Enroll in our Summer Book Arts Academy

Summer Book Arts Academy is a hands-on workshop series offering community members an opportunity to learn more about book arts and how to create them. Each workshop will cover a different type of book arts spanning from simple binding techniques to lettering arts. Register today for the workshops that take your fancy!             

Dates and Times: 2nd & 4th Wednesdays in June through August

Wednesday, June 13th at 4:30 Pamphlet Book Binding 
Wednesday, June 27th at 4:30 Introduction to Paper Marbling 
Wednesday, July 11th at 4:30 Japanese Stab Binding 
Wednesday, July 25th at 4:30 Accordion Binding 
Wednesday, August 8th at 4:30 Hand Lettering 101 with presenter, Hannah Eddy from Nourished Lettering  
Wednesday, August 22th at 4:30 Relief Printing: Linocut 

Davenport Public Library | Main 
321 Main Street 
Davenport, IA 52801 

Click here to register online or call 563-326-7902   

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Investigate the Past: Annie Wittenmyer Complex Program

Have you ever been curious about the Annie Wittenmyer Complex (the former Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home) on Eastern Avenue in Davenport?

This coming Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 4:30 p.m., the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Daveport Public Library will present the program “Investigate the Past: the Annie Wittenmyer Complex” at our Main Street location.

Join us as we examine memoirs, newspaper articles, photographs, architectural drawings, and other sources that tell the story of this fascinating local institution.

Over the years, our blog has covered different aspects of the historic Annie Wittenmyer Complex, including these posts:

What’s in a Name? The Annie Wittenmyer Home – November 15, 2012

A New (Old) Look at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home – January 9, 2014

The Mystery of the Orphans’ Monument – May 22, 2014

Build A Better Davenport: The Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home 1865–1975 – June 23, 2017

40 Years Ago: The Annie Wittenmyer Branch of the Davenport Public Library – April 13, 2018

…but this event will be a rare opportunity to learn the overall history of the property from before it became the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home to after the Annie Wittenmyer facility’s closing in 1974.

This early image of the Complex is among the many interesting items featured in our program:

View at the Orphans’ Home, Davenport, Iowa. Evans’ Western View Collection – Image 135. c. late 1860s

We look forward to sharing them all with you on Tuesday afternoon!

(posted by Amy D.)

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A Memorial Day Remembrance: Private Arthur C. Franz

Memorial Day 1918 was a somber day in Davenport. Not only were local citizens remembering those fallen in wars past, they were also mourning the first soldier from Davenport to be lost (only weeks earlier, in France) in the current conflict.

It was not even known on that Memorial Day where the body of Private Arthur C. Franz was laid to rest, nor where in France he died in battle.

The telegram bearing the sad news was received by Private Franz’s brother-in-law, Mr. Arthur H. Beck, at his place of employment. It simply stated “Deeply regret to inform you that Private Arthur C. Franz, Infantry, is officially reported as killed in action April 20, 1918.” It was sent by Adjutant General McCain, United States Army, in Washington.

The Daily Times, May 2, 1918, 1.

On May 13, 1918, Private Franz’s sister, Mrs. Myrtle Beck, received a letter from Adjutant General Austin A. Parker stating that no details about Private Franz’s death were yet known. He explained that due to emergency conditions, all fallen soldiers were being buried in Europe but that after the war, their remains would be returned to the soldiers’ families at the public’s expense. The letter concluded with directions on the proper departments to contact relating to a soldier’s personal effects, insurance issues, and salary owed.

Private Franz was just a few months short of his 30th birthday.

Arthur Charles Franz was born June 3, 1888 in Muscatine, Iowa to German immigrant Charles Franz and Iowa-born Frances Neff. His only sibling was his older sister Myrtle.

Charles Franz worked in the hotel industry and moved to Davenport when Arthur was very young. Arthur’s mother died June 1901 in Davenport from typhoid fever.

Siblings Arthur and Myrtle both attended Davenport schools. Local newspapers made mention of Arthur playing baseball on a local team in May of 1902 and graduating ninth grade from Davenport School No. 8 in June 1903. Although he also attended Davenport High School, his name is not listed on any of the school’s graduation lists.

Arthur eventually followed his father into the hotel business. He moved from Davenport shortly before the war for a job in Connecticut. Franz enlisted in the United States Army in June 1917 with the 102nd U.S. Infantry and had been overseas in France since September of that year.

The Scott County Council of Defense memorialized Private Franz and Miss Marion Crandell, who died March 20, 1918 in France while working for the Red Cross, on May 7th during a program held at the Turner Grand Opera House.

By chance, just hours after she received the telegram informing her of her brother’s death, Myrtle Beck received a letter from Arthur dated April 12, 1918. It was printed in the local newspapers along with the announcement of his death. It described the body lice and rats found in the trenches and the never-ending rain in France. Just before signing off from his letter, Arthur recommended his sister read [Arthur Guy] Empey’s book Over the Top to learn more about the life of a soldier in the war.

Private Arthur C. Franz is buried at Saint Mihiel American Cemetery and Memorial in Thiaucourt, France. 

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 11, 1918, 1.


The Daily Times, May 2, 1918, 1.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 2, 1918, 1.

The Daily Times, May 14, 1918, 7.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, June 18, 1901, 4.

The Daily Times, May 20, 1902, 4.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 3, 1918, 3.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 7, 1918, 13.

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Fun-Size Fire Insurance Maps of Davenport

In anticipation of this coming Tuesday’s program, “Genealogical Perspectives on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps” (6:30pm on 5/22 at our 321 Main Street location) we are featuring a recent addition to our collection of these sources that consistently prove valuable to our understanding of the development of Davenport’s built environment over time. 

In the 1950s the Sanborn Map Company began to republish earlier editions of its large-scale fire insurance maps (sheets measuring 22″ x 28″) for many U.S cities and towns, touting the new “Reduced Size Sanborn Map” (at 11″ x 13″) as able “to effect an appreciable saving in floor space and to permit more economical utilization…” The map, “[s]tripped of bulkiness and excessive weight” could now be “easily carried from a map cabinet to a conventional desk.” “Female employees can handle this compact product with ease,” the new foreward proclaimed:

The 1910 edition (revised to 1950) of the Insurance Maps of Davenport Iowa was republished by the company in this “fun-size” format in 1956. Sheets were assembled in three “Bar-Loc” brand binders, comprising volumes 1A, 1, and 2.


Key Map









The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center was fortunate enough to acquire this well-kept set from a downtown Davenport insurance company in recent years. Revisions and corrections date to September 1978, making it possible to track changes to the city’s appearance over the three decades after the 1940’s updates to our copy of the 1910 edition.

We were especially delighted to see that our 1968 Edward Durrell Stone-designed Davenport Public Library building is documented in this set of maps! The outline of the original Carnegie building is still visible underneath the paste-down.

The handy Description and Utilization of the Sanborn Map was issued along with the three-volume set. These instructions, complete with the charming fictional city of Sanbornville, NY as an exemplar, offer insight into how the the maps were used not only by fire insurance companies, but also banks, mortgage companies, utility companies, and various government agencies.

A slip of paper from the Sanborn Map Company inserted among the pages of this booklet reads “…it is understood that your copy of the superseded conventional map…will be physically destroyed following transfer of your data to this replacement reduced size map.” Being in the business of helping people research the history of their homes and their ancestors’ residences and businesses in years prior to 1956, we are grateful that the original owner of our 1910 edition of the Insurance Maps of Davenport Iowa did not heed this command!

In addition to the “conventional” and “reduced size” 1910 Sanborn maps of Davenport, the Center’s collection includes print and microfiche copies of the 1886 maps, and both a microfiche and an original bound copy of the 1892 set.  As of a year ago this month, the Library of Congress began publishing digitial copies of the Sanborn fire insurance maps in its collection online, so we can now direct researchers to the 1886 and 1892 editions of the Davenport maps in color. An 1895 map of LeClaire and a 1913 map of Dixon in Scott County are available on the site, as well as maps for many other Iowa cities and towns.

Join us this Tuesday night for Lisa Louise Cook’s advice on conducting genealogical research using Sanborn fire insurance maps, or visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center anytime to view the Davenport maps in our collection!

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Lost but Not Forgotten: A Brief History of the H. H. Andresen Residence, 726 West 6th Street

Although a suspicious fire destroyed the historic home at 726 West 6th Street in Davenport’s Gold Coast neighborhood last Thursday morning, it will not be lost to memory: sources available here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center preserve the story of the Hamburg Historic District property known as the “H. H. Andresen Residence.”

Perhaps the earliest image of the home is that published in the Huebinger brothers’ 1887 viewbook, Das Erste Album der Stadt Davenport, Iowa (=The first album of the city of Davenport, Iowa, SC 917.7769 HUE):

Thanks to the notice of P. C. Harding’s sale of the property to Andresen in the Davenport Daily Gazette of March 3, 1880, we know the site was “covered with choice fruit trees and shrubs” atop the bluff with “as fine a view of the river as there is to be found in this city.” Andressen was “congratulated in securing such a desirable home” in a “pleasant neighborhood” with “convenience to business” in the city; a “bargain” at $6,000 cash.

Andresen built his house on the property six years after the purchase, possibly enlarging a smaller brick structure dating to 1865-1870.  The Davenport Democrat for June 18, 1886 reported that construction was underway and that the owner would be moving in that fall.

Built in the Richarsonian Romanesque style, the three-story structure’s distinguishing features included a Flemish step gable and decorative terra cotta and brick work. [1] According to a 1921 report of the house’s sale, “[t]he entire finishings of the building are imported from Germany, many of the old window lights bearing German inscriptions.” [2]  Perhaps because of the impressive corner tower (shown in plan on the 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Davenport, below [3]) the residence was often referred to in later years as a “castle.”

The grandeur of the home reflected the success of the man. A biographical sketch under the heading “City Builders” appeared in the Davenport Democrat on June 18, 1886 as construction of the home was underway. 

Davenport Illustrated: Saengerfest Souvenir, July 1898. Davenport, Iowa: Saengerbund of the Northwest, 1898.

From the sketch we learn that Andresen and his wife, Marie E. Thomsen, had come to Davenport in 1855 to join the established community of German refugees from the Schleswig-Holstein controversy. He had first fled to the United States in 1851, working in Milwaukee as a school teacher and later in Chicago in land sales.

Upon arriving in Davenport, Andresen opened a general store on the northwest corner of 3rd Street and Western Avenue. He quickly became active in civic life: by 1859 he was elected Second Ward Alderman and the following year he became deputy sheriff under James Thorington. During the Civil War he served as manager of the post at Fort Scott, Kansas, from 1862 through 1864.

After the war, Andresen returned to public service in Davenport. He was again Second Ward Alderman and Chair of the Finance Committee for the city from 1864 until 1868.

In 1865 he started window blind manufacturing company and began investing in other local business concerns, including the Davenport Glucose Works. He was named secretary of the Davenport Fire Insurance Company, the predecessor to the German Savings Bank. Through his management, this institution had become, by 1886, “one of the greatest financial institutions in Iowa– one of the greatest in the entire country in its brand of banking.” He would later become the Bank’s president in 1892.

Almost as soon as it was complete, Andresen’s “handsome new residence on Sixth Street” suffered its first misfortune. On August 15th, 1886, the home was struck by lightning, the following day’s Democrat noting that “[t]he heavenly artillery was aimed at the circular tower and scalped off a patch of slating about four by ten feet.”

A “slight blaze,” at the rear of the Andresen residence, “caused by the explosion of some chemicals in the basement” was reported in the Davenport Morning Star on October 5, 1890.

A third and most tragic accident occurred at the Andresen home in September of 1905.  Fifteen-year-old Herbert Penner, residing at the time with his aunt, uncle, and great-uncle Andresen, turned on a gas water heater as he prepared to take a bath. A ventilator had not yet been installed and the boy, unaware of the need to open the bathroom window, was asphyxiated by gas fumes. [3]

Hans Heinrich Andresen passed away the following year, on May 11, 1906. His daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Klenze, inherited the house on 726 West 6th Street. It stood vacant in the years that followed the couple’s trade of the property for a Silvis, Illinois farm in 1909; by 1912 we find advertisements for a rooming house called “Fredrich’s Retreat” at that address.

The Daily Times, Nov. 4, 1912, 13.

In 1921 the property was sold to Henry Harbeck, president and business agent of the Tri-City Musicians’ Union and former manager of Davenport Turner Hall.  The “Harbeck Apartments” were advertised in the local newspapers through the early 1920s. In 1927, the property became a subject of dispute in his divorce from his wife, Minnie. [4] According to Davenport city directories, the building was known as the “Edwards Apartments” from the 1930s through the late 1980s.

The tragic loss of the H. H. Andresen Residence only strengthens our resolve to bring the stories of other historic Davenport properties to light. Watch this blog or visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library’s Main Street location to discover more about local families and the places they called home.


[1] Architectural/Historical Survey conducted by Wehner, Nowysz, Pattschull and Pfiffner for the Davenport Community Development Department and the Iowa Division of Historic Preservation, [1983?].

[2] Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. Sanborn Map Company, 1892. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress,  https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn02624_002/

[3] Davenport Democrat and Leader, Sept. 7, 1905.

[4] Davenport Democrat and Leader, Apr. 3, 1927.

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Sources for the Study of Davenporters’ Experiences in WWI

A century ago, in the spring of 1918, the first soldiers from Davenport to see foreign service in the conflict that would later become known as the First World War arrived safely in France. The Davenport Democrat and Leader and the Daily Times published these headlines in on April 22nd of that year:

The area newspapers, available here at the Center on microfilm, can offer a firsthand, detailed understanding of many of the men’s experiences during the war. Curtis and Hollis Bush, two brothers named among those sent to France, wrote home to Davenport throughout the summer and fall of 1918; their parents, Attorney and Mrs. A. G. Bush, allowed the Daily Times to print lengthy extracts from the letters.


Through their families’ reports to the local newspapers, we may also learn the fate of other Davenport soldiers in this first group sent overseas: Frank Griffin suffered severe wounds when his plane was shot down; both LeRoy Willey and Walter D. Evans were gassed in the fighting; and Englebert Davenport married almost immediately upon his return from France.

Another source in our collection, Soldiers of the Great War, (SC 940.4 Sol) memorializes those Iowa men who did not survive the struggle. Pages of portrait photographs accompany listings of names of the dead by state.

Among the other Davenporters who gave their lives, we find in this volume Corporal William F. Bredfeldt and James Lindsay (died of wounds), Captain John D. Swiney (died of disease), and Edward Haut (killed in action). Their stories, such as that of  Greek immigrant Emmanuel Lucas, also killed in action, can be fleshed out by turning once again to the local newspapers.

Daily Times, Nov. 20, 1918


Davenport Democrat and Leader, Jan. 27, 1918

Lucas’ father, “his only relative in this country, “confidently” expected “to hear from his son before many days” once he learned he had gone missing on October 7, 1918. How devastating it must have been for him to later discover that was in fact the date of his son’s death!

Perhaps the most complete documentation on the Davenport men who served in the war is the collection of World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918 for Iowa and Illinois (Rock Island County) that we have introduced previously.  It is available on microfilm at the Center (SC MICROFILM 977.7 Wor,) or through the library’s subscriptions to the Ancestry Library (in-house access) and Fold3 databases. Below is Emmanuel Lucas’ draft registration card:

For a wider perspective on the experiences of Davenport and Scott County residents during wartime, including the activities on the homefront, we are fortunate that the Scott County Council of National Defense was moved to assemble its History of the War Activities of Scott County Iowa 1917-1918  (SC 940.3 Sco).


The devoted efforts of local organizations such as the Davenport Woman’s Club, the Lend-A-Hand Club, Friendly House, the YMCA, the Greater Davenport Committee and Commercial Club, and naturally, the public library, are well-documented here.

Local Davenport author Alice French (writing under her pseudonym Octave Thanet) dramatized the struggle that many mothers of soldiers surely experienced in And the Captain Answered (SC FIC Tha).

In these pages, a mother expresses her wish to keep her son out of the war and alive while her acquaintance argues that he must be granted the opportunity to serve his country.

For more on the “Great War,” join us for the World War I lecture series at the Eastern Avenue Branch of the Davenport Public Library.

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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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