The Weekly Outlook: Davenport’s Gilded Newspaper

Once upon a gilded age in Davenport there were so many clubs and such an abundance of cultural activities and interests that a team of optimistic young writers chose to start their own publishing company, creating a twelve page weekly paper “devoted to home and outing life, literature, art, music, and the drama”. For nearly two years beginning in July of 1896, The Weekly Outlook may have been the guilty pleasure of many Davenporters.

The news team was made up of editor and general manager Charles Eugene Banks; his wife Carrie Wyatt Banks acting as associate editor; Miss Susie Glaspell reporting as society editor; and assistant manager William E. Warren. An item in the Davenport Daily Leader prior to the first publication boasted “The Weekly Outlook will chronicle the better side of life in the three cities.”

After their first issue had been released, the Davenport Weekly Leader reported that “an additional ray of sunshine” had entered many a local home, describing the new paper as having “literary merit and pages filled with truths, put in simple, sparkling words that cause the reader to like himself and all the world better.”

Volume 1, Number 1 came out Saturday July 11, 1896 and the front page included a “half-tone cut of Central Park in Davenport” described as giving the issue the “appearance of the great metropolitan weeklies”. The POINTS OF VIEW section offered editorial opinions on the local parks and invited aspiring young bards an opportunity to share their works in the Outlook.

The new subdivision of Henry Wiese is noted as having been recently platted, The Woman’s Shakespeare Society had their last meeting of the season, Scott County teachers were attending an Institute on Civics and Economics at Davenport High School and the oppressive heat was discouraging social activity with the exception of a supper party followed by dancing at Schuetzen Park where the “girls all looked captivatingly dainty and pretty flitting to and fro in their airy garden costumes.”

Rev. Hamilton Schuyler’s installation ceremony as the new Dean of Davenport Cathedral was covered as was Miss Alice French’s return from Clover Bend, Arkansas. Davenport’s young Harriet Grace Mitchell was touted as a “poet of rare taste and excellent judgment”. One of her pieces called “Slumber Song” was printed on page five.

A section called WHEEL LIFE noted some of the preferred bicycle routes and rides available in the area along with some warnings about a “black dog with yellow spots and an ungovernable temper”.

This issue’s MUSIC & DRAMA section listed ten Singing Societies along with their directors and rehearsal sites. The newsy IN AND OUT OF TOWN column reports that the Hills are at Nantasket Beach, Mrs. Cable and children are at Hot Springs, Virginia, the Williams are spending the summer in Tamaqua, PA and Major and Mrs. Marks are enjoying an outing at Lake Okoboji. The Lend-a-Hand Club was charmingly entertained at Hadlai Heights Wednesday afternoon and evening while “Mr. and Mrs. Waldo Becker are spending the summer in a truly ideal manner, flitting from place to place as fancy suggests. They do not expect to return until September or October.”

Advertisers included doctors and dentists, banks, pharmacies and Mrs. Lee B. Grabbe’s Hair Bazaar and Ladies’ Hair Dressing Parlor on West Second Street offering “a complete assortment of wigs, waves, switches, grease paints, tonics, powders, etc.” Meanwhile, Mr. Grabbe was advertising his Parlor Orchestra (with or without piano) furnishing music for receptions, dancing parties, lawn fetes and weddings. His Venetian Mandolin Orchestra was also available as were instrumental lessons on the side.

This newspaper is truly unique and is available for viewing on microfilm in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. Follow the Weekly Outlook in this blog as Davenport’s “gilded age” is revealed along with its dramatic players.

[posted by Karen]

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