19th Century Empirical Legal Research Data Being Digitized

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Researchers interested in nineteenth century empirical legal studies are often frustrated by the fact that the data in such resources can be inconsistent or imprecise – when it is available at all.  Such scholars should consider three previously unavailable historical data sources. The first resource, the U.S. Official Register, contains occupational records for employees of the U.S. Federal government. Salary data for employees like postmasters provides a useful proxy for assessing local business activity. The second resource, the annual reports of the Postmaster General, contains data on postal money orders into and out of former Confederate and Union states. These records can provide valuable insight into the post-Civil War economy. The third resource, postmaster cash books, contains records of money orders sold at the post office. These records are rare but provide detailed data on the day to day activity at local post offices. These unique materials have previously been unavailable in a fully searchable, digitized version, but are now being digitized and studied by Robert W. Dimand (Brock University), Terence Hines (Pace University), Michael O’Reilly (independent), and Thomas James Velk (McGill University). For the full article describing this material and the research being conducted, see Robert W. Dimand, et. al., “A 19th Century Data Goldmine for Legal Scholars,” available via SSRN.