In Memoriam: Barbara Bush

With these images from the Davenport Public Library’s archives, we are remembering Barbara Bush’s visit for the dedication of the Learning Center on January 21st, 1988.

The Learning Center housed a collection of materials specially-selected to help promote literacy, a cause dear to the wife of then-Vice President and Republican presidential candidate George Bush. It was funded with grants from both the Iowa Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

Mrs. Bush delivered a speech in support of literacy efforts nationwide and attended a reception that raised $1,500 for the new Learning Center at the library.


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40 Years Ago: The Annie Wittenmyer Branch of the Davenport Public Library

The former administration building of the Annie Wittenmyer Home, at 2800 Eastern Avenue, opened as a branch of the Davenport Public Library on Monday, April 3rd, 1978. That’s forty years ago this month!

The City of Davenport’s improvements to the building included a new roof, a lowered ceiling, fluorescent lighting, new electrical wiring and outlets, paneled walls, carpeting, and two restrooms. A large parking lot completed the site’s preparation.

The 4,200 square-foot facility offered 15,000 books for both adults and children, as well as audio cassettes, LP’s, and puzzles.

These images are from the Davenport Public Library’s own archives, kept by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at our Main Street location:

Families enjoyed the new facilities at an open house on Sunday, April 2nd, 1978 from 2 to 4 pm.

The branch was open 43 hours per week: Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 am to 6:00pm, Tuesday and Friday from 1:00pm to 8:00pm, and Saturday from 10:00am to 3:00pm. 

When the library’s bookmobile service began in 1958, it replaced the “deposit collections” kept in 6 of the Davenport’s public schools. Therefore, when the Wittenmyer facility opened, it was the first new branch to be established in over twenty years.

Over the years, the Annie Wittenmyer branch hosted bedtime story hours, films, young writers’ contests, a homework center, and fun summer activities outside on its beautiful grounds. Here are a few more photos from the DPL archives:

Boys and girls met some unusual creatures…thanks to Chuck Wester, AEA naturalist and Nancy Pope from the Niabi Zoological Society, July 23rd, 1985.

Participants of the 1984 Summer Reading Club on the Annie Wittenmyer grounds.

Budget cuts in 1987 drastically cut hours at the Wittenmyer branch, but in September 1988, it was revamped as the “Family Reading Center” with an expanded collection in a “comfortable, homelike atmosphere.” We even had our own library cat, Dewey!

Branch Library staff: Ann Hetzler, Ted Frahm, Lynn Seline, Mike Weir, Cindy Jones, and Dewey the Library Cat on his birthday, ca. 1988.

The Annie Wittenmyer Branch closed its doors on November 23rd, 2005. Staff and patrons said goodbye at an open house where they enjoyed light refreshments, signed a scrapbook, and shared memories of their neighborhood branch. To the new 24,000 square-foot Fairmount Street Branch (opened in January 2006) went the 45,000 books, CDs and DVDs.

(posted by Cristina)



“A Library Branches Out,” Quad-City Times, March 28, 1978.
“Library opens center,” Quad-City Times, September 26, 1988, 4.
“Saying good-bye to Wittenmyer branch,” Quad-City Times, November 15, 2005. 
Main Entries 5, no. 5 (September/October 1988)

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Tracking the Tracts: Researching the World War I Government Housing Project in Davenport

As a follow-up to Alma Gaul’s story “Homes for the Homefront: 600-plus homes were built for war workers” in the Quad-City Times this past Sunday, we would like to share these two panoramic photographs of the Black Hawk Addition (or McManus Tract) in Davenport. This tract was developed during the First World War by the United States Housing Corporation in response to the increase in the number of war production workers employed at the Rock Island Arsenal and other Quad-Cities companies.

Black Hawk Addition looking north, Acc#1998-28 Hostetler-Free Studio of Photography Collection, #dplpanoramic052


A workcrew at the site of the Black Hawk Addition, Acc#1998-28 Hostetler-Free Studio of Photography Collection, #dplpanoramic053

All of the 172 Black Hawk Addition houses shown in these photographs, built in late 1918-1919, are still standing today. This is according to the architectural survey conducted by James E. Jacobsen in 1998, a copy of which is available here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. For those interested in greater detail about “Iowa’s only example of emergency defense housing,” including the King and Park Lane Tracts in Davenport (unrealized), it is a rich resource. The Center also holds a set of photocopies of the photographs documenting the progress of the UHSC project from the National Archives.

Related sources available here at the Center include the records of Temple & Burrows, the architectural firm tasked with the design of the eight house types in the Black Hawk Addition (Acc#1998-29, Temple & Burrows and Acc#2013-25, Seth Temple, Architect). 

Press coverage of the project can be traced using our historical newspaper collections on microfilm; City of Davenport building permits help plot later changes to the homes; city directories identify the succession of homeowners up to the present day.

“A Walking Tour of 1918 Government Housing” from our Ephemera Collection gives the history of the houses designed by architect Olof Cervin for the neighborhoods developed in Rock Island as part of the government project.

Dig deeper into the history of city’s urban fabric here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library!

(posted by Katie)

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A Celebration of Spring: Blooms of the Past

We hope Loretta Clayton’s hand-painted/retouched photographs of the floral displays at the old Vander Veer Park Conservatory* have you thinking happy spring thoughts despite tomorrow’s snowy forecast!

Vander Veer Conservatory c. 1940 – Loretta Clayton Donation. 2003-43 Box 1 Folder 40 Image 4.

Vander Veer Conservatory c. 1940 – Loretta Clayton Donation. 2003-43 Box 1 Folder 39 Image 3.

Vander Veer Conservatory c. 1940 – Loretta Clayton Donation. 2003-43 Box 1 Folder 39 Image 3.

The conservatory at Vander Veer still creates seasonal exhibits — a perfect place to explore any day of the year. Visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center to discover more about how the arrival of spring was celebrated at Davenport’s city parks in years past!

(posted by Amy D.)

*The original conservatory where these photographs were taken was built in 1897. It was torn down in 1954 and replaced by a new conservatory in November of the following year.

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The Sarsfield Guards: The first bi-state St. Patrick’s Parades

Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 11:30 a.m., the 33rd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Grand Parade will start in Rock Island, Illinois, cross the Talbot Memorial Bridge (formerly the Centennial Bridge), and end in Davenport, Iowa. This much-beloved event is the only bi-state parade in the United States.

Imagine our surprise when we recently discovered the current St. Patrick’s Day Grand Parade had a bi-state predecessor. As it turns out, a small Davenport militia group briefly celebrated its anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day with a bi-state parade in the mid-nineteenth century.

When Iowa became a Territory in 1838, state and local militias were formed. The State militia was overseen by territorial legislature. Men wanting to be appointed as commanders in the State militia were first nominated and voted on in local government. The names were then sent to the territorial legislature where they were voted on again to attain a position in the state military.

The formation of local militia groups was more relaxed in comparison to the State militia service. To form a local militia group one would simply ask for local men to sign up, name the group, possibly elect officials or form by-laws, and then write to the Iowa Territory legislature to introduce themselves and request weapons.

If you received a positive letter back and weapons, you were a militia group in the Territory of Iowa.

The Davenport, Rock Island, & Moline Directory, 1858-59 listed local militia groups as the Davenport Rifle Corps, Davenport City Artillery, Davenport Sarsfield Guards, and Davenport City Guards. It is the Davenport Sarsfield Guards with a connection to St. Patrick’s Day parades.

The formation of the Sarsfield Guards militia group was announced in February 1858. Named after Irish military hero Patrick Sarsfield, 1st Earl of Lucan, many of the founding members were recent Irish immigrants. The first official meeting was held on March 11, 1858. The meeting included the adoption of a Constitution, by-laws, and election of officers.

Daily Iowa State Democrat, March 13, 1858. pg. 1.

The Sarsfield Guards were mentioned in local newspapers throughout 1858 in reference to drilling and formation exercises. The organization also began to hold balls as a means to fund raise to purchase uniforms. The only issue that appeared during these early months was the delay in receiving weapons from the Territory legislature. By early September, the shipment of muskets arrived and with enough money raised from balls, uniforms were purchased.

By March 1859, the Guards were ready to celebrate their 1st anniversary as a militia organization. The decision was made to parade on St. Patrick’s Day to Rock Island in full attire and celebrate in the evening with a dinner in Davenport. Newspaper accounts from March 18th indicated the original plans marching plans had to be altered due to rainy weather. The Guards instead celebrated in only Davenport.

Daily Iowa State Democrat, March 4, 1859. pg. 1.

Throughout 1859, the Sarsfield Guards were in high demand for parades and balls. Drilling was still a high priority for the group. Whenever unrest seemed to settle in Davenport, the local militia groups would take turns staying in the local Armory on alert in case they were needed.

Soon the 2nd anniversary of the Guards was near. This time they were able to fulfill their promise to Rock Island.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Sarsfield Guards emerged from the local Armory in full uniform. They paraded through Davenport, attended service at St. Margaret’s Catholic Church, and then marched to Rock Island where they paraded through the streets and received refreshments.

Daily Democrat and News, March 19, 1860. pg. 1.

With the success of the march through Davenport and Rock Island in 1860, an invitation was extended for the Guards in 1861 to parade again through both cities in honor of St. Patrick. The only change would be marching on March 18th instead of the 17th. The reason for the change was simple. March 17th fell on a Sunday in 1861 and parading was not done.

Daily Democrat and News, March 14, 1861. pg. 1.

Once again, newspaper accounts after the parade detailed a wonderful event with the Guards marching to Rock Island with the Union Band playing, attending mass in Rock Island, military displays, and refreshments before returning to Davenport to march.

Sadly, this would be the last time the Sarsfield Guards marched to Rock Island for St. Patrick’s Day. All local militia soon faced a drastic change.

With the start of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, the direction of local militias in Iowa altered. On April 26, 1861, the Sarsfield Guards ceased to exist as they merged with other local companies to form under the name the Davenport City Guards. Many from the original Sarsfield Guards would soon volunteer for the Union Army.

By November 1861, notices were appearing in local papers for remaining Sarsfield Guards members to return their muskets at once. These weapons issued from the State of Iowa were needed in the war effort.

Daily Democrat and News, November 12, 1861. pg. 1

Local militias still existed in Iowa after the Civil War, but the Sarsfield Guards were never re-formed. In 1877, the Iowa Militia became the Iowa National Guard and local militias began to fade away.

The old Sarsfield Guards were called to action only once after April 1861. The event that brought them together was the funeral of their former Captain and Civil War veteran, Col. Robert M. Littler.

The Daily Times, January 26, 1897. pg. 5.

One can imagine the memories shared that January day in 1897, as they remembered younger days in bright uniforms parading through Davenport and Rock Island on those few memorable St. Patrick’s Days.

(posted by Amy D.)


  • Daily Iowa State Democrat, March 13, 1858, 1.
  • Daily Iowa State Democrat, March 25, 1858, 1.
  • Daily Iowa State Democrat, June 22, 1858, 1.
  • Daily Iowa State Democrat, August 28, 1858, 1.
  • The Daily Morning News, September 6, 1858, 1.
  • Daily Iowa State Democrat. March 4, 1859, 1.
  • Davenport Daily Gazette, March 18, 1859, 1.
  • Daily Democrat and News, March 19, 1860, 1.
  • Daily Democrat and News, March 14, 1861, 1.
  • Daily Democrat and News, March 19, 1981, 1.
  • Daily Democrat and News, April 27, 1861, 1.
  • Davenport Weekly Leader, January 29, 1897, 1.
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1910: “Alien” Women Arrive in Davenport

With the celebration of International Women’s Day this week and Women’s History Month, we are focusing our attention on the women who came to live in Davenport from other parts of the world in the early years of the twentieth century. The 1910 United States Federal Census for the city helps us bring some of them to light.

Young single women such as Josephine Haut of Karlsbad, Germany often came to the United States to work as domestic servants. She arrived in 1907, at age 17, and was employed by the well-to-do family of Benjamin Franklin Aufderheide (Vice President and Secretary of the Steffen Dry Goods Company) at 430 West 8th Street. City directories list Josephine’s occupation as “domestic” until her marriage to Rudolph Keller in 1916.

While Germans like Josephine still comprised the largest group of immigrants to the area, by the turn of the century the Davenport population began to see more Eastern and Southern European countries represented. Among single women, for example, we find recently-arrived Julia Jacobs (age 19) of Poland working as a maid for the Hotel Davenport. Josie Zerba (18), Mary Regi Mikotsjchk (18), and Carrie Germaska (25), also fresh from Poland, worked as domestics at Adolph and Margaret Kuehlcke’s Unter Den Linden hotel and cafe at 431 West 3rd Street.

Wives and daughters were far more numerous than single women among Davenport’s recent immigrants in 1910. Two young mothers from Italy, Marie Finmare (26) and Mary Gentilini (24), lived together with their families at 523 and 523 1/2 West 2nd Street. Marie’s husband Dominic is listed in the 1910 census as the proprietor of a fruit store; his wife probably worked alongside him while also caring for her four children under five years of age. The Finmares spoke English, having arrived in the U.S. ten years earlier; perhaps Italian-only speakers Mary Gentilini and her husband Giuseppe relied on them, their neighbors and likely their relatives, to communicate with others in the city.  On the same block lived another recent immigrant family from Italy, Hester and Anthony Laprovisa and their baby daughter.

A large concentration of recent Greek immigrants (on Front, Harrison, and 2nd Streets) included very few women. Only Georgia, wife of laborer George Teros, Viva, wife of laborer John Poupalous, Ellssavet, wife of billiard hall owner George Landis, and Rosa, wife of baker Mikes Kapandis number among the nearly 300 individuals born in Greece who were living in that part of the city.

Women in the Hungarian families of Davenport probably worked hard accommodating their many countrymen who came here to work as laborers. Julia Werelily, Mary Hardie, and Katharina Lingen’s households each included ten single men listed as roomers in the census.

There were also many Jewish families newly arrived from Russia in Davenport. Widow Dora Estess headed up a family of five on West 2nd; close neighbors Fannie Lebolt, Lillie Rosenberg, and Bessie Benkel could all speak Yiddish with one another’s families further down on the same street.  The “D”  in the name D. Isenberg & Co., “Manufacturers and Repairers of Umbrellas and Parasols” (1910 city directory) suggests that Mier Isenberg’s wife Dora may have been the talent that made the business at 308 West 3rd Street successful.

Visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library to find out more about the multi-ethnic character of Davenport in the early 1900’s and the women–perhaps your own female forbears–who played an important part in its creation.

(posted by Katie)

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Davenporters of Note: African American Soldiers in WWI

In celebration of Black History Month 2018, we have been searching for information on the African American soldiers from Davenport and Scott County who served in the U.S. Army one hundred years ago in the First World War.

In October of 1917, the local draft boards conscripted the first three African American men from the area and sent them to Camp Dodge in Des Moines: Gilbert Thomas of 1105 Scott Street, Oliver Richardson of 318 East 10th Street, and Henry Pitts of Bettendorf. [1]  These men likely traveled to the camp in a rail car separate from those of the white registrants. [2]  Once at Camp Dodge, Thomas, Richardson, and Pitts quickly passed examinations by the district draft boards and were accepted for military service. [3]

Later contingents of local African American draftees departing for Camp Dodge in July of 1918 were treated to a “fitting sendoff” by the Colored Women’s Unit of the Red Cross, based at the Bethel A.M.E. Church.

Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), July 10, 1918.

The names of those who left on August 1, 1918 were listed in the newspapers:

Edward M. Cain, 1022 Western Avenue
Rufus Chapel
William J. Atkins, 1509 Fourth Avenue, Rock Island
Samuel Bailey, 119 1/2 East Fourth Street
Adolph J, Anderson, 329 West Tenth Street
Harry Cameron
Benjamin J. Wyatt, 719 Harrison Street
Harry W. Roberts, 920 Harrison Street
Glenn Burns, 118 East Fifth Street
William E. Sample, 320 West Eleventh Street [4]

One of this group, Benjamin Wyatt, wrote home from the Camp just a week later a with a positive report. He said “..a number of us boys from Davenport…have been assigned to non-commissioned officers’ training school…we have the name of being the finest, smartest and cleanest bunch of men ever in this camp…” [5]


The first three African American draftees from the area, Gilbert Thomas, Oliver Richardson and Henry Pitts, along with Davenporter Jerry Leon Carter, sailed for France with the 366th Infantry of the 92nd Division in June of 1918 and met with plenty of action upon reaching the front.  In November 1918, the men in the regiment faced fearsome enemy artillery fire as they came out of the trenches and “over the top.” The troops waited for a tense and silent half-hour in the forest outside of Metz to hear news of the armistice-signing that would mean avoiding another engagement with the enemy.  When it came, as Corporal Hunter Mullen of Moline told the story “in the vivid language of his race” to the Davenport Daily Times, a single “glad cry” sparked hours of celebration in which “pent up spirits found expression.” [6]

The further adventures of Private Jerry Leon Carter in France included shooting a German soldier out of a tree and falling into a river off an unfinished bridge during a scouting party raid on the town of Eply. [7]

Oliver Richardson, a graduate of Davenport High School and former waiter at the Commercial Club [8] helped defend the French city of Frapelle from attacks by the Germans in September 1918. Having been promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major, he then led the battalion in both the Argonne and Toul sectors. “For months [he] was in the trenches, spending two weeks there at times without relief.” [9]  Richardson was about to begin an officers’ training course at Langres, France when the armistice was signed. Instead, he continued to follow the Germans in retreat. To his mother in Davenport, Alice Richardson, he wrote of the good weather, “which has been no small factor in helping our armies on their march Berlinward.”

None of the men in this “local quartet” of African American soldiers were injured during their wartime experience.

Like Oliver Richardson, Davenporters George Young and Louis Henry also served at the rank of Sergeant Major in another of the “colored” regiments: the 804th Pioneer Infantry. Writing from the French village of St. Jean near Verdun in February 1919, Henry said of the 804th, “we were just a little too late to get into the big game of war owing to the signing of the armistice…” [10] 

Louis Henry and Oliver Richardson were founding members of the Marshall Brown Post of the American Legion in Davenport. [11]

Louis Henry receiving an award from the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Davenport, from the Times-Democrat, August 17, 1964, 24.

Please contact us at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library if you have any further information you would like to share about the African American soldiers and their families mentioned in this post.

(posted by Katie)


Source Notes

  1. “Draft Boards to Send Three Negroes to Camp,” Democrat and Leader, October 18, 1917; “Colored Men in Drafted Troops,” Daily Times, October 27, 1917;“City Sends First Colored Troops: Three Men in Contingent That Departed Saturday for Camp Dodge,” Democrat and Leader, October 28, 1917.
  2. “Segregation Rule Applies to Five Negroes: Colored Conscripts from Davenport May Ride in Private Coach” Democrat and Leader, August 30, 1917.
  3. “Two Negroes Are Passed,” Daily Times, November 17, 1917, 5; “Henry Pitts is Accepted,” Daily Times, November 17, 1917, 10.
  4. “City to Give 100 More Men” Daily Times, July 27, 1918; “100 Leave for Camp Forrest Next Tuesday” Democrat and Leader, Juy 28, 1918, 10.
  5. “Colored Soldier Writes,” Democrat and Leader, August 11, 1918.
  6. “Last Half-Hour of War an Age of Suspense,” Daily Times, March 22, 1919, 7.
  7. ”Davenport Colored Veterans Who Participated in Fighting On Three Fronts in Great War,” Daily Times, March 27, 1919.
  8. “Former Club Attendant is Now Promoted,” Democrat and Leader, November 27, 1818, 11.
  9. “Local Negro Soldiers Win Army Laurels,” Daily Times, February 13, 1919, 8.
  10. “Writes Letter of Thanks to the Democrat,” Democrat and Leader, March 23, 1919, 4.
  11. “Colored Men of World War Organize Post,” Daily Times, April 21, 1920, 8.
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Newspaper Love Notes: February 14, 1918

In the February 14, 1918 issue of the Davenport Democrat, the marriage of locals Sgt. George Marsh Sheets and Louise Baird was celebrated in connection with a controversy over the conditions at Camp Cody in Deming, New Mexico. Named for LeClaire native William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, the camp where volunteers from the Scott County National Guard field artillery units were training had recently been disparaged by Iowa governor W.L. Harding. The Democrat‘s editorial disputed the governor’s characterization of the camp as a “cold hell,” claiming “…there have been more weddings than deaths…” there. (p. 6)

On the very same day, the Democrat reported on another marriage-related story: George F. Crosse of Des Moines was sentenced to six months in jail and a $500 fine for posing by way of newspaper advertisements as “Lucile Love,” a girl in search of a husband. Once a victim proposed marriage, Crosse would agree to a wedding and “write for money to be used in defraying expenses of the trip.” Judge M.J. Wade declared that these “matrimonial advertisements” ought to be banned because they “…pandered to moral perverts and outraged the sacred institutions of love and marriage.” (p. 2)

Truer expressions of love could not be hampered by wartime efforts to economize, as the Davenport Daily Times (p. 7) reported on Valentine’s Day, 1918:

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center!

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National Pizza Day 2018: The Quad Cities’ Pizza Pie Past

February 9th is National Pizza Day! 

The first place to serve pizza in the Quad Cities was Tony’s Pizzeria, inside the Paddock Club in Rock Island, Illinois. Oscar Liske took over ownership of the club formerly known as The Horsehoe on April 15, 1952, and Tony Maniscalco began tossing dough in its kitchen soon after that.

The Daily Times, Friday, June 27, 1952, p. 12A

The Daily Times, Saturday, August 9, 1952, p. 4A

The Harrison Grille called itself “Davenport’s 1st Pizzeria” in this newspaper advertisement published in November of 1953. The Grille had been operating since the 1930’s and had recently come under new ownership. 

The Daily Times, Wednesday, November 11, 1953, p. 3G

Later in the 1950’s, the Italian Village opened across the street at 220 Harrison. The restaurant was incorporated on June 10, 1955 by Oscar Liske, manager of the Paddock Club. The building had been previously occupied by Johnny Hartman’s Restaurant. 

The Daily Times, Friday, April 27, 1956, p. 35

Have you any memories of pizza-eating in the QC to share?


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Celebrate the 3rd Annual #ColorOurCollections, a week-long coloring fest on social media, hosted by New York Academy of Medicine! From February 5th through 9th, libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions have created free coloring books and sheets from materials in their collections.

We are happy to share the 1st Annual Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center Coloring Book.  On our blog website, check out our new #ColorOurCollections page to download your own copy of our coloring book.

The New York Academy of Medicine hosts our coloring book and many others. Please, click the link and explore all the other coloring collections:

Join us today, February 8th, in coloring our collections at Main (321 Main Street) on at 2:00 pm. Color the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center’s coloring book at our pop-up program.

Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library Coloring Book


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