Guide to the Harry Phillips Davis Collection, 1915-1944 AIS.1964.21

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

Repository
ULS Archives & Special Collections
Title
Harry Phillips Davis Collection
Creator
Davis, Harry Phillips, 1868-1931
Collection Number
AIS.1964.21
Date [inclusive]
1915-1944
Extent
1.87 linear feet (4 boxes)
Abstract
Harry Phillips Davis was a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked for the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. He eventually rose to the position of Vice-President in charge of Manufacturing and Engineering for Westinghouse. During his tenure, Davis helped bring about the first commercial radio station in the United States, KDKA. His papers consist of memorandum, correspondence, biographical information, clippings and material from his estate.

Preferred Citation

Harry Phillips Davis Collection, 1915-1944, AIS.1964.21, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

Return to Table of Contents »


Biography

Harry Phillips Davis was born on July 31, 1868 in Somersworth, New Hampshire. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1890 and B.S. in electrical engineering in 1891. In 1892 Davis married Agnes Taylor.

After starting his career at the Thompson Houston Co. in 1891, Davis resigned and moved to East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work for Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Davis presented Westinghouse Management with an opportunity to develop what is known as "electrical detail apparatus," which are devices such as switches, insulators and rheostats.

In 1892 Davis was appointed to organize and develop Westinghouse's Detail Engineering Department. In 1909 Davis was named the Manager of Engineering for Westinghouse and was elected to the post of Vice-President in charge of Manufacturing and Engineering in 1911.

Davis was known for his ability to complete assigned tasks quickly and under budget. Some of the projects include Hoosac Tunnel, St. Clair Tunnel and the electrification of the Pennsylvania Railroad Terminal. Davis also completed a massive managerial task during World War I, supervising the conversion of Westinghouse's Pittsburgh plant from electrical manufacturing to the production of munitions.

Davis is perhaps best known as a pioneer in the radio field. According to the National Radio Club's website, Davis saw the possibilities of radio broadcasting for mass communications. He approved the creation of KDKA, which went into service on November 2, 1920.

KDKA was largely the result of the work of Frank Conrad, an engineer at the Westinghouse company. Conrad began experimenting with broadcasting radio programs from his home in Wilkinsburg, PA in 1916 and continued throughout World War I. Interest in the programs rose and a local merchant advertised radio receivers on Conrad's broadcasts. Davis recognized the commercial possibilities and led an effort to build a studio and a more powerful transmitter on the roof of the Westinghouse K building in East Pittsburgh. His efforts to promote radio extended to his participation in the creation of the Public Broadcasting Company. This company combined the radio stations of Westinghouse, General Electric and the Radio Corporation of America. Davis served as chairman of the board of directors of the National Broadcasting Company at the time of his death.

Davis died on September 10, 1931 in Pittsburgh, and is buried in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and Content Notes

The Harry Phillips Davis Collection is divided into eight series contained in four boxes. Among the material in the collection are correspondence, memorandum, newspaper and magazine clippings, news releases, photographs and speeches.

Return to Table of Contents »


Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, Fall 2000

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
Website: library.pitt.edu/archives-special-collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
Contact Us: www.library.pitt.edu/ask-archivist

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright

Permission for publication is given on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Acquisition Information

The material was a gift of Sherburne B. Rockwell, Jr. on March 2, 1964.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by ASC Staff.

Return to Table of Contents »


Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Aylesworth, Merlin Hall, 1886-1952
  • Byrd, Richard Evelyn, 1888-1957 -- Correspondence
  • Davis, Harry Phillips, 1868-1931
  • Harbord, James G. (James Guthrie), 1866-1947 -- Correspondence
  • Herr, E. M. -- Correspondence
  • Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 -- Correspondence

Subject(s)

  • Business and Industry
  • Personal papers
  • Radio broadcasters
  • Radio broadcasting -- History

Return to Table of Contents »


Previous Citation

Harry Phillips Davis Collection, 1915-1944, AIS.1964.21, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

Series  I. Biographical Data, 1920-1922 

Scope and Content Notes

Includes a copy of a manuscript for an article on Davis for Forbes Magazine. Also has a file of biographical data to be used in  The Story of Electricity and press releases on Davis from the National Broadcasting Company.

  BoxFolder
Davis, H.P. Biographical Data, undated 11
  Folder
National Broadcasting Company, Inc. New York. Press Releases, undated 2
  Folder
File relating to biographical data on H.P. Davis to be used in The Story of Electricity, 1920-1922 3
  Folder
Manuscript, with corrections and revisions, of an article prepared by Mrs. O.D. Foster for Forbes Magazine, undated 4

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  II. Business Correspondence and Memorandum, 1915-1931 

Scope and Content Notes

The series includes information on the development of advertising in radio, the creation of the American Broadcasting Company and the development of radio broadcasting in the United States. Also included is information on the Canadian Westinghouse Company and radio broadcasting in Europe. A recurring theme in the correspondence is Davis' attempts to use the medium of radio to its greatest advantage. Major correspondents include M.H. Aylesworth, president of NBC; B.A. Behrend, engineering consultant; General J.G. Harvard, president, Radio Corporation of America; and E.M. Herr, president of Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company. The correspondence includes a letter from President Herbert Hoover concerning the 10th anniversary of radio broadcasting. The correspondence in folder eleven concerns Davis' lectures, speeches and writing on the radio industry.

The memorandum in folders 12 and 13 include memos from David Sarnoff, president of the National Broadcasting Company and material on the development of radio.

Subseries  1. Business Correspondence, 1915-1931 

  Folder
 1915, 1920 5
  Folder
 June 1924-1925 6
  Folder
 January-May 1926 7
  Folder
 October-December 1926 8
  Folder
 1927 9
  Folder
 August 1928-July 1931 10

Subseries  2. Lectures and Memoranda, 1928-1929 

  Folder
Lectures, addresses, books, 1928-1929 11
  Folder
Memorandum proposing organization of a broadcasting company, undated 12
  Folder
Memorandum from J.C. McQuiston, undated 13

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  III. Addresses, Radio Broadcasts, Publications and Articles on Davis 1919-1931 

  Folder
Addresses, Talks, Article Copy 1919-1927 14
  BoxFolder
Addresses, Talks, Article Copy, 1928 215
  Folder
Addresses, Talks, Article Copy, 1929-1931 16
  Folder
Broadcasts, undated 17
  Folder
Publications, undated 18
  Folder
Issues of periodicals containing articles by H.P. Davis, undated 19

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  IV. Works Manager's Meeting 

  Folder
Works Managers Meeting, Minutes, October 6-8, 1924 20

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  V. Photographs, Memorabilia, and Davis' Eulogy 

  Folder
Photographs 21
  Folder
Memorabilia 22
  Folder
In Memoriam 23

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  VI. Correspondence 

  Folder
Aylesworth, M.H. 24
  Folder
Conrad, Dr. Frank 25
  Folder
Horn, C.W. 26
  Folder
Morse, Miss Edith B. 27
  Folder
Rockwell, Sherburne B., Jr. 28
  Folder
Sarnoff, David 29
  Folder
Broadcasting 30
  Folder
H.P. Davis Memorial Announcers' Award 31
  Folder
Radio Station WJZ (Bound Book, N.J.; New York, New York) 32
  Folder
Ransom C. Taylor Trust 33
  Folder
Radio Station KDKA, Pittsburgh, PA 34
  Folder
Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. Correspondence relating to radio station KDKA, 1924-1925 35

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  VII. Scrapbooks 

Subseries  1. Newspaper Clippings, 1921-1925 

Box
3
  Folder
 1921-1922 36
  Folder
 1923-1924 37
  Folder
 1925 38

Subseries  2. Clippings About Radio 

  Folder
Advertising 39
  Folder
Communications 40
  Folder
Legal 41
  Folder
Statistical 42
  Folder
Television 43
  Folder
Miscellaneous 44-45
  Folder
H.P. Davis address in Buffalo and Washington on Radio 46

Subseries  3. News Clippings 

  BoxFolder
H.P. Davis 447
  Folder
Broadcasting Industry 48
  Folder
Radio Station KDKA 49

Subseries  4. Publications 

  Folder
Radio Corporation of America 50
  Folder
The report of an investigation made among radio owners of Missouri and Illinois showing individual preferences 51

Return to Table of Contents »


Series  VIII. Davis Estate, 1931-1944 

  Folder
Davis Estate, 1931, May 1944 52
  Folder
Davis Estate, June 1944 53
  Folder
Davis Estate, July-September 1944 54
  Folder
Davis, Mrs. H.P. 55

Return to Table of Contents »