Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John W. Davis Papers, 1942

Finding aid created by
Marvin Brandwin and Meg Hixon, February 2012

Summary Information
Title: John W. Davis papers
Creator: Davis, Nellie
Inclusive dates: 1942
Extent: 65 items
Abstract:
The John W. Davis papers consist of 43 letters, 1 fragment, 17 photographs, and 4 strips of negatives sent from Davis to his wife, Nellie, while he worked on military construction projects in Puerto Rico with the Madigan & Hyland Company during the Second World War. He provided detailed descriptions of the weather, scenery, and local people and customs. He frequently commented on his pregnant wife's health and the couple's finances.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1998. M-3460.6.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

John W. Davis Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Photographs

The correspondence series is arranged chronologically, with one undated fragment placed at the end.


Biography

John W. Davis worked for the Madigan & Hyland Company on military construction projects near Santurce, Puerto Rico (April-June 1942) and Fajardo, Puerto Rico (June-September 1942). He arrived on the island in early April and planned to leave during the first week of September. By early August, Davis worked with the Vieques Engineering Company, though he still officially worked for Madigan & Hyland. His wife, Nellie, lived in East Rockaway, New York, and become pregnant shortly before Davis's departure for the Caribbean.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The John W. Davis papers consist of 43 letters, 1 fragment, 17 photographs, and 4 strips of negatives sent from Davis to his wife, Nellie, while he worked on military construction projects in Puerto Rico with the Madigan & Hyland Company during the Second World War. He provided detailed descriptions of the weather, scenery, and local people and customs. He frequently commented on his pregnant wife's health and the couple's finances.

The Correspondence series contains 43 letters (April 24, 1942-September 3, 1942) and one fragment of a letter, all written by Davis to his wife, Nellie, in East Rockaway, New York. Davis worried about the effects of censorship on his correspondence and complained when portions of the New York Times, sent to him by Nellie, were excised (June 25). Despite these concerns, he revealed a little about his work and much about his daily experiences in and opinions of Puerto Rico. He provided Nellie with his early impressions of the island and its people (April 24). He mentioned local food prices and his eating habits, particularly in his later letters. Although he grew increasingly accustomed to the warm weather, he maintained a generally negative opinion of the island, mitigated slightly by a visit to more modernized Ponce (July 13).

Davis often remarked about the content of Nellie's letters, inquired about her pregnancy and about news of acquaintances on Long Island, and sent portions of his wages home (often accompanied by a discussion of the couple's financial situation). Despite believing that mail service was somewhat unreliable, he frequently sent money home to his wife and attempted to follow war-related news, though he complained of the difficulty of obtaining reliable information. He also commented upon his contract situation and intent to return to New York in early September, though he explicitly stated that most details of his work must remain confidential.

The Photographs series holds 17 black-and-white prints depicting tropical scenery, people sitting on and fishing off of a dock, and the Marine Studios Biological Station, as well as 4 strips of negatives, each with two images.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Americans--Puerto Rico.
    • Contractors.
    • Fajardo (P.R.)--Description and travel.
    • Long Island (N.Y.)--Social life and customs.
    • Military construction operations.
    • Ponce (P.R.)--Description and travel.
    • Pregnancy.
    • Puerto Rico--Social life and customs.
    • Santurce (San Juan, P.R.)--Description and travel.
    • World War, 1939-1945--Censorship.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Marine Studios Biological Station (Marineland, Fla.)
    Contributors:
    • Davis, John W.
    Genre Terms:
    • Black-and-white negatives.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Photographs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   7, World War II Small Collections  
    Correspondence [series]
    Folder   1-5  
     April 24, 1942-September 3, 1942, and  undated
     
    Photographs [series]
    Folder   6  
     Undated