Scope and arrangement
The Alexander Jackson Davis papers are arranged in seven series:
Box 1; Letterbook (1837-1890, one volume); Diary (1827-1853 one volume).
The General Correspondence, 1828-1878, is arranged chronologically. It is predominately incoming letters to Davis from clients concerning architectural projects. Some of the letters are personal. Correspondents include Governor M. Morehead, concerning work on Blandwood (1844), and later the Lunatic Asylum in North Carolina (1849); Governor David L. Swain, concerning work on the University of North Carolina campus (1845, 1849-1850, 1856); Francis Key Hunt, concerning Loudoun (1850-1852); letters from Phillip St. George Cook regarding Belmead (1850,1853); letters relating to the lunatic asylum on Blackwell's Island (1835); letters to various individuals concerning the Virginia Military Institute (1850-1852; 1860-1861); and letters from J. H. Dakin who worked for Town and Davis (1828, 1833, 1834). Additional letters are from George Jones, an actor and close friend of Davis (1837-1878).
Notably absent are letters from Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson Downing. With regard to letters by Davis, there are a few letters and copies from Davis scattered throughout the correspondence. The Letterbook (1821-1890) contains letters to and from Davis but also notes by A. J. Davis, transcriptions of others' writings, and newspaper clippings. It also contains an index by Davis. The Diary (October 18, 1827 - September 1853) is a daybook of expenditures (personal and business), professional dealings, travels, and daily occupations. The diary includes an index by Davis. The volume contains the lists of buildings executed or designed by Davis and or his associates, 1829-46 (pp. 14-16), architectural drawings made and prices received (pp. 35-41), an inventory of Davis' wardrobe (pp. 52-57), an inventory of office furniture (p. 292), a catalog of his books (pp. 298-312), an inventory of prints and their prices (pp. 313-322), office business and designs of the Town and Davis architectural firm (pp. 491-511), and other entries describing daily life, architectural clients, visits to other cities, scenes, and buildings Davis sketched, people he met, books he read, etc.
This series is arranged into two parts — Lectures followed by Notes and Comments. The Lectures include topics on architecture, history, fine arts, education, philology, abuses in architecture, taste, and of the origin of the building. The Notes and Comments are organized by topics and this includes critiques on the public buildings of New York; abuses in architecture and other related subjects. There is one volume of miscellaneous notes arranged by A. J. Davis according to a system by Reverend John Todd. It contains a rough alphabetical arrangement of quotations from authors about sundry topics listed under general subject headings or the individual writers. Bound with the notes is the introduction to the Index of Subjects by Reverend John Todd, explaining his principles of arrangement.
The Architectural Specifications have no particular arrangement and generally are not dated. The Specifications include those for Phillip St. George Cocke's Belmead (1845-1848), North Carolina State Hospital for the Insane (1850-1855), Henry Sheldon's Millbrook (1838-1840), William P. Chapman's Whitby (1852-1854), a house for Mr. Wadell "upon Murray Hill" (1844-1845), Davidson College Dormitory Wings, and the Dutch Reformed Church in Newburgh, designed with Russell Warren (1835-1837) and miscellaneous notes. This series also contains several volumes: A book of estimates for architectural specifications; List of books and pictures belonging to Davis; and, a floricultural and horticultural notebook relating to Davis residence in Wildmont, NJ (1852-1862) that includes a personal diary kept while at Wildmont, 1852-1874.
This series includes watercolor drawings of various residences and buildings designed by Davis or with his partners. Many of the watercolors and sketches are fine architectural renderings. There are some engravings scattered throughout this section. The visual images include a watercolor of Mount Gulian; residence of G. C. Verplank; sketches of Boston Athenaeum; Llewellyn Park, Orange, New Jersey; old fort and monument at Groton CT., Washington Irving's Sunnyside, Blackwell's Island Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and architectural details that cannot be fully identified, and game boards.
This series contains an assortment of minor financial records and legal records. The Financial Records are receipts, 1828-1870; N. D., relating to Davis business dealing as an as an architect in New York City. The Legal Records contains three legal briefs with A. J. Davis as the plaintiff. Davis filed against John J. Herrick, merchant circa 1865 for three thousand five hundred and thirteen dollars and sixty -six cents (2 copies of lawsuit). A supplemental document — Special letter of attorney and retainer to George the Count Johannes to represent him for this lawsuit. Davis filed as plaintiff in another proceeding against the builders Higgins in 1869. The remaining document is an indenture dated 1843 between the Merchants' Exchange Company of the City of New York and Davis with partner (illegible handwriting).
This series contains material related to Joseph Beale Davis that includes some letters to J. B. Davis (1895-1937), mostly personal, with some correspondence referring to his father. The miscellaneous papers relating to (J. B. Davis) concerns his work, art, travel, and a daybook with notes about historical events. There are photographs including some of Llewellyn Park and Eagle Rock Quarry, and newspaper clippings about Davis and his architectural designs. The material relating to Nicholson, Beale, and Byrd families is mostly correspondence, some contracts, and other legal papers. A manuscript copy of the Index to the illustrations in manuals of the corporation of the City of New York, 1841-1870, popularly called Valentine Manuals is annotated by J. B. Davis with process, artist, and engraver when known. Eighty of the eight hundred illustrations for the manual were taken from Alexander Jackson Davis' drawings. The compilations of biographical notes on Ithiel Town (architect and Davis' partner), James Eddy (engraver), Nathan Warren of Mount Ida (musician and author), and John Allen (collector), gathered by J. B. Davis includes clippings, engravings, drawings, and biographical information. Letters to Davis are scattered throughout. The material on Ithiel Town includes an agreement between Town and Davis, auction catalogs of Town's library and of his print collection, and pamphlets on Town. In the materials on John Allen, there is a pamphlet, Memorial of John Allen by Evert A. Duyckinck. The material on James Eddy includes engravings by Eddy, some based on Davis' drawings.
The four scrapbooks (Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, and Gothic) contain engravings and woodcuts from books and newspapers clippings on architecture, ornament, and the decorative arts. There are also drawings and watercolors of architecture and architectural details by A. J. Davis. The Roman and Gothic scrapbooks are the most complete. The descriptive catalogue of the Alexander Jackson Davis Library is a classified system with an index explaining arrangements at the beginning of the volume. The book also contains maps of the world, floor plans for his various offices, the layout of shelves in his library, and miscellaneous notes by Davis.