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.