Skip to main content
Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas University
University Archives & Manuscripts - Exhibits
Kenneth S. Davis: Novelist Trapped in History

His Life, with Pictures

Ken Davis Ken Davis
Kenneth Sydney Davis, the son of Charles DeForest and Lydia (Ericson) Davis, was born on 29 Sep 1912 at Salina, KS.

Charles Davis, 1918 Lydia Ericson Davis
Charles Davis traveled from New York City to Liverpool, England, 1918-1919 aboard the H.M.S. S. Megantic. He waited in Liverpool for travel orders to Paris and Bordeaux, France. He was stationed in Bordeaux, while his wife and children were at home in Salina, Kansas. Charles and Lydia corresponded frequently during his absence, each writing long letters.

letter, 09 Feb 1919 letter, 07 Mar 1919 Letter, 13 Aug 1919 Letter 21 Aug 1919

Ken and Ella Rae Davis
Kenneth Davis stands beside his sister Ella Rae Davis.

While overseas serving in WWI, Charles made time to send the children individual postcards.

Postcard Postcard Postcard Postcard

school band
Davis, second clarinet player, is in the row to the left of the City Band Director. He is wearing glasses. Inset image of Davis in his band uniform.

Junior High School diploma
On 28 May 1927, Kenneth Davis graduated from Manhattan Junior High School. F. V. Bergman, Principal; W. E. Sheffer, Superintendent.

High School diploma high school diploma
On 23 May 1930, Kenneth S. Davis graduated from Manhattan High School. N. H. Andrews, President; Clara Spilman, Clerk; F. V. Bergman, Principal; W. E. Sheffer, Superintendent.

Graduation 1934 Bachelor's degree, 1934

Kenneth Sydney Davis was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Journalism from Kansas State College on 31 May 1934. F. D. Farrell, President; W. E. Grimes, acting Dean; Jessie McDowell Machir, Registrar.

While at Kansas State College, he served as editor of The Mirror, received the Capper Award for the best journalistic writing of the year in 1934, and was a member of Phi Kappa Phi. He also worked as a reporter for the Daily Capital, Topeka, KS. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Kansas State University in 1975.

Master's degree, 1935
Kenneth S. Davis was awarded a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, on 24 June 1935. Fred H. Clausen, President of the Regents; Glenn Frank, President of the University.

Ken and Flo in Chicago, 1956
19 Feb 1937, Davis married Florence Marie Olenhouse. The image shows them in Chicago on their 19th wedding anniversary in 1956. Florence Olenhouse Davis passed away in 1987.

book cover
Kenneth S. Davis. In the Forests of the Night (Boston: Houghton Mifflin), 1942.
PS3554 .A93494 I5 1942

"All previous accounts of the lost generation have been subjective; Kenneth Davis is the first author to write of it as history. His tragedy of a generation crippled by two wars is told in violent and contemporary terms but with a deep concern for the protagonist. No reader will fail to be impressed with the significance and power of Davis’s writing; his story speaks for itself as one of the most exciting first novels in recent years."

From Book Jacket


The Eisenhower Years

Throughout his life, Davis held a variety of teaching positions, sharing his knowledge and love of writing freely with his students.

He was a temporary instructor in the Dept of Industrial Journalism and Printing at Kansas State College in 1944. In 1945-1946, he was an Instructor of Journalism at New York University. In 1946-1947, he was a half-time Assistant Professor in the Dept of Industrial Journalism and Print at Kansas State College. He taught The Art of Biography at Clark University in 1976. He was a visiting professor at Kansas State University in 1977, teaching History of Journalism and History Seminar. In 1991, he taught Magazine Article Writing at Clark University. In 1994, he was named an adjunct professor in the Dept of History at Kansas State University.

Lecturing Talking with students

The Flint Hills He Loved

Newberry library
Davis was the editor of the Newberry Library Bulletin, Newberry Library, Chicago, 1955-1959.

Newberry Library Ken on the steps of the Newberry Library Ken and Flo, in front of Newberry Library, Chicago

A Prophet & The Hero

Home in Princeton, MA
In 1959, Davis moved to Princeton, Massachusetts.

editing by the lake respite from FDR Autumn in Princeton

degree, 1968 Assumption
Kenneth S. Davis was awarded a Doctor of Letters from Assumption College, 08 Jun 1968.

honorees newspaper clipping Commencement program Commencement program, inside Degree from Assumption College 1968

Ken shows off his degree
Ken shows his wife, Flo, his honorary degree from Assumption College.

congratulatory letter, 21 May 1968Congratulatory telegram, 23 May 1968 Congratulatory telegram, 07 Jun 1968 Congratulatory letter, 12 Jun 1968

Runaway Biography

Ken and Jean Davis, 1993
On 21 Jul 1990, he marred Jean Stafford Dormer. This image is from their 1993 Christmas card.

obituary, new york times
Davis died of cancer in Madison, Wisconsin on 10 Jun 1999.