The papers of George Way Harley span the years 1911 to 1975 though the bulk of them are from 1925 to 1960. The papers relate principally to the life and work of George W. and Winifred J. Harley at the mission they founded and supervised at Ganta, Liberia and include diaries and journals, correspondence, writings and notes, miscellaneous personal and subject files, account books, notebooks, scrapbooks, albums, photographs, printed materials, clippings, diplomas, certificates, memorabilia, and other papers.
Shortly after George W. Harley graduated from Trinity College (later Duke University) in 1916, he went to Yale to attend medical school, where he met his future wife, Winifred Frances Jewell. Responding to calls to mission work heard at the First Methodist Church in New Haven, and after receiving his M.D. in 1923, Harley and his wife left the U.S. under the auspices of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. After a short time studying in London, they were sent to Ganta, in the Liberian interior, where they established a medical mission and industrial school.
During the next 35 years spent at Ganta Mission, Dr. Harley built a medical dispensary, hospital, church, school, several residences and shops, as well as a leper village and two "sick villages." In addition to his medical work, Dr. Harley was also very involved and interested in the industrial training and teaching of the local Liberian people, as well as local anthropology, art, native medicine, mapping, meteorology, and other scientific interests. On his death in 1966, Liberia declared a national day of mourning and President William V.S. Tubman issued a proclamation praising the long service of Dr. Harley on behalf of Liberia and its people.
The correspondence of George W. and Winifred J. Harley forms the largest portion of these papers. Included are many letters to members of their respective families (letters from family members being notably absent) detailing the daily life and struggles of mission work as well as more official correspondence with the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church and scholarly correspondence relating to Dr. Harley's scientific work, particularly his relationship with the Peabody Museum of Harvard University in conducting anthropological field work and collecting botanical and entomological specimens. Also included in the correspondence are letters reflecting in a general way on the impact of World War II in Liberia and the operations of the plantations of the Firestone Rubber Company.
The writings found in these papers consist of holograph and typewritten drafts and notes on a variety of subjects. Included are articles of both popular and scholarly interest focusing, not surprisingly, on various aspects of Harley's experience and work at the mission and in Liberia. Of particular note are a copy of Harley's 1938 Ph.D. dissertation, Native African Medicine and two drafts of Mrs. Harley's memoirs of her life with George Harley.
The Miscellany files in these papers consist of notes, minutes, printed and near-print material, and other papers relating to a particular subject, such as Dr. Harley's participation in the work of the Advisory Council on Health of the Republic of Liberia or his work with the Foreign Economic Administration. Also included are Dr. Harley's notes in his research on trypanosomiasis ("sleeping sickness"), biographical and personal files on Dr. and Mrs. Harley, rainfall statistics, notes on the Mano language, and miscellaneous notes and papers relating to the Liberian timber and mining industries.
Rounding out the papers are a series of account books and notebooks, relating primarily to personal and mission finances; clippings and printed matter relating to the Harleys in particular and to Liberia in general; scrapbooks and photo albums, the latter focused principally on the Harley's post-retirement years; and a series of certificates, awards, and diplomas.
Correspondents of note include Thomas Smith Donohugh, E. A. Hooton, George Schwab, and William V. S. Tubman.