Lee Harris Collection consists of objects which belonged to Lee Harris, a veteran of the New York Army National Guard and a New York City bus driver, and his family during the 20th century. Most of the objects relate to infant care, New York City, and military service.
The objects related to infant care include baby clothing which is blue or accented with blue, white baby shoes, yellow brush and comb, glass jars with lids, and a plastic baby doll in a crocheted dress. The glass jars, decorated with flowers, are labeled “oil,” “boric,” “nipples” for nipple swabs, and “cotton.” In the early 1900s, these items were used for nipple care before or after nursing a baby. A square glass container engraved with the letter “K” matches the glass jars. A set of bronzed baby shoe bookends engraved “Lee Harris 1940” can also be found.
Objects related to New York City include a belt buckle with an embossed image of a bus, “Lee,” and “2932;” New York City transit tokens; commemorative coins for the United States bicentennial engraved with image of the World Trade Center, the date of “July 5, 1976” and “Claudette Harris” and “Lee Harris” on the back; and an ashtray with image of the Empire State Building.
The collection also contains an expert rifle marksmanship qualification badge, military dog tags engraved “Harris Chester L,” a cast metal toy gun, and a dried flower boutonniere.
A related archival collection – Lee Harris papers, circa 1884-2001, bulk 1940s-1976 – which measures 1.25 linear feet and documents the personal life and career of Lee Harris, is available in the Archives at the Anacostia Community Museum. The collection is comprised of photographs, books, programs, invitations, pamphlets, clippings, vital statistics records, awards, baby and childhood memorabilia, and other ephemera. Contact the Archivist for more information.
Lee Harris, born Chester Lee Harris in 1940, spent his early years in Hackensack, New Jersey with his parents, Chester and Margaret Harris. Three years later, his sister, Renee Harris, was born, and the family moved to New York City. Both Lee and Renee graduated from Edward W. Stitt Junior High in Manhattan. Lee attended Harren High School. Chester and Margaret divorced; Margaret married William Beasley, who died in 1977.
In the early 1960s, Lee enlisted in the 369th Infantry of the New York Army National Guard, participating in training at Fort Dix and Fort Drum. After his discharge, Lee married Claudette Nourse in 1969 and moved to the Bronx. From 1970 until 1994, Lee worked as a bus driver for the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MaBSTOA), a subsidiary of New York City Transit Authority. At the age of fifty, Claudette graduated Bronx Community College of the City University of New York with an Associate’s degree in Applied Science. After he retired, Lee and Claudette moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where they purchased their first house. They lost their house in 1999.
The couple were active members of their community. They participated in the Citizen’s Academy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. The two-month program aimed to foster public understanding on the incentives behind police work in order to correct common misunderstandings. Lee also applied to be a police department volunteer for the Programs for Accessible Living’s Parking Patrol Program (P.A.L.). It is unclear whether or not he was accepted into the program.
Because they had no children, Lee and Charlotte donated their personal collection to the Smithsonian Institution. Lee died on December 7, 2009.
Lee Harris papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lee Harris.