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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

New York City Criminal Courts: Historical Research: New York County - Court of General Sessions

Links and information on historical research on documents produced by NYC, NY State and Federal court proceedings in NYC.

Court of General Sessions Records at John Jay

The John Jay Criminal Trial Transcripts Collection 1887 - 1927 is mainly comprised of transcripts from the Court of General Sessions, New York County [transcripts #1-3106B].

State Court Records at the NYC Municipal Archives and NY State Library & Archives

For additional records of the Court of General Sessions, New York County (including indictments 1879-1892 which can be browsed online) and other New York City Courts, please contact the Municipal Archives of New York, which also holds the indictment records for many trials in the John Jay Collection, accessible by stenographer number. A list of their holdings is here and here.

MuckRock is compiling a list of the Microform Records at the Municipal Archives via FOIL - there are some lists of District Attorney and Court of General Sessions records on this page.

There are many more state court resources at the New York State Archives.

Books & Articles Written From our Trial Transcripts

Books & Articles written from research in our Trial Transcript Collection these works can both be an example of what can be written from a transcript as well as research materials on the specific transcripts that were used to write them.

Arons, Ron (2008) The Jews of Sing Sing: Gotham Gangsters and Gonuvim. Fort Lee: Barricade Books. Stacks - HV6194 .J4 A76 2008
Brooks, Tim and Richard Keith Spottswood (2004) Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919. University of Illinois Press.  Available as an e-book (CUNY use only) Chapter three uses The People vs. George V. Johnson (our trial number 183) as a resource.
Bunk, Tobin (2014) Poisoning the Pecks of Grand Rapids: the Scandalous 1916 Murder Plot. History Press (expected soon at John Jay Library). Used People vs. Arthur Warren Waite (our trial number 3241) as a resource for this book.
Carnevale, Nancy C.  (2010) A New Language, a New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.  Avail. As an e-book (CUNY use only)Used People v Calandra Biaggio (our transcript number 601, which is digitally available) and People vs. Dominick DeMasso (our transcript number 322)
Cole, Simon A. (2001) Suspect Identities: A History of Criminal Investigation and Fingerprinting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Reserve Room - 3 hour loan - HV 6074 .C557 2001 Also available as an e-book (CUNY use only). Used transcript of People v. Crispi (our trial number 176) as a resource in this book.
Chauncey, G. (1994) Gay New York:  gender, urban culture, and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940.  New York: Basic Books. Stacks - HQ 76.2 .U52 N53 1994. Used sodomy cases related to bath houses in the Court of General Sessions Transcripts at John Jay as a resource for this book.
Critchley, David.  The Origin of Organized Crime in America: The New York City Mafia 1891-1931. New York: Routledge. Stacks - HV6452 .N7 C75 2009 Used transcript of People vs. John Russomanno (our trial number 1856) as a resource for this book.
Donovan, B. (2005), “Gender Inequality and Criminal Seduction: Prosecuting Sexual Coercion in the Early-20th Century.” Law and Social Inquiry, 30 pp. 61–88. Analyzes narratives of sexual consent and coercion in 15 criminal seduction cases as recorded in transcripts in the John Jay Collection.
Donovan, B., & Barnes-Brus, T. (2011). Narratives of Sexual Consent and Coercion: Forced Prostitution Trials in Progressive-Era New York City. Law & Social Inquiry, 36(3), 597-619. doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2011.01244.x (John Jay Log-in required) discusses 'white slavery' transcripts in the collection.
Donovan, B. (2016) Respectability on trial : sex crimes in New York City, 1900-1918.  Albany: State University of New York Press. Stacks - HQ72.U5 D66 2016 Used 75 transcripts from our collection as references in this book.
Lui, M. (2005). The Chinatown trunk mystery : Murder, miscegenation, and other dangerous encounters in turn-of-the-century New York City. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Stacks - JV6483 .L85 2005  used trial #1659 People vs. Lee Dock and Eng Hing as well as other trials in our collection.
Livingston, David (2010) Arsenic and clam chowder: murder in gilded age New York. Albany : Excelsior Editions, State University of New York Press.. Stacks - HV6534 .N5 L58 2010 Detailed account of a murder for inheritance in a famous NYC family, and the trial (our trial number 70).
Mcillwain, Jeffrey Scott (March 1997) “From tong war to organized crime: Revising the historical perception of violence in Chinatown.” Justice Quarterly  14, 1 pp. 25-52. Used the Court of General Sessions, New York County transcripts amongst other primary and secondary documents in this study.
Murphy, Cait (2010) Scoundrels in law: the trials of Howe & Hummel, lawyers to the gangsters, cops, starlets, and rakes who made the Gilded Age. New York, N.Y.: Smithsonian Books Stacks-KF355 .N4 M87 2010 This law firm regularly and famously represented defendants in the Court of General Sessions and many other NYC Courts.  Many of our transcripts were used as reference for this book.
Robertson, S. (2002), “Making Right a Girl's Ruin: Working-Class Legal Cultures and Forced Marriage in New York City, 1890–1950.” Journal of American Studies 36: pp. 199-230.
Robertson, S. (2002) Age of Consent Law and the Making of Modern Childhood in New York City, 1886—1921 Journal of Social History 35.4 pp. 781-798. Used several transcripts in the John Jay Collection as material for these and forthcoming studies.
Schoepfiln, Rennie B. (2002) Christian Science on Trial: Religious Healing in America (Medicine, Science and Religion in Historical Context) Johns Hopkins University Press. Available as an e-book (CUNY use only) Used transcript of People vs. Willis V. Cole our trial number 1767 (case on appeal was 148 N.Y.S. 708) as a resource in this book.
Underwood, Richard (2017) Gaslight lawyers: criminal trials & exploits in gilded age New York. Stacks - KF355.N4 U53 2017
Used many transcripts from our transcript collection to write this book, which is dedicated to the librarians at Lloyd Sealy Library.

Works About the Court of General Sessions, NY County

These books and articles were written from data and observations from the Court of General Sessions, NY County.

Bromberg W and Thompson C. (1937) “The relation of psychosis, mental defect and personality types to crime.” Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology; 28/1 pp. 70-89. Presents the findings resulting from the study of 9958 prisoners, conducted for four years in the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions.

Collins, C. F. (1933). Treatment of criminals in the Court of general sessions of the County of New York.

Cooley, E. J. (1927). Probation and delinquency: The study and treatment of the individual delinquent. New York: Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.

Kleinhans, E. (1985). Transcripts of criminal cases in New York City.

Koenig, L. (1937). The Court of General Sessions in New York County.

Messinger, Emanuel and  Apfelberg, Benjamin C. (1961) “A Quarter Century of Court Psychiatry.” Crime & Delinquency, 7/4, pp. 343-362. This study surveys a quarter of a century of continuous operation of the Psychiatric Clinic of the Court of General Sessions of New York County
Towne, A. (July,1922) "Young Girl Marriages in Criminal and Juvenile Courts," Journal of Social Hygiene, 8 pp. 297-306. Refers to certain cases heard in the Court of General Sessions and other Courts.

White, J. N. (1952). The age factor in five hundred cases of young adult offenders: The Court of General Sessions, New York County.


Disposition of the Records of the Court of General Sessions

New York State Judicial Records Disposition Committee., & New York (State). (1988). Records management in the New York State Unified Court System: Final report of the New York State Judicial Records Disposition Committee. New York: New York State Judicial Records Disposition and Archives Development Project. Digitally available