DAVIS, RICHARD HARDING (1864–1916). Born in Philadelphia,
Richard Harding Davis was the first child born to the journalist L. Clarke
Davis and the fiction writer Rebecca Harding Davis.* He soon followed in
his parents’ footsteps as a newspaperman and later the author of short stories, novels, and plays. Davis was not content to report only local, regional,
or national events, however, and rapidly established himself as a superb war
correspondent, traveling by ship to many exotic locales. He sailed to Cuba
on the Oliviette in 1886 to cover the insurrection, returning on the same
In 1895 he published Three Gringos in Venezuela and Central America,
which includes an account of his travels by steamer, open boat, and cargo
boat. He sailed to England, then on to Greece in 1897 to cover the GrecoTurkish War. The explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor in 1898
brought Davis home from Europe; from Key West* he watched American
warships head for Cuba. Securing passage on a mail boat, Davis managed to get aboard the flagship New York. His coverage of the Spanish-American
War in The Cuban and Porto Rico Campaigns (1898) was very well received.
Several of Davis’ fictional works take place on ships, including the short
stories “A Derelict” (1901), set on a press boat during a naval battle, and
“On the Fever Ship” (1899), set on a transport converted to a hospital ship.
Though these ships serve principally as setting, the transport of “On the
Fever Ship” is personified briefly as unsympathetic to the heroic, sickly, human cargo she was not designed to carry. Ships figure prominently in Davis’
plays as well, such as The Dictator, set partly on the Bolivar, a passenger
steamer, and The Galloper, whose second act is set on a wharf with ships in
the background and several characters ascending and descending the gangways. Both plays were published along with Miss Civilization, in Farces