Our Overworked Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was very busy, during the last part of the 19th century. 

Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894) created this illustration which was published, by Keppler & Schwarzmann, in a satirical magazine called Puck (v. 18, no. 457) on December 9, 1885. It depicts Supreme Court justices in a state of disarray.

Keppler gave his illustration a sharply worded caption:

It [the Supreme Court] is unequal to the ever-increasing labor thrust upon it - will Congress take prompt measures for the relief of the people?

The Library of Congress provides further context by summarizing this illustration’s message:

Illustration shows Supreme Court justices "Woods, Blatchford, Harlan, Gray, Miller, Field, Waite, Bradley [and] Matthews" around a table, struggling to keep up with an overload of cases piling up on the floor, delivered "From the Lower Courts" by mail clerks entering on the left, as well as "Cases Unadjudicated 1880-1882" and "Cases Unadjudicated 1883-", and a cabinet labeled "1885" along the wall in the background.

One of the things these very busy Justices did (in 1883) was to find that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (which gave civil rights to African Americans) was unconstitutional.

Click on the image for a better view of Keppler’s illustration (which Puck published as a centerfold).

Media Credits

Illustration by Joseph Ferdinand Keppler, published in "Puck" on 9 December 1885, online via the Library of Congress. Public Domain.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Our Overworked Supreme Court" AwesomeStories.com. Jan 12, 2016. Jan 19, 2020.
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