Brown University Library News has announced that the Sonia H. and Nathaniel A. Davis papers (MS.2012.003) are now available for research at the John Hay Library. Perhaps this is actually a re-announcement, I’m not sure, but it seems worth noting. There’s a PDF guide to the collection.

Sonia-and-NathanielSonia and Nathaniel circa 1936.

Interestingly, Sonia’s new husband (after Lovecraft)…

“Nathaniel [A. Davis] founded Planetaryan, a humanitarian organization devoted to world peace, for which Sonia was the chief administrator.”

Planetaryan was incorporated 14th June 1938, a little over a year after Lovecraft’s death, and its formal incorporated name was the “American Defense Society, of The United States”.

Co-founded with a Luther Burbank apparently. Could this be the ‘plant wizard’ Burbank, who so usefully genetically modified over 800 useful plants including our now-standard potato, and thus saved the world from hunger? Perhaps not, since he had died in 1926 shortly after being hounded by a national firestorm of hatred whipped up by evangelical Christians. Though I’d guess that it is possible that Planetaryan might have been founded a little before Burbank’s 1926 death, and only incorporated in 1938? Neither Google, Google Books nor Hathi can provide a quick answer to that question. One item that did turn up was a 1st Nov. 1937 letter from M.H. McIntyre, Secretary to the U.S. President, referring to Planetaryan as “a world-wide inter-racial organization”, which suggests it existed before its 1938 incorporation. Much later the Enciclopedia Judaica Resumida refers to it as “pacifist” organisation. The Jewish Yearbook 1945-46 calls it a “peace society”.

Researchers should note that Planetaryan appears to have been different from its namesake the American Defense Society, which had been founded in 1915. This namesake appears to have been a sort of ultra-patriotic anti-socialist organisation involved in lobbying and pamphleteering — I wouldn’t be surprised if we eventually discover the ultra-conservative Lovecraft to have once been a member of that one. So I wonder why Planetaryan was so named? Calling an organisation Planetaryan (which in the 1930s might be mis-understood as implying “Planet-Aryan”) and the American Defense Society could certainly have led to unfortunate political confusions in an era of rabid communism and socialism. Perhaps it was simply a political tactic, meant to forestall any possible re-use of the American Defense Society name for conservative purposes? Or had Nathaniel A. Davis perhaps been involved as an officer in the American Defense Society c.1915-, and then found himself in effective possession of the name at its demise — but with his political views changed? In this respect it is suggestive to find that the Brown guide to the Sonia H. and Nathaniel A. Davis papers states that he wrote unpublished patriotic poetry, poetry that was only published (by Sonia) after his death.

Update:

I’ve found out why Burbank might have been keen to promote a campaign group based around inter-racial marriage. He theoretically extended his very successful plant-breeding principles to hybridisation between races. In his child-rearing book The Training of the Human Plant (1907)…

“he argues for an extensive crossing of different races [in the hope that evolution and environment will eventually act to] combine the best traits in a single individual.” — Chris White, “Eugenics in the 20th Century”.

So we can probably assume that the group was indeed co-founded by the Luther Burbank.

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