Scope and arrangement
The papers consist of general correspondence received by Cockran including letters from Winston Churchill, Moreton Frewen, Horace Plunkett, Goldwin Smith and other notable figures; his correspondence as Member of Congress from New York; his correspondence relating to Ireland and to the Tom Mooney Case; letter press copies of his outgoing correspondence; typescripts of his addresses and speeches on public affairs; legal papers of his law firm Cockran & Clarke including records of cases before the New York State Superior Court and other courts; personal papers including memorabilia and newspaper clippings documenting his personal life and his professional activities as lawyer, politician, orator, and member of Congress.
The William Bourke Cockran papers are arranged in four series:
The correspondence is organized in three subseries: A. General Correspondence; B. Subjects Correspondence; and C. Letterbooks
The bulk of this series consists of typewritten drafts of addresses and speeches by Cockran, many with emendations in his hand, arranged chronologically in the period 1886, 1889-1906, 1908-1923; followed by undated items arranged topically or by title. The addresses and speeches document the full range of Cockran's public and professional concerns including municipal politics, electoral campaigns, the Irish Question, Irish patriots, immigration, foreign policy, imperialism, the Philippines, bi-metalism, tariffs and socialism. Included are a few copies of published speeches in pamphlet form, and photocopies of speeches published in the Congressional Record. Included also is an incomplete holograph draft by Robert M. McElroy of his work entitled "Selected Addresses and Speeches of William Bourke Cockran". McElroy had access to Cockran's papers while they were in the custody of the Cockran Estate.
The legal papers are arranged into three subseries: A. New York State Supreme Court; B. Superior Court of the City of New York; and C. Miscellaneous Courts and Papers.
The bulk of the papers consist of miscellaneous cases arranged chronologically (1883-1922) followed by case files arranged alphabetically. Included is correspondence of Cockran and of Cockran & Clark and Cockran & Manton, with clients, attorneys, opposing counsel, consultants, and others; and various legal papers including motions, depositions, pleadings, notices, summons, stipulations, and other papers. Several cases involve Cockran & Clark as defense counsel for Hugh J. Grant, Sheriff of the City of New York. The case of Marbury vs. Equitable Life Insurance Society contains correspondence between Cockran and Elisabeth Marbury, a literary agent, copies of correspondence between Marbury and the president of the Society, and correspondence between Cockran and his nephew, Cecil F. Elmes, who served as consultant in the case. The case of People vs. Becker, which attracted wide publicity, contains correspondence with attorneys and others regarding Cockran's attempt to obtain a commutation of the death sentence imposed on Charles Becker, a police lieutenant, who was convicted of murder. Included are letters from Charles Becker, and a letter from Becker's widow, Helen Becker, expressing appreciation for Cockran's efforts in the case.