Collection ID: MSS104
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Collection context


Davis, Harry A., 1914-2006, Davis, Lois, 1924-, and Davis, Lois, 1924-
Harry Allen Davis, Jr., Indiana artist and Herron School of Art professor, was born in Hillsboro, Indiana in 1914 and moved to Brownsburg, Indiana in 1920. In 1938, he graduated from the John Herron Art Institute and won the Prix de Rome in Painting. After studying at the American Academy in Rome and briefly teaching at Beloit College, he joined the Army in 1942 and was a combat artist in Europe in World War II. When the war was over, Davis took a position teaching drawing and painting at the Herron School of Art. There, he met Lois Irene Peterson from LaPorte, Indiana and the two married in 1947. They had two children together. Harry Davis was a professor at the Herron School of Art until his retirement in 1983. As an artist, he was known for his series of paintings featuring older American and more specifically, Hoosier, buildings and structures. Harry Davis died in 2006. The Harry and Lois Davis Papers consist mainly of Harry Davis's correspondence and exhibition files, as well as scrapbooks and news clippings about Harry and Lois Davis and about Herron faculty and alumni. Also included are a journal and travel documents from his time at the American Academy and a memoir from the war.
7 cubic feet (7 record cartons and 2 oversized folders)
Materials are in English .
Preferred citation:

Cite as: Harry A. and Lois Davis Papers, 1891-2012, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.


Biographical / Historical:

Harry Allen Davis, Jr. was born in Hillsboro, Indiana on May 21, 1914 to Harry Allen Davis and Eva Smith Davis. His family moved to Brownsburg in 1920, where he graduated from Brownsburg High School in 1932. He matriculated in the John Herron Art Institute (later Herron School of Art) in 1933 and graduated with a B.F.A. in 1938. That same year, Davis won the Prix de Rome in Painting. He spent the next two years studying at the American Academy in Rome and traveling all over Europe. Davis was offered a third year of study at the Academy, which he spent with the Academy in Greenwich Village in New York City after all American citizens had to flee Italy. Davis and fellow Herron Prix de Rome winner Robert Pippenger left Italy on June 28, 1940 on the Excalibur, the last American ship out of the Mediterranean. Upon completion of the program in 1941, he was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome (F.A.A.R.).

In 1941, Davis became Artist-in-Residence at Beloit College in Wisconsin. He taught and painted at Beloit until 1942, when, after the United States entered World War Two, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. The Army sent him to North Africa to design camouflage. In 1944, he transferred to the Fifth Army Historical Unit in Italy, where Davis was a combat-artist assigned to the 85th Infantry Division. Several of his drawings from that time were used in the confidential History of the 5th Army. Some of his combat works are in the collection of the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

Davis was discharged November 23, 1945, and in 1946 he took a position teaching drawing and painting at the Herron School of Art. He was named an associate professor in 1967 when Herron became part of the Indiana University system and received promotion to full professor in 1970, shortly after Herron became one of the schools of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Davis stayed at Herron until his retirement in 1983, when he was named Professor Emeritus. He was known for his series of paintings featuring older American buildings and structures, particularly those located in Indiana. Harry Davis received numerous awards over the course of his career and his work was exhibited nationally, regionally, and locally.

Davis met Lois Irene Peterson while he was an instructor and she was a student at Herron, although Lois never took any of his classes. They married December 20, 1947 and had two children, Joanna Ingrid Davis Marks, born April 25, 1949, and Mark Frederick Davis, born February 16, 1959.

Lois Irene Peterson Davis was born in LaPorte, Indiana on January 6, 1924. In 1947, she graduated from Herron with a B.F.A. and won the $1,000 Milliken Award for independent travel and study, which she used to study in Mexico. Lois and Harry married three months after her return. The Davises lived in Brownsburg, where Lois taught art to grades 1-8 in Brownsburg Public Schools from 1956-58. Harry and Lois lived and raised their children in Brownsburg until 1960, when they moved to the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis.

Scope and Content:

The collection consists of the papers and photographs of Harry and Lois Davis from 1891-2012. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1930s to 2012 and is organized into eight series: Journal, Memoir, and Travel Documents; Correspondence; Exhibitions; Herron Faculty Files; Former Students and Alumni Files; Miscellaneous Harry Davis Herron Files; News Clippings and Scrapbooks; and Photographs and Slides.

The Journal, Memoir, and Travel Documents series contains a journal and travel documents from Davis's time at the American Academy in Rome and a memoir of his years in the U.S. Army. The travel documents include receipts, tickets, postcards, maps, a baggage claim ticket, and an American Academy directory.

The Correspondence series contains letters between Harry Davis and the art galleries, agents, and professional associations he was a part of or worked with throughout his career. There are also letters, cards, and postcards between Davis and his family, friends, and colleagues, and some letters and paperwork regarding his service in World War II.

The Exhibitions series consists of announcements, brochures, news clippings, letters, bills of sale, and other paperwork associated with exhibitions that featured Harry and Lois Davis.

The Herron Faculty Files series contains brochures, newsletters, correspondence, obituaries, and news clippings related to faculty at the Herron School of Art who either taught Harry Davis, or were colleagues of Harry Davis. The files are arranged alphabetically by faculty member name.

The Former Students and Alumni series contains files about individual Herron alumni who were either classmates or students of Harry and Lois. This series also contains a few files pertaining to the history of the Herron School of Art and group exhibitions by its students. The bulk of the alumni files consists of news clippings, brochures, obituaries, or exhibition announcements with any mention of Herron alumni. Of particular interest are several letters and Christmas cards alumni sent to Harry and Lois, often including handmade cards or containing original drawings or paintings.

The Miscellaneous Harry Davis Herron Files series is primarily comprised of Harry Davis's faculty papers from his time at the Herron School of Art. This includes faculty annual report summaries, course outlines and syllabi, school catalogues, and salary and sabbatical paperwork. Of interest in this series is a certificate granted to Harry Davis by the John Herron Art Institute in June 1937 in recognition of his completion of a four year course of study in fine arts painting.

The News Clippings and Scrapbooks series contains newspaper clipping files that are primarily about Harry Davis; and scrapbooks containing letters, pamphlets, newsletters, and brochures about Harry Davis. There are also several newsletters from the Hoosier Salon, the Brown County Art Guild, the Indiana Artist's Club, and other similar organizations.

The Photographs and Slides series consists of photographs from the scrapbooks in the News Clippings and Scrapbooks series. This series also contains photographs of Harry Davis with family and friends, photographs taken at exhibitions, slides of Harry Davis's works, and photographs of Herron alumni and instructors.

Acquisition information:
Presented by Kimberly Helton, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 13, 2014. A2014/15-008.
Rules or conventions:
DACS-Describing Archives: A Content Standard
General note:

Rights Statement: The text of this webpage is available for modification and reuse under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GNU Free Documentation License (unversioned, with no invariant sections, front-cover texts, or back-cover texts).


Garmel, Marion. "Lois Davis In Limelight." The Indianapolis News, August 20, 1983.

Lennis, Susan. "The Davises 2 For the Show." The Indianapolis Star Magazine, October 8, 1972.

Warkel, Harriet G., Martin F. Krause, and S. L. Berry. The Herron Chronicle. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2003.



This collection is open to the public without restriction.


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.


Cite as: Harry A. and Lois Davis Papers, 1891-2012, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

IUPUI University Library
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