Charles L. Abernethy Sr. papers, 1713-1972, bulk 1907-1959

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Charles L. Abernethy, Sr. (1872-1955) was a Democratic Congressman representing eastern North Carolina from 1922-1935. His professional papers consist chiefly of correspondence and records from his law practice and legal cases, with smaller amounts of writings and speeches, financial papers, printed materials, diaries, and some personal papers, including early deeds. There is also a large group of photographs, photo albums, and clippings scrapbooks chiefly documenting Abernethy's political career. One album from 1907 contains postcards of Beaufort, N.C.; another contains photographs of a three-month Congressional trip to Alaska, 1923, and includes images of President and Mrs. Harding and a diary transcript of the trip. Other items include some papers of his son, Charles Laban Abernethy, Jr., also a lawyer, and a volume of his poetry.
85 Linear Feet (160 boxes; 2 oversize folders)
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection principally comprises a large series of correspondence and legal records accumulated by North Carolina lawyer and politician Charles L. Abernethy, Sr. during his tenure as U.S. Congressman. There are papers relating to the senior Abernethy's law practice and business dealings in Beaufort and New Bern, N.C. (including legal papers concerning land development in Carteret County, Cape Lookout, and Horse Island maintained by both father and son).

Other materials include deeds and other early papers, political speeches, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks of Abernethy's political career, a diary, and the Abernethy coat-of-arms. There are also papers assembled by Abernethy's son, Charles L. Abernethy, Jr., a lawyer in his father's firm, and a volume of his poetry.

A lare group of photographs and albums includes a photograph album containing snapshots the elder Abernethy took during a congressional trip to Alaska for three months of 1923 (including photographs of President and Mrs. Harding), as well as a typescript of his diary from the trip; and an album containing postcards of Beaufort, N.C, in 1907, featuring a celebration of either the 200th anniversary of the town's founding or the opening of passenger and rail service to the town (or both).

Biographical / historical:

Charles Laban Abernethy, Sr., was born in Burke County, North Carolina in 1872. Educated at UNC-Chapel Hill, he practiced law in Beaufort and New Bern, N.C., then was elected as a Democratic U.S. Congressman representing eastern N.C., serving from 1922 to 1935. He became known especially for his efforts to establish the Intracoastal Waterway in N.C. Charles Laban Abernethy, Jr., his son (1899-1968), was also a lawyer. In the early 20th century, the family resided in Beaufort, then moved to New Bern around 1913. The senior Abernethy suffered from mental illness late in life, and was committed to state institutions. His son became his legal guardian until the elder's death in 1955.

[Sources: Wikipedia, NCPedia, accessed May 2020]

Acquisition information:
The Charles L. Abernethy Sr. papers were acquired by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as a gift in 1970 and 1983.
Processing information:

Collection was given core-level processing by library staff.

Collection guide created from inventory by Paula Jeannet, May 2020.

This collection guide was created or updated with information provided by donors or external parties, and box or file lists have not been verified by Rubenstein Library staff. Errors may be present and can be reported to


Arranged in the following five series: Correspondence; Writings and Speeches; Law Practice and Legal Papers; Financial; Printed Materials and Other Papers; and Photographs, Albums, and Scrapbooks.

Physical facet:
Approximately 60,855 items
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Charles L. Abernethy, Sr. papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.