Leopold and Loeb in the University Archives

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The 1924 kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks by two young men, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, and the subsequent trial where they were defended by Clarence Darrow, is a memorable episode in Chicago's history. Northwestern University Library holds some remarkable collections that document this murder case. From March through April, 2009, the  Library mounted a major exhibit featuring documents and artifacts from the University Archives and the McCormick Library of Special Collections. These items were augmented by books and other materials from the Library's holdings, and enhanced by a lecture by Simon Baatz, author of For the Thrill of It: Lepold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago.

This page features some of the items from the University Archives' collection that were used in the exhibit, and provides information about relevant resources in the Archives and elsewhere.  The items pictured are drawn from the Harold S. Hulbert papers. Hulbert, a Chicago psychiatrist, in conjunction with Karl M. Bowman M.D., conducted lengthy psychiatric and physical examinations of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb after their arrests. The Archives' holdings include the write-up of these evaluations, the full confessions and statements by Leopold and Loeb to the authorities, photographic copies of check receipts, examples of handwriting, and examples of typewriting. The photographic copies appear to have been used as court evidence. Also included are the original ransom notes written to Jacob Franks, the victim's father. The collection sheds light not only on a sensational case, but on a turning point in methods of legal argument and use of evidence.

In addition to the Hulbert Papers, the Archives' holdings include an interview with Leigh Bienen, senior lecturer at the School of Law and director of the Chicago Historical Homicide Project, who has extensively researched the Leopold and Loeb case. (A link to the interview is below)

Please contact the University Archives for more information about its holdings of Leopold and Loeb materials.

Further Reading and Listening

  • Baatz, Simon: For the Thrill of It: Lepold, Loeb, and the Murder that Shocked Chicago (NY: Harper Collins, 2008) 

  • McCormick Library of Special Collections, Elmer Gertz Collection (MS97)
  • Richard Loeb Psychiatric Statement (.pdf)
  • Nathan Leopold Psychiatric Statement (.pdf)
  • Richard Loeb Confessions and Statements (.pdf)
  • Nathan Leopold Confessions and Statements (.pdf)


    Above: envelope addressed to the victim's father, Jacob Franks, containing the ransom note

    Ransom note

    Above: the two-page ransom note

    Above: the second note, containing instructions for depositing the ransom, and its envelope

    Above and below: 

    Evidence: photographs of the car-rental forms that Leopold and Loeb filled out with false information.