Richard Harding Davis was born on April 18th, 1864 in Philadelphia, the son of two writers. Richard attended both Lehigh and Johns Hopkins universities. He became a reporter in Philadelphia and later worked on the New York Evening Sun.
Davis' first job was as a reporter for the Philadelphia Press. In 1888 he moved to the New York Sun, and he was the managing editor of Harper's Weekly by the age of twenty-six. His stories and articles began attracting attention, and Gallegher and Other Stories, a collection of tales about a detective newsboy, was published in 1891.
In 1896, William Randolph Hearst, owner and editor of the New York Journal, commissioned Davis and noted illustrator Frederick Remington to cover the Cuban rebellion against Spanish rule. Davis became the first modern war correspondent.
While in Cuba, Davis wrote articles like The Death of Rodriguez, which described the execution of a young Cuban prisoner. This and other articles helped spark U.S. interest in the struggles of the Cuban people. In another article, Davis detailed the strip search of a young Cuban woman, but resigned when Hearst printed that the search had been conducted by male guards (Davis had, in fact, reported that the search had been done by females). Davis refused to work for Hearst after the incident.
In 1898, Davis reported for the New York Herald, Times of London, and Scribner's Magazine. While aboard the U.S. Navy flagship New York, Davis witnessed the bombing of Mantanzas. As a result of Davis' report, the United States Navy prohibited reporters from being aboard any U.S. ships for the rest of the Cuban conflict.
Also in 1898, Davis saw action in the Santiago campaign, helping create the legend surround Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. David counted Stanford White, Charles Dana Gibson, Ethel Barrymore, and Stephen Crane among his somewhat raffish circle of friends and associates, and posed for the male counterpart of the Charles Gibson's Gibson girl. Besides collections of short stories, his other writings include the novels Soldiers of Fortune (1897) and The Bar Sinister (1903) and the plays The Dictator (1904) and Miss Civilization (1906). Adventures and Letters of Richard Harding Davis was published in 1917 and edited by his brother, C. B. Davis.
When World War I began (1914), Davis went to Brussels. He described the advance of the German Army through Belgium, as they passed directly outside his hotel. After a number of other adventures and near escapes, his days reporting from the front line came to a close. While back home with his family in New York, he died of a heart attack on April 11, 1916. He was fifty-one.
"Dick's life was filled with just the sort of adventure he liked the best. No one ever saw more wars in so many different places or got more out of them. And it took the largest war in all history to wear out that stout heart. We shall miss him." (Charles Dana Gibson)