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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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)


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

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The Frank-Goldstone Wedding: One wife too many?

It sounds like the plot to a novel: a young, popular bride-to-be, her up-and-coming groom, a mystery woman, accusations of a hidden marriage, and a (briefly) cancelled wedding. For one Davenport bride, this was reality in January of 1910.

The bride-to-be was Rachel Goldstone. The 24-year-old lived with her parents in Davenport and by newspaper accounts was a well-known and popular young lady who worked as a clerk at the Fair Store in downtown Davenport.

Her groom was named Barney Kline Frank, aged 25 years. Mr. Frank originally lived in South Bend, Indiana where his father owned several successful pawn shops. Barney lived in Des Moines in January of 1910. He worked for Moses Levich who ran a pawn shop dealing in diamond jewelry, musical instruments, hats, and clothing. (Des Moines City Directory, 1910).

It is not known to us how the two met, but we do know they obtained a license on December 31, 1909 to be married in Scott County.

The wedding was set for Sunday, January 2, 1910. It was to be held at the Goldstone home at 605 Myrtle Street in Davenport. All seemed set for a lovely event until the Davenport Police Department received a call on Saturday, January 1, 1910 from a woman in Des Moines.

The woman identified herself to officers as Mrs. Kline. She inquired if a Barney Kline or Barney Kline Frank had obtained a marriage license. If he had, the marriage had to be stopped as Mrs. Kline was his legal wife.

The police officer informed her that if Mrs. Kline was in fact married to Mr. Barney Kline Frank, she needed to appear with her marriage license to stop the wedding. Mrs. Kline  appeared at the Davenport Police Station at midnight that night, having arrived in town by train from Des Moines.

She stated that Mr. Frank went by the name of Mr. Kline in Des Moines and that was the surname he used when they married.

One can only imagine the emotions that arose when Mr. Frank was summoned to the police station and informed of the woman’s accusation. Mrs. Kline did not have a license in hand, stating it had been lost in a trunk that her husband had stored after their marriage. (The Davenport Daily Times, January 3, 1910. Pg. 4)

The accusation was enough, though, for the wedding to be cancelled as the police tried to solve the mystery of the first Mrs. Kline.

Mrs. Kline was identified by Mr. Frank as an acquaintance named Ethel Palmer. Mr. Frank stated that while he knew the woman and had spent time with her, he had never married her or proposed marriage. He believed she was in love with him and this was her attempt to stop his marriage to Miss Goldstone. (The Daily Democrat, January 3, 1910. Pg. 3)

Mrs. Kline/Miss Palmer soon took a train back to Des Moines promising to return with evidence of her marriage. She claimed that she and Mr. Frank were married by a rabbi in Kansas City, Missouri in September, 1908. They had lived together for one year before he deserted her. (Davenport Daily Times, January 3, 1910. Pg. 6)

With no formal proof of a marriage, the Davenport Police did not press charges against Mr. Frank and the wedding was rescheduled for Tuesday, January 4th.

We are sure the wedding day was met with some apprehension by the bride-to-be with the worry that Miss Palmer might once again come to town. The papers stated that Miss Goldstone and her parents supported the story told to them by Mr. Frank.

At 8:00 p.m. that night, the wedding of Miss Goldstone and Mr. Frank took place at the bride’s house. The Davenport Daily Times ran a long story on the nuptials on January 5, 1910.

The bride wore a dress of pink silk moire trimmed in pearls with a long tulle veil. Miss Goldstone carried brides roses during the ceremony. The couple was attended by Rabbi Goldman of Rock Island and Rabbi Scuder of Davenport. They stood under a canopy of pink and white roses with greenery in a room filled with pink and white roses.

After the wedding, which took place in front of about 50 guests, there was a large wedding supper. The couple left the next day for a wedding trip to South Bend, Indiana to visit the groom’s family. Then they started a home together in Des Moines.

But Miss Palmer was not yet finished with Mr. Kline/Frank. She soon announced to the papers that either her wedding was real and he was now a bigamist, or he had taken advantage of her by holding a sham wedding.

Newspapers all across the country picked up the story. The last update we find locally is from January 8, 1910 when The Daily Times ran a picture of Miss Palmer stating she would pursue formal charges against Mr. Frank in Polk County, Iowa where they had both resided.

As no further information could be found on charges or a court case, we assume that Miss Palmer either decided not to proceed or the court would not hear the case. We are currently unable to trace what happened to Miss Palmer after January 1910. The little we did find out through Ancestry.com indicates Miss Palmer was born Ethel Cromwell. Her mother married Andrew R. Palmer in 1897. Mr. Palmer owned a successful butcher shop in Des Moines in January of 1910.

As for Barney and Rachel Frank, they soon moved from Des Moines and headed to Omaha, Nebraska. They eventually moved to South Bend, Indiana where Mr. Frank owned several businesses. They had one daughter in 1912 and remained married until Mr. Frank passed away in 1950. Mrs. Frank remained widowed until her death in 1981.

We certainly hope Miss Palmer found as long-lasting and devoted a marriage.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Ida Johnson and United Neighbors, Inc. of Davenport

In celebration of the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Special Collections would like to feature Davenporter Ida Johnson, recipient of the 2001 Iowa Commission on the Status of African-Americans’ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award exactly 15 years ago tomorrow. 

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day.

Ida Johnson helps with shirt sales at United Neighbors Inc. in Davenport on Martin Luther King Day, 2009. Image courtesy of the Quad-City Times.

Johnson is the recipient of numerous awards before and since, including two in the past year: the 2015 Athena Award honoring local women in leadership roles, and induction into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame, “the most prestigious state-level honor volunteers can receive.”

Johnson is the founder and longtime Executive Director of United Neighbors, Inc., a community-based social service organization that has enriched the lives of the city’s residents for 43 years. From an initial desire to provide a safe place for neighborhood children to play and learn, Johnson increased the ambitions of her non-profit to offer after-school and summer programs for youth, street and park beautification projects, home-buying and home-repair assistance, senior programs, and a host of other free services aimed at improving the quality of life in Davenport’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods.

Johnson’s work at United Neighbors places her squarely in the local tradition of social reform efforts headed by women, such as Annie Wittenmyer, Clarissa Cook, Maria Purdy Peck, and Phebe Sudlow. And as an African-American woman, she joins Cecile Cooper as a Davenporter dedicated to providing equal opportunities for all.  As one of her many awards states, Ida Johnson is indeed “one of Iowa’s most valued history makers,”* and we wish her continued success in realizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream here in the Quad-Cities.

(posted by Katie)


*Ida Johnson was honored by the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids as a 2009 Iowa History Maker.

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Our “Special” Visitors in 2015

In 2015, genealogists and researchers from all over the country came to use the wonderful resources here at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. We also had email and phone requests from all over the world!

To fill in the branches of their family trees, they found copies of birth, marriage and death records of their Scott County, Iowa ancestors. They came to research the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, Colonel George Davenport and Bix Beiderbecke. They viewed newspaper articles on microfilm, information in our online databases, and images in our photograph collection. Their searches were made easier by the many indices prepared by our volunteers from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society.

Last year we had visitors and research requests from 23 U.S. states, Canada and Israel. We had visitors from both Apple Valley, Minnesota and Apple Valley, California, and received research requests from both Troy, Missouri and Troy, Michigan!

Our furthest visitors came from Santa Cruz, California and Mukilteo, Washington; our furthest correspondents wrote from Tel Aviv, Israel, and Aiea, Hawaii.

Check out this map showing all of RSSC’s visitors for the year 2015, as recorded in our Guest Book. Pretty cool, huh?

(posted by Cristina)

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A Look Back: Snow removal in the 1940s

We thought we would take a look back this week at snow removal in Davenport as we wait to see what kind of winter awaits us in 2016.

The picture below shows the Davenport Public Works department hard at work removing snow in 1944.

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

Snow Removal in downtown Davenport 1944. (2008-20.65)

We were able to research the addresses of the buildings behind the trucks to identify the location of the photograph. We learned the photo was taken not far from the Davenport Public Library Main Street branch.

The Davenport City Directory 1944 lists the Security Fire Insurance Company of Davenport as being at 217 West 4th Street. The Model Laundry was at 219-221 West 4th Street.

Today the buildings are gone and the site is a parking lot. The photo was most likely taken from across the street near the front of Davenport City Hall.

Just a reminder that the Davenport Public Library and Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center will be closed December 31, 2015 and January 1, 2016. We will reopen January 2, 2016.

We wish everyone a safe and happy New Year.

(posted by Amy D.)


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