As winter snow blankets the Midwest, you can hear the cries of children as they careen down Iowa hills on their sleds. In the late 1880s, children enjoyed sledding, or coasting, just as much–in fact, in Davenport, they not only zoomed down hills, but major streets as well.
This innocent childhood pastime was not always appreciated by the city council or the police department. In an attempt to curb the popularity of roadway sledding, the Davenport police confiscated the sleds of any children they caught. Naturally, the children considered this an outrage.
In response to losing their beloved sleds to the police, a group of boys took action. On January 29, 1887, they met in John Chamber’s barn to discuss writing a petition to present to the city council. An article on this youthful democratic process was granted front page billing in the January 30 edition of the Davenport Democrat.
A search of our 1887 City Council papers uncovered the petition:
To the Hon. Mayor and Council of the City of Davenport:
We the undersigned were appointed to a committee to present the following resolutions for your consideration.
Wheras, It has become necessary for even Iowa boys to protest against invasion of their rights; and
Wheras, We are proud of being Iowa boys, because Iowa tells all the world that her liberties she prizes and her rights she will maintain–and we boys do the same.
Whereas, We glory in being Davenport boys. She’s got hills. Her school houses are on hills. Our history says that boys who and born and brought up among hills and mountains, and near great rivers, make the smartest men.
Wheras, The police won’t let us use the hills, but run us in and take our sleighs when they see us coasting, if they can catch us, which they can’t do unless they get the bulge on us, but which is an outrage all the same, though they can’t help it, because the mayor and council make them do it; therefore,
Resolved, The we Davenport boys protest against these wrongs, because we’ve got a right to slide down hill, and nobody has a right to say we shan’t. We don’t say we should coast on sidewalks. We don’t say we should slide on all roadways, and there are roadways we can slide on and hurt nobody.
Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed to present these facts to the mayor of the city with a request that he place them before the city council and ask that the council select certain hill streets on whih the boys of Davenport may coast without interference by the police, but with their protection, if necessary.
Charlie Dosh }Committee
On the petition, it is written in another hand, “Feby 2, 1887 – Granted.”
Under ‘Items of Interest’ of page 4 of the Daily Morning Gazette on February 3, it was stated that “As a place for coasting will be designated by the chief of police, if the boys who had their sleds confiscated will call at the station the sleds will be returned to them.”