The bulk of this collection consists of 132 letters in a bound volume written by Davis to his friend, Samuel R. Thayer, while Thayer was Minister to the Netherlands from 1889 to 1893. All the letters coincide with Davis' Senatorial terms, although most were written between 1892 and 1898. Davis kept Thayer, a lawyer from Minnesota, abreast of both state-level Minnesota politics and the national political scene. The two were close friends, and Davis's letters are highly opinionated and revealing (and frequently scathingly humorous) in their discussion of fellow-politicians. He is particularly critical of Minnesota Senator William Washburn, Minnesota Governor William Merriam, and Secretary of the Treasury William Windom.
Davis's letters are full of pre-election political intrigue and his views on Republican prospects. The relationship between James Blaine and Benjamin Harrison is a major focus; Davis clearly felt Blaine to be the more accomplished statesman and considered Harrison, although competent as President, so unpopular as to be a liability to his party. As an old-school Republican and a long-established politician, Davis became increasingly disenchanted by machine politics. He comments disapprovingly on the power of Mark Hanna over William McKinley. He also looked sadly upon social changes in his country, seeing labor unrest, the rise of the various farmers' political movements, and increased European immigration as contributing to a social fragmentation which government could not hope to successfully address.
The Davis Papers are also of value for their insider's view of Congress. Davis discusses various legislative bills -- especially those related to pensions, monetary matters, and the tariff --and their prospective chances of passage. He laments the constant solicitations of office-seekers, although he himself obviously used political patronage as a means of dispensing favor and building support. Davis's letters from Paris following the Spanish-American War, while secretive about the actual peace negotiations, offer his opinions of the Spanish delegation, Paris and Parisians, and the maddeningly slow pace of the proceedings. He reveals himself as a hard-liner who insisted on Spanish cession of the Philippines, and even objected to any payment for them.
The collection contains 17 unbound letters to Samuel R. Thayer, from 16 different writers. None of the letters are from Davis. This is mostly minor official correspondence concerning diplomatic chores in the Netherlands. One letter of December 1895, from Oregonian Solomon Hirsch, contains interesting information about Davis's possible prospects as a presidential candidate and opinions on Oregon politics and the Armenian-Turkish conflict.
Also included are 13 photographs (mostly unidentified) of various members of Samuel Thayer's family and The Thayer Memorial, a genealogical history of the Thayer family starting in 1767 and continuing until 1852. The Memorial has eleven appendices with information about Thayer family events.