William Heath Davis Papers mssDA

Gayle Richardson
The Huntington Library
April 2020
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108

Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library
Title: William Heath Davis papers
Creator: Davis, William Heath, 1822-1909
Identifier/Call Number: mssDA
Physical Description: 8 Linear Feet (10 boxes)
Date (inclusive): 1843-1906
Abstract: The collection of American businessman and author William Heath Davis. The collection includes correspondence, bills, receipts, documents, and printed material; also included is material related to Davis' book on early California.
Language of Material: Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for use by qualified researchers and by appointment. Please contact Reader Services at the Huntington Library for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item]. William Heath Davis papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Correspondence and accounts were purchased from A. S. McDonald in 1916. Manuscript material of Davis' book and a few letters (1885-1906) were purchased from John Howell in August 1928.

Biographical / Historical

William Heath Davis (1822-1909) was an American businessman and author. He was born at Honolulu, Hawaii, the son of a Boston ship-master and early trader to the North American coast. Davis visited California as a boy, then returned in 1838, to work as a clerk in the Monterey store of his uncle, Nathan Spear; Davis established his own store in San Francisco in 1845. He married María de Jesús Estudillo in 1847 and was associated with many prominent early California families. Davis was instrumental in the founding of Oakland and San Diego, California, and he owned property in both cities. His memoirs of the early days in California were published as Sixty years in California (1889), and a later enlarged version, Seventy-five years in California (1929) was edited by John Howell.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 634 items, from 1843 to 1906; it includes manuscripts, letters, documents, receipts and newspaper clippings related to the life and business activities of William Heath Davis. Subject matter includes shipping and commerce in California before and after the Gold Rush; business firms in San Francisco and Honolulu; and land titles, with particular emphasis on Rancho San Leandro. The collection also includes manuscripts and source materials relating to Davis's memoirs. Additionally, there are items related to California and San Francisco history; various California pioneers; mining; shipping; land titles commerce; and the social manners and customs of early California residents.

Processing Information

Processed by Huntington Library Staff, circa 1930. In 2020, Gayle Richardson created the finding aid derived from a legacy summary report.


Arranged by subject and format.


Individual call numbers included in the collection: mssDA 1-274.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Business enterprises -- California -- San Francisco
Business enterprises -- Hawaii -- Honolulu
Businessmen -- California -- San Francisco
Frontier and pioneer life -- California
Land titles -- California
Merchants -- California -- San Francisco
Mines and mineral resources -- California
Pioneers -- California
Shipping -- California -- History
Shipping -- Pacific coast -- History -- Sources
California -- Commerce
California -- History -- 19th century
California -- Social life and customs -- 19th century
Rancho San Leandro (Calif.)
San Francisco (Calif.) -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
Clippings (information artifacts) -- California
Letters (correspondence) -- California
Manuscripts -- California
Personal papers -- California
Receipts -- California

Box 1

DA 1 - manuscript material

Box 2, Folder 1-70

DA 2 - published manuscript material

Box 3, Folder 71-143

DA 2 - published manuscript material

Box 4, Folder 144-247

DA 2

Box 5, Folder 248-293

DA 2

Box 5, Folder 1-9

DA 3

Box 6, Folder 1-65

DA 4

Box 7

DA 5-DA 17

Box 8

Correspondence 1843 April 25-1847 July 20

Box 9

Correspondence 1847 August 5-1848 May 31

Box 10

Correspondence 1848 June 2-1906 April 16

Folder 1

Newspaper clippings