Royal Reels: Gambling


This World War 2 cover was mailed with a total of 3½d postage made up of the red 2½d KGVI and the maroon 1d Queen Elizabeth stamps postmarked PARL’MT HOUSE CANBERRA/ -8 SP 42/ A.C.T and there was a red boxed 2/ PASSED BY CENSOR/ 1106. It was addressed to Elmer Davis, Esq., Director, Office of War Information, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. with a typed Personal in the lower left hand corner (Figure 1).

There were no postmarks on the reverse, and no indication of the sender, but the blue insignia of the Australia/ House of Representatives was printed on the back flap (Figure 2).

Elmer Holmes Davis, reporter, philosopher, novelist, essayist and classical scholar was born in Aurora, Indiana on January 13, 1890. He was the only child of Elam Holmes Davis, bank employee, and his second wife, Louise Severin Davis. Considered a brilliant student in his undergraduate days at Franklin College, Franklin, IND, he was known by the nickname “The Deacon”. His education at the graduate level continued as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University from 1910-13, and on return to the U.S. he began his career in professional journalism working for 10 years at the New York Times, where he was responsible for writing its history “New York Times 1851-1921”.

He married in 1917 Florence MacMillian and they had 2 children, their son Robert who much later edited his father’s works and a daughter Carolyn. He became a free-lance writer for 15 years, after he left The Times, as well as making the occasional appearance on radio. This led to him being hired by CBS Radio as a full-time news analyst. He spent 2½ years speaking to the nation and gaining its trust whilst in this position.

In 1941 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Davis as head of the newly created Office of War information (OWI), working for the government during the crisis of WW II until the OWI was disbanded in September 1945. At the time of his appointment, a White House statement read “He (Davis) will have full authority to eliminate all overlapping and duplication and to discontinue in any department any informational activity which is not necessary or useful to the war effort.” Davis’ voice was a vigorous check on the strong power of government. It was said that the battles that he fought against Macarthyism drained Davis for he suffered a series of debilitating strokes and this led him to cut short yet another facet of his career, television. He retired to his home in Washington, D.C. and on May 18, 1958, Davis died of complications from another stroke. The photo is of Elmer Davis during a radio broadcast over multiple stations during the 1942-45 period (Figure 3).

There were many eulogies from his colleagues and Eric Severeid summed him up at a memorial service held at the Washington Cathedral on May 21: “He was a member of that precious and restricted fraternity, the men of the tough mind and the tender heart….Elmer Davis was the whole man, the complete American. “

Categories: Armed Forces