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Any list of the most innovative and successful contributors to American industrial growth and Florida land development during the first half of the twentieth century would have to include Arthur Vining Davis. A Massachusetts native and the son of a Congregational minister, Mr. Davis led with determination in the business world.

An Early Life
After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Amherst College in 1888, Mr. Davis joined the Pittsburgh Reduction Company as a shop helper and bookkeeper and quickly rose through the ranks.
By 1907 the company had expanded and was renamed the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). Mr. Davis became president and chief executive officer in 1910, and chairman of the board in 1928. During Mr. Davis' presidency, Alcoa grew in size, profitability, and influence. It became one of the country's most successful corporations, producing 90 percent of all virgin aluminum in the United States.
Mr. Davis played a particularly prominent role in the aluminum production drive during World Wars I and II, generating outputs that were vital to the Allied achievement of air superiority. For this work, he was awarded a Presidential Certificate of Merit and a Citation for Patriotic Civilian Service by the Department of the Army.
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Mid-Life
Although he remained chairman of Alcoa until 1957, Mr. Davis resigned from active management in 1948.
While leading Alcoa and serving as director of numerous major corporations, he became interested in Florida and the Bahamas. At the age of 82, Mr. Davis moved his residence to Coral Gables, Florida and embarked on a new career in real estate and other diverse business and philanthropic ventures. Known for his entrepreneurial spirit and high standards, Mr. Davis began buying vast tracts of undeveloped acreage, soon becoming the most closely watched investor and land owner in the state.
His belief in Florida real estate's “inevitable increase in value” was a driving factor in his investments. His purchases of 125,000 acres included one-eighth of Dade County. Mr. Davis also bought 30,000 acres on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, where he developed a resort. But land was not Mr. Davis’ only interest. While living in Florida, he became owner or part-owner of about thirty Florida enterprises that included shipping companies, a furniture plant, a steel fabricating plant, dairy and vegetable farms, hotels, and an airline.
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Late Life
During his life, Mr. Davis gave generously to a variety of institutions and programs.
His first recorded gifts were to colleges and theological institutions, which he viewed as the pillars of American society, education, and culture. In 1958, he donated 55 acres and more than $1.5 million to establish the Baptist Hospital of Miami. He also provided significant support to the University of Miami, where he was a Trustee from 1953 to 1962. When Mr. Davis died in 1962 at age 95, he was one of the best known and respected businessmen in the nation. His energy, visionary leadership, and commitment to excellence were reflected throughout his professional and personal life. Throughout his life, Mr. Davis displayed a charitable spirit, first formalizing his philanthropy in 1952 by creating a living trust. Adopting a philosophy of giving that was both broad and pragmatic, he directed his foundation to make grants that would strengthen America’s future.
Through his will he established two more charities that, in conjunction with the first, would collectively become the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Since that time the Foundations have given over 3,800 grants totaling more than $300 million to many organizations, including colleges and universities, public media organizations, hospitals, medical schools, and divinity schools.
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1867
Arthur Vining Davis is born to Perley Bacon Davis and Mary Vining Davis on May 30 in Sharon, Massachusetts.
Image caption: Perley Bacon Davis
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1873
The young student attends school in Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood before enrolling at Roxbury Latin School.
Image caption: Roxbury Latin School
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1884
Mr. Davis begins his studies at Amherst with a merit scholarship and graduates in 1888 Phi Beta Kappa.
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis, Student
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1888
Arthur Vining Davis is hired as the first employee of Pittsburgh Reduction Company, where he pours the original ingot of commercial aluminum on Thanksgiving Day.
Image caption: Pittsburgh Reduction Company
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1891
Mr. Davis becomes general manager and a director of Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis, General Manager
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1903
The Wright Brothers take off at Kitty Hawk in the world’s first flying machine. The engine block and crankcase of the historic plane are cast from aluminum supplied by Pittsburgh Reduction Company.
Image caption: Wright Brothers' first flight
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1907
The Pittsburgh Reduction Company becomes the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa).
Image caption: Early Alcoa logo
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1910
Arthur Vining Davis becomes president of Alcoa, the same year that aluminum foil is introduced to America.
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis, President
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1917
The U.S. military uses 90 percent of Alcoa’s wartime production during World War I.
Image caption: Aluminum wartime canteen
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1925
The New York Stock Exchange first lists Alcoa’s common stock on July 31.
Image caption: New York Stock Exchange
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1927
Mr. Davis establishes an Alcoa plant in Quebec and founds the community of Arvida (from ARthur VIning DAvis), which is described by The New York Times as a “model town for working families.”
Image caption: Arvida community, Quebec
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1928
Arthur Vining Davis is elected chairman of the board at Alcoa.
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis, Chairman
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1930
Considered a high point of 20th-century engineering, the Empire State Building features 730 tons of aluminum in its construction.
Image caption: Empire State Building - Fifth Avenue Mural
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1941
Alcoa begins supplying aluminum critical to the U.S. military during World War II, earning Mr. Davis the Presidential Certificate of Merit in 1947 for his wartime efforts.
Image caption: WWII fighter planes
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1948
Arthur Vining Davis resigns from active management of Alcoa, moves to Coral Gables, Florida, and embarks on a real estate career, buying large tracts of land in Florida that included the Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Image caption: The 365-acre resort was modeled after a Spanish castle
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1952
On December 15, Mr. Davis establishes the first foundation of what will become the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis, philanthropist
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1957
Arthur Vining Davis uses “Arvida” to name a Florida corporation that encompasses his wide range of enterprises, including real estate development, an airline, a furniture plant and orchid cultivation.
Image caption: Orchids were both a passion and a business for Mr. Davis
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1958
Arthur Vining Davis officially retires from Alcoa. The press release reads, “Arthur Vining Davis, the only living American who has seen and participated in every chapter of the aluminum industry’s history in the United States, has resigned as Chairman of the Board and as a director of Aluminum Company of America.”
Image caption for photo 1958-1: Logo from press release announcing Mr. Davis' retirement
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1962
Arthur Vining Davis dies at the age of 95, directing through his will the formation of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations (AVDF).
Image caption: Arthur Vining Davis (1867-1962)
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1967
AVDF makes its first two grants to public television – WQED in Pittsburgh and WGBH in Boston – leading to long-term relationships with many stations.
Image caption: Public television opens a world of ideas
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1975
AVDF becomes one of the earliest supporters of hospice and palliative care in America, awarding grants in Connecticut, Seattle and Washington, DC.
Image caption: Sculpture outside the Connecticut Hospice
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1986
Originally located in New York City and later in Coral Gables, the AVDF staff office relocates to Jacksonville, Florida.
Image caption: Downtown Jacksonville
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1987
Capstone funding from AVDF is crucial to completion of Ken Burn’s The Civil War, a documentary series that earned more than 40 major film and television honors, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and a Peabody Award.
Image caption: "The Civil War" by Ken Burns
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
1995
AVDF reaches a total of $100 million in grants.
Image caption: Grantmaking landmarks
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
2013
The AVDF Board of Trustees addresses intergenerational succession plans for trustee membership.
Image caption: AVDF Next Generation Group
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Celebrating the Life of
Arthur Vinings Davis
2017
AVDF celebrates 65 years of grantmaking, including over 3,800 grants totaling more than $300 million.
Image caption: Investing in Our Common Future
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