Southern Methodist University

Davis Company Ltd. records

A Guide



Collection Summary

Creator: Davis Company Ltd.
Title: Davis Company Ltd. records
Dates: 1909-1946
Abstract: Davis Company, Ltd. was a Hong Kong and New York business directed by Paula Davis in the early part of the twentieth century. The company’s interests included construction, railroad development, mineral exploration, harbor improvement, mills, Dragon Car Motor Company, and the unsuccessful manufacture of arms for various warlords in China. This collection contains business correspondence and reports for prospective projects in China.
Identification: MSS 0143
Quantity: 5 boxes (4 linear feet)
Language: English
Repository: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

On August 30, 1918 the Davis Company, Ltd. was incorporated in Hong Kong as an import/export business. Offices were located in New York, California, and Hong Kong. The Davis Company was also involved in construction, railroad development, mineral exploration, harbor improvement, mills, Dragon Car Motor Company, and the unsuccessful manufacture of arms for various warlords in China in the early part of the twentieth century. Business partners were Frederick E. Davis, James A. Rabbitt Engineering Corporation, and Charles Powrie.

Paula Margarita Davis ran away from home at the age of eighteen to Honolulu, and was a secretary for Frederick E. Davis. Sometime after Mr. Davis’s wife died, he and Paula married. In 1917, Frederick E. Davis died upon their yacht in Hong Kong. Paula Davis took over her husband’s business interests and became director of the Davis Company. She lived in Hong Kong, New York, California, and in 1936 she moved to Copenhagen.

Sources:

Box 1, Folders 1-2

Nedda Adams letter to DeGolyer Library, 1982 March 17


Scope and Contents Note

Most of the documents refer to the company as Davis Company instead of Davis Company Ltd. Researchers interested in twentieth century neo-colonialism in China, corporate history, and Chinese railroads should find these materials useful.

The first series contains records of the Davis Company Ltd. and include business operating documents. The second series contains business correspondence of major Davis Company partners: Charles Rollo Powrie, Paula Davis [P.M. Davis], James A. Rabbitt, George Lynott, and Robert W. Munk. Most of the correspondence was written in Hong Kong and New York, and describes the political climate in early twentieth century China. Researchers should note there is correspondence about Sun Yat-sen, and manufacturing firearms for various warlords in China.

The third series contains reports written for the company about prospective business projects in China. The last series includes Paula Davis’ personal documents and correspondence. Two folders contain materials on Alexander Sklarevksy, a pianist and teacher at the Peabody Institute. His materials indicate that Davis funded his travel to America after he fled Russia. Also included are the personal papers of Charles Rollo Powrie, Davis’s business partner.


Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 4 series:
Series 1: Davis Company records, 1918-1946
Series 2: Davis Company correspondence, 1919-1937
Series 3: Davis Company reports, 1921-1923
Series 4: Personal papers, 1909-1928

Restrictions

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Sensitive Material Statement:

Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which DeGolyer Library assumes no responsibility.


Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Subjects (Persons)
Davis, Paula Margarita.
Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958.
Rabbitt, James A.
Sklarevski, Alexander (Alexander Fedorovich), 1882-1963.
Sun, Yat-sen, 1866-1925.
Subjects (Organizations)
Davis Company Ltd.
Dragon Motor Car Company.
Subjects
Women directors of corporations.
Business enterprises, Foreign -- China -- Hong Kong.
Places
Guangzhou (China) -– History -– 20th century.
Yunnan Sheng (China) -– History – 20th century.
China -– Foreign relations -- 1912-1949.
Document Types
Correspondence.
Minutes.
Account books.
Contracts.
Photographs.

Related Material

James A. Rabbitt papers, Hoover Institution Archives, https://oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf5n39n7kp/entire_text


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Davis Company Ltd. records, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Acquisition Information

Nedda Adams, daughter of Paula Davis, donated records from the Davis Company in 1971 to DeGolyer Library. In 1985 Carl Briggs donated to the DeGolyer Library a few letters regarding the end of the Davis Company, which were given to him by Nedda Adams.

Processing Information

Vivek Dhokalia wrote a preliminary inventory in 1982. In 2019 duplicative and out of scope materials were discarded. Cynthia Franco processed the collection and wrote the finding aid in 2019.


Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Davis Company records, 1918-1946
2 boxes

The first three folders contain administrative documents for the company, and folders 4-29 are arranged alphabetically by business subject or client. The end of the series contains catalogs, a statement on the Chinese political situation, office stationery, one unidentified photograph, and two company stock books.
Box Folder
1 1 Paula Davis and Company memorandum and articles of association, 1918
2 Agreement between Civil Governor of Kwangtung (at Canton) and Davis Company, 1924; letter and release document, 1937-1946
3 Report of examination, Davis Company Limited, 1921 October 31
4 Contract X, 1919-1921
5 Contracts, 1920
6 Contracts – Davis Company and James A. Rabbitt, 1923-1925
7-8 Contract, 1924 July 18-19 [includes photographs]
9 Contracts, 1924-1927
10 American Consul General, Canton, 1923-1924
11 Canton Inner Harbour Development, 1921
12 Dragon Motor Car Company - memorandum and articles of association, 1921
13 Dragon Motor Car Company – meeting minutes, documents, 1924-1927
14 Dragon Motor Car Company – legal documents, 1922-1924
15 Dragon Motor Car Company – Minnesota lawsuit briefs, 1925
16-21 Dragon Motor Car Company – correspondence, 1928-1938
22 Lee Higginson and Company and Philadelphia National Bank, 1923-1924
23 Lee Higginson and Company – accounts, 1924
24 Lee Higginson and Company – Mortimer Boutelle, 1924-1925
25 Old Hickory Powder Plant, Jacksonville, Tennessee, 1921
26 Mexican Engineering and Development Co., S.A., 1925-1926
27 Steamship Woudrichem legal matters, 1921-1921
28 Yunnan, China, 1921-1922
29 80cm base infantry range finder, 1920 [catalog]
30 Memorial draft by Executive Committee of the American Association of South China, 1921
31 Lewis machine gun, undated [catalog]
32 Stationery samples
33 [photograph of group dinner], undated
34 Davis Company stock book, 1918-1923
Box Item
3 12 Davis Company account book for shares, 1918-1924



Series 2: Davis Company correspondence, 1919-1937
1 box

Business correspondents include Charles Rollo Powrie, Paula Davis [P.M. Davis], James A. Rabbitt, George Lynott, and Robert W. Munk. This series is arranged alphabetically and chronologically beginning with the fifth folder. Most of the correspondence was written in Hong Kong and New York, and describes the political climate in early twentieth century China. Subjects include Sun Yat-sen, and manufacturing firearms for various warlords in China.
Box Folder
2 1-2 1924-1925
3-4 1927-1928
5 Mortimer Boutelle, 1926-1937
6 Canton correspondence, 1920-1921
7 Wing-sen Chun, 1921-1922
8 Wing-sen Chun, accounts, 1921-1922
9 Wing-sen Chun, Kwangtung arsenal, Canton, China, 1920-1922 [Guangzhou, China]
10 G.H. Corse, 1921-1922
11 Robert McDonald Ford, 1919
12 F.R. Henderson and Co., 1923-1924
13 E.J. Grist, 1921-1924
14 Tom Gunn, 1922
15 Captain Howard, S.S. Woudrichem, 1920-1921
16 Charles Kettering, 1924
17 Oscar Lachmund, 1920
18-19 George Lynott, 1919-1920
20-21 George Lynott, 1922-1923
22 George Lynott correspondence about Henderson-Forbes, and Canton, 1920-1925
23 George Lynott and Reginald Tobey, 1923
24 George Lynott correspondence about Hong Kong, 1924-1927
25 Robert W. Munk, 1923-1927
26 Charles Rollo Powrie, 1920
27 Charles Rollo Powrie draft of letter to Sun Yat-sen, 1921
28 Charles Rollo Powrie, 1922-1924
29 Charles Rollo Powrie – Hong Kong and Canton wires and other papers, 1922
30 Charles Rollo Powrie, 1927
31 James A. Rabbitt - documents, 1920-1924
32 James A. Rabbitt - summary of the Canton situation, 1923 March 10
33-34 James A. Rabbitt, 1920-1924
35 Frederick W. Stevens, 1921
36 Letters to R.P. Stewart, 1927
37 Reginald S. Tobey, 1919-1921
38 Tong Shui Lin, 1921-1927
39 Wilkinson and Grist, 1921-1925
40 R.J. Weir, 1921-1922
41 Cable codes, 1926
42 Private cables from Davis Company to New York, 1920 [2 volumes]; steamer cables to and from Hong Kong, circa 1920 [1 volume]



Series 3: Davis Company reports, 1921-1923
2 boxes

Most of these reports written for the company are about prospective projects in China. Box 3 mostly contains unbound reports, and box 4 contains bound reports.
Box Folder
3 1 Various reports – Report of a fertilizer survey in the Mulberry districts of Kwangtung by Edward Shim; preliminary reports on Sam Tong coal beds, Na Pu San lead mine, Pein Ma and Na Po coal mines, mining investigation in Kwangsi Province, 1921-1922
2 Preliminary report on Kwangsi Railways System, 1921
3 Report on condition of the Kwantung Arsenal after attempted destruction, 1920
4 Preliminary report on iron and coal deposits near Lai Foo, 1921
5 Preliminary estimates for Canton municipal industrial development project, 1921
6 Kwan Shan power development, 1921
7 Proposed change in railway building policy of the government of the province of Kwangtung, China, 1921
8 Report on proposed railway connecting the Canton-Kowloon Railway and Yuen-Han Railway, 1921
9 Report on proposed Pun Ping Railroad, 1921
10-11 James A. Rabbitt Engineering Corp. daily office bulletin, 1922-1923
Box Folder
4 1 Report on proposed Waichow-Cheung Muk Tou highway, Kwangtung province, China, 1921 March 16
2 Report on proposed hydro-electric development on the Yung Kiang, province of Kwangtung, China, 1921 April 20
3 Reports on Siwan coal mine and proposed railroad between Konghau and Siwan, provinces of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, China, 1920 October 6
4 Preliminary menthol report, 1921
5 Report on coal mining near Shiu Chow, Kwangtung province, China, 1921 April



Series 4: Personal papers, 1909-1928
1 box

All but the last two folders include personal documents and correspondence for Paula Davis. Researchers should note that Alexander Sklarevksy was a pianist and teacher at the Peabody Institute. His materials indicate that Davis funded his travel to America after he fled Russia. Correspondence from the Peabody Institute about his employment, and various recital promotional materials are also included.
The last two folders contain the personal papers of Charles Rollo Powrie, Davis’s business partner.
Box Folder
5 1 Paula Davis letters, 1919-1925
2 Paula Davis correspondence, 1919
3 Paula Davis private correspondence, Hong Kong, 1920
4 Paula Davis – Canton correspondence, 1922
5 Paula Davis correspondence, 1923
6 Dolly letters to Paula Davis, 1924-1925
7 East Bay Country Club, California, 1924-1925
8 W.L. Kidston correspondence, 1921-1922 [newspaper editor describes Galveston, Tampico, newspaper business]
9 Prince and Princess Achille Murat, 1927-1928
10 Alexander Sklarevsky letters to Paula Davis, 1921-1922
11 Paula Davis and Alexander Sklarevksy papers, 1921-1927
12 “Paula” yacht documents, 1917
13 Indictment against Paula Davis, Charles Rollo Powrie, and others, 1928
14 Charles Rollo Powrie papers, 1909-1922
15 Charles Rollo Powrie correspondence, 1920-1921