By Michael H. Hoeflich
The Lawbook Exchange Ltd, $75.00, 102 pages
To get general ideas about opinions of the masses, historians examine items from popular culture (i.e. music, newspapers and television). In his unique book, The Law in Postcard & Ephemera: 1890-1962, author Michael Hoeflich focuses on penny postcards to find out what people thought about lawyers, courts and the law in the years between 1890 and 1962.
“Here lies a lawyer and an honest man…I wonder why they put these two fellers in one grave?”
The book is split into 13 sections including Animal, Child, Women, Ethnic and Drinking Lawyers. Each section features clear photographs, cartoons, caricatures or drawings from postcards. Hoeflich’s Introduction is brief at 5 1/2 pages considering it is the only time readers will hear from him. If a reader uses Hoeflich’s images as evidence of widely held beliefs of the chosen time period, lawyers lacked morals, were alcoholic, ignorant, prejudiced racists who could be compared to weak children and behaved like animals in the courtroom. Hoeflich tries to explain some of these stereotypes (ie. It was a time when children and animals dressed like adults to be endearing). But the author glosses over the severe and damaging suggestions the postcards made and still make (i.e. Women belong at home with the children. Irish (ethnic) defendants are ignorant and drunk).
Readers would benefit greatly from Hoeflich’s analysis of the postcards’ legal humor, wit, sarcasm and satire. Considering he is a lawyer, professor, and has written numerous books, what better resource is there to put these images in context and give readers a healthy analysis. Unfortunately, he did not, which means that he has contributed to the stereotypes that continue to exist today.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin