Henry G. Davis: Wikis


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Henry Gassaway Davis

In office
March 4, 1871 – March 3, 1883
Preceded by Waitman T. Willey
Succeeded by John E. Kenna

Born November 16, 1823
Woodstock, Maryland
Died March 11, 1916 (aged 92)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Democratic

Henry Gassaway Davis (November 16, 1823 – March 11, 1916) was a self-made millionaire and U.S. Senator (1871-1883) from West Virginia. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President in 1904. His brother was the U.S. Congressman Thomas Beall Davis.




Early life

Born near Woodstock, Maryland to Caleb Davis and Louisa Brown, Davis worked on a farm until 1843, when he began to work for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as a brakeman and conductor. Later he was put in charge of the Piedmont, West Virginia terminal of the railroad, and soon went into coal mining and banking in Piedmont.

Political and commercial life

In 1865 Davis was elected a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. The following year, he founded the Potomac and Piedmont Coal and Railway Company with the intent of furnishing transportation to his coal mining and timbering interests. The company was given the right to construct railroads grades in Mineral, Grant, Tucker and Randolph Counties. He became a state senator in 1869. In 1871, he was elected to the United States Senate, serving two terms, with his service ending in 1883.

Following his service in the Senate, Davis retired to Elkins, West Virginia, where he resumed banking and coal mining. Davis’s company now controlled 135,000 acres (550 km2), employed 1,600 men of sixteen nationalities, operated two power plants, and worked over 1,000 coke ovens and 9 mines within one mile (1.6 km) of the central office at Coketon in Tucker County. By 1892, the Davis Coal and Coke Company, a partnership between Davis and his son-in-law, Senator Stephen Benton Elkins, was among the largest coal companies in the world.

Davis represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Conferences of 1889 and 1901.

Parker/Davis campaign poster
Candidate for Vice President
Henry G. Davis around the time he ran for Vice President.

In 1904, Davis became the Democratic nominee for Vice President on a ticket with Alton B. Parker. Parker and Davis lost to the Republican ticket of Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Fairbanks. At age 80, Davis was (and is) the oldest person to be nominated for President or Vice President on a major party ticket.

In 1909, the wife of his son John T. Davis was aboard the White Star liner RMS Republic, when it collided with another ship and sank off Nantucket. Her children Hallie Elkins Davis (later Mrs. George A. Percy) and Henry Gassaway Davis II (later husband of railroad heiress Grace Vanderbilt) were with her.

Last years

Davis in his last years acted as chairman of the permanent Pan American Railway Committee (1901-1916) and also donated land to build Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. He died in Washington, D.C. at age 92 and is interred in Elkins at Maplewood Cemetery.


See also

United States Senate
Preceded by
Waitman T. Willey
United States Senator (Class 2) from West Virginia
Served alongside: Arthur I. Boreman, Allen T. Caperton, Samuel Price, Frank Hereford, Johnson N. Camden
Succeeded by
John E. Kenna
Party political offices
Preceded by
Adlai E. Stevenson
Democratic Party Vice Presidential candidate
1904 (lost)
Succeeded by
John W. Kern


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