Special Collections and Archives

Martin L. Davey/ Introduction

Special Collections and Archives

Martin L. Davey/ Introduction

Martin L. Davey papers

This material is housed in an off-site storage facility and requires up to 5 business days for retrieval. Please call or email the department with requests for this material prior to your visit.


Biographical Note

Martin L. Davey was born on July 25, 1884 in Kent, Ohio to John Davey and Bertha Reeves. He was the third of seven children. John Davey, a cemetery caretaker by trade, had a professional interest in tree health and maintenance and, shortly after the turn of the century, came up with the idea for a tree surgery company. This had a major impact on young Martin's life. To help his father with the fledgling company's administrative and financial affairs, he left Oberlin College. In 1909 the enterprise was incorporated as the Davey Expert Tree Company. Tree surgery, was a new business concept; there were no benchmarks, no reference points for guidance. Profits did not come immediately. However, after nearly a decade of struggling, the Davey Tree Expert Company became an established success. John Davey served as company president from 1909 until his death in 1923. Martin suceeded his father and ran affairs until his own death in 1946. One of Martin's crowning achievements as company president was the Davey radio programs introduced to stimulate business after the stock market crash of 1929. Featuring Martin on the topic of tree care, these shows were a great public success. The Davey Institute of Tree Service, a technical and scientific school for tree surgery, was also established during his tenure.

In 1907, Martin Davey and Bernice Chrisman, also of Kent, Ohio, were married. They had three children. One daughter, Happy, died in early childhood; the other daughter, Evangeline, eventually married and settled in Kent. The only son, Martin L. Davey Jr. also married and settled in Kent. He went on to become president of the Davey Tree Expert Company after his father's death.

Motivated by the election of Woodrow Wilson, Martin Davey made the decision to enter politics in November 1912. At the age of twenty-nine, he was elected mayor of Kent, Ohio and served three terms in that capacity. Later on, after serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat (14th Ohio District), Martin was elected governor of Ohio in 1934, winning the election by 65, 000 votes. Inaugurated on January 14, 1935, he became the 53rd governor of Ohio and, in turn, earned a front row seat to many of the harsh problems and realities of the Great Depression, including bankrupt local governments, defunct banks, closed schools, massive unemployment, and numerous state projects without funding. Among some of Governor Davey's major accomplishments were the School Foundation Bill which allocated $45.00 for each elementary school student and $67.50 for each high school student, and a complete administrative overhaul of Ohio's Relief Administration. One of the major events during his tenure included the Ohio Steel Strike during the summer of 1937. Martin held the office of governor for two terms until 1938 when, in a bid for re-election, he was defeated by Republican candidate John Bricker.

In 1940, Martin attempted to recapture the governorship from Governor Bricker but fell short. During the Second World War, he was active in numerous local war efforts. Still at the helm of the Davey Tree Expert Company, Martin L. Davey died shortly after midnight on March 31, 1946.


Scope and Content

Coverage of this collection ranges from Martin L. Davey's early life until his death in 1946. Numerous types of materials are represented, including personal correspondence, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, and photographs. The first two boxes are comprised of textual materials relating specifically to his life and career; they are arranged by chronologically-based subject headings, e.g., early life. The remainder of the collection is arranged chronologically under general subject headings.


Box 1--- Early Life, Congressional Career, and Gubernatorial Career (including material on the Ohio Steel Strike)

Box 2--- 1940 Gubernatorial Race, Later Life, and Death

Box 3--- Memorabilia

Box 4--- Directories, Legislation, and Reports

Box 5--- Directories, Legislation, and Reports

Box 6--- Badges, Pins, and Ribbons

Box 7--- Badges, Pins, and Ribbons

Box 8--- Photographs