A Friday the 13th in October…1916

101 years ago today, in 1916, Friday the 13th also fell in the month of October.

The evening issue of the Davenport Democrat and Leader listed several unlucky ocurrences of the day under the following heading on page 6:

For one, the resignation of Victor L. Littig as coach of the Davenport Athletic Club football team over a disagreement with players “brought sorrow to his many friends and club associates.” According to a separate article in the same day’s paper, Littig felt members of the team were too anxious to be taught “shift formations and trick plays” while the coach preferred to “give the men a thorough course of football principles, keeping them to the simple style…”(p. 19).

Sadness over another sport led local Army recruiter Sergeant James Hutcheson to lose  “…money and hope because of the world’s baseball series.” He must have bet on the Brooklyn Robins, beaten 1-4 by the Boston Red Sox in the final game the day before. The World Series is also on the minds of area Cubs fans this Friday, October 13th!

The Democrat also reported transportation troubles: “Two traveling men missed trains and were compelled to postpone engagements in other cities,”and rain forced gubernatorial candidate Edwin T. Meredith and his entourage to ride the train to campaign stops rather than “make the jaunt by automobile.”

Automobiles were the cause of misfortunes on any day in Davenport, the same day’s paper said elsewhere (p. 4):

Politicians other than Meredith did not fare well that day, either. Workmen at the Bettendorf [railroad car] shops had been waiting for Republican speaker John H. Shirley to address them on the issue of the 8-hour workday. However, he was late, and congressional candidate M.F. Cronin, who was traveling through Bettendorf by train, assumed the crowd had gathered to hear a Democrat’s thoughts on the topic. He began to speak to the increasingly enthusiastic group of workers. Once Shirley finally appeared, Cronin stepped down, but the audience did not like what Shirley had to say and shouted for Cronin to continue instead! (p. 6)

Among other bad news in the Friday the 13th, 1916 paper was the opening announcement of this advertisement:

And the death of “one of the oldest residents of the city,” Mrs. Fredericka Kletty, at age 91:

Only Mr. Rice seemed to have had good luck that day:

Fortunately for everyone else, the following day promised this in Davenport:

We’ll have to wait until November 4th of this year for National Candy Day. In the meantime, the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center wishes you the very best of luck this Friday the 13th of October, 2017!

(posted by Katie)

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#familyhistorymonth at the RSSC Center

October is #familyhistorymonth!

One of our eagle-eyed volunteers spotted these photographs taken by the Gustav Dahms studio in Davenport (218 Brady Street from 1the 1870’s to approx. 1915) at an antiques store in Illinois. Although she purchased and donated them to the RSSC Center’s collection because they represent the work of a local photographer, we are also quite curious about the subjects of the portraits!

Can you help us find families for these young Davenporters?

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Genealogy Night at Davenport Public Library

October is National Family History Month.

We are kicking off the festivities with our semi annual Genealogy Night!

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be open after hours on Sunday, October 1st to give genealogy researchers uninterrupted research time. It is an opportunity to take advantage of library, staff, and each other for hints and tricks.

Meet us at the 4th Street entrance (by the drive-up book return) at 3:00 pm. The rest of the library will be closed, but the Special Collections Center will stay open until 8:00pm

Food is provided. Cost is $10. Please call us at (563) 326-7902 so we know you are coming. We want to have enough food for everyone!

(posted by Cristina)

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The Vietnam War: Research at the RSSC Center

Have you been watching? Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part PBS documentary series The Vietnam War is generating a great deal of interest in our nation’s experience during the conflict. Satisfy your own curiosity by exploring sources available here in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library.

Arlen Beck

Our collection of oral histories includes two sets of interviews with Quad-City area Vietnam War veterans:

In 2009, students from Davenport’s Intermediate Schools spoke with fifteen men who served in the armed forces during the war for the Iowa Stories 2000 Project (Acc#2005-02). The photographs posted here were collected for the display boards the students made to present what they had learned of the veterans’ experiences.

Barrie Gordon

Robert E. Brooks

In April of 2010, Cathy Ahrens’ students at Bettendorf High School recorded interviews with Vietnam veterans Robert J. Konrardy, Robert Van McQueen, Ken Nevenhoven, James Wilferd Peters, Norm Eugene Slead, Steve John Speth, and Jim Cumberworth, part of the collection Interviews with U.S. Military Service Veterans -Bettendorf High School (Acc#2010-17). 

The Fold3 History and Genealogy database, accessible online from home with your DPL card, offers several record sets in which an individual service member’s name may be searched:

Also available in Fold3 is a research guide on the Vietnam War:

Finally, the RSSC Center is the home of the library’s Government Documents collection. Publications on the history of the Vietnam War (D 221.2:V 67) are available by request at our service desk.

(posted by Katie)

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Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month 2017!

Hispanic Heritage Month 2017 begins today, September 15th! To celebrate, we are featuring a unique source of information about the Mexican-American community in the Quad-Cities area: materials from the Iowa Stories 2000 collection (Acc# 2005-02).

A little more than ten years ago, during 2006 and 2007, students from the intermediate schools in the Davenport Community School District conducted interviews with twenty local individuals of Mexican descent. These videorecordings have been transferred to DVDs (thanks to the Putnam Museum) and are now available for viewing at the RSSC Center. We are currently working to describe the contents of each interview and hope to provide online access to the recordings themselves in the near future.

Also in the Iowa Stories 2000 collection are items from the display boards the students created about each of their interview subjects. These are just a few examples:

Al Sierra grew up in the Mexican-American neighborhood of Cook’s Point in Davenport.

From Rita (Quijas) Navarro we learn of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church’s importance to the Mexican-American community in Davenport.

St. Mary’s Church in Davenport was influential in the life of Maggie Ortega, a more recent immigrant from Mexico.

Henry Vargas, born in Cook’s Point, was the first president of the League of United Latin American Citizens in Iowa and worked for the equal treatment of Hispanic-Americans as a member of the St. Ambrose University-based Catholic Interracial Council and the Davenport Human Relations Commission.

The Iowa Stories 2000 collection also includes interviews with Irish Americans, German Americans and African Americans in the area.

Explore your own ethnic heritage with these and the many other resources available for family local history research at the RSSC Center of the Davenport Public Library!

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Back to School: A Letter from Immaculate Conception Academy, 1873 – Part II

This week we continue with our “back-to-school” theme, learning about the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center resources that help us place Immaculate Conception Academy student Ada Sala’s 1873 letter to her father, E.M. Sala, in historical context.

Imma Conception, Davenport, Iowa, Mar. 5, 1873

Dear Pa,

I received your kind letter and was so glad to hear from you, as it was the first letter I had from you since you were here.

We were examined last week, and I will get a certificate in all of my studies; when we receive our certificates I will send you mine, for I know you will be glad to see one.

Lizzie Blacksmith is coming to live with Mary, because she is not able to do her own work. I think I will write to her this week. Please excuse the shortness of this letter, as I have nothing more of interest. I will conclude with fondest love to all.

Your loving child,

Ada Sala

We are fortunate to have a photocopy of the registration records for Immaculate Conception Academy from 1867-1887 in our collection. Here we find Ada Sala listed among the 24 girls enrolling in September of 1872. The records indicate she is from Rock Island, Illinois. This suggests that Ada’s home base at that time was with her older sister Mary, whom we had previously found to be living in that city then (recently married in 1871 to Henry Boggess, pregnant with her first child Vinnie, and attended by her peer Lizzie Blacksmith from the Salas’ former residence in Lee County, Iowa) thanks to census and family tree information obtained via the Ancestry Library Edition database.

When Ada thanks her father E.M. Sala for writing, saying  “…it was the first letter I had from you since you were here,” we may imagine that “here” was with his other daughter and son-in-law in Rock Island. It is not likely that Ada lived with her sister’s family and traveled back and forth daily to the Academy, since she says “I think I will write to her this week” in reference to Mary. This and the fact that she writes using Academy stationery suggest Ada was one of the 61 “pupils in Boarding School” for the 1872-1873 year.

The registration records (the running title in the ledger is actually “Attendance during Academic Year 1872-73) show that the city of Davenport supplied the majority of the 97 “pupils in in Day School.” Ada’s fellow boarders were girls from LeClaire, Clinton, DeWitt, Iowa City, Wilton, Washington, Bellevue, and McGregor in Iowa; Rock Island, Moline, Geneseo, Prophetstown, Chicago, and several illegible places in Illinois, as well as Mississippi River towns in Wisconsin and Missouri.

Two publications available at the RSSCC, History of the Immaculate Conception Academy of Davenport Iowa…by Sister Mary St. Joan of Arc Coogan, B.V.M. (SC 371.0712 MAR) and Immaculate Conception Academy 1859-1958 (SC377.82 Imm), provide insight into the life of boarding school students like Ada Sala during the 1870’s.

The “Hill House”at Main and 8th Streets in Davenport was occupied by the members of the order that ran the Academy, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is unclear if the boarding school students also lived in the Hill House, but we do know that their classes were held in the “large frame building” just to the north along Main Street. To get there, they “ascended an outside stairway” so as to remain “religiously segregated” from the day students on the first floor (History, 75).

A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875.

Ada likely received the certificates she mentions in music, drawing, painting, and needlework, as those subjects were available both in the 1860’s and and in the year 1875. The account book kept by Sister Mary Gonzaga McClosky suggests that the study of geography and natural science was also also possible: $20.00 was spent on maps and $199.65 on “Philosophical Apparatus” in 1873 (History, 77).  According to the author of  Immaculate Conception Academy:

“Students of the [18]‘70’s had their grades published in the [student newspaper] Portfolio. A twofold mark was registered: one for ‘excellence of deportment, amiability and politeness’ and another for examination averages (15)”

Students were also required to participate in daily “calisthenic exercise” for which the nuns sewed special “calisthenic suits” (History, 72). Otherwise, Ada and her peers would have worn “high-necked, long-sleeved, ankle-length black dresses” as a uniform (Immaculate, 20).

Ada Sala did not go back to school. Her name does not appear in the registration records after 1873, and in the 1880 Census we find her back in Grant County, Wisconsin, living with her father, his new wife Phoebe, and her younger siblings.

(posted by Katie)

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Back to School: A Letter From Immaculate Conception Academy, 1873 – Part I

At this time of year, as many students return to school, we thought it appropriate to share one of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s latest acquisitions: a March, 1873 letter from a student at the Immaculate Conception Academy in Davenport to her father, E.M. Sala, in West Point, Iowa.

Imma Conception, Davenport, Iowa, Mar. 5, 1873

Dear Pa,

I received your kind letter and was so glad to hear from you, as it was the first letter I had from you since you were here.

We were examined last week, and I will get a certificate in all of my studies; when we receive our certificates I will send you mine, for I know you will be glad to see one.

Lizzie Blacksmith is coming to live with Mary, because she is not able to do her own work. I think I will write to her this week. Please excuse the shortness of this letter, as I have nothing more of interest. I will conclude with fondest love to all.

Your loving child,

Ada Sala

This letter raises some interesting questions about both the relationships among Sala family members and the experience of a student at the Immaculate Conception Academy in the early 1870’s. In seeking answers, we may demonstrate the use of some of the resources available here in the Special Collections department of the library. This week, we uncover some information about the family; next week, in Part II, we will discuss the Academy. Grab a pencil and paper — it’s time to be “schooled” in family and local history research!

Ada Sala is about 15 years old when she writes this letter to her father in 1873. We know this because we have searched her name in the Ancestry Library Edition database (available to patrons at all three Davenport library locations) and found her listed in the US Federal Census records for 1860 at age 2 and in 1870 at age 12. Therefore, she was likely born in the year 1858.

The census data for these years gives us further information about her father: his first name was Eli,  he was a physician by profession, and about 57 years old when he received Ada’s letter. We also learn that both he and his wife Susan were born on the Pennsylvania/Ohio border; the family included four boys and three girls; in 1860, they resided in West Point, Iowa, and by 1870 they had moved to Patch Grove, Wisconsin.

A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875.

Historical Atlas of Wisconsin…Milwaukee: Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., 1878.

Wondering why Ada’s letter was addressed to only one parent, we searched Ancestry for “Susan Sala” to find that she had died on February 18, 1872, about a year earlier. This piece of information comes from the images of Grant County, Wisconsin (the location of Patch Grove) probate records made available on the database.

Information from Ancestry has also helped us to determine that the “Mary” Ada refers to in the letter as being “not able to do her own work,” was likely her older sister, then struggling with her first pregnancy. Marriage records from Grant County, Wisconsin show that Mary Sala married a Henry Boggess in Patch Grove in 1871. The 1880 US Federal Census shows Henry Boggess living in Rock Island, Illinois with his wife Mary and 6-year-old daughter Vinnie. A family tree created by an Ancestry user (another feature of the database) gives Vinnie’s date of birth as August of 1873 in Rock Island, five months after Ada’s mention of Mary’s difficulties.

Library of Congress Map Division

Was the “Lizzie Blacksmith” who Ada said was “coming to live with Mary” the Elizabeth Black Smitte from a German immigrant family living in Franklin (1870 US Census), the town adjacent to West Point in Lee County, Iowa who later married Joseph Greenwood (on September 7, 1873, according to county marriage records) in Rock Island, Illinois? Perhaps Lizzie and Mary had been friends from when the Salas lived in West Point, or Lizzie was otherwise known to the family (as a servant?) through Ada and Mary’s older brothers still living there? Again, with the many types of records it provides, the Ancestry database allows us to suggest these possible relationships.

A.T. Andreas’ Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Iowa. Chicago: Andreas Atlas Co., 1875.

We continue our lesson next week with a closer look at the Immaculate Conception Academy at the time when Ada Sala wrote her letter. Until then, please complete this homework assignment: visit the library and explore your own family history with Ancestry Library Edition!

(posted by Katie)

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Total Eclipse of the Sun: August 7, 1869

As we prepare for the upcoming solar eclipse, we thought we would take a look back at the Solar Eclipse of 1869 as viewed by Davenporters.

The last solar eclipse of the 19th century occurred on Saturday, August 7th, 1869. It was a clear, lovely day here in Davenport. The central line of the eclipse bisected Iowa, entering 18 miles south of the NW corner of the state and leaving it 2 miles north of the east extension of its southern boundary in Lee County. The belt of the country totally eclipsed was 158 1/2 miles wide at the NW corner of the state and 156 miles wide at the SE corner. The central line was near halfway between the northern and southern limits of the eclipse. The area covered by the belt of the total eclipse was 44,000 miles. Des Moines & Burlington were chosen by astronomers for observation, being at the center of belt totality.

In Davenport, special glasses made with smoked glass were sold for 5 to 10 cents each, according to size and perfection of coloring. Telescopic views of the eclipse were held at Dr. Hazen’s office over Harrison and Stark’s drug store. Admission cost 50 cents and as many people as could get in were admitted. The reflection of the eclipse was captured through a telescope and projected on a screen, and its several stages were accurately represented to a room full of spectators. 

Observations in Davenport were sponsored by the Davenport Academy of Sciences, under the direction of Professor Thomas Lighton/Leighton of Rock Island.  An observatory was established on the roof of the Davenport National Bank building. P. B. Jones’ Photograph Gallery

One telescopic camera was used by Paul B. Jones (magnifying power of 30 diameters) for taking photographs; the was other was used by Prof. Lighton (magnifying power of 150 diameters) for observation. The lenses were arranged so images could vary from 4 to 16 inches; negatives could be made in any size in-between. 

The cameras were mounted on a stand that could incline in any direction. This allowed observers to follow the sun without causing any jarring or shaking. The strong wood frame was mounted on Equatorial plates firmly fixed and edged with 630 teeth and a steel screw, which caused the upper plate to move freely. On top of the plates were two sweeps supported on two columns in which the telescopes were placed so that the equator could be followed in a single motion.

Every three minutes, Jones took an image on a 4-inch glass plate negative and immediately developed it. This resulted in 24 impressive photographs:

The eclipse began at 3:57:53pm, as the moon approached the sun from the Northeast quadrant. Spectators noticed an instant change in the atmosphere. Swallows and doves flew back and forth as a result of the unexpected darkness. The strange light caused a change in hue of forest on the island and trees to a darker green, then vapory yellow, then “so deep that shades were lost across the tops and the woods were of the deepest shade of green.”

At 4:20pm, half the sun was obscured. The landscape looked as it does in dim twilight. Swallows and pigeons disappeared. You could not see the people standing on rooftops. As the sun was reduced to a crescent, the crowd “observed protuberances on its shining surface and a shimmer on the disc of the moon itself in 2 or 3 places”.

The Davenport Gazette attempted to describe the totality:

“Darkness” was not darkness. The strange light produced was about of the degree of darkness prevalent at the interval between setting of the sun and appearing of the moon when that orb is in full. Yet it was far different, too: softer in effect upon senses, pervading landscape, and filling the atmosphere with a wonderfully delicate influence of grayish rosiness. 

In the Heavens, it was the light of earliest day when stars are going out. On Earth is was a light denser than that of the full moon, but less dark than that of moonless starlight – a combination of the two, with a sublimity, awful in character, that is never observed in either. 

Stars burst suddenly into view the instant the sun was hidden. Mercury […] came prominently into view right near the sun. Venus shone as one may see her whenever she is the evening star and Regulus, too came like the great star he is, a shining light in the heavens. 

And also the corona: 

The moon looked as if it were hung in the Heavens in bold relief, detached from all governing power. At its round edges there was the faintest tint of something that looked like struggling light. But all around it there was light. Now the corona was shaped like a many-cornered star; then it was round with almost even edges- but so beautiful in contrast with the black disc it glorified. There was a pinkish hue visible in it for a second, then a rainbowish appearance just one instant, and then it glowed in changes of hue. There was a superior brightness on one side at one instant, and then its glory was uniformly shaded, in a brief second to be radially striated.

The corona lasted just 63 seconds, starting at 4:57:27pm.

“There were loud cheers from spectators, some who saw Bailey’s Beads distinctly and a shooting of red light from the moon. 

The wildlife took notice of the unexpected change in light. Birds disappeared. Bats and night hawks came out. Flies nested on ceilings. Farmers reported that the sheep sought repose.

Before totality, not a cloud was visible anywhere. During the corona, multi-colored clouds illuminated the western half of the Horizon. They lay in streaks and were pink, light purple, and gray at first but soon exhibited about all the colors of the rainbow, though of light shade. 

The thermometer in the shade varied by 5 degrees, falling from 70 degrees to 65 degrees. The barometer was stationary during the whole of the phenomena, remaining at 29.62-100 from 4pm on Saturday until 8am on Sunday. There was no variation of magnetic current.”

The immersion of the moon occurred at 4:58:31pm.

“Instantly, all the Earth changed. The stars disappeared, and the hues of day were shed upon every object. The change was more sublime than the darkening. Birds came out and sang a welcome to daylight, trees assumed a natural hue. The moon seemed glad to get away and hurried off the disc of the sun more rapidly than she ventured to travel across it.”

The eclipse was over at 5:57:27pm.

In the weeks after the eclipse a “wild boy” was spotted a number of times in East Davenport, in the back of Judge Grant’s farm near Bettendorf. A hunter who spotted it described it as having “light sandy hair covering its naked body,” a “revoltingly ugly” face and “brutal appearance.” Could he had been suffering from the effects of the eclipse?

(posted by Cristina)


“The Solar Eclipse: it’s Importance to Science.” Daily Gazette, 07 Aug 1869, p. 4.

“The Solar Eclipse: Observations of the Phenomenon in Davenport,” Daily Gazette, 09 Aug 1869, p. 4.

“A New Peter The Wild Boy,”Daily Davenport Democrat, 24 Aug 1869 p. 1.

Photographs of the Eclipse of the Sun, August 7, 1869 Taken by the Academy of Natural Sciences, Davenport, Iowa. Griggs, Watson & Day, Printers, 1869

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Celebrating 50 years: 2018 Calendar by the Davenport Public Library

We are proud to announce a very special project from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

A 2018 calendar featuring photographs of Davenport and Scott County, Iowa from our collection is now on sale at all three of the Davenport Public Library locations. 

Front Cover of the Davenport Public Library’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center 2018 Calendar.

What inspired this endeavor? Next year is the 50th anniversary of our Main Street building, designed by world-renowned architect Edward Durell Stone.* It is also the Davenport Public Library location that houses the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Narrowing down which photographs to place in the calendar was a daunting task…so many excellent ones to choose from in our collection! In addition to photographs, the calendar includes important dates in the history of the local area, such as this one: On June 29, 1863, the First National Bank opened at 201 W. 2nd Street in Davenport, the first bank in the nation to open under the National Banking and Currency Act (passed by the United States Congress that same year)!

Back cover of the Davenport Public Library’s Richardson-Sloane Special Collection Center 2018 calendar.

Calendars are $10 each, with proceeds going to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center in support of the library’s local history and genealogy collections.

It is a wall calendar design with a hole at the top to allow for hanging. Folded, it is 8 1/2 x 11 inches; open, it is 11 x 17 inches. The photos are in black and white.

We also created a virtual tour of the locations in the photographs on HistoryPin!

If you have any questions, please contact The RSSC Center of the Davenport Public Library at (563) 326-7902 or specialcollections@davenportlibrary.com.

*Some of the landmark projects by Mr. Stone include his work as principal designer of the Radio City Music Hall (New York City, NY. 1932). With Philip Goodwin, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City, NY. 1937). Later independent works include the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C. 1962) and the United States Embassy in New Delhi (India. 1954).

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Build a Better Davenport: The Priester Construction Company

We conclude the Davenport Public Library’s summer reading theme of “Build a Better World” by exploring the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s resources on local architects, developers, planners, construction companies, and building materials suppliers. Our final installment: The Priester Construction Company.
1919 was a big year for two Davenport brothers – Walter and Oscar Priester. World War I was over, and the recent civil engineering graduates of Cornell University were ready to invest in their futures and their community. With a financial assist from a cousin, the brothers opened a general contracting firm, Priester Construction Company. They worked with some of the best and brightest architects, landing the honor of being featured in the publication Architecture and Design in November, 1940.



They proudly boasted successfully completing over 200 contracts for companies from Davenport to New York City in that short twenty year span!








The men raised their families, serving prominently in Davenport’s civic affairs until they passed, Walter in 1965 and Oscar in 1966. By then, sons Walter K., Thomas W. and Dudley had assumed operation of the company. This generation successfully guided construction of the Davenport Public Library on Main Street, Modern Woodman of America headquarters, WOC (now KWQC) building, Assumption High School and their own office building at 601 Brady Street in 1966 – recently added to the National Register of Historic Places for its Mid-Century Modern style architecture.

The company was doing $25 million a year in construction with 150 employees until the 1980’s economic decline. They gambled on building Paul Revere Square, a $7.5 million office-shopping center at Kimberly and Jersey Ridge roads that offered spaces for lease or sale. The company figured they would be ready with this brand new building once the economy improved. Unfortunately, economic recovery took longer than expected and in 1990 the lender foreclosed on the construction loan. The company found themselves in a difficult position.

In 1993 Priester Construction Company reorganized, joined by new partner Dicon Inc. For nearly a century now, this Davenport company has been engaged in scores of major construction projects in the Quad-Cities and beyond. The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center is proud to be the repository for many of the Company’s project drawings, blueprints, etc. These items have proved invaluable as interest in renovating some of these buildings has increased. We are forever grateful for the call from Dudley Priester on that hot July day in 2009 when he said come and get em. And we did!

Accession #2009-10 Priester Construction Company
The Story of Iowa-The Progress of an American State Vol. 3 (1952); pages 79-80; by Wm. J. Petersen
Times-Democrat; 20 Apr 1965 p.5; Obituary Walter A. Priester
Times-Democrat; 10 Dec 1966 p.11; Obituary Oscar F. Priester
Quad City Times; 14 Nov 1993 p.17a; “Priester builds new tradition-Q-C construction company reorganizes” by John Willard
Quad City Times; January 2017; online access; Obituary of Dudley Bell Priester

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