Splash into DPL’s Summer Reading Program!

The Davenport Public Library’s Summer Reading Program “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” begins this Saturday, June 4th. The theme this year is sports and fitness activities of all kinds. Visit the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Main Street Library to view images and other resources on the history of recreation in Davenport!

These photographs from our collection show Davenporters enjoying summertime swimming at various locations and points in the past:

dplVM89-000301 Credit Island

Swimming Beach at Credit Island, 1920’s


dpl2003-09.75.770.64 Municipal Natatorium

Municipal Natatorium, 1930’s? 106 South Main Street. Check out our blog post on the controversial start to the Municipal Natatorium in 1921.


dplVM89-000637 Bathing Beauties

“Bathing Beauties,” 1930’s?


dplvm89-000289 Fejervary Park Pool

Fejervary Park Swimming Pool, July 2, 1957

We invite you to immerse yourself in reading — about local history or any other subject –this summer! Kids, teens, and adults can sign up for “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” at any of the library’s three locations. Sports-themed prizes are on offer! Make a splash and race to the finish line!

(posted by Katie)


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Musical Memories: Quad City Symphony Orchestra celebrates 100 Years

The Quad City Symphony Orchestra, or the QCSO, is celebrating its 100th anniversary! This makes the group one of only twenty longest-established, continuously operating orchestral associations in the United States. That’s a big deal! Many orchestras may claim a longer history, but to run continuously is no easy feat — especially when you consider that they were still fairly young (only 14) when the Great Depression hit.

The group is currently made up of an average of 80 musicians and has had only 11 directors in its history. Music education is a priority for the QCSO, and many of the musicians are also faculty at the following institutions: University of Minnesota (Minneapolis), University of Iowa (Iowa City), St. Ambrose University (Davenport), Augustana College (Rock Island), and Western Illinois University (Macomb). On top of that, for over 50 years, music education outreach groups have performed for Iowa and Illinois students. They even founded a youth version of the orchestra in 1958, and have since added four more opportunities for area youth to participate!

If you want to hear more about its history, hop on over to their 100 years 100 stories page. You can listen to recordings of memories, musical performances, and other important events in the QCSO’s long history. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for upcoming performances; there’s sure to be some history-making moments in store for their 100th anniversary celebrations.

Tri-City Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast live from the Masonic Temple in Davenport, January 31, 1948

Tri-City Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast live from the Masonic Temple in Davenport, January 31, 1948

Want to learn more about our Quad City Symphony Orchestra here at the Richarsdon-Sloane Special Collections Center?  Visit us and check out these resources:

  • 2009-08 Esther Mae Plumb Collection – photographs from a scrapbook kept by a renowned local vocalist who performed with the QCSO
  • A collection of Tri-City Symphony Orchestra programs, 1916-present
  • Several recipe books sold as fundraisers for the Symphony
  • McDonald, Donald. A History of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra Celebrating the Art of Sound for Seventy-Five Years. Bawden Printing, Inc., 1989.   SC MCD 784.2
  • Johnson, James Melvin. The history of the Tri-city Symphony Orchestra of Davenport, Iowa, Rock Island and Moline, Illinois, 1976.  SC 785 Joh
  • Tri-City Symphony Orchestra (Davenport, Iowa). Notes and records of the first years of the Tri-City Symphony, 1916-1929. [Davenport, Iowa : Tri-City Symphony Orchestra], 1929.  SC 785 Tri
  • Music CD: Quad City Symphony Orchestra.  SC CD 784.2 QUA
  • Videorecording: KWQC-TV6 news 02/05/05 6pm news story : QC symphony performance.  SC VC 070.43 KWQ

(posted by Jessica)

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Friends Forever: Buchanan School Graduates 1916

The month of May is passing quickly this year and – as usual – the end of school is suddenly upon us. For many, this will include the excitement of high school graduation.

We wanted to take a moment to remember when the excitement of graduation for many in Davenport was graduating from 8th grade. For many students in the early 1900s, 8th grade graduation marked the end of their school experience.

While some students would continue on to Davenport High School, others would start work, join the family farm, apprentice for a career, or become helpers at home.

One can only imagine the future ahead for the 8th grade graduating class of Buchanan School one hundred years ago.


Ramona Cheney Tulloch (middle row, far left), daughter of Burton Henry Cheney and Anna Susan Moore


Accession #2015-04 Donated by Diane Sears Brigode

First Row L to R:
Erwin Mangels
Edward Britt
Anna Storck
Frieda Moeller
Lester Grapengeter
Hugo Johannsen

Middle Row:
Romala Cheney
Leona Welzenbach
Wesley Peterson
Anna Mittlebusher
John Reimer
Olga Lundvall
Lulu Schroeder

Alta Wunder
Walter Beuse
John Sparbel
Hazel Cissell

Friends Forever of Buchanan
Jan 1916
No. 14 Buchanan School
6th & Oak St.
Davenport, Iowa

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Fort Armstrong Bicentennial

Two hundred years ago this week, on May 10, 1816, the construction of Fort Armstrong began on the west side of what is now Arsenal Island.

The Special Collection Center’s archival materials collection includes an early depiction of the fort: an engraving from Charles A. Dana’s The United States Illustrated (New York: Hermann J. Meyer, [1853?]).

Fort Armstrong engraving jpg

And our photograph collection includes an image of the blockhouse built in 1916 for the centennial of the fort’s construction:

dplVM89-000885 Fort Armstrong

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Floods of 1916: Another watery crest rising in Fishertown

Just three months after the February flood of 1916 the Mississippi River and its tributaries once again began to climb upward as late melting ice in the north and recent local rains caused the Mississippi to once again creep out of its banks. The first official warning was sent out on April 28, 1916 as the weather bureau issued a flood warning reaching from LeClaire to Muscatine. Anyone in low-lying areas was to head to higher ground once again.(1)

By May 1, 1916 the Davenport Democrat and Leader was predicating the flood stage would be at its highest since the flood of 1892 when the river reached 19.4 feet. As of the morning of May 1st, the river was at 14.3 feet and nearing the flood stage of 15 feet.

Flood stage was reached by the early morning hours of May 3, 1916 when the river measured in at 15.1 feet and rising. That passed the flood stage of February 1916 which crested at 15 feet. Early flood preparation began as bricks and rocks were piled near the train tracks to try to keep water from reaching them near Brady and Main Streets. Crushed rock was also placed in River Front Park, later renamed LeClaire Park, to protect the new grass and flowers that were beginning to grow.(2)

By the evening of May 3rd the water was still rising and the D. R. I & N. W. train tracks along the river were nearly impossible for trains to pass through. Factories along the Mississippi were also beginning to experience the effects of flood waters as trains were no longer able to reach the factory buildings and water began to creep into basements and first floors.

Fishertown, also known as Shantytown, in west Davenport, hit hard by the first flood of 1916 was once again partially underwater. Some residents moved their belongings up to higher ground while others chose to move their possessions onto the roofs of their homes in hopes the flood would not reach that high.(3)

By early morning of May 5th the trains were no longer able to run. A one-mile stretch was under 10 inches of water near west Davenport. Companies like City Fuel, the Western Flour Mills, and the Davenport Slaughtering and Rendering Company were covered with water and forced to close. River Front Park was covered with water; the crushed rock not holding the water back. The water had reached 15.4 feet when checked that morning.(4)

The crest finally came late in the evening of May 5th, when the Mississippi River reached 15.9 feet. A crest slightly below the 16 feet predicted by the local weather service. Rains delayed the river from dropping quickly, but it did slowly recede back into its banks over the next week or two.

The May flood of 1916 did not cause a great deal of damage to local businesses. The hardest hit downtown area was the new River Front Park. Once again, it was the west side of Davenport near Fishertown that was burdened with the greatest loss to homes and possessions.

As of May 5, 2016, the May 5th crest of 1916 is listed as number 38 in the top 52 historic crests of the Mississippi River at Rock Island by the National Weather Service.

(1) The Daily Times, April 28, 1916. Pg. 7.

(2) The Daily Times, May 2, 1916. Pg. 12.

(3) The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 3, 1916. Pg. 1.

(4) The Davenport Democrat and Leader, May 4, 1916. Pg. 1.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Partying in Pretzel Alley

This week’s blog celebrates National Pretzel Day (Tuesday, April 26th) by spotlighting a turn-of-the-20th-century Davenport institution: Pretzel Alley.

The alley was and is just across from the Davenport Public Library’s Main Street location, running from Main to Harrison Street in the block between 3rd and 4th Streets. But Pretzel Alley was much more than just a place. It was a lively social club, starting out as a break-time and after-hours gathering of men who worked at the H. Korn Baking Company on Harrison Street — hence the “pretzel” moniker — and other businesses nearby.

The five Korn brothers (Billy, Charlie, Otto, Harry, and John) and Alex Anderson were among the founders of the group. Merrymaking was the main order of business, fueled by liquid refreshments. Regular singing, dancing, and practical joking enticed more and more local fellows to join the happy fraternity, eventually including influential businessmen and other community leaders. The Pretzel Alley gang formed a band and a choir, and so many members played on the Davenport baseball team that it was popularly renamed “The Pretzels.”

The official organ of the organization was the Pretzel Alley Wurst-Blatt, published by Alex Anderson, Davenport Democrat employee and the”first, last and only mayor” of the “free and Independent Commonwealth of Pretzel Alley, State of Scott County, U.S.A.” (1) The organization’s annual elections were grand occasions that attracted much attention in the local press. Despite the efforts of many “challengers,” Anderson was elected mayor of Pretzel Alley several years in a row with his famous slogan “Can’t Lose.” Even when he moved across the Mississippi to work as a Rock Island hotelier, Anderson’s leadership continued.AAndersonobit2

William H. “Billy” Korn, treasurer of the H. Korn Baking Company took Pretzel Alley’s party philosophy to the state and national levels when he announced the formation of the “Salty Order of Pretzels” at the Master Bakers’ of Iowa convention. Declaring himself the leader, or “Big Twist,” he hoped to add a bit of fun to these meetings. (2)KornIn 1910, when the City Council changed the alley’s name to “Library Lane” to legally accommodate the Hotel Davenport’s saloon, and the “moisture exchanges” on the alley closed, “Pretzel Alley turned up its toes, leavin’ nothin’ behind but memories of the good old days.” (3)

(posted by Katie)


(1) Purcell, W. L. “Pretzel Alley.” Them Was the Good Old Days. [Davenport, Iowa]: Purcell Printing Company, 1922. 211-216.

(2) “Down in pretzel alley: Davenport’s salty thoroughfare was nationally famous in early 1900’s.” Davenport Democrat January 11, 1955: 5.

(3) Image from A Portfolio of Cartoons as Published by the Davenport Times, 1912-13. [Davenport, Iowa]: Davenport Times, 1913?

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Genealogy Night this Sunday! Reserve your place by 12:00pm Friday!

This Sunday, April 24, 3:00 – 8:00 p.m. the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be hosting Genealogy Night.


Come take advantage of our closed library to research genealogy. Our staff will be available for guidance or to help you locate materials in the library or on the computers. Other genealogists will be available to bounce ideas off of and share the journey. And as always, there will be yummy food to help sustain you through your research!

This event is $10/person. RSSCC is located at the Davenport Public Library – Main Street branch at 321 Main Street, Davenport.

Parking is located on the streets around the library or in the lot on the corner of 4th and Brady Streets. Please use the 4th Street door to enter as the main library building is closed. Staff will be there to greet you!

Now all you need to do is gather your family genealogy notes, sharpen some pencils, and get a flash drive ready to go. The fun, food, and family history is waiting for you in RSSCC.

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The Life of a Librarian…Imagine the Possibilities!

In honor of National Library Week, we searched the archives of the Davenport Public Library to find this image of the library booth at Davenport High School’s Career Day on May 6, 1949. Librarian Myrtle Dunlap discusses career opportunities at public, school, and special libraries with these three students:

Library booth at Davenport High School's Career Day [06 May 1949] Myrtle Dunlap, Davenport High School Librarian

Library booth at Davenport High School’s Career Day [06 May 1949] Myrtle Dunlap, Davenport High School Librarian

Myrtle Nellie Dunlap was born October 1st, 1903 in Cornland, Illinois. She worked as a librarian at Davenport Public Library in the 1930’s, then as a school librarian at Sudlow, Monroe, and Davenport High School from the late 1930’s through the mid 1950’s. During World War II, she was a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and worked at the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts in Washington, DC. Ms. Dunlap died on January 22nd, 1982 and is buried at Camp Butler National Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.

(posted by Cristina)


Polk’s Davenport (Iowa) City Directories, 1931-1957.

National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006 [database on-line]. Prove, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original Data: National Cemetery Administration. Nationwide Gravesite Locator.

Ancestry.com. Iowa, World War II Bonus Case Files, 1947-1954 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: WWII Bonus Case Files. State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa.

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Poetry and Politics: Scott County, Iowa, 1896

In recognition of April as National Poetry Month, we look to a Davenport newspaper’s use of a famous German poem to make a point about Scott County voters in early 1896.

Heinrich Heine’s Die Lorelei recounts the legend of a beautiful maiden who would perch atop the steep banks of the Rhine River and “sing the nicest kind of song to allure the passing voyager, who, succumbing to her enchantment, was dashed upon the rocks and devoured by the remorseless waves.” (1) The Davenport Weekly Leader, a Democratic newspaper, likened this voyager to the county citizens who voted Republican Francis M. Drake into office. The newspaper suggested that if a few words in the poem were to be changed, it would accurately describe the Liberal Republicans’ conduct running up to the November 1895 Iowa gubernatorial election and the area voters’ vulnerability to campaign promises.

Below is an English translation (2) of the Die Lorelei text appearing in the January 17, 1896 edition of the Weekly Leader; the substitute words and phrases suggested by the newspaper are in parentheses following the originals.

I know not if (well) there is a reason
Why I am so sad (tired) at heart.
A legend (Liberal Republican promises) of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.

The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine (Mississippi) courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With evening’s final ray (Liberal Republican “Mondschein”= moonlight).

The fairest of maidens (Liberal Republicanism) is sitting
So marvelous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair.

She combs with a comb also golden,
And sings a song as well
Whose melody binds a wondrous
And overpowering spell.

In his little boat, the boatman (Anti-Prohibitionist Voter)
Is seized with a savage woe,
He’d rather look up at the mountain (Prohibition Record of the Republican Party)
Than down at the rocks below.

I think that the waves (Prohibition Republicans) will devour
The boatman and boat as one;
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Lorelei (Scott County Liberal Republican leaders) has (have) done.

The many German immigrant families in Scott County for whom beer gardens were a way of life (and breweries often a livelihood) had long opposed Prohibition by supporting Democrats. However, the Iowa Republican party’s efforts to disassociate itself from the temperance movement in the early 1890’s (3) had apparently won over some of these voters, much to the chagrin of the Leader and Davenport’s two German-language newspapers: Der Demokrat and Iowa Reform.

Although it is unlikely the invitation to “other local poets” to “prepare a campaign song for the next election using the German ballad as a model” had any takers, we chroniclers of Davenport and Scott County history delight in the Leader’s literary turn this National Poetry Month 2016.

(posted by Katie)


(1) “Liberal Republican Loreleis.” Davenport Weekly Leader January 17, 1896: 12.

(2) Foreman, A. Z. “Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German).” Poems Found in Translation. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

(3) McDaniel, George W. “The Rocky Road to Nirvana: Iowa and Prohibition in the 19th Century – Essay Read at the German-America[n] Heritage Center, June 10, 2012.McDaniel Talk – German American Heritage Center. German American Heritage Center. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.

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The Early Policewomen of Davenport

On this final day of Women’s History Month, in keeping with the National Women’s History Project’s 2016 theme, we honor Davenport women in public service. Those who worked for the Davenport Police Department over 50 years ago are in our view this year.

A candidate for the job of Police Woman in the 1950’s could expect her character, age, and body type to undergo scrutiny:


The successful applicant in this case was Davenport native Helen Sohl. While our 21st-century sensibility refrains from passing judgement on her level of attractiveness, it will applaud the fact that she was hired at the same rate of pay as patrolman Ernest Stanley, appointed along with her on July 16, 1955. (1)


Helen Sohl - Uniform

Photo Courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association

Helen Sohl

Photo Courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association

Sohl was the third Police Woman to be hired by the Department. She was preceded by Mrs. Inger Estes and Mrs. Minnie Heim. (2)

Mrs. Heim, a 35 year old widow at the time of her hire, served less than a year — from April 8, 1930 to February 1, 1931. Presumably, her marriage to fellow officer Clarence Niles on December 23, 1930 precipitated her resignation. Her name appears in the Police Roll Call Register for January 1931 as “Heim-Niles,” just below her new husband’s. (3)

Mrs. Inger Estes served the Davenport Police Department from 1922 to 1948 as the city’s first Police Woman.

From 1889 up until the time of Estes’ appointment, only the Police Matron position was held by women. Mrs. Estes was appointed on April 15, 1922 after successfully passing the police examination. (4) The position of Police Matron still existed and was held by Mrs. Tillie Boettcher.

Davenport Police Chief W. H. Claussen described Mrs. Estes’ duties as including the general supervision of dance halls within the city and other police jobs in which a woman was preferred to be involved over a man. (5)

When Mrs. Estes took the position she was 41 years old. She was widowed in 1918 when her husband Howard passed away. Howard had briefly served as a Davenport Police Officer from 1905 – 1906.

The job of a female police officer has changed greatly since Inger Estes, Minnie Heim, and Helen Sohl stepped into their respective positions. One can only imagine what those early days were like as they helped to develop a new area for women in public service.


(1) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, July 1955, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(2) Images courtesy of the Davenport Police Historic Association.

(3) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, January 1931, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(4) Police Roll-Call Register, City of Davenport, April 1922, Accession #1990-04 Davenport Police Department Records, Richardson Sloan Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

(5) Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 13, 1922. Pg. 8

(posted by Katie, Cristina, and Amy D.)

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