Josephine Napoleon Leary Papers, 1873-1988

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About the Digital Collection

The Josephine Napoleon Leary Papers are the personal and business papers of Josephine Leary, an African-American business woman of Edenton, North Carolina. Josephine Leary, born into slavery and freed at age 9, owned several properties in Edenton until her death in 1923. The Legal Papers contain the legal documents pertaining to the properties Leary bought and sold, as well as the legal arrangements of her estate. Deeds and legal papers related to mortgage payments compromise the majority of this series. The Financial Papers include her the financial information related to her properties and her barber business. They include bills and receipts, insurace papers, bank information, and cancelled checks paid from Leary to various parties. The Correspondence series contains correspondence to Leary, her daughter Clara Ryan, Clara's husband Noah Ryan, and Clara's son, Percy Reeves. The correspondence contains business matters, letters from lawyers, personal letters, and letters pertaining to the estate of Leary. The Personal Writings are a few undated writings from Leary. The Biographical/Historical and Architecture and Maps series contain information related to Edenton and to the Leary legacy. These papers are partially made up of documents from Leary's lifetime, but also include later biographical secondary sources about Edenton and Leary. The Maps and Architectural series contains the original plans for the J.N. Leary building that still stands on Broad Street in Edenton. The final series is 13 photographic negatives and one photograph. These photographs are of Leary, her family, as well as Leary's grandson, Percy Reeves, and his family.

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Source Collection

This digital collection comprises selected materials from the following archival collection at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

Josephine Napoleon Leary papers 1875-1991

Collection #RL.11503 | 0.5 Linear Feet (1 box)

The papers of Josephine Napoleon Leary contain financial and legal papers, correspondence, biographical materials, and photographs pertaining to the life and business ventures of African American businesswoman Josephine N. Leary and her daughter Clara Ryan. Records document her real estate and other business transactions the coastal town of Edenton, North Carolina, where they resided; the earliest deed dates back to 1875. There are also architectural and historical documents relating to Edenton. Photographs of Leary and Reeves family members date from 1895 to about 1935. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.

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