1919: The Inception

Prior to 1919, Albert Mac C. Barnes, Jr., and Frank M. Halstead had worked for the federal government and therefore had experience in the trade business. He served as the deputy District Appraiser of Merchandise at the port of New York. He later took a role in the assistant general’s office after resigning from his role as the deputy District Appraiser in 1913. Born in Tacoma in 1872, Halstead worked his way from law clerk to head of customs. His impact at the customs agency was notable when he advocated making custom collectors, surveyors, appraisers, and assistant appraisers civil servants rather than political appointments. His other notable reforms include; bringing to an end the”last legal graft” in the customs service. He further contributed to the agency’s reform process by castigating some unnamed districts for “zero efficiency” in their operations. In the year 1919, the two, together with Mr Chilvers, whose information is little known, founded Barnes, Chilvers, and Halstead, a firm that would eventually become Barnes, Richardson, and Colburn. The firm was originally based at 2 Rector Street, New York, but is currently based in 100 William Street Suite 305 New York, NY 10038.

1919 : Barnes, Chilvers & Halstead Opens Practice

The firm that would eventually become Barnes, Richardson & Colburn was founded in New York City in 1919 as Barnes, Chilvers & Halstead. But at some point in the 20's changed to Barnes, MacKenna & Halstead.

The building in which they were located at 2 Rector Street in New York City was built in 1907.

Original Office located at 2 Rector Street, New York.

1920 : First Case - Treasury Decision 38397
The earliest documentation of the firm in Customs or court records that has been uncovered (so far) is Treasury Decision 38397 (May 4, 1920) decided before the United States Board of General Appraisers, which was a distant predecessor to the Court of International Trade.

The case itself regarded the exaction of duties against the Niagara Ferry & Transportation Company by the collector of customs at the Port of Buffalo.

Unfortunately, Mr. Barnes was not successful in his efforts to secure a refund. However, the decision highlights a number of changes that have occurred in customs and trade law since our founding in 1919 that we will explore in future entries.

1929: Mr. Barnes and Mr. Richardson Argue Bakelite at U.S. Supreme Court

Bakelite involved a decision of the Tariff Commission that certain imported products violated U.S. patent rights and should be excluded from the country. Today, these are known as Section 337 cases. The firm successfully represented Bakelite, the U.S. patent holder, at the Commission. The more contentious issue was the nature of the Court of Customs Appeals, which is the predecessor of the current Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. When the importers appealed the Commission decision, Mr. Barnes and Mr. Richardson asked the Supreme Court to stop the proceedings on the ground that there was no constitutional case or controversy. The “case or controversy” requirement applies to courts established under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The question, therefore, was whether the Court of Customs Appeals was a “constitutional court” or a court created by Congress under Article I to implement regulations. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Customs Appeals was created to resolve disputes that had previously been delegated to executive officers of the government. The Supreme Court, therefore, held that the Court of Customs Appeals was an Article I court that could act without a constitutional case or controversy. Today, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Court of International Trade are both firmly placed under Article III with all the powers of the corresponding district courts or circuit courts of appeal.

1920: The 1920s and 1930s

Frank Palmer Wilson, was a dedicated servant of the people, a dedicated democrat, and a family man. He was a deputy police commissioner of New York. He was employed by the department of justice where he was briefly appointed to run all tariff classifications before one of the hearing boards that acted as a court at that time. After his resignation as a special United States attorney, Frank Palmer Wilson became a partner of the Barnes, MacKenna & Halstead. During that period, the name of the firm was changed to Barnes, Wilson, & McKenna. His resume is full of success stories, and one of them is about the Japanese textile fabric tax, where he won and received some little notoriety. He married a popular sculptress Lucy Currier Richards, who has been termed as an interesting lady that fit well into the interesting life of Frank P. Wilson.

1933 : Samuel Richardson's Entry

As a former solicitor of customs at New York, Samuel Richardson joined the firm in July 1933 and brought much experience on legal matters. He took part in at least two Supreme Court cases and was involved in other numerous legal matters. When he joined, the name of the firm was changed to Barns, Richardson & Halstead, upon the agreement of all the partners. Samuel remained a partner until he retired in 1946, after serving for 13 years.

1935 : J. Bradley Colburn

George Washington University graduate of Law, Mr J. Bradley Colburn, joined the firm in 1935, 7 years after he entered private service. Earlier on, he spent one year in the consular service in London, before he got admitted to the bar, and served as an assistant to the general counsel at the U.S. tariff Commission, an appointment he held between 1924 and 1928. A gel amid bright minds, Bradley became a key figure both at the federal government and during the private practice. Bradley Colburn was an authority on legal issues about import duties and values for related United States companies. He was a member of New York’s Union League club, Nassau Country club, and the country club of Columbia of Washington.

1942 : Firm Name Becomes Barnes, Richardson & Colburn
The partners adopted the name Barnes, Richardson & Colburn on October 1, 1942 and it has remained since.

The firm had undergone several changes of names since its inception, which took place every time new partners joined the firm. At the inception, the founders adopted the name Barnes, Chilvers & Halstead; which would later be changed to Barnes, Richardson & Halstead, when Samuel Richardson joined the team. Between 1919 and 1925, Bernard C. Mckenna replaced Chilvers in the firm and this resulted in the change of name to Barnes, MacKenna and Halstead, which would later change to Barnes, Wilson and Halstead when Frank Palmer Wilson joined the firm. This was despite the fact that MacKenna was still in the firm, but historical records show that during this period, up to three names were used simultaneously. McKenna left little paper trail just like Chilvers but records of cases dated between 1926 and 1931show him appearing as a member of Barnes, McKenna and Halstead, during which he worked on cargo claim issues. Prior to joining the firm, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney. In 1935, Bradley Colburn partnered with Barnes, Richardson & Halstead, and seven years later, the partners resolved to change the name to Barnes, Richardson & Colburn on October 1, 1942, a name that has remained to date.
1946 : Samuel Richardson Retires
Samuel Richardson remained a partner until his retirement in January of 1946.

During his time at the firm, Richardson was involved in countless legal matters, a and participated in at least two Supreme Court cases.
1947 : The Breakthrough

Among the many legal representations by Barnes, Richardson & Colburn, the one that was a big milestone is The Great Rhubarb controversy, a case of tariff classification of fresh Rhubarb from Canada. The issue was whether the Rhubarb was considered a natural fruit that it could be taken as a dessert or taken as a vegetable in its natural state. Based on these classifications, Rhubarb would be subjected to different duty rates. In their argument, Barnes, Richardson & Colburn and their partner Joseph Schwartz argued that the Rhubarb would more likely be taken as a dessert and it was classified accordingly, and subsequently the importer won the case. This was not only a win for the importer but also Joseph and Barnes, Richardson & Colburn.

1956 : Barnes, Richardson & Colburn Expands to D.C.
Barnes, Richardson & Colburn opens Washington, D.C. office in The Hay-Adams hotel in 1956.

< The Hay-Adams hotel

Currently at 1200 New Hampshire Ave. NW,
Washington, D.C.
1963 : Original Founder, Albert MacC. Barnes Passes Away
Founder Albert MacC. Barnes was the Deputy Appraiser of Merchandise at the Port of New York prior to resigning in 1913 to take a role in the Assistant Attorney General’s Office, which is the last position he held before founding Barnes, Chilvers & Halstead in 1919.

During his practice, Barnes handled innumerable customs and trade matters, testified several times before Congress in his capacity as an American Bar Association committee head, and was very involved with the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce.

In 1948 Barnes was awarded the Royal Order of St. Olav Knight First Class for his “exceedingly valuable work and great personal endeavors over a long span of years in matters relating to Norway.” Barnes also participated in at least three Supreme Court cases.

Barnes remained a partner in the firm until his death in 1963.
1975 : A Step further

In 1975, Barnes, Richardson, & Colburn partners J. Bradley Colburn, Earl. Lindstrom, E. Thomas Honey, Rufus E. Jarman, and David O. Elliott, on behalf of Yoshida International, challenged the Nixon shock of 1971, whose introduction was increasing inflation in the U.S (United States v. Yoshida Intern., Inc). The president had imposed economic measures that would, among other things, impose an across-the-board surcharge of 10% on imported merchandise. Yoshida questioned the president’s action and whether he had the legal authority to impose the 10% surcharge. According to the court, the president was guided by the Trade Expansion Act, though the scope of authority was limited to terminating existing proclamations having to do with trade. The court established that the president had no power to set new rates of duty unilaterally. This was a win for Barnes, Richardson, & Colburn. However, it was only for a short while because the court of appeal established that the action by the president was within the power delegated to him constitutionally.
1976 : Andrew P. Vance joins the firm as a partner

Mr. Vance joined the firm’s New York office after a distinguished career that was capped by his designation as Chief of the Customs Section at the United States Department of Justice. He served as a member of the Advisory Committees of both the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the United States Court of International. He was elected President of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (“CITBA”). After his death in 1997, CITBA created the Andrew P. Vance Memorial Writing Competition, which continues to this day.

1979 : J. Bradley Colburn Passes On

Barnes, Richardson, and Colburn lost a dedicated servant in Bradley Colburn. Born in 1903, and a resident of Port Washington, Bradley Colburn died in February 1979 aged 76 years at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. With a rich history in customs and international tariff law, he served diligently. He held different positions including being an assistant of the United States tariff commission, president of the association of the customs bar and chairman of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on customs law. His wife, Grace, survived him; a daughter, Carylyn, and a grandson, Christopher.

1986 : David Elliott Becomes President of CITBA

David Elliot, a partner in the New York Office and eventual Managing Partner of the firm, was elected President of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association in 1986. Mr. Elliot had attended Harvard Law School before serving as a clerk to the Chief Judge of the United States Customs Court.

2000 : Washington-based partner Gunter von Gonrad is awarded the Bundesverdienst Kreuz

The Bundesverdienst Kreuz is the highest order of merit awarded by the German government to private citizens, for his professional, philanthropic and charitable accomplishments. Mr. von Conrad was an expert in antidumping and international unfair competition law. He received his law degree from the University of Cologne (Germany) in 1963 and then completed U.S. legal studies at George Washington University in 1965. He joined the firm in 1967 and worked for the firm until his retirement in 2000.

2006 : Sandra Friedman Becomes President of CITBA

Sandra Friedman, a partner in our New York office, was elected President of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association. She served in that position from 2006 to 2008.

2013 : Barnes, Richardson, and Colburn Becomes Limited Liability Partnership

The year 2013 was a great year for Barnes, Richardson & Colburn. It marked the year that the firm became a limited liability partnership. This would mean limited legal liability and flexibility in terms of management roles.

2016 : Lawrence Friedman Becomes President of CITBA

Chicago-based partner Lawrence Friedman was elected to serve as President of the Customs and International Trade Bar Association. In addition, Mr. Friedman serves as a member of the Court of International Trade Advisory Committee and chaired the Court’s Judicial Conference Planning Committee.

2019 : It's a Century!

The year 2019 marked the year when the firm celebrated 100 years since its inception. It was the celebration of 100 years of exemplary service offered to the global community. The firm celebrated it uniquely, by posting interesting facts and cases from the archives that present the history of the firm and the progress and development of trade laws in the United States of America. The facts and posts posted in the history page of the firm's website span from 1919 through to 2013. It covers the inception of the firm; the role played by Barnes, Chilvers & Halstead during inception; the first document case of the firm; the different periods when different partners joined the firm; that is 1933 and 1935 when Samuel Richardson and J. Bradley Colburn joined respectively. It further covers the contribution of each partner, the change of firm's name and the expansion of the firm to Chicago and Washington D.C. The page then talks about the death of the founder of the firm and one other partner, Bradley Colburn, and finally, it talks about when the firm became a limited liability partnership. All this information has been put in a single place so that the people can easily get access to it and acquaint themselves with the information they may want to know.