Notes on the Collection
|Of the sixty cubic feet of material in the Davis Family Collection, perhaps the most significant section is the Wooden Covered Bridges series, 268 photographic images compiled between 1935 and 1937. These images, photographed by Davis, or copied by him from other collections, comprise one of the most comprehensive groupings of bridges in thirty-one counties of Eastern and Central Penn- sylvania. "Green Sergeant's Bridge," the last covered bridge in New Jersey at that time, is one of the few images of bridges in the Davis Collection located outside Pennsylvania. |
A number of letters from various Pennsylvania county authorities, written during a brief period beginning on July 1, 1936, attest to Davis's concentrated effort to gather information on all wooden covered bridges still standing. Many had disappeared after complete destruction by, or repeated damage from, flooding, ice jams, fires, weathering over a number of decades, and neglect. Some were repaired. Only a very few were rebuilt.
Dr. Davis included images of bridges built as early as 1716, and as late as 1912, as well as spans of particular distinction, like the Thomas Mill Bridge, built in 1855, the only covered bridge constructed in the city of Philadelphia. The 3-span (404 feet in length) Eyster's Bridge (also spelled Oyster's), known as "The Hex Bridge," in Cumberland County, the longest covered bridge in the state, is also part of the grouping.
There is an array of architectural building types represented: 4-span; hand-hewn timbers fastened together with trunnels; shed roof; combined rainbow arch and lattice; and two-span arched truss with abutments of timber cribbing. Davis also provided descriptions of nearby dams, mills, toll-houses, and other historic buildings.
In 1942, Dr. John Winter Rice (Bucknell Class of 1914), former student and colleague of Nelson F. Davis, began to process, arrange and describe all Davis's photographic materials. With few ex- ceptions, both the Davis identifications and the original numbering system of Dr. Rice have been maintained.