Davenport’s Transit Workers

With the arrival of Labor Day this Monday, September 5th and Davenport’s CitiBus service in the news of late, we here at DPL’s Richardson Sloane Special Collections Center (the officially-designated archives for the City of Davenport) would like to highlight some of the information we have available on the city’s transit workers.

The image below shows the title page of the first contract between the Davenport’s City Transit Authority and Division No. 312 of the Amalgamated Transit Union:

Bus Union Contract 1974

The contract was signed on September 6th, 1974. A feature of note was that a driver could take his or her birthday as a paid holiday! The Amalgamated Transit Union still represents the Citibus drivers today, one of five public employee unions that work with the City of Davenport.

A few years before this contract was signed, on August 22, 1969, Davenport voters approved the City’s takeover of bus service from Davenport City Lines, a private operator.


A presentation given by the Davenport Department of Transportation in the mid-nineteen-seventies (RSSCC Collection #2008-12) included these photographs of city bus drivers, along with the statement: “We will bend our buses to serve you…and will welcome you with open arms.”

dpl2008-28 Bus3dpl2008-28 Bus2dpl2008-28 Bus1Call, write, or visit us to explore more about the history of the City of Davenport, Iowa!

(posted by Cristina and Katie)

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Back to School: The return of smiling faces

Davenport High School library c. 1920

A school library in Davenport c. 1920

With school back in session after summer break, we thought we would take a look back at the excitement of the first day of school in 1907.

Schools reopened for students on September 3rd that year. The Daily Times noted in the evening edition that all fourteen public school buildings and the high school welcomed back students.

The article continued that 150 new students entered into Davenport High School making the incoming class the largest in school history. Part of the increase in numbers for the new class was thought to be related to the development of the “Commercial Course” which would provide students the chance to graduate with business skills such as bookkeeping, stenography, and business methods in addition to basic study in English, history, and math.

New Davenport High School Principal George E. Marshall, who replaced Principal Frank L. Smart (who had become Superintendent of the Davenport schools), was excited to announce that the number of books in the high school library had been expanded and a private telephone system was to be installed in each classroom. The phone would connect with the principal’s office and have a switchboard to transfer calls to the outside.

As for the other schools, The Daily Times reported many of them had been cleaned over summer break, new teachers filled classrooms where necessary, and the only school without a principal was School No. 3.

All in all, it seemed a pretty good start to the school year!

(posted by Amy D.)

Source: The Daily Times, September 3, 1907. Page 6.


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To Catch a Summer Breeze: The Upper Lagoon at Vander Veer Park

As an antidote to the heat and humidity of August, we share this photograph from our collection that we hope will evoke a cool and tranquil experience of the outdoors:

Upper lagoon at Vander Veer Park c. 1915. Loretta Clayton Donation 2003-43.

Upper lagoon at Vander Veer Park c. 1915. Loretta Clayton Donation 2003-43.

This photograph of the Upper Lagoon in  Vander Veer Botanical Park was taken in about 1915.  A stream connected it to the to the Lower Lagoon, the entire body of water running along the east side of the park. The Lower Lagoon still exists today at the park’s northern entrance.

While the original sepia-toned photograph is beautiful, we found it hard to see many of the finer details of features such as the stone bridge. For a clearer view, staff enhanced the photograph shown below by replacing the sepia tones with black-and-white coloring. Please click on the image for a larger view.

Color altered view of the above photograph to enhance details.

Color altered view of the above photograph to enhance details.

Purchased by the City of Davenport in 1885, the former fairground and horse track was slowly developed by the Parks Department, with its first grand design created in 1890.

Originally named Central Park (later renamed Vander Veer Park in 1911 in honor of A. W. Vander Veer) early unique features included a band shell, restaurant, palm house, conservatory, aviary, fountains, wading pools, and the two lagoons.

All that remains of the Upper Lagoon is the arch of the stone bridge, still a draw for all visitors.

Next time you cross the bridge at Vander Veer Park, close your eyes to feel the cool breezes and hear the sound of trickling water from summer days past.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival Posters

The 45th Annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival kicks off today!

Stop by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and browse through our collection of posters from past years, donated to us by our friends at the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society and the Bix Beiderbecke Museum and Archives.

Below are some of the new additions to our fine collection.

And never fear, our department is fully carpeted so if a jazz beat starts in your mind just let your feet tap away.

We are sure the jazz greats, including Bix, would approve.

Bix2016 Bix2015 Bix2014

Bix2013 Bix2012

(posted by Cristina)

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Riepe & Pratt’s: Swimming 1862 style

As the heat of summer continues to warm most us to unpleasant levels; we decided to take a look back on ways Davenporters have kept cool in the past. We were excited to come across this advertisement for Riepe & Pratt’s Bathing House and Swimming School from July 27, 1862.

Riepe and Pratt Swimming School

The Davenport Daily Gazette. July 27, 1862.

We were able to find that the school was owned and operated by Mr. William Riepe and Mr. William H. Pratt. They originally petitioned the City of Davenport to open the swimming school at the foot of Ripley Street where it meets the Mississippi River in June of 1861.

The gentlemen needed to get approval for their business from Davenport City Council due to a City ordinance that was passed on June 24, 1843 stating that no one was allowed to go into the river to bathe in front of the city from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset when bathing was then allowed, apparently through the night. A five dollar fine would be assessed for each offense for anyone breaking the ordinance.

The site selected for the bathing house and swimming school at the foot of Ripley Street would most definitely fall under this ordinance.

The two men filed a petition that was read at the June 5, 1861 Davenport City Council meeting to allow them a place for bathing in the river near Ripley Street. The motion was granted and the swim school began soon after.

Riepe Swim School

Davenport Daily Gazette, June 24, 1861.

A quick search of newspapers indicates that Mr. Pratt did not stay with the business for long, but Mr. Reipe maintained it every summer through the late 1860s.*

A few interesting items we noted in the July 27, 1862 advertisement includes the separate bathing times for women and men and the length of swimming time allowed based on physician recommendations.

One can only imagine how interesting it would have been to have been a patron of the swim school with the numerous boats loading and unloading both passengers and freight not far from the swimming area.

We hope that it at least provided a somewhat cool respite during those hot summer days.

*Davenport Daily Gazette, June 14, 1867.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Migration Is Beautiful

Our colleagues from the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa just launched a new website that we’re very excited about!

Migration is Beautiful was unveiled last week at the 2016 League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Convention in Washington, D.C. Researchers can explore the story of Latinos in Iowa through an interactive map, individual profiles and a narrative history supported by digitized primary source documents.

Migration Is Beautiful portable exhibit - photo by Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator, Iowa Women's Archives

Migration Is Beautiful portable exhibit – photo by Janet Weaver, Assistant Curator, Iowa Women’s Archives

Look under “Topics” to read about and explore resources on local Mexican-American neighborhoods: Cook’s Point in the west end of Davenport, Holy City in Bettendorf and La Yarda in Silvis.

The People section has biographical information on Latinas and Latinos in Iowa, including many Quad Citizens. Each profile includes oral history interviews, family photographs and documents that have been donated to the Archive and digitized for this project.

Browse through all digital content under the Davenport (Iowa) tag to see photos, newspaper clippings and other documents in their collection that relate to this area. You can also browse through other subjects.

The website developed from their Mujeres Latinas Project, which has been collecting primary source materials about the history of Latinas and their families in Iowa. University of Iowa Libraries staff and UI graduate students conducted over 100 oral history interviews and the Archives received donations of letters, memoirs and photographs from people and organizations in the community.

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Racing all the Rage: Bicyclists Speed Through Davenport on the Fourth of July, 1901

From their earliest days, the citizens of Davenport have loved to race. Looking through newspapers and other records, we have come across foot races, horse races, and running races. This year, when researching the history of past Fourth of July’s, we were excited to come across information on a different type: bicycle races!

By the late 1890s in Davenport, Iowa, like many other areas of the United States and Europe, bicycling was all the rage. The Davenport Daily Leader of August 29, 1898 reported that the Tri-Angle Cycling Club of Davenport wore the colors turquoise, blue, and petunia on their cycling costumes as they rode about the city and countryside.

As bicycles developed sturdier frames and wheels, and individuals became more proficient in their use,  it seemed natural that the next step would be bicycle races. In 1901, the bicycle dealers of Davenport decided the perfect day for a race would be the Fourth of July.

Planning began on June 13th. The race was open to anyone who could pay the $1 entry fee and ride 12 miles.  The starting line was located at Fourteenth and Brady Streets and the route ran as follows: riders would head east on Fourteenth Street to Grand Avenue, then north to High Street, and then east on High Street  to the Orphans’ Home Road (now Eastern Avenue). Going north on Orphan’s Home Road, the race would go to Pine Hill Cemetery, west to Brady Street, through Central Park (now Vander Veer Park), and back to the starting line. The riders would travel the course twice. (1)

Fourteen prizes would be awarded in two categories: “Best Time” and “Place of Place”(which seems to be the number they crossed the finish line). And just to make sure the race did not cut into the Fourth of July celebrations or the heat of the day, it was scheduled to begin at 8:30 in the morning.

Davenport Mayor Fred Heinz accepted the invitation to be the official starter of the race. The race also included a referee, a Clerk of Course, judges, timers, and checkers. The checkers were spread out along the course to make sure the riders followed the correct route.

By July 3rd, 32 bicyclists were signed up for the race. Considering the area was suffering a heat wave, it was probably wise to begin the race early in the morning! The riders were divided into groups of three to five riders so not all would be riding on the streets at one time. Large crowds were expected to be watching the event, so Davenport Police Chief Frank Kessler placed officers along the route to help make sure the crowd did not interfere with the race. (2)

By all accounts, the road race was a great success. The expected winner, Mr. Andy Johnson of Moline, came in second to Mr. Roy Vosberg of Davenport in the “Point of Place” category. Mr. Johnson tied with Mr. Fred Doeckel of Rock Island for best time. The Davenport Democrat of July 5 kindly suggested that perhaps Mr. Johnson had been a little too confident of his chances to win and should have tried harder.

 On July 5th, the Davenport Democrat reported that there had been some minor accidents on the course. Mr. Charles Polchow took a spill when he ran into a dog that had wandered onto the course (both were unharmed). A Mr. A. N. Rust was forced to drop out after his bicycle tire was punctured, and although a Mr. Will Zimmerman suffered some defect to his bicycle, he somehow managed to borrow another bicycle and finish the race.

After the race was completed, awards were distributed: Mr. Vosberg received a $35 gold watch and a gas lamp; Mr. George R. Meyer won a Crosby bicycle.

Not everyone was pleased with the results. Referee Emil Kostlatomsky was still in the possession of the $50 Al-Ard bicycle and the $8 pair of Perfection tires. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Doeckel, who tied for “Best Time,” could not agree on who was to receive which one of those prizes. (3)

If we ever do find out how Mr. Johnson and Mr. Doeckel decided to divide up their prizes, we will be sure to let you know! In all, it appears Davenport’s Fourth of July bicycle race of 1901 was a great success.

Happy Fourth of July from the staff of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center of the Davenport Public Library!

(posted by Amy D.)


(1) Davenport Daily Leader, June 25, 1901. Pg. 5.

(2) Davenport Democrat, July 3, 1901. Pg. 6.

(3) Davenport Republican, July 6, 1901. Pg. 7.

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Quad Cities Museum Week 2016

Celebrate Quad Cities Museum Week (June 18-26th) with us by taking a look at the history of the associations between two of Davenport’s well-loved cultural and educational institutions: the Putnam Museum and Science Center and the Figge Art Museum.

The Davenport Academy of Sciences, predecessor to the Putnam, began December 14, 1867, when four amateur scientists and collectors of area natural history specimens met to discuss how they might advance knowledge in the scientific communities both locally and worldwide. The public’s first view of the Academy’s collections came in 1874, when member Mary Louisa Duncan Putnam arranged for their display in rented rooms in the Odd Fellows building on Brady Street. In honor of her dying son Joseph Duncan’s benefit from (and dedication to) the Academy, Mary worked tirelessly to raise funds for a museum building. (1)

This image from the RSSC Center’s  J. B. Hostetler collection shows the location of the Davenport Academy of Sciences at 700-704 Brady Street:

dplvm89-000603 Acad of Sci

When the museum opened in 1878, the visitors were invited to view not only the Putnams’ and other members’ specimen collections, but the first exhibition by the Art Association of Davenport.  Said the Association of the Academy: “[It] has given expression to a spirit of genuine philanthropy by providing, free of rent, in its new building, a commodious Art Gallery, expressly for and well suited to the purposes and needs of the Association.” (2) The Association also offered art classes in the Academy building through the 1880’s.

Another connection between the two museums was in the person of Charles August Ficke, the attorney whose donation of paintings to the City of Davenport formed the nucleus of what is today the Figge Art Museum’s collection. He was elected president of the Davenport Academy of Sciences in 1906, and contributed significantly its collections with anthropological and art objects he brought back from his many travels.



Ficke’s collection of paintings was not displayed at the Academy building, however.  The City agreed to renovate Battery B Armory building at 120 West 5th Street as exhibition space for his generous donation, making the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery one of the first municipal art galleries in the country, and the very first in Iowa. It opened in October of 1924.


When civic-minded individuals, the City of Davenport, and leaders of both the Academy of Sciences (now called the Davenport Public Museum) and the Art Gallery began to recognize that better facilities were needed to preserve and interpret their collections, plans were laid for a “community cultural campus” on the grounds of the former Koenig estate at 12th and Division Streets. The W. C. Putnam estate provided major support for the project.

This Municipal Art Gallery catalog from our ephemera collection shows the newly-minted campus in 1964. The Davenport Public Museum is to the left, the Gallery to the right:


The campus is certainly recognizable as today’s Putnam Museum and (renamed as such in 1974), the Art Gallery (or Davenport Museum of Art) having moved to the David Chipperfield-designed building at 225 West 2nd Street  in 2005 and renamed as the Figge.

Although the Putnam and the Figge now operate separately, special events such as Quad Cities Museum Week preserve the spirit of cooperation among museums and other centers of learning that began in Davenport in the latter part of the nineteenth century. And here at the Davenport Public Library, you can discover their past as well as their present: passes to the Putnam and the Figge are available for checkout any week of the year!

(posted by Katie)


(1) McDonald, Julie. The Odyssey of A Museum: A Short History of the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science 1867-1992. Davenport: Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science, 1992.

(2) Art Association of Davenport. Catalogue of a Loan Collection of Pictures Forming the First Exhibition by the Art Association of Davenport… Davenport: Egbert, Fidlar, & Chambers, 1878.

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Davenporters of Note: Thomas J. Walsh

In the course of researching the people appearing in the portrait photographs in our J. B. Hostetler collection, we often discover interesting ways in which Quad-City notables are connected to the wider world.  A case in point is Thomas Joseph Walsh:

Thomas Joseph Walsh was born February 28, 1886 in Davenport, Iowa. His parents were Patrick T. and Catherine Beecher Walsh. He attended St. Mary’s School and graduated from St. Mary’s College in Kansas in 1906.

Thomas J. Walsh [ca. 1910's] Photographed by J. B. Hostetler

Thomas J. Walsh [ca. 1910’s] Photographed by J. B. Hostetler

He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1906, shortly after graduating from St. Mary’s College and was a reserve catcher. Walsh played 3 innings over 2 games (August 15th and September 26th) and had just 1 time up at bat in his Major League Baseball career. He left at the end of the 1906 season to help with his family’s business, Walsh Construction Co. in Davenport.

By George Lawrence Company - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain

By George Lawrence Company – Heritage Auctions, Public Domain

Tom became president of Walsh Construction Co. after the death of his father in 1916. Under his direction, the company worked on  a variety of projects: railroads, bridges, industrial and office buildings, hard rock and soft ground tunnels, earth and concrete dams, dry docks, shipyard construction, shipbuilding, airfields, military construction, water supply and sewer systems and sewage disposal plants. Some of the most notable projects include: the Queens Midtown Tunnel in New York City (1940); New York Central Railroad terminal in Buffalo, NY (1929); The Grand Coulee Dam (1937); and the United Nations Building in New York City (1952). Local projects include ALCOA Davenport Works (1954), The Kahl Building (1920) and the Davenport Bank & Trust Building (1927).

Mrs. Tom (Gabrielle Bilderbach) Walsh with couple's 4 oldest children: Kathleen, Thomas Jr., Gabrielle and Rosemary. [ca. 1916] Photographed by J.B. Hostetler.

Mrs. Tom (Gabrielle Bilderbach) Walsh with couple’s 4 oldest children: Kathleen, Thomas Jr., Gabrielle and Rosemary. [ca. 1916] Photographed by J.B. Hostetler.

Thomas Walsh married Gabrielle Bilderback on August 16, 1911 in Chicago. They had 6 children, Kathleen (Mrs. A. Linton Lundy, Jr.) was born July 11, 1912; Thomas, Jr. was born October 23, 1913; Gabrielle was born June 12, 1915; Rosemary (Mrs. Dan W. Quail) was born October 23, 1916; Eleanor (Mrs. John Meyer) was born March 6, 1923; and Sheila (Mrs. Brian S. Murdock) was born January 17, 1928. The family lived at 833 College Avenue in Davenport.

T.J. Walsh died in Naples, Florida on March 16, 1963.

(posted by Cristina)


Baseball-Reference.com. n.d. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/walshto01.shtml (accessed June 16, 2016).

Sunday Times-Democrat. “T.J. Walsh Dies; Long A Builder.” March 17, 1963: 1.

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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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