LOST & FOUND: CONSUL DAVIS COLLECTION
The Davis collection includes photos from Leslie Davis’ two diplomatic assignments in Batum, Russia and Kharpert (Harput), Turkey.
Davis joined the U.S. State Department in 1912. His first appointment was to the port city of Batum, Russia (today in Georgia), on the Black Sea coast. He served there from March 1912 to his appointment to Kharpert in April, 1914 (source: Leslie A. Davis, The Slaugherhouse Province: an American Diplomat’s Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917, edited by Susan K. Blair, 1989).
Davis was a keen amateur photographer. He used his summer break to take a tour of Uzbekistan and the Caucasus in September 1913. He climbed Mount Ararat and reached the summit on September 7 1913. Photos of this climb are in this collection.
Davis officially left Batum on May 8, 1914. His journey involved a boat trip to Samsun, on the Turkish Black Sea coast, then an overland trip of approximately 350 miles through mountains by wagon, at the pace of a brisk walk. As he wrote in his article to the Port Jefferson Echo, “the journey takes at least twelve or thirteen days owing to the condition of the road and to the fact that it has to be made with the same horses all the way.” Davis arrived in Kharpert, Turkey (Harput, as he referred to the city) on May 31, 1914. Photos of this journey are included in this collection.
In the summer, Davis’ father became ill, so Leslie Davis planned on returning to the United States. He chose to travel a different route – the so-called southern overland route to Beirut. By the time he reached Egypt, World War I had begun. Davis cabled the State Department. They wanted him to return to his post. His trip home was aborted.
According to the book, the Slaugherhouse Province, Davis took this journey by train, travelling from Beirut to Ras-ul-Ain, and then by wagon via Urfa and Diarbakir back to Kharpert (Harput). Along the way he witnessed crowds of ragtag recruits suffering from hunger and exposure. He may have also visited Baalbek, as there are images of Baalbek in his collection. Also included are many images of ordinary people – in town, in the countryside, and on the road.
Once in Harput, Davis didn’t leave until April 1917. Between those two dates – the summer of 1914 and April 1917, Consul Davis would become an eyewitness of the Armenian Genocide.
The Davis Collection includes negatives and prints, made available by the Davis Family. A small sample of scanned negatives is included here. Some of these photos were kept in an earthen jug and buried for seven years. They have not been restored.
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