US SUPREME COURT JUDGE, US SENATOR, AND CIVIL WAR COLONEL: MEET STANLEY MATTHEWS

JUDGE MATTHEWS_0009

This cabinet card portrait features Stanley Matthews (1824-1889).  This image was produced by the Reynolds Photo Company of Chicago, Illinois, and shows Matthews wearing his judicial robe.  The photograph was part of the “Photo of Celebrities” series. Matthews served as a Supreme Court Justice from 1881 until his death. He was appointed by President James Garfield. At the time of his appointment he was a United States Senator from Ohio. Matthews was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended Kenyon College and then practiced law in Ohio, and later on, in Tennessee. He was the editor of the Cincinnati Herald for two years. He served in the Ohio State senate and then became a US Attorney until 1861 when he resigned to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the 23rd Ohio Infantry. At the time that Matthews was appointed a Supreme Court Justice, his nomination passed Congress by just one vote. As a judge in the nation’s highest court, he wrote the decision in the Yick Wo vs. Hopkins case. Politicians in San Francisco had passed a law asserting that laundries could not be operated in wooden buildings without a special permit. This permit would be required in addition to the other permits already required. This new law  had much impact considering that ninety-five percent of the city’s laundries were in wooden buildings. Two thirds of these laundries were owned by Chinese businessmen. When the new permits were issued, all non Chinese owners received permits and all Chinese owners were denied the permits. Yik Wo continued to operate his laundry without the permit and was convicted, fined, and later jailed for refusing to pay the fine. His case rose up the hierarchy of courts until it reached the Supreme Court. In his decision, Matthews wrote that the permit statute was discriminatory and that the Chinese laundry owners were entitled to equal protection under the fourteenth amendment of constitution.

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