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Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files, 1939-1951
10 boxes (4 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 32

Abstract:
Fourth president of Smith College, Professor of English, and world renowned expert on Jonathan Swift. Contains correspondence, newspaper articles, and memorabilia related to his official duties as President of Smith College.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The files are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Herbert John Davis was born on May 24, 1893 in Northamptonshire, England, where he received his elementary and secondary education. He later attended Oxford University (St. John's College) from which he graduated in 1914. He then served in France and Belgium during WWI and in 1919 he returned to Oxford to earn his A.M. In 1922, Davis married Gertrude Lucas of Opladen, Rheinland, Germany but she died tragically just six years later. In 1930, Davis married Gladys Wookey of Toronto and the couple had two daughters, Charlotte Elisabeth Ann and Jane.

In 1920, Davis acquired a position at the University of Leeds where he taught for two years. He then moved to the University of Toronto where he remained for sixteen years. He was hired as an Associate Professor of English, and was later promoted to a full Professor. He also served as chair the English Department at Toronto. In 1938 Davis accepted a position as Chair of the English department at Cornell University.

In 1939, Davis succeeded William Allan Neilson as president of Smith College and he assumed this role for the 1940-1941 school year. Davis served as the fourth president of Smith College until 1949 when he returned to Oxford as a reader in textual criticism. Davis retired from Oxford in 1960.

During his academic career Davis made several notable contributions to academia. Following his passion for poetry and prose, Davis became a world renowned expert on Jonathan Swift and wrote several books on his work including Swift's View of Poetry (1931) and Stella, a Gentlewoman of the Eighteenth Century (1942). The latter is an account of the friendship that existed between Swift and Esther Johnson. Davis also edited the fourteen volume work, The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift (1939-68). Davis' distinguished literary contributions were well recognized and he received several honorary degrees including a Doctorate of Laws from Amherst College in 1940.

In addition to his enthusiasm for the English language, Davis was also extremely socially conscious and particularly concerned with WWII raging overseas. Perhaps his most memorable act of charity was providing a home to five British refugee children for several years during the war. Many of his colleagues and friends followed his lead and opened their doors to children in need. Davis died on March 28, 1967.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files document his official duties as President of Smith College. The collection includes correspondence, newspaper articles, and memorabilia. Materials document the running of the College and the relationship of the Office of the President with the various academic departments and committees. Of interest is correspondence about the 75th anniversary celebration of the college; committee work including Trustee, faculty and administrative committees; the Junior Year Abroad program at Smith; and correspondence with U.S. government officials concerning the WAVES program on campus.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The files are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the documents must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Smith College owns copyright to any published material relating to college events and activities. Provenance and copyright ownership of other materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Office of the President Herbert John Davis Files, Box #, Smith College Archives.

History of the Collection

These papers were transferred to the College Archives from the Office of the President after President Davis left the College in 1949.

Processing Information

Processed by Tamara Weiner.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: nyoung@smith.edu
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/archives

Language
English.