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Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove

Identifier: MSS-2014-8


Collection of 6224 sketches, mainly courtroom sketches of criminal and civil trials around New York City, drawn by Ida Libby Dengrove. Of importance is her work on the David "Son of Sam" Berkowitz trial, that earned her two Emmy Awards; ABSCAM, FBI Sting Operatiion Targeting Political Corruption, U.S. v. Williams, 705 F.2d 603 (2d Cir. 1983); Black Liberation Army Member, Assata Shakur, Tried on Murder and Assault Charges, New Jersey v. Chesimard, 555 F. 2d 63 (3d Cir. 1977); Chicago Seven Member Abbie Hoffman on Trial for Conspiracy and Inciting to Riot, U.S. v. Dillinger, 657 F. 2d 140 (7th Cir 1981); John Hinckley on Trial for the Attemped Assassination of President Ronald Reagan, U.S. v. Hinckley, 525 F. Supp. 1342 (D.D.C. 1981) and many others.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1972 - 1987

Biographical / Historical

Ida Libby Leibovitz was born in 1919 in Philadelphia. She spent her summers in Atlantic City, where her mother worked, while Ida and her mirror twin, Freda, sketched portraits on the beach. She attended Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia and was mentored by Dr. Albert Barnes, studying free at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Both Ida and Freda traveled to Mexico to study with Diego Rivera in the summer of 1939, though it was Ida who won the fellowship.

Ida married Dr. Edward Dengrove shortly before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While he served overseas as a flight surgeon with the Flying Tigers in China, Ida took a job with the USO, sketching wounded soldiers for their families back home. After the war she remained committed to her art, teaching lessons and exhibiting at every opportunity. In 1972 she interviewed for a position at WNBC News where she was hired on the spot when Bernard Schussman saw the sketch of his secretary that Ida had drawn while waiting.

In the early seventies, a New Jersey judge called Ida to his chambers and ruined her drawings, an action then justified by the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Dengrove and NBC fought the measure to the New Jersey Supreme Court, where a decision in 1974 amended the Code of Judicial Conduct of the American Bar Association. The discretionary ban on court sketch artists was lifted.

For twenty-eight years, Dengrove sketched some of the most noteworthy trials and notorious offenders of the late twentieth century. Her work on the David "Son of Sam Berkowitz, earned her the first two Emmys. She won another for the coverage of Craig Crimmins and the "Murder at the Met." She sketched John Gotti, Carmine "The Snake" Persico, Anthony "Fat Tony" Salerno, and other mob bosses. She recreated the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, drew John Lennon as a defendant, Jackie O as a plaintiff, Mick Jagger as a witness, and Sid Vicious as an accused murderer. She immortalized the arraingments of Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley just a few months apart. She committed to paper the lasting fallout of court proceedings still extending from Watergate and Vietnam.

After leaving NBC in 1987, Dengrove continued to draw, paint, and create for another twenty years until her death from complications of Alzheimer's at the age of eighty-six.


6224 items (60 oversized boxes)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the Law Library in March of 2014 by Lois Dengrove.

Materials Specific Details

The collection of sketches arrived at the library in one large crate and 15 smaller crates containing loosely organized manila envelops which contained the sketches. To preserve them, each individual sketch received a protective paper sleeve which were then stored in acid free oversized folders. These folders were place in a total of 60 archival preservation boxes amounting to 20 linear feet.

The sketches were preserved, catalogued, and described. In addition, every sketch was digitized using our 60 MP Hasselblad H4H digital camera. The preservation quality digital orgiinals were then preserved and derivative web-deliverable JPGs were created. All the information created during the cataloguing and researching process was combined with these images and entered into a Drupal-based website.

Library staff used available information about the subjects and trials to research and tag every one of the sketches. Then for a larger or more famous trials, personalities, and subjects, "write-ups" were written, after more research. (See: Dengrove Digital Exhibit: "The Courtroom Sketches of Ida Libby Dengrove,

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Arthur J. Morris Law Library Special Collections Repository

Arthur J. Morris Law Library
580 Massie Road
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22903 United States