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Ellsworth Davis Letters, 1907-1933 (bulk 1909-1913): Finding Aid

Published in 1992

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 274
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Ellsworth Davis Letters
  • Dates: 1907-1933
  • Bulk Dates: 1909-1913
  • Size: 1.25 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 3 manuscript boxes
  • Creator: Davis, Ellsworth, 1892-1946
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Ellsworth Davis was an officer in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1913. The Ellsworth Davis Letters span from 1907 to 1933, but focus primarily on Davis' time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, including his summer practice cruises, course work, recreational activities, and Naval Academy traditions.

Biographical Chronology of Ellsworth Davis

  • On March 11, is born in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • On July 1, is appointed to the United States Naval Academy from Connecticut.
  • On June 6, graduates from the United States Naval Academy and is subsequently commissioned Ensign.
  • On July 12, reports to U.S.S. Florida (Battleship: BB-30).
  • On May 28, reports to U.S.S. Brooklyn (Cruiser: CA-3).
  • On September 9, is commissioned Lieutenant (junior grade), effective from June 7.
  • On October 2, reports to U.S.S. Wilmington (Gunboat: PG-8).
  • On September 5, is ordered home to await orders.
  • On October 5, is temporarily appointed Lieutenant, effective from August 31.
  • On November 7, reports to Quincy, Massachusetts, for duty in connection with the fitting out of U.S.S. Stringham (Destroyer: DD-83).
  • On July 2, assumes duty as Engineer Officer aboard U.S.S. Stringham upon her commissioning.
  • On December 10, is temporarily appointed Lieutenant Commander, effective from November 14.
  • On April 30, reports to the Third Naval District for temporary duty aboard the Receiving Ship at New York.
  • On May 14, reports to the Mare Island Navy Yard for duty in connection with the fitting out of U.S.S. Claxton (Destroyer: DD-140).
  • On May 19, reports to Union Iron Works in San Francisco for duty in connection with the fitting out of U.S.S. Burns (Destroyer: DD-171).
  • On December 26, reports to U.S.S. McDermut (Destroyer: DD-262) as Executive Officer.
  • On September 28, reports to U.S. Naval Academy as an instructor in the department of Marine Engineering and Naval Construction.
  • On May 31, is commissioned Lieutenant, effective from June 7, 1919.
  • On July 1, reports to U.S.S. New York (Battleship: BB-34) as Assistant Engineer Officer.
  • On March 13, reports to U.S.S. Mississippi (Battleship: BB-41) as Assistant Engineer Officer.
  • On February 20, is commissioned Lieutenant Commander, effective from June 5, 1924.
  • On July 27, reports to U.S. Naval Academy for duty in the Department of Engineering and Aeronautics.
  • On July 9, reports to U.S.S. Marblehead (Light cruiser: CL-12) as Engineer Officer.
  • On August 19, reports to the Boston Navy Yard.
  • On May 27, reports to U.S.S. Yarnall (Destroyer: DD-143) as Commanding Officer.
  • On July 16, reports to U.S.S. Fairfax (Destroyer: DD-93) as Commanding Officer.
  • On March 2, is transferred to the Retired List, effective June 30, having become ineligible for promotion by reason of length of service.
  • On March 30, is recalled to active duty and ordered to Seventh Naval District, Key West, Florida.
  • On December 18, is appointed Commander for temporary service, effective from December 15.
  • On February 20, reports to Seventh Naval District, Miami, Florida as Director of Distribution.
  • On May 5, reports for Permanent General Court Martial duty.
  • On May 31, detached from duty, effective August 1, and relieved of all active duty.
  • On January 18, dies in Hartford, Connecticut.
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Description of Contents

The Ellsworth Davis Letters span from 1907 through 1933 and include 670 pieces of correspondence, Midshipman Davis' Division Pass Book, and several other papers. With the exception of seven letters, all of the correspondence dates from 1909 to 1913, when Davis was an applicant to, and midshipman at, the United States Naval Academy.

Ellsworth Davis' letters begin with his 1909 arrival in Annapolis and his brief attendance at Wilmer and Chew's U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School. During his years at the U.S. Naval Academy, Davis was a frequent correspondent with his parents, Mr. and Mrs, Frederick Wendell Davis, his brother Roger, sister Lucy, and other relatives and friends. His letters provide a first-person account of midshipman life at the U.S. Naval Academy in the early twentieth century.

Davis' midshipman letters contain accounts of such things at his daily routine, recreational activities, courses, grades, drills, sports, special events, and visitors. Among Davis' correspondence are accounts of his midshipmen cruises aboard the battleships Iowa (1910), Indiana (1911), and Delaware (1912). His letters also offer information on such customs and traditions as hazing, running, spooning, Christmas parades, tossing of midshipmen over the sea wall, Frenching out, and the New Year's hop.

Midshipman Davis also wrote of physical exams, strength tests, his participation in track, boxing, and rifle, his playing of the violin, banjo, and other instruments, his friendship with the family of Captain Clark, and occasional remarks on other midshipmen and Academy professors. Davis also writes of marching in the funeral processions of Admiral Winfield Scott Schley and Robley Evans, and in the Presidential inaugural parade of Woodrow Wilson.

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The Ellsworth Davis Letters are organized by correspondent into the following five sequences:

  • Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1909-1913, 1918, 1922
  • Letters to Ellsworth Davis, 1909-1913
  • Letters Between Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Davis, 1907-1912
  • Letters from Mildred Davis, 1933, undated
  • Miscellaneous, 1909-1913
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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Ellsworth Davis Letters are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Purchased from Marcia Newlin in September 1991. Accession No. 91-49.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Ellsworth Davis' time as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy may be found in his personnel jacket and alumni jacket in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Correspondence from Davis' service aboard U.S.S. Florida (Battleship: BB-30) during the American occupation of Veracruz can be found in the Ellsworth Davis Letters at the University of South Florida.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Ellsworth Davis Letters, MS 274

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992 and revised by David D'Onofrio in January 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Davis, Ellsworth, 1892-1946
  • Delaware (Battleship : BB-28)
  • Indiana (Battleship : BB-1)
  • Iowa (Battleship : BB-4)
  • Midshipmen -- United States -- Conduct of life
  • United States Naval Academy -- Hazing
  • United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
  • United States Naval Academy -- Social life and customs
  • United States Naval Academy -- Students -- Correspondence
  • United States Naval Academy. Class of 1913

Genre Terms

  • Account books
  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1909 April-July Letters 1-40

Trip to Annapolis, room and board, Wilmer and Chew's Academy Prep School, derogatory remarks on slow-paced Annapolis and its "darkies," and entering the Naval Academy (April-June): head stands and singing as a form of hazing (July 3); firefighting drills (July 9); late night roll call to catch midshipmen Frenching out, football grounds fire, and officer erroneously calling ambulance for burned football dummy (July 13); comparison of Naval Academy to prison and custom of spiking hat on top of mast (July 22).

Box 1 Folder 2

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1909 August-September Letters 41-77

Broom fight between the 4th and 5th companies (August 5); "running," and hazing (August 25); hazing, "running," and "spooning" (September 5, 8, 15, and 28); Plebes' vaudeville entertainment for the upper class (September 14); artillery drills (September 17); Davis' inspection of mess hall while Officer of the Day (September 23); success in spiking hat, end of Plebe Summer, and plebes giving game tickets to upperclassmen (September 29).

Box 1 Folder 3

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1909 October-December Letters 78-118

"Spooning" (October 1, 3, 4, and 7); Playing music with other plebes at upperclassmen's soiree (October 10); Davis falls overboard during boat drill (October 20); Professor Johnson's mech lecture (November 8); "bilging" and "spooning" (November 11); Lt. Hannigan, privileges of rating as youngsters, and Christmas Day custom of plebes rating as first class (November 26); opinion of Professor Johnson as a poor math teacher (December 2); midshipman Christmas traditions and "spooning" (December 26-27).

Box 1 Folder 4

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1910 January-March Letters 119-156

New Year's hop traditions and an officer hit by a midshipman's thrown alarm clock (January 2); filthy swim tank cleaned (January 13); lack of disgrace attached to bilging (January 21); first classmen derive plebes of dessert (February 11); plebe's comic valentine to first classman (February 13); midshipmen's failure to donate at Sunday Chapel service and entertainment by a magician (February 20); new reveille procedure (March 3); racist/anti-Semitic remarks regarding Jewish midshipmen (March 13).

Box 1 Folder 5

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1910 April-June Letters 157-188

Tailors assigned rooms in Bancroft Hall (April 6); Davis plays in the Naval Academy orchestra (April 10); Naval Academy funeral service for [Midshipman Earl] Wilson (April 17); car driven by Naval Academy lieutenant goes over sea wall (April 27); plebes win interclass meet (May 1); Davis picked to serve aboard U.S.S. Iowa (May 4); beginning of summer cruise aboard Iowa (June).

Box 1 Folder 6

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1910 July-September Letters 189-219

Midshipman summer cruise aboard Iowa, with port calls at Hampton Roads, Plymouth, Marseilles, Gibraltar, Madeira, the Azores, and Solomons Island, with discussions of shipboard life, shore experiences, and a poison ivy epidemic (June-August); redecoration of midshipman rooms in Bancroft Hall (September 29).

Box 1 Folder 7

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1910 October-December Letters 220-254

Typhoid inoculations, anti-typhoid measures of filtering water and boiling milk (October-December); blacksmith shop drill in welding and iron forging (December 7); weak squad and noble squad (December 9); no Christmas parade with absence of first class (December 15).

Box 1 Folder 8

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1911 January-March Letters 255-293

Davis' room fumigated due to roommate’s pink-eye (January 5); ice skating on USNA's Cockadoodle Creek and USNA dairy (January 12); YMCA meeting and propeller mould foundry drill (January 15); poor quality of midshipmen's hot water (February 8); midshipmen's arrangement in class according to monthly math exam (February 23).

Box 1 Folder 9

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1911 April-August Letters 294-316

Naval Academy selectees to take reg shoes home to break in (May 10); Davis stands first in conduct (May 27); Midshipman summer cruise on U.S.S. Indiana, with port calls at Queenstown, Cork, Killarney, Kiel, Bergen, Finse, Gibraltar, Solomons Island, and remarks on Hamburg, shipboard life, and the ship's orchestra (June-August).

Box 1 Folder 10

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1911 October-December Letters 317-352

Midshipmen assault Washington DC police after banquet (October 4); Winfield Scott Schley's funeral procession in DC (October 6); regulations forbidding whistling in corridors (October 12, 15); "youngsters" caught hazing (October 15); no reveille inspection, custom of midshipman who shot best on rifle range thrown over sea wall by midshipmen (October 17); lyrics of a Naval Academy second class song (October 19); swimming tank now filtered and warm (October 31); Davis victim of USNA ring-worm epidemic (November 2-3); German midshipmen visit USNA (November 14); war game drill (November 27); USNA Thanksgiving dinner (December 1); New Year's Hop traditions (December 31).

Box 2 Folder 1

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1912 January-July Letter 353-396

Funeral of Admiral Robley "Fighting Bob" Evans (January 6); candy requisition, new reveille with drummer and bugler (January 28); ring wearing customs (February 19); new armory roller skating rink (March 4, 28); sinking and raising the Santee (April 3); changes in drill regulations (April 24); putting on class ring and throwing each other over sea wall after last exam (May 13); Midshipman Saunders thrown over sea wall for being best shot (May 19); fun of throwing midshipmen over sea wall (June 1); Davis aboard U.S.S. Delaware for war games with simulated submarine attack, mine-laying, and other drills (July)

Box 2 Folder 2

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1912 August-December Letters 397-434

Davis aboard U.S.S. Delaware for war games with simulated submarine attack, mine-laying, and other drills (August); Davis makes Company P.O. (October 3, 27); mention of "very fine" mess hall (October 6); privileged life of first classman (October 10); Davis tries to break plebe of lisping (October 24); explanation of "busting" and "busted" (November 6); Navy goat poisoned, corpse to be stuffed (November 20); Army-Navy game activities (December 1); Davis' grades (December 6); repairing damaged class rings (December 10); remarks on "white man" as language instructor (December 12); Commandant's objection to youngsters dressing in convict striped pajamas (December 17); Class of 2013's Christmas parade and "old-time rag formation" (December 25).

Box 2 Folder 3

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1913 January-March Letters 435-464

First class ordered to attend Superintendent's New Year's reception (January 1); Davis assigned to keep order in plebe dancing class as Officer of the Day (January 5); midshipmen's serious betting offense (January 6); Davis' father on USNA Board of Visitors (January 19, 26); mentions of song "Rivers to Cross" (January 22, 26); midshipmen march in President Woodrow Wilson's inaugural parade (March 5); midshipmen’s St. Patrick's Day prank (March 17).

Box 2 Folder 4

Letters from Ellsworth Davis, 1913 April-November, 1918, 1922 Letters 465-492

Praise of Professor Zimmerman's musical ability (April 20); inspection of milk and waiters while Officer of the Day (April 25); Lucky Bag dedication to Hugh Brown (May 23); joy at "no more rivers to cross" (May 28).

Box 2 Folder 5

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Davis, 1909-1912 August Letters 493-506

Box 2 Folder 6

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Davis, 1912 August-September Letters 507-518

Box 2 Folder 7

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Other Correspondents, 1909-1913 Letters 519-534

Box 2 Folder 8

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1909 Letters 535-555

Box 2 Folder 9

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1910 January-May Letters 556-559

Box 3 Folder 1

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1910 October-December Letters 570-583

Box 3 Folder 2

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1911 January-May Letters 584-600

Box 3 Folder 3

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1911 June-December Letters 601-615

Box 3 Folder 4

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1912 January-March Letters 616-628

Box 3 Folder 5

Letters to Ellsworth Davis from Esther Lyman, 1912 April-May, 1913 Letters 629-638

Box 3 Folder 6

Letters Between Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Davis, 1907, 1910-1912 Letter 639-667

Correspondence between Ellsworth Davis' parents, Frederick and Molly Davis. Includes several letters received by Mr. and Mrs. Davis from other correspondents.

Box 3 Folder 7

Letters from Mildred Davis, 1933, undated Letters 668-670

Two letters to Ellsworth Davis from his wife Mildred and one from Mildred to Mrs. Frederick Davis describing Manila.

Box 3 Folder 8

Miscellaneous, 1909-1913

Includes Davis' Division Pass Book, a USNA song and cheer leaflet, a photographs of Davis on coaling duty, a postcard of midshipmen marching to chapel, a postcard depicting the front entrance of Bancroft Hall, a Naval Academy Bulletin page, and the 1911/1912 edition of Reef Points.

Box 3 Folder 9

News clippings, 1912-1913, undated

Newspaper clippings originally enclosed with correspondence from the collection. Photocopies of each clipping are housed with their original letter.

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