Name and location of repository
Level of description
Kenneth S. Davis papers
- 1912-2000 (Creation)
50.00 Linear Feet, 101.00 Boxes
Post-Fire Oversize boxes:
Boxes 97-101 (16.5x20.5); 509S: 19/5/2
Name of creator
Kenneth S. Davis was a Kansas writer and journalist, whose works appeared in multiple national publications and was an instructor at multiple universities. Davis earned a degree in Agricultural Journalism from Kansas State College in 1934, while also working as editor of “The Mirror” and as a reporter for the Topeka Daily Capital, after which he then earned his Master of Science in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin in 1935. In 1944, Davis began working as a war correspondent for SHAEF in London and Normandy in World War 2, while also writing a biography on General Dwight Eisenhower. This biography appeared in the 1945 July edition of American magazine. From 1945 to 1946, Davis was an instructor of journalism at New York University, followed by part-time work as a professor at Kansas State College in the Department of Industrial Journalism and Printing from 1946 to 1947. While at K-State, Davis was also part-time College Editor and an advisor to President Milton Eisenhower as the chairman of the U.S. national committee to UNESCO, a position he held until 1949. From 1955 to 1956, Davis was a member of the personal staff of Presidential candidate Adlai E. Stevenson as a speechwriter. In 1962, Davis became a member of the Century Club in New York, and in 1963, he received the Centennial Award for Distinguished Service to Kansas State University. In the 1970s, he published several books, including “FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny, 1882-1928” and “Kansas: A History,” while also teaching classes at Clark University and Kansas State University. He was acknowledged with a Certificate of Recognition from the state of Kansas in 1986. Davis continued to teach classes for K-State and Clark University through the 80s and 90s until his death in 1999.
Content and structure elements
Scope and content
The Kenneth S. Davis Papers (1886; 1912-2000) documents Davis’s career as a prominent historian and writer. Davis’s Estate holds the copyright to his literary works. The majority of the collection is related to his writings.
The Writings/Journals Series (1919; 1935-1967) consist of one box and includes some of Davis’s early writing efforts when he was seven years old. Davis kept journals for the years 1935, 1937, 1941, 1953 through 1955, 1961, and 1966 through 1967. In 1958, Davis began keeping a journal with is his wife Florence (Flo) Olenhouse Davis and they continued writing in the same journal through 1959. This series also includes some of Flo’s writing efforts. While she was never published, Flo was a highly skilled and diverse writer who wrote about topics that interested her such as trains, souvenirs from Chicago, and relatives.
Contained in 12 boxes the Correspondence Series (1934-1999) includes letters between Davis and his agents and publishers and editors and other correspondence. The agent's letters are arranged chronologically in one box while the publishers/editors are arranged alphabetically and stored in three boxes. Other correspondence is arranged alphabetically, consists of eight boxes, and includes letters from historians David McCullough, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and William Shirer. Some other correspondence of interest includes letters from Kansas individuals such as Dave Kendall host of the PBS show Sunflower Journeys, Bill Koch, Karl Menninger of the Menninger Foundation, and Richard Seaton of The Manhattan Mercury newspaper. Davis received letters from K-State individuals such as Betty Bailey, Earle, and Kay Davis, George Kren, Don Mrozek, Homer Socolofsky, Ralph Titus, President Jon Wefald, and Dent Wilcoxon.
The Awards/Certificates Series (1935-2000) is housed in one box and includes the Friends of American Writers Award that Davis won in 1943 for his fiction novel In the Forests of the Night, the 1960 Thormod Monsen Award for The Hero, Charles A. Lindbergh, and the American Dream, and the 1973 Francis Parkman Prize for FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny, 1882-1928. In 1963 Davis received the Centennial Award for Distinguished Service at K-State, he received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1968, and in 1975 he became a member of Phi Beta Kappa at K-State. Between 1967 and 2000, Davis was often listed in the Marquis Who’s Who in America.
Housed in one box, the Organizations/Clubs Series (1952-1999) includes Davis’s membership in the Society of American Historians, Bohemians, Inc., Century Club, and Dickens Fellowship and some other documents related to the organizations. Of interest in the Society of American Historians is correspondence from Kenneth T. Jackson announcing in 1973 that Davis won the Francis Parkman Prize and had been elected to membership in the society. Davis presented programs to the Bohemians including “What’s Wrong With The Press,” “The Problem of a Biographer,” and “Puritan Kansas: New England Influence” and gave a speech about remembering Clarence Daigneau. Adlai E. Stevenson proposed Davis as a member of the Century Club in New York City and William Shirer also played an instrumental role in Davis’s election into the club. Davis and his wife, Flo, were active in the Dickens Society in Worcester, Massachusetts and this section includes newspaper clippings about the Society’s Christmas dinners.
The Fellowship and Grants Series (1953-1982) is contained in one box that includes documents on Guggenheim Fellowships, National Endowment for the Humanities grants, the Stern Family Fund, and the Woodrow Wilson Scholar. In 1961, Davis applied for a Guggenheim Fellowship, however, it was not granted, and in 1974, he received a $12,000 grant. In 1980, Davis applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, but he did not the grant.
Contained in four boxes, the Speeches Series (1942-1998), includes Davis’s 1943 acceptance speech for the Friends of Americans Writer Award he received for his novel In The Forests Of The Night. Other speeches of interest in this series include Davis’s 1947 speech for the Topeka Chapter of the League of Women Voters titled “UNESCO-Its Nature and Function,” his 1971 speech for Assumption College titled, “Thinking About FDR: Some Problems Of A Biographer,” his 1975 speech at the Kansas State Historical Society Dinner titled, “Portrait of a Changing Kansas,” and his 1994 Lou Douglas Lecture at K-State titled, “Mass Communication and the American Democracy.” Davis and his wife, Flo, were actively involved in the Dickens Society and speeches of interest to this group include the 1962 “Of Dickens and ‘Bleak House’” and the 1968 “Edwin Drood Concluded, Again,” speeches.
Literary Works (1934-2000) is comprised of 51 boxes containing Davis’s works of published and unpublished articles, manuscripts, book reviews, essays, poems, and short stories. The series is chronological within each section, except for the published books, which are in alphabetical order. The most notable of the literary works is Davis’s Franklin D. Roosevelt manuscripts, which includes his research for the series of books, working drafts, and manuscript chapters. A sub-category of the FDR manuscripts is the 1997 FDR Symposium at K-State that includes the book from the symposium, correspondence, invitation, programs, and the speech Davis gave at the Symposium. Those who participated in the symposium with Davis were Nancy Kassebaum Baker, James MacGregor Burns, Doris Kearns Goodwin, William E. Leuchténburg, and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Other subjects Davis wrote about that are of interest include Kansas history, Clarence Darrow, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Robert H. Goddard, James Lane, Charles A. Lindbergh, Adlai E. Stevenson, Eli Thayer and topics such as the birth control pill, fire departments, Kansas history, social security, stone walls, and UNESCO.
The Subjects Series (1942-1971) is housed in five (5) boxes and consist of information pertaining to Milton Stover Eisenhower (K-State President and his work with UNESCO, Alexander Meiklejohn who was a professor of Davis’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Adlai E. Stevenson, who lost by landslides in two races for president against Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1962. The files contain correspondence between Davis and each of the individuals, speeches that Davis wrote for Eisenhower and Stevenson, other correspondence, newspaper clippings, and programs.
Death and Memorial Series (1999) is stored in two boxes and consists of Davis’s death certificate, eulogies, funeral papers, memorial service, obituaries, and sympathy cards.
Davis Family Series (1907-1999) is comprised of nine (9) boxes. Two (2) boxes are made up of family documents, three (3) boxes contain French souvenir postcards that Charles Davis collected during World War I, and four (4) boxes contain family correspondence. Correspondence of interest is the letters between Charles and Lydia Davis while Charles was stationed in France during World War I.
The Photographs Series (circa 1912-1999) is stored in two (2) boxes and arranged alphabetically. The majority of photographs are of family members.
The Media Series (circa 1972-1999) is comprised of three (3) boxes. Included are 3 ½ inch disks and 5 ¼ inch disks, and the files that were able to be retrieved from these disks. Documents retrieved from the disk include correspondence and manuscripts that are not found anywhere else in the collection. Items of interest are correspondence between Davis and his last editor Robert Loomis of Random House and some drafts of Davis’ first FDR books.
There are three (3) Scrapbooks in the collection: In The Forests Of The Night, 1942, Soldier of Democracy, 1945, and A Prophet In His Own Country, 1957. Because of their fragile conditions, the scrapbooks were taken apart and photocopied. Each scrapbook includes book reviews and correspondence.
The Oversize Items (1927-1997) are stored in one box. The Oversize Items include Davis’s 1927 Junior High School Diploma, his 1930 High School Diploma, and his 1934 Kansas Agricultural College Diploma. It also includes the 1973 Francis Parkman Prize certificate, the 1994 Lou Douglas Lecture Poster (Davis was the speaker), 1996 Presidential prints of President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore, and two posters from the 1997 FDR symposium.
The Map Series (1919-1985) is stored with the Oversize Items and includes National Geographic Society magazine maps and a few maps from France dated 1919.
The Artifact and Art Series (1955-1997) is housed in (1) box and includes two caricatures of Davis, one by his first wife, Flo, and one by F. Mason, and a watercolor sketch. Other items include award plaques, badges, a guest book, and jewelry.
Printed Material is made up of four (4) boxes, one being a flat box for oversize documents, and consists of journals, leaflets, newspapers, pamphlets, and the Davis Family Bible dated 188 that is in the Swedish language.
System of arrangement
The collection is organized in 17 Series: 1) Writings/Journals; 2) Correspondence; 3) Awards/Certificates; 4) Organizations/Clubs; 5) Fellowships/Grants; 6) Speeches; 7) Literary Works; 8) Subjects; 9) Death & Memorial; 10) Davis Family; 11) Photographs; 12) Media; 13) Scrapbooks; 14) Oversize; 15) Maps; 16) Artifacts and Art; 17) Printed Material.
Conditions of access and use elements
Conditions governing access
No access restrictions: All materials are open for research.
Conditions governing reproduction
The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. The Davis Estate holds the copyright to his work.
Languages of the material
Scripts of the material
Language and script notes
Alternative finding aid found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20210602162359/http://www.lib.k-state.edu/depts/sc_rev/findaids/pc2003-09.php
Acquisition and appraisal elements
It received accession number P2003.09.
Immediate source of acquisition
Acqusition Source: Donated by 2nd wife Jean Davis
Acqusition Method: Donation
Acqusition Date: 19990610
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information
Related materials elements
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related archival materials
- Citation: [Item title], [item date], Kenneth S. Davis Papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.
Archon Collection ID
Description control element
Rules or conventions
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Finding Aid Author: Cindy Harris
Processing Info: A preliminary arrangement of the collection was made by Mary Ellen Titus, Executor of the Davis estate, prior to the papers being donated to the University Archives. Cindy Harris, Manuscripts/Collections Processor in the University Archives, processed the collection and prepared this finding aid. Student employees Lindsey Bird, Tamara DeRossi, and Mallory Peterson assisted her with the processing. Archon processing completed by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, October 2014.