Size: 6.5 linear feet
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The Leopold Sekeles collection contains numerous business and personal correspondences and receipts, to and from Sekeles to a variety of people. Materials in the collection cover a large time span from the 1860s through the 1930s. Sekeles was the father-in-law of American sculptor Charles Grafly through the marriage of his daughter, Frances Sekeles. A separate collection of Charles Grafly can be found in Special Collections under the name of the Charles Grafly Collection, MS 90-02, (two files).
Leopold Sekeles was born in Waldorf, Baden, Germany on 23 November 1830 and died at Folly Cove, Massachusetts on 23 September 1912. His wife, Philomina Hirsh Sekeles was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, 16 October 1844 and died at Folly Cove, Massachusetts, 12 September 1922. As a young man, Sekeles immigrated to the United States and took up residence in Oxford, Mississippi. During the American Civil War, Sekeles was registered as a loyal confederate soldier. After the war the couple were married and established their home in Corinth, Mississippi. While in Corinth, Sekeles was a partner in the mercantile business of Sekeles and Rubel with partner and relative Abe Rubel. Sekeles also served as president of a bank in Corinth.
The Sekeles's had four children in Mississippi, but only one survived to adulthood; their daughter Frances. Samuel was born in 1866 and died in 1867. Bernard Lee was born in 1871 and died in 1875. Frank, the couple's third son survived the longest and died after a long and complicated battle with rheumatism at the age of 19. He was born in 1869. Sometime in the late 1800s, the couple and daughter moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where they remained until their respective deaths. Leopold had diversified his financial portfolio extensively and lived quite well off of his investments and stock dividends. The Sekeles daughter, Frances married Charles Grafly before the turn of the century and the couple had one daughter, Dorothea Grafly, born in Paris. Leopold, Philomina and son Frank's bodies were buried at the Congregation Adath Jeshurun Cemetery in Frankford, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1926, all three bodies were disinterred from the cemetery and were reinterred at Congregation Children of Israel Cemetery in Memphis Tennessee.
The most poignant letters to the couple come from the children, both Frances and Frank. Frank wrote letters from several locations across the United States were he was engaged in taking "the cure" for his ailments. Frances's letters are written from numerous cities including Paris, where she and her husband Grafly were living in an artistic endeavor. There is also a series of letters in the collection from numerous extended family members, primarily nieces and nephews to the couple.
Sekeles was quite generous to both his family and to non-profit religious and charitable organizations and the collection contains much documentation on this. Business correspondences and dividend announcements from a plethora of companies are included in the collection. Much of life during this time period is presented in the observations of people who wrote to the man. What is available from the documentation is that Sekeles was a kind and generous man who respected the value of a dollar and believed in the traditions of his religious and cultural heritage.
The collection is arranged topically then chronologically.
Acquisition: Presented as a gift from the late Dorothy Grafly
Processed by: JLT, 12-8-1992; JEF, 11-3-1998