Henry Sandwith Drinker (September 15, 1880 – 1965) was an American lawyer and amateur musicologist. In 1964, the American Bar Association gave Drinker the American Bar Association Medal, stating that Drinker's monumental work Legal Ethics (Columbia U. Press 1953) was "recognized throughout the civilized world as the definitive treatise on this subject."
Henry "Harry" Sandwith Drinker was born into a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia, the son of Henry Sturgis Drinker, a mechanical engineer for the Lehigh Valley Railroad who became president of Lehigh University, and Aimee Ernesta “Etta” Beaux. He had three brothers: Jim; Cecil, the founder of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Philip, inventor of the iron lung; and two sisters, Catherine and Ernesta. The painter Cecilia Beaux was his mother's sister.
Henry Drinker graduated from Haverford College in 1900 with an A.B., then earned another A.B. from Harvard University in 1901. He attended University of Pennsylvania Law School and Harvard Law School, earning his LL.B. in 1904 from Penn.
He married the musician Sophie Drinker (born Sophie Lewis Hutchinson), then moved to Merion, Pennsylvania. The couple had five children together: Sophie, Henry S. III, Cecilia, Ernesta, and Pemberton.
In 1976, Drinker's record was harshly criticized by historian Jerold Auerbach of Wellesley College, who claimed that Drinker personified the elitism of the bar in the early twentieth century. Auerbach quotes Drinker as having referred in a 1929 speech to "Russian Jew boys" who came "up out of the gutter" as the subject of a disproportionate number of ethical complaints against lawyers. A solution to the problem of immigrant lawyers who had not absorbed the professional norms of the American legal profession, Drinker argued, would be to require at least two years of college prior to admission to the Bar.
As Chair of the ABA Committee on Professional Ethics, Drinker authored what is generally considered the definitive mid-twentieth century American treatise on lawyers' professional ethics, Legal Ethics (1953).
Though he was a successful lawyer, Drinker spent every minute of his spare time playing music, a passionate hobby that was as important to him as his real profession. Apart from active music-making, he devoted himself to the translation of the German text of vocal compositions of great composers into English. Among them are Schubert's songs and Haydn's Creation, and a variety of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, among others, the Christmas Oratorio, the St. John Passion and the St. Matthew Passion. From 1912 to 1920, Drinker served as President of the Board of Managers of the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
All of his children had daily music lessons, and the whole family sat down together regularly to sing. They often visited musical events such as concerts, opera performances and music festivals, and were for 25 years subscribers to the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1928, the Drinkers built a new house, which contained a large music room where they regularly organized singing evenings, and sometimes they used the premises of the American Musicological Society for their gatherings. Most well-known were their exclusive singing parties that were invitation only, and involved a dinner prepared by the Drinker household staff with group song and music before and after. Oftentimes these evenings involved the accompaniment of musicians invited from prestigious institutions, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and Curtis Institute.
During World War II, Drinker intervened on behalf of the von Trapp family when they were detained at Ellis Island due to visa issues. He sponsored the family, providing them with housing and financial support for their first three years in the United States.
The Drinker House at Haverford College was renamed in his honor in 1961, when it was converted into the music department building and library. It is now used for student housing.
Man with the Cat – Henry Sturgis Drinker) (1898), by Cecilia Beaux, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Les derniers jours d' enfance (1883) by Cecilia Beaux, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
- "Henry S. Drinker Receives the American Bar Association Medal". ABA Journal. 50: 942. October 1964.
- Tara Leigh Tappert (1974). "Out of the Background: Cecilia Beaux and the Art of Portraiture - Part I: Beginnings". Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
- "Cultivating Music in America". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
- Auerbach, Jerold S., Unequal Justice: Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America, Oxford U. Press, 1976, pp. 125-27. Auerbach's analysis itself came under criticism, to which he responded. See https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/on-lawyers/ (Nov. 1976).
- Auerbach, Jerold S., Unequal Justice: Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America, Oxford 1976, p. 127
- See Auerbach, Jerold S., Unequal Justice: Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America, Oxford 1976, pp. 81-82, 96-97
- "Board of Managers". About:Board of Managers:Past Presidents. The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Retrieved 2 January 2017.
- About Us at Drinkerbiddle.com
- Wyman, Carolyn. "Philly's little-known 'Sound of Music' connection comes full circle this weekend". The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Lenfest Institute. Retrieved 12 October 2019.; also appeared as "A 'Sound of Music' Legacy," The Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 2019, pp. W16-17
- "Biddle Law Library: Manuscript Collections • Penn Law". Retrieved 21 December 2016.