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Guide to the Edward H. Davis Collection MS 75
MS 75  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation
  • Arrangement
  • Scope and Content
  • Biographical / Historical Notes
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Processing Information
  • Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
  • Comments

  • Title: Edward H. Davis Collection
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 75
    Contributing Institution: San Diego History Center Document Collection
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 5.5 Linear feet (14 boxes)
    Date (inclusive): 1884-1948
    Abstract: Collection contains Edward H. Davis' 62 notebooks and pages of field notes as well as drafts of many articles he wrote for publication.
    creator: Davis, Edward H., b. 1862

    Conditions Governing Access

    This collection is open for research. Access to the notebooks and field notes is restricted to the microfilm and digital copies, as the originals are very fragile.

    Conditions Governing Use

    The San Diego History Center (SDHC) holds the copyright to any unpublished materials. SDHC Library regulations do apply.

    Preferred Citation

    Edward H. Davis Collection, MS 75, San Diego History Center Document Collection, San Diego, CA.


    Collection is arranged into series:
    Series I: Notebooks and Field Notes
    Series II: Transcriptions and Photocopies of Notebooks and Field Notes
    Series III: Essays, Articles, Notes and Poetry
    Series IV: Correspondence
    Series V: Miscellanea
    Series VI: Preservation Copies of Notebook and Field Notes

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains Edward Davis' 62 notebooks and pages of field notes as well as drafts of many articles he wrote for publication. The notebooks and field notes contain stories, illustrations, observations, expense accounts, and other details from Edward Davis' life. These primarily relate to the various Indian tribes he visited as well as family life at Powam Lodge, and other trips he made. Some of the Indian tribes mentioned include: Luiseno, Cahuilla, Diegueno, Campo, Cocopah [Cocopa], Papago [Tohono O'Odham], Apache, Yuma, Seri, Yaqui, Cora, Pima, Maricopa, Hualapai, Kiliwa, and Comeyi [Kumeyaay or Kamia]. Also included are transcriptions and photocopies for some of the notebooks and field notes. In addition, two reels of microfilm as well as digital files on CDs contain preservation copies of the notebooks and field notes. The collection also includes drafts of articles, essays, poetry, and notes written by Davis. There are also numerous items of personal correspondence between Davis, his mother, and his father. Also included are hand-drawn maps and sketches, newspaper articles, and receipts. Of note, there is a copy of an article on Edward H. Davis, by Davis as told to John Edwin Hogg, entitled "The Pursuits of a Museum Collector" published in Touring Topics, October 1931.

    Biographical / Historical Notes

    Edward H. Davis (1862-1951) was a ranch owner in Mesa Grande, California. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, he was the son of sea captain Lewis S. Davis and Christine Smith Davis. Davis attended grammar and high school in the Brooklyn public school system and then went on to art school where he developed his sketching and drafting skills. While in New York, he worked in the accounting office of Jonas Smith Co., his family’s shipping company.
    At the age of twenty-two, ill with Bright’s disease and wishing to improve his health through a change of climate, Davis headed west. Sailing from the East Coast through the Panama Canal, he arrived in San Diego in January 1885. Davis soon found work as a surveyor with T.S. Van Dyke, running a survey from the San Diego River into El Cajon Valley. He also worked as a draftsman, drawing maps and house plans. He studied architecture in 1887 and helped to draw the plans for the Hotel del Coronado. In October 1885, he returned briefly to New York to marry Anna Marion (Anna May) Wells and returned with her to settle in San Diego. They had four children, Harvey, Stanley, Marion and Irving.
    In 1887, Davis made a considerable profit on the sale of a lot in downtown San Diego which he and his father originally purchased for $2,500. This sale allowed him to acquire 320 acres in Mesa Grande, approximately 60 miles northeast of San Diego. In February 1888, Davis moved Anna May, his son Harvey, Anna May’s mother Mrs. Sophronia Bellows Wells, his brother-in-law Benjamin Wells and brother Irving Davis to a small cabin on the property. Davis learned various farm skills and eventually developed the land into a working ranch, raising cattle and growing fruit, notably cherries, on the ranch he named Cereza Loma. Davis also served as Deputy County Assessor in 1902 and Justice of the Peace in 1903.
    Fascinated by Indian life and culture, Davis became friends with his neighbors, the Indians of Mesa Grande. In 1907, he became a ceremonial chief of the tribe which allowed him to participate in their meetings and ceremonies.
    His interest in Indian culture soon led him to collecting Indian artifacts. Davis was concerned by what he saw as the loss of traditional Indian way of life and the decimation of their population by disease. Convinced that evidence of Indian culture should be preserved for historical, educational, and museum purposes, Davis began collecting mortars, metates, bows, arrows, stone implements and other household items. Davis also did advocacy work on their behalf and ran food and clothing drives, distributing goods during the winter to the most needy.
    As a natural hoarder, he filled up the small adobe building he built to store his collection of Indian artifacts. He valued his collection at $6,000 but discovered that it would have no tangible value unless cataloged. He began the work of recording the history of each object. His efforts proved fruitful because in 1915, a representative from the Museum of the American Indian (now part of the Smithsonian) visited Davis and purchased nearly his entire collection.
    The following year, George Gustav Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian, hired Davis as a field collector of ethnological specimens. Working from 1917 to 1930 on behalf of the Museum, Davis’ collecting duties focused on the Indian tribes of San Diego County/Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico. He would eventually visit over two dozen tribes and travel over tens of thousands of miles by wagon, horseback, boat, train, car and foot. The tribes he visited included the Paipai, Kiliwa, Cora, Huichol, Opata, Mayo, Seri, Apache, Cocopa, Tohono O’odham, Papago, Maricopa, Mojave, Hualapai, Yaqui, and Yuma Indians.
    In 1915, Davis built the Powam Lodge, a summer resort designed by Emmor Brooke Weaver. The lodge, whose name means “place of rest,” provided visitors a place to enjoy San Diego’s back country and listen to the tales of Davis’ experiences as a collector. Davis encouraged the neighboring Kumeyaay Indians to make and sell their pottery and basketry at the lodge which served as a showcase for their skills.
    Davis’ skills in art and photography allowed him to preserve and capture what he saw to be a disappearing way of life. He was able to document a range of Indian experiences, from the everyday to ceremonial. Also a gifted-storyteller and writer, his adventures were recorded in articles published in Desert Magazine, The Scientific Monthly, Touring Topics, San Diego Business and Indian Notes and Monographs.
    Davis operated the Powam Lodge until it was destroyed by a fire in 1930. He continued to take short trips throughout southern California and to Arizona in his seventies and eighties.
    Edward Harvey Davis passed away at the age of 89 in 1951.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Accession number is 860507.

    Related Archival Materials

    Edward H. Davis Collection (photographs) can be accessed at: http://www.sandiegohistory.org/davis/collection.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Jane Kenealy and Stephanie Mirkin on December 2012.
    Collection processed as part of grant project supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with generous funding from The Andrew Mellon Foundation.

    Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

    Notebooks and field notes are very fragile and access is restricted to the microfilm and digital copies.


    We are assuming that the notebooks and field notes are in the original order made by Edward H. Davis. Folder titles refer to titles visible on the microfilm made presumably by Davis. Scope and content notes refer to notes on the envelopes now housing the notebooks and field notes and made by SDHC at a later date.
    State Parks Transcription Project (SPTP): A 2004-2005 project to transcribe some of the notebooks using the microfilm copy.
    The majority of the other transcriptions were completed separately by Anita Williams.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Davis, Edward H., b. 1862
    Apache Indians
    Cahuilla Indians
    Campo Indians
    Cocopa Indians
    Cora Indians
    Diegueno Indians
    Hualapai Indians
    Indian reservations
    Indians -- Languages
    Indians of Mexico
    Indians of North America
    Kamia Indians
    Kiliwa Indians
    Luiseno Indians
    Maricopa Indians
    Pima Indians
    San Diego (Calif.)
    San Diego County (Calif.)
    Seri Indians
    Tohono O’odham Indians
    Yaqui Indians
    Yuma Indians