Autograph Letter Signed. 1pg.+stampless address leaf. To his cousin, James Edwards, Albany, NY. With period docketing note, identifying the writer as “author of a work on Mathematics and Prof. at West Point.”
Cryptic note about sending Edwards “a small bundle” which would keep him “in safety and which, I trust, you will duly present.” Davies’ letters are scarce; a handful are held by West Point, the University of Virginia and the New York Historical Society.
When he wrote this note, Edward had just left his position as Treasurer of the US Military Academy and was about to join the faculty of New York University as a Professor of Mathematics. He had also published eight books on arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus and surveying, all of which he had used as textbooks while earlier teaching at West Point, where his students included Robert E. Lee, who, with the other cadets, was personally fond of the mathematician with the protruding teeth. Davies ended his teaching career as Professor at Columbia, but he was best remembered for his math textbooks, which were widely used throughout the United States before the Civil War, the most popular going through 33 editions. By the time of his death in 1876, some 7 million copies of his books had been sold; historians have declared that “he dominated mathematics textbook writing in the nineteenth century.”