People > Hannah Davis

Hannah Davis

Hannah Davis Band Box
A Hannah Davis Band Box.

If there is a single possession in which Jaffrey can take pride as something all its own, it is the memory of Hannah Davis. She grew here out of our native stock, and here she worked out her destiny in a career that was peculiarly her own. She was born, probably in Rindge, in 1784, but came to Jaffrey with her parents when two years old. She was the granddaughter of John Eaton of Jaffrey, mill owner and master of many trades, and daughter of Peter Davis, a skilled maker of wooden clocks, and she inherited in good measure their mechanical ingenuity and manual skill. She never inquired what occupations were open for women, but, obedient to her genius, when left alone with her widowed mother in young womanhood, she invented, manufactured, and sold to the world the nailed wooden bandbox.

The bodies or "scabboards" of the boxes were made of shaved veneers from selected old growth spruce, then common in our forests. It was her custom to go to the woods and search out the trees best adapted for her purpose, and, having traded for them with the owner, she hired them cut and hauled to her door, where they were bolted to appropriate lengths and the bolts, stood on end, were sliced by a machine of her own contrivance. The slicing was heavy work and required the strength of a man. The first slices were narrow and served for cover bands, or small boxes, while toward the center they reached a width corresponding to the diameter of the bolt, making boxes of a capacity equal to that of the large suitcases of today. The sides were bent to an oval shape and firmly nailed while green. The bottoms and tops were made from old pine boards cut to the desired shape and nailed firmly in place. They were covered with wall paper of gay and varied designs, and lined within with newspapers of the period, while in the center of the cover, inside, was pasted a neat label bearing these words:

Warranted Nailed
Band Boxes
Manufactured by
Hannah Davis
East Jaffrey, N. H.

For her home supplies they were used in barter with the merchants & the town. For her wider market she owned, as a part of her equipment, a wagon of the prairie schooner type, with a canopy or covering if white cloth. When she had accumulated a sufficient stock of joods she loaded her wagon to the roof, hired a sedate and trusty horse of a neighbor, and, perched amid her treasures, set out like a fairy godmother for the factory towns where finery then most abounded. In the towns of Manchester and Lowell she was well known, and when, as was her custom, she halted her van by the mill door at be noon intermission, she was sure of eager customers and a lively trade. The factory girls, coming from the best families of New England, carried the latest fashions back to their home towns, and they have been pictured riding on the tops of the stage coaches to and from their homes with their Hannah Davis' Bandboxes around them like satellites around a sun.

Hannah Davis Label
A Hannah Davis Label.

In these days her prices seem moderate, only fifty cents for a large bandbox and a small one for twelve cents. Hers were no flimsy affairs of paper and pasteboard, which so often in an emergency prove a delusion and snare. She built into them character as well .11 skill. They have stood the test of time, and are still to be found d hundreds of attics after nearly a century of service.

An interesting collection has been made by the Village Improvement Society of Jaffrey, who have also collected in pamphlet form many facts and anecdotes relating to Hannah Davis and her work. That the product of her shop was carried far beyond the limits of New England appears from the fact that one is included in the historical collections in the Rennsselaer Mansion in the city of New York; and an advertisement in a Philadelphia paper some years ago called for the return of a "Hannah Davis Band Box" lost or stolen from an exhibition of antiques in that city, with the statement that the box, wanted for some museum, "was made in East Jaffrey, N. H.," many years ago.

Hannah Davis was one of the good sort, so overflowing with human kindness that the people with one accord bestowed upon her the affectionate appellation of Aunt Hannah. She is still remembered while many of greater pretensions are forgotten, because of her unique individuality, her overflowing kindness and goodwill. She was a devoted member of the Baptist Church in East Jaffrey, where her memory has been honored by a memorial window on which the endearing title of "Aunt Hannah" is happily preserved. She died November 29, 1863, and was buried in the old burying yard at Jaffrey Center.

Hannah Davis

"Aunt" Hannah Davis

Name: Hannah Davis
Born: 1784
Place of Birth: Rindge
Died: November 29, 1863
Place of Death: Unknown
Occupation: Manufacturer
Place of Burial Jaffrey, NH. Old Burying Ground

Headstone of Hannah Davis

Hannah Davis is buried in lot 139 of the Old Burying Ground.