or subseries, papers are arranged in rough chronological order. Almost all the papers have been re-housed into new folders, however, due to time constraints, old file folders that were in good shape were retained. Original folder titles were transferred to new folders whenever possible. The collection spons the period up to the 1990s, though Curtis died in 1962 and Nellie Lee died in 1984. Papers dating from after 1984 consist of a file from one of Nellie Lee's assistants, Ester Van Sant, and a few other items that were added to the collection by family members. Overwhelmingly, the collection is made up of correspondence, but there are also genealogical records, financial papers, school records, newspaper clippings, photographs, book manuscripts, speeches, printed material, date books and calendars, and miscellaneous ephemera. The first series of twenty-two boxes is devoted to Curtis Bok. His papers are arranged into two subseries: Personal and Professional. These materials present a fairly complete picture of Curtis's life from his earliest days in school to his final days as a judge on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Highlights in the Personal subseries include a siginificant run of letters he wrote to his parents while in various schools, from the Haverford Academy to the University of Virginia. There are also outgoing letters and a diary he kept while serving in the U. S. Navy. Additional personal correspondence includes letters he wrote to Nellie Lee before and after their 1934 marriage. Items of interest in the Professional subseries include papers on Curtis's landmark obscenity case of the 1950s; various other opinions, decisions, and notes on court cases; and papers on his books The Backbone of the Herring; I, Too, Nicodemus; Star Wormwood; and Maria. The second series is comprised of forty-seven boxes that contain documents relating to the life and work of Nellie Lee Holt Bok. The material has been divided into five subseries: Early education, Stephen's College, and world tour; Correspondence; Personal; Organizations and interests; and Calendars, dayplanners, and notebooks. These papers date from her days as a religious educator at Stephen's College in the 1920s and 1930s, to her role as wife and mother, to her stint as president of Edward Bok's The American Foundation, Inc. and service with many other civic organizations from the 1950s onward. Partiocularly notable are papers related to her world tour in the first subseries. Between 1926 and 1927, she was charged by the president of Stephen's College to interview various educational leaders around the world, including Count Hermann Keyserling in Germany, founder of the School of Wisdom, and Mohandas K. Gandhi in India. Her interview with Gandhi was later published and she recalled her adventures in a manuscript she titled "The Neighborhood." The third series contains the oldest material in the collection and is comprised of letters, family records, account books and notebooks, and clippings primarily from Nellie Lee's immediate family. There are files of papers from Nellie Lee's parents, William R. and Eva (Giannini) Holt, and various members of the Giannini family. Additionally, there are genealogical records on the Giannini, Holt, Speer, and Seymour families; clippings on the Holt family; daily journals of Laura Speer and Eva Holt; some family correspondence; and mixed family papers. There are also a few files of papers related to the Bok family and its genealogy. The fourth and final series (Oversized papers and printed material) consists of large family photographs and prints, sample of original art collected by the family, and a number of publications and unsorted clippings. Comprising the publications are two boxes of Mid-Week Pictorials from 1918 to 1919 and a variety of British magazines commemorating the 1937 coronation of King George VI.  
524 8 |a Cite as: [Indicate cited item or series here], William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok papers (Collection 3096), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 
541 1 |a Gift of Dr. Enid Curtis Bok Okun, Rachael Bok Goldman, and Derek Bok, 2005. Accession number 2005.019. 
544 |a At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania: P. J. Bok legal papers (Collection 3185) The Philadelphia Award records (Collection 3081) Philadelphia Fellowship Commission records (MSS155) At other institutions: Curtis Bok papers, 1941-1948 (C0012), Princeton University Library's Manuscripts Division, Princeton, New Jersey.  
545 |a Curtis Bok, born in 1897 as William Curtis, was Edward and Mary Louise Curtis Bok’s oldest son. He attended Haverford School, the Chestnut Hill Academy, and The Hill School, a preparatory school in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. When graduated from The Hill School in 1915, he moved to Massachusetts and began studying at Williams College. He left school around 1917 to join the Navy when the United States entered World War I. By the age of 21, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant. At the end of the war, Curtis returned to Philadelphia to ponder his future. He turned down the opportunity to work in his father’s publishing company, and instead decided to study law at the University of Virginia. When he returned to Philadelphia, Curtis worked for a short time as the assistant district attorney of Philadelphia County. He took on cases that were deemed “hopeless,” and took a special interest in the plight of prisoners. He became an Eastern State Penitentiary trustee, and even volunteered to serve a term in prison so he could experience first-hand life behind bars. Curtis was appointed to the city's Orphans Court in 1935, then to the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. While serving locally, he oversaw what became his most famous case, Commonwealth v. Gordon, on obscenity and books. He ruled that if a controversial work had any social or redeeming values, it was not obscene. His decision still stands on the books today. He was later elected, as a Democrat, to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1958. In 1924, Curtis married Margaret Adams Plummer; together they had a daughter, Margaret Welmeot, and two sons, Benjamin and Derek. The couple divorced in the early 1930s. He married Nellie Lee Holt, a religious educator from Nebraska in 1934, and the couple had two children, Rachael and Enid. Curtis maintained lifelong interests in music, sailing, and writing. His writing abilities and legal knowledge shined in four books---The Backbone of the Herring; I, Too, Nicodemus; Star Wormwood; and a novel, Maria---as well as his "Judge Ulen" that he wrote for the law magazine The Shingle. He was deeply involved with the Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Curtis also wrote articles sailing and was a member of the United States Power Squadron, a non-profit organization that promotes boating safety and education. Curtis Bok died in 1962. Nellie Lee Holt was born in Falls City, Nebraska, to William Robert Holt and Eve Lezetta [Giannini] Holt on February 1, 1901. The Holts were known regionally for their award-winning Berkshire hogs. Nellie Lee graduated from high school in 1917 and attended St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana, where she studied piano at the school’s Conservatory of the Music. She went on to obtain a master's degree from the University of Nebraska. Her first career was as a teacher in the religious education department at Stephen’s College, Columbia, Missouri. She worked at the college from 1925 to 1934, and early on during her tenure, at the behest of the college's president, she went on a tour of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia to meet various leaders in education and religion. While in India, she stayed in two ashrams (religious settlements) with Mohandas Gandhi, whom she interviewed. After marrying in 1934 marriage Nellie Lee and Curtis Bok moved to Philadelphia. Nellie Lee's first foray into public service began in 1935 when she was appointed to serve on the Philadelphia County Board of Mothers' Assistance, Old Age Pension and Relief of the Blind. She resigned in 1937, the same year their first child was born. In the 1940s, she and Curtis joined the Society of Friends. Among Nellie Lee's many interests were the humanities, the education of women, music therapy, mental health reform, and, like Curtis, the treatment of prisoners. She joined numerous service organizations and helped organize the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission. In 1956, she was appointed president of The American Foundation, Inc., which was set up by Curtis's father Edward Bok. (Curtis served as secretary of the organization up to his death.) The foundation promoted educational programs for and relating to prisoners. Additionally, it supported the Mountain Lake Sanctuary in Lake Wales, Florida, which was also founded by Edward Bok. Nellie Lee's dedication to the community also extended to service with the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Award, the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Settlement School of Music, and the National Council of Crime and Delinquency, among other organizations. Curtis and Nellie Lee lived in several locations throughout the region, including the Society Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, and Radnor, Pennsylvania. Later in life, Nellie Lee moved to an apartment in Center City, Philadelphia. She died in 1984.  
555 |a Finding Aid Available Online:  
600 1 7 |a Anderson, Isabella Giannini.  |2 Local Sources 
600 3 7 |a Bok family.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Bok, Derek Curtis.  |2 NACO Authority File 
600 1 7 |a Gandhi, Mahatma  |d 1869-1948.  |2 NACO Authority File 
600 3 7 |a Giannini family.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Giannini, M.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Goldman, Rachel Bok.  |2 Local Sources 
600 3 7 |a Holt family.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Holt, Eva Giannini.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Holt, William R.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Keyserling, Hermann, Graf von  |d 1880-1946.  |2 NACO Authority File 
600 1 7 |a Okun, Enid Curtis Bok.  |2 Local Sources 
600 3 7 |a Seymour family.  |2 Local Sources 
600 3 7 |a Speer family.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Speer, Laura.  |2 Local Sources 
600 1 7 |a Zimbalist, Mary Louise Curtis Bok  |d 1876-1970.  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a Curtis Publishing Company  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a Philadelphia Fellowship Commission  |2 NACO Authority File 
610 2 7 |a The American Foundation, Inc  |2 Local Sources 
630 0 |a Stephens College. 
650 0 |a Coronations--Great Britain--History--20th century. 
650 0 |a Family life--Pennsylvania--20th century.  
650 0 |a Lawyers as authors. 
650 0 |a Sailing--Atlantic Coast (U.S.). 
650 0 |a Spouses--Correspondence-–20th century. 
650 0 |a Trials (Obscenity)--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.  
650 0 |a Voyages around the world--Description and travel.  
650 0 |a War diaries.  
651 0 |a Bok Tower Gardens (Lake Wales, Fla.)  
651 0 |a Pennsylvania--Social life and customs. 
651 0 |a Pennsylvania. Court of Common Pleas (Philadelphia County). 
651 0 |a Pennsylvania. Supreme Court. 
651 0 |a Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social life and customs--20th century.  
655 0 |a Correspondence. 
655 0 |a Speeches, addresses, etc. 
656 0 |a Judges--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.  
656 0 |a Lawyers--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia.  
700 1 |a Bok, Nellie Lee Holt  |d 1901-1984.  |e creator 
852 |a The Historical Society of Pennsylvania  |b William Curtis Bok and Nellie Lee Holt Bok Papers  |l 3096 
856 4 2 |y Link to finding aid  |u http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/b/Bok3096.html