Partying in Pretzel Alley

This week’s blog celebrates National Pretzel Day (Tuesday, April 26th) by spotlighting a turn-of-the-20th-century Davenport institution: Pretzel Alley.

The alley was and is just across from the Davenport Public Library’s Main Street location, running from Main to Harrison Street in the block between 3rd and 4th Streets. But Pretzel Alley was much more than just a place. It was a lively social club, starting out as a break-time and after-hours gathering of men who worked at the H. Korn Baking Company on Harrison Street — hence the “pretzel” moniker — and other businesses nearby.

The five Korn brothers (Billy, Charlie, Otto, Harry, and John) and Alex Anderson were among the founders of the group. Merrymaking was the main order of business, fueled by liquid refreshments. Regular singing, dancing, and practical joking enticed more and more local fellows to join the happy fraternity, eventually including influential businessmen and other community leaders. The Pretzel Alley gang formed a band and a choir, and so many members played on the Davenport baseball team that it was popularly renamed “The Pretzels.”

The official organ of the organization was the Pretzel Alley Wurst-Blatt, published by Alex Anderson, Davenport Democrat employee and the”first, last and only mayor” of the “free and Independent Commonwealth of Pretzel Alley, State of Scott County, U.S.A.” (1) The organization’s annual elections were grand occasions that attracted much attention in the local press. Despite the efforts of many “challengers,” Anderson was elected mayor of Pretzel Alley several years in a row with his famous slogan “Can’t Lose.” Even when he moved across the Mississippi to work as a Rock Island hotelier, Anderson’s leadership continued.AAndersonobit2

William H. “Billy” Korn, treasurer of the H. Korn Baking Company took Pretzel Alley’s party philosophy to the state and national levels when he announced the formation of the “Salty Order of Pretzels” at the Master Bakers’ of Iowa convention. Declaring himself the leader, or “Big Twist,” he hoped to add a bit of fun to these meetings. (2)KornIn 1910, when the City Council changed the alley’s name to “Library Lane” to legally accommodate the Hotel Davenport’s saloon, and the “moisture exchanges” on the alley closed, “Pretzel Alley turned up its toes, leavin’ nothin’ behind but memories of the good old days.” (3)

(posted by Katie)

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(1) Purcell, W. L. “Pretzel Alley.” Them Was the Good Old Days. [Davenport, Iowa]: Purcell Printing Company, 1922. 211-216.

(2) “Down in pretzel alley: Davenport’s salty thoroughfare was nationally famous in early 1900’s.” Davenport Democrat January 11, 1955: 5.

(3) Image from A Portfolio of Cartoons as Published by the Davenport Times, 1912-13. [Davenport, Iowa]: Davenport Times, 1913?

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Genealogy Night this Sunday! Reserve your place by 12:00pm Friday!

This Sunday, April 24, 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be hosting Genealogy Night.

PLEASE CALL (563) 326-7902 TO MAKE YOUR RESERVATION BY 12:00PM FRIDAY, APRIL 22!

Come take advantage of our closed library to research genealogy. Our staff will be available for guidance or to help you locate materials in the library or on the computers. Other genealogists will be available to bounce ideas off of and share the journey. And as always, there will be yummy food to help sustain you through your research!

This event is $10/person. RSSCC is located at the Davenport Public Library – Main Street branch at 321 Main Street, Davenport.

Parking is located on the streets around the library or in the lot on the corner of 4th and Brady Streets. Please use the 4th Street door to enter as the main library building is closed. Staff will be there to greet you!

Now all you need to do is gather your family genealogy notes, sharpen some pencils, and get a flash drive ready to go. The fun, food, and family history is waiting for you in RSSCC.

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The Life of a Librarian…Imagine the Possibilities!

In honor of National Library Week, we searched the archives of the Davenport Public Library to find this image of the library booth at Davenport High School’s Career Day on May 6, 1949. Librarian Myrtle Dunlap discusses career opportunities at public, school, and special libraries with these three students:

Library booth at Davenport High School's Career Day [06 May 1949] Myrtle Dunlap, Davenport High School Librarian

Library booth at Davenport High School’s Career Day [06 May 1949] Myrtle Dunlap, Davenport High School Librarian

Myrtle Nellie Dunlap was born October 1st, 1903 in Cornland, Illinois. She worked as a librarian at Davenport Public Library in the 1930’s, then as a school librarian at Sudlow, Monroe, and Davenport High School from the late 1930’s through the mid 1950’s. During World War II, she was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and worked at the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts in Washington, DC. Ms. Dunlap died on January 22nd, 1982 and is buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

(posted by Cristina)

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Polk’s Davenport (Iowa) City Directories, 1931-1957.

National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006 [database on-line]. Prove, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original Data: National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

Ancestry.com. Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: WWII Bonus Case Files. State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa.

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Poetry and Politics: Scott County, Iowa, 1896

In recognition of April as National Poetry Month, we look to a Davenport newspaper’s use of a famous German poem to make a point about Scott County voters in early 1896.

Heinrich Heine’s Die Lorelei recounts the legend of a beautiful maiden who would perch atop the steep banks of the Rhine River and “sing the nicest kind of song to allure the passing voyager, who, succumbing to her enchantment, was dashed upon the rocks and devoured by the remorseless waves.” (1) The Davenport Weekly Leader, a Democratic newspaper, likened this voyager to the county citizens who voted Republican Francis M. Drake into office. The newspaper suggested that if a few words in the poem were to be changed, it would accurately describe the Liberal Republicans’ conduct running up to the November 1895 Iowa gubernatorial election and the area voters’ vulnerability to campaign promises.

Below is an English translation (2) of the Die Lorelei text appearing in the January 17, 1896 edition of the Weekly Leader; the substitute words and phrases suggested by the newspaper are in parentheses following the originals.

I know not if (well) there is a reason
Why I am so sad (tired) at heart.
A legend (Liberal Republican promises) of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.

The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine (Mississippi) courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With evening’s final ray (Liberal Republican “Mondschein”= moonlight).

The fairest of maidens (Liberal Republicanism) is sitting
So marvelous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair.

She combs with a comb also golden,
And sings a song as well
Whose melody binds a wondrous
And overpowering spell.

In his little boat, the boatman (Anti-Prohibitionist Voter)
Is seized with a savage woe,
He’d rather look up at the mountain (Prohibition Record of the Republican Party)
Than down at the rocks below.

I think that the waves (Prohibition Republicans) will devour
The boatman and boat as one;
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Lorelei (Scott County Liberal Republican leaders) has (have) done.

The many German immigrant families in Scott County for whom beer gardens were a way of life (and breweries often a livelihood) had long opposed Prohibition by supporting Democrats. However, the Iowa Republican party’s efforts to disassociate itself from the temperance movement in the early 1890’s (3) had apparently won over some of these voters, much to the chagrin of the Leader and Davenport’s two German-language newspapers: Der Demokrat and Iowa Reform.

Although it is unlikely the invitation to “other local poets” to “prepare a campaign song for the next election using the German ballad as a model” had any takers, we chroniclers of Davenport and Scott County history delight in the Leader’s literary turn this National Poetry Month 2016.

(posted by Katie)

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(1) “Liberal Republican Loreleis.” Davenport Weekly Leader January 17, 1896: 12.

(2) Foreman, A. Z. “Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German).” Poems Found in Translation. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

(3) McDaniel, George W. “The Rocky Road to Nirvana: Iowa and Prohibition in the 19th Century – Essay Read at the German-America[n] Heritage Center, June 10, 2012.McDaniel Talk – German American Heritage Center. German American Heritage Center. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

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The Early Policewomen of Davenport

On this final day of Women’s History Month, in keeping with the National Women’s History Project’s 2016 theme, we honor Davenport women in public service. Those who worked for the Davenport Police Department over 50 years ago are in our view this year.

A candidate for the job of Police Woman in the 1950’s could expect her character, age, and body type to undergo scrutiny:

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The successful applicant in this case was Davenport native Helen Sohl. While our 21st-century sensibility refrains from passing judgement on her level of attractiveness, it will applaud the fact that she was hired at the same rate of pay as patrolman Ernest Stanley, appointed along with her on July 16, 1955. (1)

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Helen Sohl - Uniform

Photo Courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association

Helen Sohl

Photo Courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association

Sohl was the third Police Woman to be hired by the Department. She was preceded by Mrs. Inger Estes and Mrs. Minnie Heim. (2)

Mrs. Heim, a 35 year old widow at the time of her hire, served less than a year — from April 8, 1930 to February 1, 1931. Presumably, her marriage to fellow officer Clarence Niles on December 23, 1930 precipitated her resignation. Her name appears in the Police Roll Call Register for January 1931 as “Heim-Niles,” just below her new husband’s. (3)

Mrs. Inger Estes served the Davenport Police Department from 1922 to 1948 as the city’s first Police Woman.

From 1889 up until the time of Estes’ appointment, only the Police Matron position was held by women. Mrs. Estes was appointed on April 15, 1922 after successfully passing the police examination. (4) The position of Police Matron still existed and was held by Mrs. Tillie Boettcher.

Davenport Police Chief W. H. Claussen described Mrs. Estes’ duties as including the general supervision of dance halls within the city and other police jobs in which a woman was preferred to be involved over a man. (5)

When Mrs. Estes took the position she was 41 years old. She was widowed in 1918 when her husband Howard passed away. Howard had briefly served as a Davenport Police Officer from 1905 – 1906.

The job of a female police officer has changed greatly since Inger Estes, Minnie Heim, and Helen Sohl stepped into their respective positions. One can only imagine what those early days were like as they helped to develop a new area for women in public service.

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(1) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, July 1955, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(2) Images courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association.

(3) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, January 1931, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(4) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, April 1922, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson Sloan Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(5) Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 13, 1922. Pg. 8

(posted by Katie, Cristina, and Amy D.)

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Davenporters of Note: William Charles Cribbs

William C. Cribbs was born in Monroe, Arkansas on October 11, 1927, the son of Opal (Hudson) and Booker Cribbs. He grew up Buffalo, Iowa, where his father worked for the Dewey Cement Company.

The family moved to Davenport in the 1940’s. Bill Cribbs graduated from Davenport High School in June 1945, where he played football, basketball, and track.  Mr. Cribbs spent one year at the University of Iowa before transferring to Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls (now Northern Iowa University). During his time there he was a member of the Panthers football team.

While attending the Iowa State Teachers College he was drafted into the United States Army’s Transportation Corp. From there he was transferred into the Army’s Special Services to join their football team. This integrated unit not only had actors and singers, but also sports teams that played matches around the world. Mr. Cribbs returned to finish his courses at Iowa State Teachers College after his military service and graduated in 1949.

Back in Davenport in the 1950’s, Cribbs worked for the U.S. Post Office. He was the second African-American to be hired as a mail carrier in Davenport. He had hoped to work as a postal inspector, but was denied the opportunity to take the test. He left the Post Office in 1958 to become vice president of his father’s landscaping company, Cribbs, Inc., and later worked at Toney’s Barber Shop and as a barber inspector for the State of Iowa.

Cribbs joined the NAACP and was elected president of the Davenport Branch. He helped organize the march for Civil Rights on August 25, 1963. They pleaded with the Davenport Human Relations Commission to improve the housing situation for African-Americans in the city.

Bill Cribbs was the first Davenport Human Relations Commission director*, serving from September 1970 through June 1973. He left the Commission to move to Washington, D.C. and become the first African-American to work for an Iowa congressman: administrative aid to Rep. Edward Mezvinsky from 1973-1976.

Cribbs worked as the coordinator of affirmative action programs at John Deere Waterloo Works in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and served as the City of Davenport’s Affirmative Action officer from 1991-2000.

Mr. Cribbs passed away on March 7, 2016. He is buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal.

March Madness connection:

Bill Cribbs was part of a team of all-stars chosen from the Davenport Parks and Recreation Municipal League to play an exhibition game against Seniors from Iowa U. on March 23rd, 1949.

Davenport Park Board Municipal League All-Stars [1949] Dick Forbes, Joe Lucas, Don Miller, Cal Mason, Wayne Kelling, Wayne Hauschild, Fred Gruemmer, Bill Cribbs, Babe Smith, Bob Rubley, Jack Forbes, Dick Zietenski, Don Gile, Jack Hunt, Mike Shanahan, Paul Stock

Davenport Park Board Municipal League All-Stars [1949] Back Row: Dick Forbes, Joe Lucas, Don Miller, Cal Mason, Wayne Kelling, Wayne Hauschild, Fred Gruemmer, Bill Cribbs. Front Row: Babe Smith, Bob Rubley, Jack Forbes, Dick Zietenski, Don Gile, Jack Hunt, Mike Shanahan, Paul Stock

 *The Davenport Human Relations Commission later became the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

(posted by Cristina)

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Bibliography

Arland-Fye, Barb. “Cribbs takes Davenport’s affirmative action reins.” Quad-City Times, August 25, 1991.

Blackhawk: Davenport High School Yearbook. Davenport, Iowa, 1945.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Iowa Seniors Whip All-Stars.” March 24, 1949: 31.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Iowa Stars to Battle Local Court Outfit.” March 14, 1949: 14.

Old Gold: Iowa State Teachers College Yearbook. Cedar Falls, Iowa, 1946.

Progress Report 1974-1975. Davenport, Iowa: Davenport Civil Rights Commission, 1975.

Wellner, Brian. “‘An icon has passed away’; Family, friends pay respects to activist.” Quad-City Times, March 15, 2016: 1.

Willard, John. “Civil rights pioneer William Cribbs learns to walk on a new leg.” Quad-City Times, March 16, 2004: 1B.

William Cribbs – African American Museum of Iowa. n.d. http://www.blackiowa.org/education/childrens-oral-history-project/stories/william-cribbs/ (accessed March 18, 2016).

 

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Day 1904: Change A-Brewing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Many of us celebrated locally this past weekend by attending the 31st Annual Grand Parade. It is the only St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States to take place in two states – Illinois and Iowa. We know that many other establishments held their own successful St. Patrick’s Day events, too.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we looked into the ways Davenporters celebrated in the past. We learned that in the nineteenth century, many celebrated by attending church and lectures on the life of St. Patrick. In all, it seemed to be a day of learning and reflection.

By the early twentieth century, however, there was a change in direction: St. Patrick’s day dances and parties began to be planned by local societies and fraternities.

Not everyone was happy with this shift. In March of 1904, the struggle between traditional and newer ideas about how to observe the holiday was becoming heated. It also had a bit of Irish versus German in it. Tension between the two cultures had existed since the 1850’s, when Irish immigrants began to populate a German-dominated Davenport.

The first sign of trouble appeared on March 8, 1904 when the Davenport Democrat ran an article on page 6 discussing a sermon that the Very Rev. James Davis from Sacred Heart Cathedral (422 E. 10th Street, Davenport) gave the previous Sunday. (It is to be noted that Sacred Heart was built in an area of Davenport dubbed “Cork Hill” for the many neighbors who had come from County Cork, Ireland).

The priest had been approached by young members of his congregation who had taken offense to posters promoting a dance called the“Happy Hooligan” Masquerade Dance and the “Irish Character Ball.” Dr. C. T. Lindley and the Claus Groth Society (an organization of Germans and German-Americans) were the lead organizers of the event.  They planned to feature several drill teams from local societies and fraternities, and patrons were encouraged to dress in costume as Irishmen from history.

The youth asked if breaking windows to destroy the posters was the way to solve the problem. The Very Rev. James Davis asked them not to do so. The following Sunday he told his congregation that to attend St. Patrick’s Day dances was not in keeping with the reflective spirit of the day, and he advised all loyal Irishmen to avoid them.

Dr. Lindley immediately wrote a letter to the paper that appeared beneath the article mentioned above. He said that the dance committee did not intend to offend anyone, and that the Irish caricatures had existed for centuries in good humor. Dr. Lindley concluded that as the world was growing, St. Patrick was now a universal figure, not just an Irish one.

The next day, March 9th, The Daily Times reported that a meeting had taken place between the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (an Irish and Irish-American organization) and the Claus Groth dance committee members. Hibernian members asked that all Irish caricature be removed from the ball and that the day be held in respectful honor of St. Patrick. (Pg. 6) A consensus was not reached; another meeting was scheduled.

The next meeting took place that evening and was described by the Davenport Democrat as being “quite lively”. (Pg. 5) The Hibernian members once again stated they did not want caricatures of the Irish at the ball, and hoped that and the memory of St. Patrick would be held in reverence. The Claus Groth members stated they were not making fun of the Irish, but were instead celebrating the many famous Irishmen who had lived over the years.

The Hibernian committee was also upset about the cards and posters put out for the event. While it felt the image mocked St. Patrick, the Claus Groth committee felt it honored him. Dr. Lindley, who attended the meeting, stated that several of the drill teams that were scheduled for the event were Irish teams.

A vote was taken by the Claus Groth committee to remove the words “Irish Character Ball” and “St. Patrick’s Night” from all promotions for the event. The vote did not pass.

This did not end the discussion. The Daily Times reported on March 11th that Woodmen of the World had withdrawn their drill team from the event. (Pg. 4) The Davenport Democrat reported a similar story, but added more details about the meeting the Woodmen of the World had held the night before. It appears to have been very spirited, and in the end, the Woodmen sided with the Hibernians.

The Davenport Democrat reported on March 13th that it was not Dr. Lindley who was giving the ball, but the Claus Groth committee (maintaining its original position). (Pg. 5) That same day, the Democrat announced that the Ancient Order of Hibernians would be observing St. Patrick’s Day with their own program. The lead speaker would be Father Murphy from St. Ambrose College, speaking on “One of the Secrets of the Influence of the Irish Race on History.” Other items on the program included vocal and instrumental arrangements. (Pg. 8)

On Sunday, March 13th, the Very Rev. Davis asked his congregation to not attend the Claus Groth ball. This was a change from the previous week when he asked that no one attend any dance. He gave two reasons to not go. The first was the feeling that money was being made off of the feelings of Catholics. The second was that merriment and dancing was taking place during the season of Lent when one should be reflecting on the work of saints. (Pg. 4)

Soon after, The Daily Times reported that the Alberta Camp of the Royal Neighbors and the Loras Council of the Knights of Columbus were withdrawing from the drill team segment of the event and issuing statements that they were not encouraging members to attend. (March 16, 1904. Pg. 5)

By St. Patrick’s Day, emotions were running high. Both events took place that evening and were covered by the newspapers. The event at the Hibernian hall was noted for its patriotic feeling as it observed St. Patrick’s Day in the traditional manner: with speeches and music.

As for the Claus Groth ball, the reports were that no costumes were worn at all. The hall was decorated with flags of the nations, along with shamrocks and green bunting. There was also great celebration for the five drill teams who participated in the evening. (Pg. 2)

By the early 1920’s, it appears that holding dances and parties had become the way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Fewer and fewer organizations stayed with the traditional observances and speeches. We wonder how many of those celebrating in the 1920’s remembered those early days of the twentieth century and the conflicts that took place over what would later seem commonplace.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Bethel A.M.E. turns 150!

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The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Davenport is celebrating their 150th birthday!

The November 30, 1865 issue of the Davenport Daily Gazette published the first of many articles focused on the church. The note said that a group of African Methodists met and organized a new religious society. The minister in charge was Rev. John B. Dawson of Chicago — already an ordained preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church. The group elected Trustees E. M. Franklin, P. C. Cooper, H. Simmons and W. M. Van Duzee; and Stewards P. C. Cooper, John W. Sawyers, and Henry Simons.

At first, the church held their meetings in a small wooden structure located on Fourth Street between Gaines and Western Avenue, but by 1875 the congregation had outgrown its home. Property was purchased in the McIntosh, Second Addition at the southeast corner of 11th and Ripley for the amount of $1,800. The building of the church was a group affair started in 1903; young and old worked together to carry and place bricks, mix mortar, and anything else that needed doing. On July 30, 1908 the property was paid in full and the Trustees received the deed. It was also at this time that the congregation voted to change their name from African Methodist Episcopal Church to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The first service in the new and completed building was held on August 1, 1909.

Throughout its history, the congregation of the Bethel A.M.E. Church has truly been a community. Picnics, events, conferences with other local black churches, and of course worship services were regular events. And that hasn’t changed in 150 years. Join us in saying, “Happy birthday, Bethel A.M.E.!” and be sure to checkout all the events over the next week. Tonight marks the start of the celebration with a welcome reception and program. Rev. Dr. Melvin L. Grimes will speak following the 4:30- 6:00 reception.

(posted by Jessica)

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Image courtesy of Geolocation 

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Aiming for Success: Davenport High School Girls’ Rifle Club

In March of 1927, 10 girls from Davenport High School formed the Girls’ Rifle Club. Under the direction of Mrs. F. C. Strohbehn, they practiced for a year at a shooting range located in the basement of the closed Adams School, 7th and Perry St.

We assume they became quite proficient in the shooting range as they were 1 of only 3 girls’ team that participated in The National Rifle Association Junior Rifle Corps competition in February and March of 1928. The other 50 teams entered into the competition were male teams. The Boys’ Rifle Club from Davenport High School was part of the competition as well.

The competition was not held in a specific venue. Instead, teams shot their targets at their home shooting ranges, sent in their targets and scores, and then the scores were compared to other competing teams.

Margaret Herzberg and Ruth Walsmith achieved the rank of “expert rifleman”. To become an expert rifleman, they had to send in 10 targets, each scoring 40 points or better out of a possible 50: 4 of the targets had to be shot in prone position, 3 sitting, 2 kneeling and 1 standing.

Davenport High School Boys’ team and Girls’ team tied with a score of 455 points out of a possible 500. Individual scores from the girls were: Ruth Walsmith 95; Margaret Herzberg 93; Marian Hoffbauer 93; Genevieve Morris 91; and Marie Herold 83

The girls’ team finished 25 overall, but ranked 10th in Division B, which was made up of 27 teams.

“Rifle shooting is a fine sport for girls. It is not too strenuous. Girls should know how to handle a gun as well as boys as a matter of protection. The accidents with firearms happen to persons ignorant of how to handle them.” – Mrs. F C. Strohbehn

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posted by Cristina

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Sources:

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Davenport Girls Rifle Team Wins Match With Oklahoma Team — Enters National Meet.” February 19, 1928: 14.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Girls’ Rifle Team is 10th in National Meet.” April 1, 1928: 25.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “These Davenport Sharpshooter Girls Know Their Guns — Form Only Girls’ Rifle Team In Iowa and One of Few in the Country.” February 26, 1928.

 

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Buffalo Bill Cody: Birthday Boy

Buffalo Bill. It’s a name that conjures images of the Wild West: cowboys on horseback, wide open spaces, a sky that goes forever, great gun battles, leather with fringe, the list goes on…

The best part about Buffalo Bill, though, is that the stories are true. He really did leave home at the ripe old age of 11 to herd cattle. Hereally did join the Pony Express at 14. He really did hunt buffalo (the reason for his nickname) and cross the Great Plains several times before the age of 20. And this is all before he formed his famous travelling show.

William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, born in LeClaire, Iowa, would be celebrating his 170th birthday tomorrow (February 26). His life has become the stuff of legends; books, movies, articles, plays- all of them have been made trying to capture the adventure of Buffalo Bill and his Wild West.

He didn’t start off with ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,’ though. In 1872, Bill Cody made his first appearance in Chicago. He was an actor in ‘Scouts of the Plains’ created by Ned Buntline, author of dime novels, and Cody’s performance was less than stellar. Despite some of the criticism, Buffalo Bill went on to form his own troupe. In fact, during the course of his life, Cody traveled and performed with five separate troupes. ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ is, by far, the most remembered today, but in case you were wondering…

  • Buffalo Bill’s Combination acting troop; *1872- 1886
  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: 1884 – 1908
  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East: 1909 – 1913
  • Sells-Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: 1914 – 1915
  • Buffalo Bill and the 101 Ranch Combined: 1916

Davenport was an important stop in his travels. He visited us 10 separate times:

  • April 22 – 23, /1874*
  • January 17, 1878*
  • Sept. 1 – 2, 1879*
  • September 23, 1880*
  • September 1, 1881*
  • September 23, 1882*
  • August 15, 1898
  • September 3, 1900
  • August 12, 1909
  • August 3, 1911 July 9, 1913

There are so many things that Buffalo Bill did in his life…There’s no possible way we can write about it all!IMG_20160225_163925493_HDR[1]

But, like so many things, if you want to know more, Special Collections has a great collection of materials on this national icon. So we say to you, Buffalo Bill, ‘Happy birthday, Cowboy, may your trails be happy.’

(posted by Jessica)

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*http://www.buffalobill.org/PDFs/Buffalo_Bill_Visits.pdf

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