George Way Harley papers, 1911-1975

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Harley, George W. (George Way), 1894-1966
5 Linear Feet
2,500 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

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.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
1894, Aug. 8
Born, Asheville, N.C.
A.B., Trinity College, Durham, N.C.
Teacher, North Carolina high schools
M.D., Yale University
1923, Aug. 4
Married Winifred Frances Jewell
Superintendent, Harrington Hospital, Grenfell Mission, Labrador
Diploma, Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Founder and superintendent, Ganta Mission, Ganta, Liberia
Research Associate in Anthropology, Peabody Museum, Harvard University
Ph.D., Kennedy School of Missions, Hartford Seminary Foundation
Special consultant to Foreign Economic Administration in Liberia, U.S. Dept. of State
L.H.D., Duke University
1960, Apr.
Retired from Ganta Mission and returned to U.S.
1966, Nov. 7
Died, Lancaster, Va.
Acquisition information:
The papers of George Way Harley (1894-1966), missionary and physician, and his wife Winifred Jewell Harley were deposited in the Rubenstein Library by Mrs. Winifred J. Harley, 1973-1977; converted to a gift in September 1986.
Processing information:

Processed by: Steven L. Hensen

Completed June 26, 1987

Encoded by Stephen Douglas Miller

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in the papers of George W. and Winifred J. Harley are reserved to their heirs under the provisions of U.S. copyright law (Title 17, U.S.C.). For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], The Papers of George Way Harley, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.