Davenporters of Note: William Charles Cribbs

William C. Cribbs was born in Monroe, Arkansas on October 11, 1927, the son of Opal (Hudson) and Booker Cribbs. He grew up Buffalo, Iowa, where his father worked for the Dewey Cement Company.

The family moved to Davenport in the 1940’s. Bill Cribbs graduated from Davenport High School in June 1945, where he played football, basketball, and track.  Mr. Cribbs spent one year at the University of Iowa before transferring to Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls (now Northern Iowa University). During his time there he was a member of the Panthers football team.

While attending the Iowa State Teachers College he was drafted into the United States Army’s Transportation Corp. From there he was transferred into the Army’s Special Services to join their football team. This integrated unit not only had actors and singers, but also sports teams that played matches around the world. Mr. Cribbs returned to finish his courses at Iowa State Teachers College after his military service and graduated in 1949.

Back in Davenport in the 1950’s, Cribbs worked for the U.S. Post Office. He was the second African-American to be hired as a mail carrier in Davenport. He had hoped to work as a postal inspector, but was denied the opportunity to take the test. He left the Post Office in 1958 to become vice president of his father’s landscaping company, Cribbs, Inc., and later worked at Toney’s Barber Shop and as a barber inspector for the State of Iowa.

Cribbs joined the NAACP and was elected president of the Davenport Branch. He helped organize the march for Civil Rights on August 25, 1963. They pleaded with the Davenport Human Relations Commission to improve the housing situation for African-Americans in the city.

Bill Cribbs was the first Davenport Human Relations Commission director*, serving from September 1970 through June 1973. He left the Commission to move to Washington, D.C. and become the first African-American to work for an Iowa congressman: administrative aid to Rep. Edward Mezvinsky from 1973-1976.

Cribbs worked as the coordinator of affirmative action programs at John Deere Waterloo Works in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and served as the City of Davenport’s Affirmative Action officer from 1991-2000.

Mr. Cribbs passed away on March 7, 2016. He is buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal.

March Madness connection:

Bill Cribbs was part of a team of all-stars chosen from the Davenport Parks and Recreation Municipal League to play an exhibition game against Seniors from Iowa U. on March 23rd, 1949.

Davenport Park Board Municipal League All-Stars [1949] Dick Forbes, Joe Lucas, Don Miller, Cal Mason, Wayne Kelling, Wayne Hauschild, Fred Gruemmer, Bill Cribbs, Babe Smith, Bob Rubley, Jack Forbes, Dick Zietenski, Don Gile, Jack Hunt, Mike Shanahan, Paul Stock

Davenport Park Board Municipal League All-Stars [1949] Back Row: Dick Forbes, Joe Lucas, Don Miller, Cal Mason, Wayne Kelling, Wayne Hauschild, Fred Gruemmer, Bill Cribbs. Front Row: Babe Smith, Bob Rubley, Jack Forbes, Dick Zietenski, Don Gile, Jack Hunt, Mike Shanahan, Paul Stock

 *The Davenport Human Relations Commission later became the Davenport Civil Rights Commission.

(posted by Cristina)

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Bibliography

Arland-Fye, Barb. “Cribbs takes Davenport’s affirmative action reins.” Quad-City Times, August 25, 1991.

Blackhawk: Davenport High School Yearbook. Davenport, Iowa, 1945.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Iowa Seniors Whip All-Stars.” March 24, 1949: 31.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Iowa Stars to Battle Local Court Outfit.” March 14, 1949: 14.

Old Gold: Iowa State Teachers College Yearbook. Cedar Falls, Iowa, 1946.

Progress Report 1974-1975. Davenport, Iowa: Davenport Civil Rights Commission, 1975.

Wellner, Brian. “‘An icon has passed away’; Family, friends pay respects to activist.” Quad-City Times, March 15, 2016: 1.

Willard, John. “Civil rights pioneer William Cribbs learns to walk on a new leg.” Quad-City Times, March 16, 2004: 1B.

William Cribbs – African American Museum of Iowa. n.d. http://www.blackiowa.org/education/childrens-oral-history-project/stories/william-cribbs/ (accessed March 18, 2016).

 

 

 

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St. Patrick’s Day 1904: Change A-Brewing

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Many of us celebrated locally this past weekend by attending the 31st Annual Grand Parade. It is the only St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the United States to take place in two states – Illinois and Iowa. We know that many other establishments held their own successful St. Patrick’s Day events, too.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we looked into the ways Davenporters celebrated in the past. We learned that in the nineteenth century, many celebrated by attending church and lectures on the life of St. Patrick. In all, it seemed to be a day of learning and reflection.

By the early twentieth century, however, there was a change in direction: St. Patrick’s day dances and parties began to be planned by local societies and fraternities.

Not everyone was happy with this shift. In March of 1904, the struggle between traditional and newer ideas about how to observe the holiday was becoming heated. It also had a bit of Irish versus German in it. Tension between the two cultures had existed since the 1850’s, when Irish immigrants began to populate a German-dominated Davenport.

The first sign of trouble appeared on March 8, 1904 when the Davenport Democrat ran an article on page 6 discussing a sermon that the Very Rev. James Davis from Sacred Heart Cathedral (422 E. 10th Street, Davenport) gave the previous Sunday. (It is to be noted that Sacred Heart was built in an area of Davenport dubbed “Cork Hill” for the many neighbors who had come from County Cork, Ireland).

The priest had been approached by young members of his congregation who had taken offense to posters promoting a dance called the“Happy Hooligan” Masquerade Dance and the “Irish Character Ball.” Dr. C. T. Lindley and the Claus Groth Society (an organization of Germans and German-Americans) were the lead organizers of the event.  They planned to feature several drill teams from local societies and fraternities, and patrons were encouraged to dress in costume as Irishmen from history.

The youth asked if breaking windows to destroy the posters was the way to solve the problem. The Very Rev. James Davis asked them not to do so. The following Sunday he told his congregation that to attend St. Patrick’s Day dances was not in keeping with the reflective spirit of the day, and he advised all loyal Irishmen to avoid them.

Dr. Lindley immediately wrote a letter to the paper that appeared beneath the article mentioned above. He said that the dance committee did not intend to offend anyone, and that the Irish caricatures had existed for centuries in good humor. Dr. Lindley concluded that as the world was growing, St. Patrick was now a universal figure, not just an Irish one.

The next day, March 9th, The Daily Times reported that a meeting had taken place between the members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (an Irish and Irish-American organization) and the Claus Groth dance committee members. Hibernian members asked that all Irish caricature be removed from the ball and that the day be held in respectful honor of St. Patrick. (Pg. 6) A consensus was not reached; another meeting was scheduled.

The next meeting took place that evening and was described by the Davenport Democrat as being “quite lively”. (Pg. 5) The Hibernian members once again stated they did not want caricatures of the Irish at the ball, and hoped that and the memory of St. Patrick would be held in reverence. The Claus Groth members stated they were not making fun of the Irish, but were instead celebrating the many famous Irishmen who had lived over the years.

The Hibernian committee was also upset about the cards and posters put out for the event. While it felt the image mocked St. Patrick, the Claus Groth committee felt it honored him. Dr. Lindley, who attended the meeting, stated that several of the drill teams that were scheduled for the event were Irish teams.

A vote was taken by the Claus Groth committee to remove the words “Irish Character Ball” and “St. Patrick’s Night” from all promotions for the event. The vote did not pass.

This did not end the discussion. The Daily Times reported on March 11th that Woodmen of the World had withdrawn their drill team from the event. (Pg. 4) The Davenport Democrat reported a similar story, but added more details about the meeting the Woodmen of the World had held the night before. It appears to have been very spirited, and in the end, the Woodmen sided with the Hibernians.

The Davenport Democrat reported on March 13th that it was not Dr. Lindley who was giving the ball, but the Claus Groth committee (maintaining its original position). (Pg. 5) That same day, the Democrat announced that the Ancient Order of Hibernians would be observing St. Patrick’s Day with their own program. The lead speaker would be Father Murphy from St. Ambrose College, speaking on “One of the Secrets of the Influence of the Irish Race on History.” Other items on the program included vocal and instrumental arrangements. (Pg. 8)

On Sunday, March 13th, the Very Rev. Davis asked his congregation to not attend the Claus Groth ball. This was a change from the previous week when he asked that no one attend any dance. He gave two reasons to not go. The first was the feeling that money was being made off of the feelings of Catholics. The second was that merriment and dancing was taking place during the season of Lent when one should be reflecting on the work of saints. (Pg. 4)

Soon after, The Daily Times reported that the Alberta Camp of the Royal Neighbors and the Loras Council of the Knights of Columbus were withdrawing from the drill team segment of the event and issuing statements that they were not encouraging members to attend. (March 16, 1904. Pg. 5)

By St. Patrick’s Day, emotions were running high. Both events took place that evening and were covered by the newspapers. The event at the Hibernian hall was noted for its patriotic feeling as it observed St. Patrick’s Day in the traditional manner: with speeches and music.

As for the Claus Groth ball, the reports were that no costumes were worn at all. The hall was decorated with flags of the nations, along with shamrocks and green bunting. There was also great celebration for the five drill teams who participated in the evening. (Pg. 2)

By the early 1920’s, it appears that holding dances and parties had become the way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Fewer and fewer organizations stayed with the traditional observances and speeches. We wonder how many of those celebrating in the 1920’s remembered those early days of the twentieth century and the conflicts that took place over what would later seem commonplace.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Bethel A.M.E. turns 150!

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The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Davenport is celebrating their 150th birthday!

The November 30, 1865 issue of the Davenport Daily Gazette published the first of many articles focused on the church. The note said that a group of African Methodists met and organized a new religious society. The minister in charge was Rev. John B. Dawson of Chicago — already an ordained preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church. The group elected Trustees E. M. Franklin, P. C. Cooper, H. Simmons and W. M. Van Duzee; and Stewards P. C. Cooper, John W. Sawyers, and Henry Simons.

At first, the church held their meetings in a small wooden structure located on Fourth Street between Gaines and Western Avenue, but by 1875 the congregation had outgrown its home. Property was purchased in the McIntosh, Second Addition at the southeast corner of 11th and Ripley for the amount of $1,800. The building of the church was a group affair started in 1903; young and old worked together to carry and place bricks, mix mortar, and anything else that needed doing. On July 30, 1908 the property was paid in full and the Trustees received the deed. It was also at this time that the congregation voted to change their name from African Methodist Episcopal Church to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The first service in the new and completed building was held on August 1, 1909.

Throughout its history, the congregation of the Bethel A.M.E. Church has truly been a community. Picnics, events, conferences with other local black churches, and of course worship services were regular events. And that hasn’t changed in 150 years. Join us in saying, “Happy birthday, Bethel A.M.E.!” and be sure to checkout all the events over the next week. Tonight marks the start of the celebration with a welcome reception and program. Rev. Dr. Melvin L. Grimes will speak following the 4:30- 6:00 reception.

(posted by Jessica)

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Image courtesy of Geolocation 

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Aiming for Success: Davenport High School Girls’ Rifle Club

In March of 1927, 10 girls from Davenport High School formed the Girls’ Rifle Club. Under the direction of Mrs. F. C. Strohbehn, they practiced for a year at a shooting range located in the basement of the closed Adams School, 7th and Perry St.

We assume they became quite proficient in the shooting range as they were 1 of only 3 girls’ team that participated in The National Rifle Association Junior Rifle Corps competition in February and March of 1928. The other 50 teams entered into the competition were male teams. The Boys’ Rifle Club from Davenport High School was part of the competition as well.

The competition was not held in a specific venue. Instead, teams shot their targets at their home shooting ranges, sent in their targets and scores, and then the scores were compared to other competing teams.

Margaret Herzberg and Ruth Walsmith achieved the rank of “expert rifleman”. To become an expert rifleman, they had to send in 10 targets, each scoring 40 points or better out of a possible 50: 4 of the targets had to be shot in prone position, 3 sitting, 2 kneeling and 1 standing.

Davenport High School Boys’ team and Girls’ team tied with a score of 455 points out of a possible 500. Individual scores from the girls were: Ruth Walsmith 95; Margaret Herzberg 93; Marian Hoffbauer 93; Genevieve Morris 91; and Marie Herold 83

The girls’ team finished 25 overall, but ranked 10th in Division B, which was made up of 27 teams.

“Rifle shooting is a fine sport for girls. It is not too strenuous. Girls should know how to handle a gun as well as boys as a matter of protection. The accidents with firearms happen to persons ignorant of how to handle them.” – Mrs. F C. Strohbehn

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posted by Cristina

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Sources:

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Davenport Girls Rifle Team Wins Match With Oklahoma Team — Enters National Meet.” February 19, 1928: 14.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Girls’ Rifle Team is 10th in National Meet.” April 1, 1928: 25.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader. “These Davenport Sharpshooter Girls Know Their Guns — Form Only Girls’ Rifle Team In Iowa and One of Few in the Country.” February 26, 1928.

 

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Buffalo Bill Cody: Birthday Boy

Buffalo Bill. It’s a name that conjures images of the Wild West: cowboys on horseback, wide open spaces, a sky that goes forever, great gun battles, leather with fringe, the list goes on…

The best part about Buffalo Bill, though, is that the stories are true. He really did leave home at the ripe old age of 11 to herd cattle. Hereally did join the Pony Express at 14. He really did hunt buffalo (the reason for his nickname) and cross the Great Plains several times before the age of 20. And this is all before he formed his famous travelling show.

William F. ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody, born in LeClaire, Iowa, would be celebrating his 170th birthday tomorrow (February 26). His life has become the stuff of legends; books, movies, articles, plays- all of them have been made trying to capture the adventure of Buffalo Bill and his Wild West.

He didn’t start off with ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West,’ though. In 1872, Bill Cody made his first appearance in Chicago. He was an actor in ‘Scouts of the Plains’ created by Ned Buntline, author of dime novels, and Cody’s performance was less than stellar. Despite some of the criticism, Buffalo Bill went on to form his own troupe. In fact, during the course of his life, Cody traveled and performed with five separate troupes. ‘Buffalo Bill’s Wild West’ is, by far, the most remembered today, but in case you were wondering…

  • Buffalo Bill’s Combination acting troop; *1872- 1886
  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: 1884 – 1908
  • Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Pawnee Bill’s Far East: 1909 – 1913
  • Sells-Floto Circus and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West: 1914 – 1915
  • Buffalo Bill and the 101 Ranch Combined: 1916

Davenport was an important stop in his travels. He visited us 10 separate times:

  • April 22 – 23, /1874*
  • January 17, 1878*
  • Sept. 1 – 2, 1879*
  • September 23, 1880*
  • September 1, 1881*
  • September 23, 1882*
  • August 15, 1898
  • September 3, 1900
  • August 12, 1909
  • August 3, 1911 July 9, 1913

There are so many things that Buffalo Bill did in his life…There’s no possible way we can write about it all!IMG_20160225_163925493_HDR[1]

But, like so many things, if you want to know more, Special Collections has a great collection of materials on this national icon. So we say to you, Buffalo Bill, ‘Happy birthday, Cowboy, may your trails be happy.’

(posted by Jessica)

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*http://www.buffalobill.org/PDFs/Buffalo_Bill_Visits.pdf

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Going Local for African-American History Month 2016

Delve into the rich history of the African-American community in Davenport with these resources available from the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center:

Oral Histories

An oral history of the Black population of Davenport, Iowa. Davenport, Iowa : Palmer Junior College, c1979. SC 305.8 Wil

Life narratives of African Americans in Iowa. Chicago, IL : Arcadia, c2001. SC 977.7 Lif. Davenporters Calvin Mason and Bernice M. Jones are included in this collection of 20th century experiences recounted by African-American Iowans from across the state.

Iowa Stories 2000. RSSCC Archives and Manuscript Collection #2005-02. Oral history interviews of L.A. Broyles, LaVerne Dixon, Bernice Jones, Robert Norville, Mary Ann Shurlock, Shirley & Franklin Powell, Benjamin Watson, and Elisha Williams recorded by intermediate school students in the Davenport Community School District as part of a project under Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack’s millennial-year literacy initiative.

Archival Materials

RSSCC Archives and Manuscript Collection #2007-11. [Photocopy of] Davenport [Iowa] Branch Files, 1915-1939, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People records, 1842-1999. Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.

Research by Craig R. Klein of Scott Community College

Klein, Craig R. Between community and class: the Black experience in early twentieth century Davenport, Iowa. [Davenport, IA] : C.R. Klein, 1998. SC 305.968 Kle

Klein, Craig R. African American Churches and Fraternal Organizations in Davenport, Iowa, 1867-1920 Davenport, Iowa. [Davenport, Iowa: C. Klein, 200-?]. SC 305.896 Kle

Klein, Craig R. Tri-City Emancipation holidays, 1865-1917. [Davenport, Iowa: C. Klein, 200-?]. SC 305.896 Kle

Blog Posts by Special Collections Staff

Davenporters of Note:  Cecile Cooper http://wp.me/pcczi-TK

Davenporters of Note: Charles William Toney http://wp.me/pcczi-1mF

Davenporters of Note: Milton Howard http://wp.me/pcczi-T

History’s Mysteries : General Houston, parts 1-4 http://wp.me/pcczi-X, http://wp.me/pcczi-Zhttp://wp.me/pcczi-11, http://wp.me/pcczi-13

The Colored School Controversy http://wp.me/pcczi-18

Publications on African-American History in Iowa that include information about Davenport

Barnes, Charline J. Iowa’s Black legacy. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2000. SC 305.896 Bar

Bergmann, Leola Marjorie. The Negro in Iowa. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1969. SC 301.45 BER

Outside in : African-American history in Iowa, 1838-2000. Des Moines: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2001. SC 977.7 Out

(posted by Katie)

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Jewels of the Mississippi for Valentine’s Day

Need ideas for what to give your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day this year? Take inspiration from the jewelry adorning these lovely local ladies from a hundred years ago, photographed by J. B. Hostetler’s studio in Davenport.

Mrs. S. R. Kenworthy, ca. 1914

Mrs. S. R. Kenworthy, ca. 1914

 

Edna Stark, ca. 1913

Edna Stark, ca. 1913

 

Ray S. Reimers, ca. 1912

Ray S. Reimers, ca. 1912

 

Mrs. C. A. Armstrong, ca. 1911

Mrs. C. A. Armstrong, ca. 1911

 

Mrs. C. P. Skinner, ca. 1910

Mrs. C. P. Skinner, ca. 1910

 

Delphia Dooley, ca. 1910

Delphia Dooley, ca. 1910

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Remembering Lorraine Duncan

Special Collections would like to recognize the passing of Vada “Lorraine” Duncan who has been a loyal and generous supporter of the local genealogy community. She passed away in January, just a bit shy of her 95th birthday.

Lorraine was a charter member of the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society, holding multiple offices and actively participating in the merger of the Society’s library into the collection here at DPL, ultimately donating much of her own genealogical library as well. She was named SCIGS Volunteer of the Year in 1992 for her involvement with projects at the Scott County Courthouse, unearthing and documenting tombstones in cemeteries throughout the county and faithfully volunteering in Special Collections. I can hear her big, booming voice with a hint of Missouri drawl beckoning one of us to come out to the desk to “HELP!” She had a no-nonsense style, demanded meticulous work, was opinionated and spoke her mind. You knew where you stood with Lorraine–if you didn’t, she would tell you!

The North Scott Press - Wednesday, May 21, 1975

The North Scott Press – Wednesday, May 21, 1975

Quad-City Times - Sunday, March 14, 1976

Quad-City Times – Sunday, March 14, 1976

Her longtime passion resulted in the establishment of an endowment in her name, The Lorraine Duncan Special Collections Endowment, providing permanent funding for preservation of and access to the local history records to which she dedicated so much of her time. We are appreciative for this, but more importantly, we feel deeply grateful to have been able to call her our friend.

We can only hope that she is having the time of her “life,” meeting and greeting all of those ancestors she so diligently searched for. Rest in peace, Lorraine. You and your legacy will be celebrated in our hearts each February.

(posted by Karen)

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Floods of 1916: The February flood of water and ice

One hundred years ago, the Quad City region went through a double flood year. Not something they felt like celebrating, we feel sure.

To make things a little more unpleasant; the first flood occurred from about January 30 through February 7, 1916. Unlike summer flooding, which is usually caused by rain or delayed snow melt, this winter flood was caused by ice jams.

Just the thought makes us feel chilled.

Several factors led to the first flood of 1916. The Davenport Daily Times reported the month of January 1916 had a wider range of weather than normal. The warmest day of the month was January 5 with a temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. By mid-January a cold snap left the area in below zero temperatures for several days. The end of the month rose to more normal temperatures of about freezing or a little above. (February 3, 1916. Pg. 4)

Precipitation also was unusual with 6.2 inches of snow falling during the month along with a 24 hour rainfall of 1.20 inches on January 20-21.

The late month rain plus the warmer weather led to a quicker than normal breakup of the ice covering the Mississippi between Bettendorf/Davenport and Buffalo. It quickly led to ice jams in the area which caused the water to rise to flood level while down river Muscatine had no flooding at all.

The first mention of flooding we found was in The Davenport Democrat and Leader on January 30, 1916. The article covered the flooding of Shantytown, also known as Fishertown, in western Davenport.

The article reported that the Mississippi River was already several feet above normal in this low-lying area. Large chunks of ice were floating near the homes along the river. The article reported that most of the bungalows in the area were built on “stilts” which elevated them above flood level. This allowed residents to stay in their homes even though the river and ice chunks flowed beneath them. Those with homes on the ground had been forced to leave as water (and ice) entered their residences.

By February 2nd The Davenport Daily Times was reporting the Mississippi River in our area was at flood stage of 15 feet. This was the highest the river had been since April 18, 1897. The lower areas of west Davenport were flooded, roads covered, water was nearing railroad tracks, and hundreds of residents had to leave their homes for higher (and warmer) ground. (Page 5)

The Davenport Commercial Club, representing the concerns of businesses in the area, were requesting Mayor Alfred C. Mueller speak with the United States Engineering Office located in Rock Island (another city suffering from the flooding) to arrange for the ice jams to be dynamited. Many businesses along the river were beginning to flood and the threat of damage by large chunks of ice was causing even greater concern. (The Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 2, 1916. Page 12)

The request to dynamite the ice jams was sent to Washington, D.C. that same day from the Engineering Office. Word was received the very next day that permission was granted to use dynamite as needed. By the time the news was received, a drop in the river level had been noted. By late afternoon, The Davenport Daily Times reported, the river at Davenport was measured at 13.8 feet. Dynamiting was put on hold. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 3, 1916. Page 7)

The river appeared to be stable for the next day or two until ice jams began to form between Bettendorf and Davenport. As the water level rose upriver, the Bettendorf Company was forced to close down as workers built an emergency sandbag wall to try to keep the water and ice out of the factory buildings. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 5, 1916. Page 5)

Once again families had to flee their homes along the river, but this time in Bettendorf, as the water level rose to flood stage. All this as the water level in Davenport continued to fall. Talk began again of dynamiting the ice jams.

Once again, dynamiting was postponed as the river began to slowly recede back into its banks. By February 7th the river, while still high, was below flood stage in both Davenport and Bettendorf.

By February 10th the Mississippi River seemed to be staying inside its banks in most areas. While some flooding still continued for a little while longer in west Davenport, the streetcars, which had not been able to run since the end of January in that portion of town, once again began to make runs to the Fishertown area. (The Davenport Daily Times, February 10, 1916. Page 7)

As the late winter/early spring weather held steady with no extremes things appeared to settle down once again along our section of the Mississippi River. Little did the residents of Fishertown and other low-lying areas know that they would face the rising river again in less than four months’ time.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Davenport and the Democratic “Reform Caucuses” of 1972

It seems you can’t swing a dead cat in Davenport prior to the start of the presidential primary season without hitting a hopeful come to drum up support among voters. Candidate visits, with their attendant media coverage, are such a common occurrence that here in Special Collections we do not even include them when saving newspaper articles about important local events.

It was not always the case, however, that candidates regularly appeared in places such the River Center, LeClaire Park, the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds — or even came to the state at all while campaigning for president. Up until 1972, Iowa’s system of caucusing to choose delegates for the national nominating conventions (in place since statehood in 1846) fell somewhere in the dull middle of the primary season. First-in-the-Nation status had not yet been conferred.

So what changed, and how did it play out here in Davenport and Scott County?

Following the the turmoil at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the national party created new rules to provide for better representation of the poor, minorities, women, and young voters among delegates to the national convention. For Iowa Democrats, adopting these rules meant that the long process of caucusing for county, district, and state delegates had to begin early in the election year. The first Democratic Party caucuses of 1972 were held in Iowa at 8:00pm on Monday evening, January 24th.

In Davenport on that day a wintry storm was expected. An editorial in the Times-Democrat made use of the snow metaphor to describe Iowa’s new role. The “first flurry of presidential politicking” would no longer be seen by New Hampshire primary voters, for “now the snowshoe is on the other foot. Iowans will have to break the trail.”

The editorial was skeptical that the “reform caucuses” would be a true “indication of grass-roots thinking” about presidential preference. Rather, they could provide “clues to the depth of the candidates’ organizational spadework.” According to an article by John McCormick, Senator George McGovern’s campaign showed signs of such disciplined digging in Scott County, enough to seriously challenge front-runner Senator Edmund Muskie in the area’s 57 Democratic precinct caucuses.

This was indeed the case, despite the forecast. The headline in the Times-Democrat on Tuesday,  January 25th read: “McGovern Strong In Scott Caucuses;” his backers received 81 delegate seats to Muskie’s 82. The McGovern for President forces were successful in Davenport: in addition to receiving a personal endorsement from Mayor Kathy Kirschbaum, the Senator from South Dakota won the majority of delegates from several precincts. Nationwide support for McGovern among the country’s youth was affirmed locally, including the election of 18-year-old St. Ambrose student Tom (Thom) Hart as Democratic committeeman for Ward 4, Precinct 4 (Hart remained active in politics, serving as mayor of Davenport*1986-1991; now Chair of the Scott County Democratic Party). The newspaper also reported that “two 17-year-old youths [favoring McGovern] who will observe their 18th birthdays before election day were elected alternate delegates to the county convention in Ward 8, Precinct 3,” and the McGovern backers expected to “take over” in Ward 3, Precinct 2, “where large numbers of Marycrest College students live,” in fact did so.13_1172461201

Credit for McGovern’s strong showing is widely attributed to the strategy put in place by his campaign manager, Gary Hart. The idea was to focus attention on the caucus states in the primaries, Iowa being the first. Early organization in Iowa by Jimmy Carter’s campaign four years later similarly resulted in a heightened national profile for the Democratic hopeful. 1976 was also the year the Iowa Republicans began to caucus at the same time as the Democrats: First in the Nation.

Do you remember the 1972 Democratic caucuses here in Scott County? Let us know!

(posted by Katie)

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*The Special Collections Center holds papers from both Thom Hart and Kathy Kirschbaum’s time as mayor of Davenport.

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