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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography/Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Edward H. Davis collection
    Dates: (bulk 1903-1947)
    Collection Number: C36
    Creator/Collector: Davis, Edward H., b. 1862
    Extent: 5,967 digital images
    Online items available
    Repository: San Diego History Center (formerly San Diego Historical Society)
    San Diego, California 92101
    Abstract: Images in this collection pertain to Edward H. Davis’ work as a field collector for the Museum of the American Indian and life as a rancher and lodge owner in Mesa Grande, California.
    Language of Material: English


    Access to some culturally sensitive items and fragile materials is restricted, except by permission of the Director of the Photograph Collection.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for publication of images in this collection must be submitted in writing to the San Diego History Center. Permission for use is not granted until all fees are paid.

    Preferred Citation

    Edward H. Davis collection. San Diego History Center (formerly San Diego Historical Society)

    Acquisition Information

    In 1986, Nancy Davis Wilson donated the collection of photographs, negatives, postcards, as well as related letters, essays and field notebooks to the San Diego History Center (then known as the San Diego Historical Society). In 2010, Julianna Wilson Davis made an additional donation of Davis’ collection of lantern slides and his camera.

    Biography/Administrative History

    Born in 1862 in New York, Edward Harvey Davis was the son of sea captain Lewis S. Davis and Christine Smith Davis. Educated in the Brooklyn public school system for grammar and high school, Davis went on to develop his drawing and drafting skills in art school. While in New York, he worked in the accounting office of Jonas Smith Co., his family’s shipping company. In 1884, wishing to improve his health, Davis headed west by ship to California. Sailing through the Panama Canal, Davis eventually 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, Davis returned briefly to New York to marry Anna Marion (Anna May) Wells and bring her to San Diego. They eventually had four children, Harvey, Stanley, Marion, and Irving. In 1887, Davis made a considerable profit on the sale of land in downtown San Diego, which allowed him to purchase a 320 acre lot in Mesa Grande, located approximately 60 miles southeast of San Diego. In February 1888, Davis moved his growing family to a small cabin on the land. 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 ceremonial chief of the tribe. Due to Davis’ interest in Indian culture, he began amassing Indian metates, mortars, bows, arrows, baskets, and other household items. His large collection of Indian artifacts eventually attracted the attention of the Museum of the American Indian. In 1915, a representative of the Museum purchased nearly his entire collection. In the same year, Davis began building the Powam Lodge, a summer-resort designed by Emmor Brooke Weaver. In 1916, George Gustav Heye, founder of the Museum of the American Indian (now part of the Smithsonian) hired Davis to work 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. Davis eventually travelled thousands of miles and visited over two dozen tribes including the Kumeyaay (Diegueño), Luiseño, Cahuilla, Cupeño, Paipai, Kiliwa, Cora, Huichol, Opata, Mayo, Seri, Apache, Cocopa, Tohono O’odham, Papago, Maricopa, Mojave, Hualapai, Yaqui, and Yuma Indians. He frequently photographed or sketched the tribes he visited as an additional form of documentation. His photography work appears to be based on his own interests in Indian culture. Davis operated the Powam Lodge, which also served as showcase of Indian arts and crafts, 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 H. Davis passed away at the age of 89 in 1951.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection contains photographs, negatives, lantern slides, and photographic postcards which primarily document the lives of Indians in San Diego County/Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico. Tribes represented in the collection include the Kumeyaay (Diegueño), Luiseño, Cahuilla, Cupeño, Paipai, Kiliwa, Cora, Huichol, Opata, Mayo, Seri, Apache, Cocopa, Tohono O’odham, Papago, Maricopa, Mojave, Hualapai, Yaqui, and Yuma Indians. A large portion of the collection features Edward H. Davis’ family, friends, his ranch (Cereza Loma) and lodge (Powam Lodge) in Mesa Grande, California. Collection also includes 80 images taken by linguist and ethnologist John P. Harrington on a trip to Baja California, Mexico, ca. 1926.

    Indexing Terms

    Indians of Mexico
    Indians of North America--Arizona
    Indians of North America--California
    Ranch life—California—Mesa Grande
    Apache Indians
    Cahuilla Indians
    Chemehuevi Indians
    Cochimi Indians
    Cocopa Indians
    Cora Indians
    Cupeño Indians
    Guaycura Indians
    Hualapai Indians
    Huichol Indians
    Kamia Indians
    Klamath Indians
    Kiliwa Indians
    Luiseño Indians
    Maricopa Indians
    Mayo Indians
    Mohave Indians
    Opata Indians
    Paipai Indians
    Pima Indians
    Seminole Indians
    Seri Indians
    Tohono O’odham Indians
    Yuma Indians
    Davis family
    Mesa Grande (Calif.)
    Lantern slides
    Photographic postcards