Living Memory History: The “Great Flood” turns Fifty

Does anyone remember the “Great Flood” of 1965?

The Mississippi River seemed liked it would never stop rising in April 1965 in the Quad Cities. It finally did, on April 28th with a crest at Lock and Dam 15 in Rock Island, IL at 22.48 feet.

At 15 feet the water had started out of the banks of the Mississippi River. The growing water covered roads and bridges. Its icy coldness entering into businesses and homes along the river.

Several factors contributed to this great flood. November and December 1964 had been unusually cold, but without snow. The ground frost had a chance to go deep into the soil before snow started falling in early 1965.*

Snow was still falling into March with cold temperatures lingering late into the month. Normally, slowly rising temperatures help snow to melt at an easy pace that does not overwhelm streams, creeks, and rivers. This did not happen in 1965.

When April arrived so did quickly warming temperatures by mid-month along with heavy rain up and down the river. The still frozen ground could not absorb the snow melt and rain.

The National Weather Service records March 1965 as the second coldest March on record (with an average of 26.9 degrees Fahrenheit) and the seventh snowiest March (with 16.2 inches).**

April 1965 falls as the second wettest April on record with 7.92 inches of rain falling. 2.26 inches fell on April 24th alone.

The end result was the water started rising and local citizens responded. During the cool, rainy April of 1965 sandbagging seemed a never-ending task. Some areas held well others fell to the flood. There was just too much water to fast to keep back at times.

The National Weather Service records the damage in 1965 at $125 million dollars (based on current inflation the cost today would be nearly $1 billion dollars).

We’ve recently scanned and uploaded a set of 20 slides from our collection. You can view them on the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive and on our Historypin.

Flood stage in Quad Cities is 15-feet – the record 22.5 feet caused scenes like this one near Government Bridge.

Flood stage in Quad Cities is 15-feet – the record 22.48 feet caused scenes like this one near Government Bridge.

Davenport’s Municipal Stadium, home of the Quad-City Angels, farm team of Los Angeles Angels.

Davenport’s Municipal Stadium, in 1965 home of the Quad-City Angels, farm team of Los Angeles Angels.

One of Davenport’s inundated streets. [East 2nd Street]

One of Davenport’s inundated streets. [East 2nd Street]

“Snug Harbor”, Davenport’s American Legion riverside headquarters, suffered thousands of dollars in flood damage.

“Snug Harbor”, Davenport’s American Legion riverside headquarters, suffered thousands of dollars in flood damage.

Additional 1965 flood photos may be seen in A Flood of Images previously posted.

The Great Flood of 1965 stood as the top Mississippi River Flood at Lock and Dam 15 for 28 years.

Then the never-ending water returned in 1993.


*National Weather Service observations on 1965 Flood conditions.

**Weather records are based out of Moline, IL for the National Weather Service since record keeping began in 1871.

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Save the Date: Genealogy Night!

Have you been looking for your Great-great-aunt Ethel’s gravesite for so long, you suspect she’s still alive somewhere, snickering at your efforts to find her?

Family Tree Nut2We in the Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library understand. And we are once again opening our Center to give you a little extra time to root out those difficult ancestors and tie them to your family tree.

For $10.00, you’ll have the run of the Special Collections Center from 3-8pm on Sunday, May 17th. For five whole hours, you’ll be able to use our resources, pick the brains of your fellow genealogists, socialize with those who share your obsessions . . . and we’ll feed you, too!

Registration is limited, so please call us at 326-7902 for more information, or drop off your registration fee at the Special Collections Center at our Main Street location to secure your spot!

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“The Lydia” – Iowa’s First Bookmobile

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 2. Teacher - Miss Birdie Lee - ca. 1926

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 2. Teacher – Miss Birdie Lee – ca. 1926

In the summer of 1926, the County Library Committee of the Iowa Library Association rolled out what would become Iowa’s first bookmobile. Every county in Iowa could secure the use of this library on wheels for a week at a cost of $50, to help stimulate interest in the levy of a tax so that each county might have its own library and caravan.

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 4. Teacher - Miss Maurine Varnum - ca. 1926

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 4. Teacher – Miss Maurine Varnum – ca. 1926

The Book Caravan traveled to rural communities of the state, making stops at country school houses and farm homes. “Three books to every man, woman and child in Iowa” was the slogan of the county library initiative. The idea of the book caravan, also known as “The Lydia”, was conceived by Miss Lydia Barrette, city librarian at Mason City.

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 2. Teacher - Miss Helen Holbrook - ca. 1926

[Hardin Co. IA] School District No. 2. Teacher – Miss Helen Holbrook – ca. 1926

 Lydia Margaret Barrette was born in Rock Island, IL on April 24, 1881. She was the daughter of George M. and Martha Barrette. She graduated from Davenport High School in 1900, earned a BA degree from Cornell College in 1905 and attended the University of Iowa and University of Wisconsin, before graduating from Western Reserve University Library School in Cleveland, OH.

The Barrette family - George M, Mattie, Lydia, Ada & George, Jr. - ca. 1900. Photographed by J. B. Hostetler, Davenport, Iowa

The Barrette family – George M, Mattie, Lydia, Ada & George, Jr. – ca. 1900. Photographed by J. B. Hostetler, Davenport, Iowa

Miss Barrette began her library career in Davenport, first in the children’s library and then as a reference librarian. She spent some time in Jacksonville, IL before taking charge of the Carnegie Library at Mason City in 1921.

Under her leadership, the Mason City Library became one of the first in Iowa to establish circulating art and music collections. Her aim was to establish the public library as the cultural center of North Iowa.  A plaque hangs in the Mason City Public Library with the inscription:

“Lydia Margaret Barrette, librarian, whose creative vision and untiring devotion gave to this community a library unique in service and beauty, 1920-1955.”

According to her obituary, published in the Mason City Globe on October 21, 1963, Miss Barrette was known as “one of Mason City’s Grand Old Ladies”.


(posted by Cristina)

County Library Service Book Caravan images from the DPL Archive collection


Works Cited

Ames Daily Tribune and Evening Times. “Book Caravan Touring County.” July 22, 1926: p.1.

Ames Daily Tribune and Evening Times. “Library Notes.” May 26, 1926: p.4.

Davenport Democrat and Leader. “Miss Lydia Barrette Editor New Bulletin Iowa F.B.& P.W. Clubs.” December 4, 1923: p.6.

Harlan, Edgar Rubey. A Narrative History of The People of Iowa Vol. 3. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1931.

Mason City Globe. “Miss Lydia Barrette dies at 82.” October 21, 1963: p. 1-2.

Waterloo Evening Courier. “Book Caravan Due in Waterloo August 14-16.” August 3, 1926: p.7.

Waterloo Evening Courier. “Campaign for County Library.” January 18, 1928: p.8.

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The Flowery Rhymes of Charles Eugene Banks

It’s National Poetry Month and we can think of no better way to celebrate than to remind everyone that Davenport has been the home of quite a few nationally acclaimed poets in its time.

Charles Eugene Banks (b. 1852 – d. 1932) lived in Davenport from the late 1890s into the early 1900s.

While here, he became a part of the literary-minded Davenport Group.  The talented members of this group included Susan Glaspell, George Cram Cook, Alice French, and Arthur Davison Ficke.

The following selections are from Banks’ book Quiet Music, which was published in 1892:


We heard not a sound of their marshaling feet,

Saw never the gleam of a spear,

Till their tents stood saucily fronting each street,

And the army of blossoms is here.


The Pansy

Three flowers in my garden grew;
A lily, pansy, and a rose.
I questioned Psyche: “Tell me true,
Which is most beautiful of those?”

The lily, hearing, reared its head.
“Behold the charm of grace,” it cried.
“Voluptuous beauty here is bred,”
The blushing rose as quick replied.

The pansy, drooping on its stem,
Concealed its face with modest start.
“Alas!” I said, “pride ruins them”—
I wear the pansy in my heart.

 A happy spring to all!

(posted by Amy D.)

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The Library Will Be Closed April 3rd — Dress Accordingly!

The Davenport Public Library will be closed this Friday and our staff hopes to enjoy the Spring weather . . . whatever that turns out to be.

As those of us who live here know all too well, Calendar Spring in Eastern Iowa has little to do with Meteorological Spring.  This makes it difficult to dress appropriately for all possible fluctuations of temperature, precipitation, and wind velocity.

But we in Special Collections have photographic evidence that some Davenport residents have managed to wear the perfect Spring outfit, even without benefit of air conditioning.

Elva Yeatman Gifford, for one.

In April  of 1915, Miss Yeatman, who would marry Ira L. Gifford in Washington, D.C. in early May, had her photograph taken by the Hostetler Studio.

In the photographs, she is wearing an outfit, which does not match the description of her wedding dress offered by the May 3rd Davenport Democrat but was certainly lovely enough to have done the job:

Elva Gifford2.jpg

The flower motif, the pretty, pinfeathered hat, and the whimsical collar say, “Spring.”

The gathered, insulating ruching at the waistline and the doubled overlay of the bodice, not to mention the kid gloves say, “Not quite yet.”

It’s the perfect combination.

Elva Gifford

Well done, Mrs. Gifford!

It’s too bad this sort of style has gone out of fashion.  But I’m sure our staff will be just as comfortable in our shorts, sweatshirts, galoshes, and woolen socks, our umbrellas in one hand and our snow shovels in the other.

Because around here, Spring tends to make April Fools of us all!

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We’re History(Pin)!

As some of you have already discovered, we’ve recently started adding historical images from our collections to!

Why the excitement? Check out this description from HistoryPin’s FAQ:

HistoryPin was created to help people to come together from across different generations, cultures and places, around the history of their families and neighbourhoods, improving personal relations and building stronger communities.

We like the sound of that! And it’s also a neat way to share images from our collections.

Check out our interactive map!

So far, our profile features images in the following categories or “collections”:

  • Parks
  • Bridges
  • Around Town
  • Aerial Photographs
  • The 1940 National Corn Husking Competition (we gotta be us!)

We plan to add more soon, so check back often!

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New Digital Conversion Station (featuring the Quad Cities U.S.A. song!)

Conversion Station


Do you have home movies on VHS that you can’t watch?  Boxes of audio cassette tapes in your garage leftover from when you traded in your old car? LP records in your hall closet and no turntable?

We have a solution for your nostalgia-sickness:  Digitize your memorabilia and take it home on your flash drive!!

Our new Digital Conversion Station converts Vinyl, audio cassette tapes and video cassette tapes into digital files.

The conversion is done in real time, so it will take 2 hours to digitize a 2 hour movie.

The station is available for the public to use for up to 6 hours per day. Please call ahead at (563) 326-7902 to reserve your time.

There is no charge and you don’t need a library card to use it—all you need is a flash drive and time!

Naturally, we wouldn’t ask you to do anything we wouldn’t, so this morning, we digitized a 7 inch vinyl single of the “Themesong” of the Quad Cities, commissioned for the Quad-Cities USA campaign in 1980, which we blog about in a previous blog post.

Listen to the audio file below and sing along!


Music: Bob Jenkins; Lyrics: Charlie Teague; Arranged & Produced: Bob Jenkins; Vocal: Brent Webster ©1980 by the Quad City Development Group

I know a place
Where there’s work to be done
Where there’s room for me
and who I want to be.
Somewhere I can do the things
I’m good enough to do.
Where I can build my tomorrow.
Where I can live with the eagles.
Fly with the eagles and be free.
Quad Cities U.S.A.
Lookin’ better every day
Quad Cities, you’re the place I want to be.
I want to be.

There’s a river
A stream that works while it plays.
A road through history
Down to the shining sea.
This mighty, rollin’ river,
tells me that I’m home
Where I can build my tomorrow.
Where I can live with the river
Flow with the river and be free.
Quad Cities U.S.A.
Growin’ stronger every day
Quad Cities you’re the place I want to be.
I want to be.

On this good land
The seasons flavor my life.
And it’s good to know
Of things that live and grow.
I can raise my family
Where the good life’s gonna be.
And I can build my tomorrow.
Where I can live on the good land
Grow with the good land and be free.
Quad Cities U.S.A.
Growing better every day
Quad Cities you’re the place I want to be.

Where I can live with the eagles,
Fly with the eagles and be free.
Quad Cities U.S.A.
Lookin’ better every day
Quad Cities, you’re the place I want to be.
I want to be.
I want to be.

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Anything You Can Do…

The Library is well aware of the importance of women to the history of Davenport—without them, our library wouldn’t exist—so in honor of this year’s National Women’s History Month, we thought we’d mention some of the Davenport women who were included in the city’s Who’s Who for 1929.

Or, as the Davenport Democrat called them on March 10th of that year:

“[I]ntrepid little slips of femininity “invading”a man-made business and professional world a few years ago.”


But before we take offense at the patronization of the past, the editors of the paper were all in favor of  women doing any work for which they were suited.  They reminded readers of the simple fact that “a woman’s brain can absorb as much “higher education” as a man’s.”

It’s clear from the remainder of the article—not to mention our local histories—that the women of Davenport didn’t need reminding; they’d known that for years.

And most of the “intrepid little slips of femininity” hadn’t waited for everyone else to catch up:

  • By the time the article was published, Lottie Bois Clapp had been a mortician for 17 years.
  • Mrs. Inger Estes had been a Davenport policewoman for seven.
  • Lura Parker had served as deputy clerk for the Federal Court for at least five.
  • Ellanor Parker had been teaching classes in Parliamentary law throughout the country for several years.
  • Hermione C. Schneckloth had been Scott County Superintendent of Schools for eight.
  • Dr. Blanche A. Jones, the city’s only female dentist, had been practicing for thirteen years in her offices on the third floor of the Central building.
  • Dr. Nellie Campbell wasn’t the first woman to practice medicine in Davenport, but at the time of the article, she’d been the only licensed female physician doing so for several years.
  • Mrs. E. H. Dierolf, the city’s first female pharmacist, was one of the four women registered by the state at that time.
  • Davenport also boasted several osteopathic physicians, including Dr. Augusta Tuckers, Dr. Mary Jane Porter, and Dr. Margaret Harrison—and Dr. Mabel H. Palmer was professor of anatomy and the secretary treasurer of the Palmer School of Chiropractic.
  • Maud Streicher had already served her apprenticeship and was a full-fledged carpenter, working on roofs and framing residential expansions.
  • Jacqueline Gasser had already become the first female licensed Real Estate Agent in the city.
  • And Ella Stahmer Bauer had already retired from the CEO position of the F. J. Stahmer Shoe company, the largest manufacturer of wooden shoes in the country, by the time the Democrat’s reporters came calling. The young woman told them that she’d stepped down to the co-manager’s position so she would have more time to start a family.

We can’t deny that the women of this country have come a long way since their “slips of femininity” days.

But it makes us especially proud to know that the women of Davenport were already paving the road.


Sources Used:

Davenport City Directories, 1915-1930.

“Dentist, druggist, parliamentarian, chief! Busy? Decidedly so! These Davenport jills select a diversification of all trades and professions.” Davenport Democrat and Leader, 10March 1929, pp. 23 and 25.

Whos who in Davenport 1929, including whos who in Moline and whos who in Rock Island : biographical sketches of men and women of achievement. (Louisville, Ky. : Robert M. Baldwin Corp.),  c. 1929

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A Look at HeritageQuest Online’s New Interface

One of our subscription databases got a new look and some new content this week! The “improved” HeritageQuest Online (now powered by Ancestry) can be accessed from home using the link on the Online Resources page under Research Tools on our website. Just type in your Davenport Public Library card number to start searching.


They have added more Federal Census records (1790-1940), including Defective, Dependent and Delinquent, Mortality, Slave and Non-Population Schedules, Indian Census Rolls, Veteran Census of 1890 and Census of Deaf Marriages 1888-1895.


Their Family History Books interface has been updated and they have also added US City Directories to that section. Now you can search or browse Davenport City Directories 1861-1960 right from your home!


Another new feature is an interactive map that shows counties in each state for each census year. Your ancestors may have lived in the same place for generations, but the name of that place may have changed over time. This map will help you figure that out.


New research aids contain tips on how to get started, searching the census, immigration, military records and ethnic genealogy. Some of the tips might be helpful if you’re coming up empty or you’re getting too many search results.


There are some “improvements” that we’re not so excited about. If you’re familiar with Ancestry’s intuitive searching, you know how sometimes it’s not very helpful.  We tried entering a location, but got results from a completely different region. If this happens to you, try alternate spellings, restricting to exact, and leaving location fields blank.

Feel free to try this at home!

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Join Our Family Album!

Tuskegee Institute Singers

The Tuskegee Institute Singers were not related to each other, but after so much time on the road, making music, they were family.

It’s no secret that family photographs forge connections to the past. We may never have met Aunt Betsy or Great-Grandpa Milton, but we can see ourselves in their faces and learn something of our family circumstances through their clothes and smiles and settings.

Our Special Collections Center has hundreds of faces and family groups in our photograph collections. Our patrons have not only found their ancestors among these images, but they’ve also made connections to our shared history.

We’re proud to say that our image collections are something of a Community Family Album.

But we’re afraid some of our community has been  left out.

Most of our portrait photographs were taken by only one or two studios—the Hostetler Studio and the Free Studio, in particular—for only a few decades.  These studios were not necessarily affordable to everyone and weren’t necessarily the first choice for many ethnic groups in Davenport.

Some of our patrons have been generous enough to add their families’ images to our collections, either by donating their originals or allowing us to scan them for our digital archives.  But not everyone knows that our Center equipped to archive and preserve donations of local photographs.

We are!  And we need your help to fill in the gaps in our “Album”!

If you have portrait photographs of family members (or people you consider family) and can provide information about them—even if you only know their names and relationship to you—we would love to add them to our Archive to preserve and provide access to them for future generations.

Contact Jessica Mirasol, the Special Collections/Archives Supervising  Librarian: jmirasol[at]davenportlibrary[dot]com

Your family is part of our history—please help us put faces to them!

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