New LibGuide – Bix Beiderbecke

Our latest LibGuide covers all of our available resources on Davenport native jazz musician, Bix Beiderbecke.

The new LibGuide can be accessed through the Suggested Research Topics page on our website.


It lists everything from books, video recordings, audio recordings, sheet music, photographs, posters and other documents relating to Bix, The Beiderbecke family, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival and the Bix 7 Race in the Davenport Public Library collection. It also includes links to our blog posts, newspaper indexes and journal citations.


We are working on scanning and uploading more photographs to the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive and will add them to the LibGuide soon.

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Great Iowa Traditions: Bix 7 Race and RAGBRAI

Two great Iowa traditions, one local and one statewide, meet in Davenport this Saturday, July 25th and we are all very excited.

The local based event is the Quad City Times Bix 7 Road Race which will start at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. Started in 1975 with a total of 84 runners this race now involves 12,000 plus participants.

If you are not interested in running or walking 7 miles that morning there are other options as well. You may volunteer, join the crowds along the route to cheer on participants, or visit the street fair in downtown Davenport. This amazing tradition is 41 years strong in 2015.

A few years ago we published a bit of information on another foot race up the steep hills of Davenport. It seems our 1858 citizens viewed the hills as a challenge too.

The second event in Davenport this Saturday is the end of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa which is more commonly known as RAGBRAI.

Started in 1973 by the Des Moines Register newspaper, this event starts somewhere in western Iowa along the Missouri or Big Sioux Rivers. This seven day non-competitive bicycle ride takes participants across Iowa via a planned route that ends somewhere along the Mississippi River.

Traditionally participants dip their rear bike wheels in the Missouri River or Big Sioux River before starting out and their front wheels in the Mississippi River upon completion. The dipping spot this year for participants will be Credit Island as Davenport is once again pleased to be the ending spot for this great ride.

One of the RAGBRAI participants has chosen a special recognition for Davenport. A police officer with the Iowa State University Police Department is riding in honor of Davenport Police Officer Michael Farnsworth who died in the line of duty on December 5, 1971. We wish this officer and all RAGBRAI participants a safe journey as they travel to Davenport.

The wonderful part of Saturday is you will be able to join the Bix 7 race (either as a participant, volunteer, or sidelines cheering section) in the morning, stop by Credit Island to welcome RAGBRAI riders in the afternoon (and see the wheel dipping celebration), and still have time for street festivities in downtown Davenport in the evening.

And don’t forget to add to your calendars the Bix Porch Party next Thursday, July 30th from 11:00 – 1:00 outside the Davenport Public Library – Main Street Branch. This event helps kick off the 44th Annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival which will run from July 30th – August 2nd in downtown Davenport at the Davenport River Center and other downtown venues.

So come join us in Davenport and be a part of the festivities!


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Myths vs. Facts: The Life and Death of Schuyler Peck

An obituary for Schuyler Peck was published in the Davenport Democrat and Leader on July 14, 1925. Mr. Peck was a well known character in Davenport, but he died alone at the Scott County Poor Farm, with no immediate family to mourn him or provide information about his life.

An article published the next day gives a more complete obituary, with stories told by Fred Kendell, an old friend of Mr. Peck. And on July 20th a “W.H.H.” wrote a letter to the editor, giving some background of Mr. Peck’s family life and his relationship with his mother.

The stories piqued our interest so we did some investigating, using our available sources to try to separate fact from fiction.

The newspaper writers were not sure if that was his real name or just a nickname. We found several sources that list his name as “Schuyler C. Peck”, son of Thomas F. and Elizabeth (Gates) Peck. The 1880 Census lists him as “Charles”, which may have been his middle name.

His friend Fred Kendell said that Schuyler had been born “on Front Street, between Perry and Rock Island Streets”. The Census for 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1885 and an 1890 marriage record all list his birthplace as “Indiana”, same as his mother’s. But the 1915 Census lists his birthplace as “Iowa”. Both parents were living in Davenport at the time of the 1856 Census but the family had moved to Jo Daviess Co. Illinois by the 1860 Census. It is possible that his parents went back to Indiana in the late 1850’s and then moved to Illinois shortly after he was born.

Mr. Kendell then says that Schuyler’s parents moved to Perry Street, above Fourth Street, almost directly across from Burtis Opera House. The Census for 1880 and 1885, and the Davenport City Directory for 1888 all list their address as 420 Perry Street.

The letter to the editor from July 20th talks a lot about Schuyler’s mother, who ran “Peck’s Eating House” on Perry Street. The 1888 Davenport City Directory lists Thomas F. Peck as the proprietor of the R.R. Eating House, located at 418-422 Perry Street.

Mr. Kendell claims that Schuyler lost both parents at age 15. According to Scott County Probate Records, his mother Elizabeth died on April 25, 1891 and his father Thomas died on May 10, 1892, when Schuyler was an adult over 31 years of age.

They claimed that a “distant relative” had died and left him a large inheritance, which he spent on fancy clothes. A check of the Scott County Probate Records shows that his father Thomas died in May of 1892 and Schuyler, his only heir, received $1,333.80 on September 18, 1893.

The newspaper writers list his occupation as “expressman” and hack driver”, and his friend Fred Kendell says Schuyler took a job as a brakeman on the Rock Island Lines. A check of Davenport City Directories and Federal & State Census give his occupation as clerk at W. A. Philips Feed Store (1880), brakeman for the C R I & P (1881), a R. R. employee (1885), baggageman for C R I & P (1888) and laborer for H E Winters Specialty Co. (1920) and Peterson Oil Co. (1921).

His obituary says that he joined Ringling Bros circus as a Hayseed Clown before moving back to Davenport. Schuyler does not appear in the Davenport City Directories in the 1890’s. At the time of his father’s death in 1892 his whereabouts were unknown and it was thought he was residing in Cedar Rapids. There is a marriage record in Council Bluffs between Schuyler C. Peck, son of Thomas & Elizabeth, and Elizabeth A. Axtell, daughter of Alfred and Louisa. He does not appear in the Davenport City Directories again until 1906. We haven’t been able to verify the circus clown story, but if he did join the circus, it was likely sometime in the 1890’s.

Schuyler Peck was known to frequent an area of Davenport known as “Buck Town”, where he spent his leisure and working hours delivering to dance halls, saloons and gambling halls. We found a newspaper article in the Rock Island Argus about an arrest in a barn at the rear of the “old Friendly House on East Second Street”, where he and 12 other had been picked up by police for drinking and charged with being inmates of a disorderly house. The Davenport Police Blotter for August 3, 1913 lists him as being 5’8 with dark complexion and his occupation as a laborer.

Another interesting newspaper notice was published in the Davenport Daily Leader on December 13, 1891. It says that “Mrs. Schuyler Peck” who ran the “den” on Front Street, was arrested shortly before midnight. A check of the Davenport Police Matron Reports for December 1891 lists “Mrs. May Peck”, age 35, charged with “keeping a house of ill fame”. We’re not if May was really married to Schuyler or not. She had a few more run ins with the law, so look for a future blog post from us about Mrs. Peck’s adventures.

We hope this serves as a reminder to not believe everything you read in the newspapers. And that we have primary sources available to help verify or debunk these fantastic tales.


(posted by Cristina)

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SO CUTE!! Vintage Fejervary Petting Zoo Photos

Mother Goose is once again welcoming children at Fejervary Park.

The City of Davenport Parks & Recreation Department will be hosting Family Fun Days at Fejervary Learning Center on the third Saturday of the month. Upcoming dates are July 18, August 15, September 19 and October 17. They feature family activities including a petting zoo, bounce houses and games.

Mother Goose Land at Fejervary Zoo opened in 1953 and closed in 1979.

These adorable photos came from the City of Davenport Leisure Services & Facilities (now called Parks & Recreation) and are part of our Archive & Manuscript Collections.

Even though the Old West town, Monkey Island, and fairy tale exhibits are no longer; Mother Goose still stands in the beautiful park waiting to greet today’s young visitors.


Entrance to children’s zoo at Fejervary Park [ca.1950’s]


Three children and fawn, calico [May 1956]


Four girls and ducks by castle in Fejervary Park [ca.1950’s]


Boy holding raccoon [ca. 1950’s]


People watching ducks by castle in Fejervary Park [ca. 1950’s]


Children petting donkey at Fejervary Park [May 1958]

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A Fine Fourth of July Celebration: 1890

As our thoughts turn to Fourth of July we are sharing an advertisement for a celebration that provided entertainment for the whole family.

Taken from the July 2, 1890 Davenport Daily Times included in the day were a Reunion of Old Soldiers, Sham Battle, Balloon Ascension, and evening Fireworks.

A truly fine event.

4th of July

A Happy Fourth of July to everyone!

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Five Score and Ten Years Ago: Laying the cornerstone for Davenport (Central) High School

110 years ago on June 19, 1905 the cornerstone for the “new” Davenport High School building was laid. A parade of 4,000 children walked from Washington Square to the Main Street site where the basement walls had been raised. There were orations by honored guests and a 40-piece band directed by Prof. Ernst Otto played to an enthusiastic reception. Superintendent J.B. Young placed a metallic box in the cornerstone that included a handwritten list of high school faculty members, the names of all the graduates of the school and photographs of Kemper Hall, Sheldon Hall and Griswold College among many other items.

The architectural firm of Claussen and Burrows designed the $250,000 building described as a superior facility. The site chosen was “ideal” – located on the top of Main Street hill on grounds originally occupied by Iowa College (which moved to Grinnell) and later by Griswold College. The site commanded “a magnificent view of the city and the Father of Waters.”

Fine Auditorium

On the first story will be the main entrances from the east and west with an additional entrance on the north side for the auditorium. The auditorium, including the gallery, will have a seating capacity of 1,200. This place of assembly will outrank room 10, the place of convocation in the present High school, in every way.

110 years later, it is refreshing to see the commitment to this school as ground is broken for a new auditorium and pool on this ideal site! Although there was no parade or band, there were news crews and tweets and tumbles to spread the good news. We congratulate Davenport Central High School and copy the sentiments of one of those gracious speakers in 1905 who said, “Let it rise, gentlemen, in the sunlight of modern progress; let its banners wave in the air of intellectual freedom and let the spirit of tolerance abide within its halls forever and forever.”



History of Scott County, Iowa [Downer, 1910]

Davenport Democrat and Leader, Tuesday, June 20, 1905, “Cornerstone of New $250,000 High School Laid Yesterday”

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Daddy Doodles

One of our favorite books in our collection is A portfolio of cartoons as published by the Davenport Times 1912-13. As the title suggests, it contains a series of caricatures of prominent Davenport citizens that were published in the local newspaper just over 100 years ago. The cartoons were accompanied by short descriptive poems written by Irving C. Norwood.

While browsing through the cartoons, we noticed not only several successful men, but their successful sons as well. In honor of Father’s Day, we would like to share with your some of those pages (and another sketch from our photograph collection). We’ve added full names, birth and death years, and career paths below the sketch.

– Congressman Joe R. Lane of Lane & Waterman was also VP of First National Bank.

Joe R. Lane (1858-1931), lawyer; father of J. Reed Lane.

Joe R. Lane (1858-1931), lawyer; father of James Reed Lane.

J. Reed Lane, like his father, was also a lawyer and associated with many companies.

James Reed Lane (1889-1955), lawyer, son of Joe R. Lane.

James Reed Lane (1889-1955), lawyer, son of Joe R. Lane.

– G.W. French was president of French & Hecht and lived at Iowana Farms.

George Watson French (1858-1934), manufacturer, father of G. Decker French

George Watson French (1858-1934), manufacturer, father of George Decker French

– G. Decker French was president of Central Engineering Company.

G. Decker French (1887-1959), contractor, son of George Watson French

George Decker French (1887-1959), contractor, son of George Watson French

C.A. Ficke was kind of a big deal. See our LibGuide for more information.

Charles August Ficke (1850-1931), lawyer, father of Arthur Davison Ficke

Charles August Ficke (1850-1931), lawyer, father of Arthur Davison Ficke

– Author A. D. Ficke was not included in the book like father C. A. Ficke. This etching of A. D. Ficke was made by Josef Pierre Nuyttens in 1914.

Arthur Davison Ficke (1883-1945), writer, son of Charles August Ficke

Arthur Davison Ficke (1883-1945), writer, son of Charles August Ficke


posted by Cristina

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The Day a Public Enemy Came to Davenport

It probably started as a routine patrol for Officer Elmer Schlueter on June 14, 1934. It was a warm summer morning at about 10:30 a.m. Officer Schlueter, a twelve year veteran of the Davenport Police Department, was patrolling the levee area near LeClaire Park when something out of the ordinary caught his eye.

It was a well-dressed man in a gray checkered suit carrying a large briefcase. He seemed out of place when Officer Schlueter approached him. Schlueter asked to look in the briefcase. The man handed it over and Officer Schlueter began to look through its contents.

Suddenly the man drew a gun and managed to disarm the officer. He forced Schlueter down the path leading to the Municipal Baseball Stadium. At that moment former Alderman and current secretary-treasurer of the Davenport Baseball Club, Al Schultze, was driving towards the men from the stadium. The armed man stopped Schultze’s car, forced Schlueter and himself into the back seat and ordered Schultze to drive. They headed along Rockingham Road west towards Buffalo.

Officer Elmer Schlueter and Al Schultze would soon learn they had been kidnapped by Joe Palmer, murderer and part-time member of the Barrow Gang. The gang had made headlines starting in 1932 for not only bank robberies, but murder as well. Barrow members Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker had been shot and killed on May 23, 1934 in Louisiana. The remaining free gang members were doing their best to avoid arrest. They were wanted in several states for their numerous crimes.

Witnesses immediately alerted the Davenport Police Department to the kidnapping. The police department was faced with two scenarios. The first being this was “just” a kidnapping that had taken place. The second scenario was the possibility this was part of a larger heist. With all officers on alert searching for the kidnap victims would other criminals be waiting to stage bank robberies in an unprotected city?

The police department split its resources sending some officers to cover local city banks while all others went out in force to find the missing men. The Scott County Sheriff called on their Vigilantes to go to county banks to cover them in case of attempted robberies.

Soon Mr. Schultze’s car was located on the side of the road near Blue Grass. It was then reported that Walcott veterinarian, Dr. W. H. Fitch, had never returned from a call he made to the Bernick farm in Blue Grass. He was last seen driving a Ford coupe about 10:45 a.m.

By 2:00 p.m. a report was made of a car matching Dr. Fitch’s driving rapidly west on Route 6 near Walcott. Officers immediately started in pursuit and cities along the way were notified to be on the lookout.

Davenport Police Chief Sam Kelly ordered all officers not on duty to head to Blue Grass and Walcott. They searched all wooded areas along the roadside to see if they could find the victims. All they found were veterinarian supplies and a briefcase. Even a local airplane was put into service to fly over the county to try to spot either the car or the men. No trace could be found.

Finally, at 3:45 a.m. on June 15th a call came into the Davenport Police Department. It was Officer Schlueter. He, Al Schultze, and Dr. Fitch had been released by their kidnapper in St. Joseph, Missouri. Both The Daily Times and The Davenport Democrat covered the story of their ordeal.

Al Schultze reported that Palmer was not happy with the condition of his car and soon after they got into Blue Grass Dr. Fitch was waved over while driving towards Davenport. Palmer soon had Officer Schlueter, who stood about 6 feet tall, placed in the small trunk of Fitch’s coupe. He locked the trunk and then ordered Fitch and Schultze into the car. Palmer made one of the men drive the car while he sat in the back with the remaining man. He kept a gun pointed at the man sitting next to him and told the driver if he made any wrong moves the other man was dead.

The route Palmer made the men drive headed west to Iowa City and then on to Washington, Kansas. They then back tracked into Iowa and headed towards St. Joseph, Missouri.

During the trip, Palmer made sure his kidnap victims saw the two .45 caliber automatic pistols he carried. He told the men they were gifts from Clyde Barrow who he spoke of in glowing terms. Palmer had no love for Officer Schlueter, or any other police officers. He mentioned several times during the kidnapping he should “do something” to Schlueter, but never followed through on the threat.

Of the three kidnapped men, Schlueter suffered the most physically during the ordeal. He was forced to lay on his side in the cramped trunk with the lid pressing into him. Breathing was difficult in that position and the heat from the sun hitting the car’s metal frame caused the small area to become a sweltering prison.

Suddenly, just after 3:00 a.m. Joe Palmer had the driver stop the car. He said he would let them have the car if they would return directly to Davenport. The men readily agreed. Palmer robbed the men of their money ($135 from Dr. Fitch, $93 from Al Schultze, and $1 from Officer Schlueter), but returned $15 to help them make the trip back to Davenport. Then Joe Palmer simply walked away.

Officer Schlueter, Mr. Schultze, and Dr. Fitch located police officers within 15 minutes of being released. Palmer was soon caught and taken into custody.

While being questioned in St. Joseph, Joe Palmer stated he kidnapped Officer Schlueter fearing he had seen a gun that was inside the briefcase. If Palmer was taken into custody he feared his identity would be discovered and he would be returned to Texas where he faced not only an escape charge from a jailbreak in early 1934, but the killing of a guard in the process.

Palmer asked to be taken to Davenport to face kidnapping charges. The sentence for that would be less than what he faced in Texas. Instead, he was returned to Texas where he was put on trial before being sent to the electric chair on May 10, 1935 along with fellow Barrow gang member Raymond Hamilton.

The families of Elmer Schlueter, Al Schultze, and Dr. Fitch were relieved when the men drove into town the evening of June 15th. The newspapers carried banner headlines of their return. Soon, life seemed to quiet down and the headlines were about other local stories.

The Barrow Gang’s crime spree ended in 1934 with the death of Clyde and Bonnie along with the arrest of many of its members. Officer Schlueter would return to work and eventually retire from the Davenport Police Department on July 16, 1946 after 24 years of service.

The early 1930’s were filled with gangs crisscrossing the United States stopping in small towns to rob banks or hide out. We feel certain that the people of Davenport were glad that no event like the day Joe Palmer came to town happened again.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Awash in the Electric Glow: Vander Veer Fountain’s 80th Year

One of Davenport’s local attractions is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. The electric fountain at Vander Veer Botanical Park opened on May 29, 1935 to the fascinated gazes of children and adults alike.

The new fountain took the place of an older Victorian fountain made of iron that had become structurally unsafe and was removed shortly before the new fountain’s construction began.

The Daily Times gave a full report on the construction of the fountain in its May 30, 1935 edition. The four basic colors used in the light display were amber, red, blue, and green. Seven projectors and three different types of sprays helped create the magical evening show that fascinated thousands of visitors that summer.

According to The City of Davenport, Iowa Annual Report 1934 – 1935 the fountain cost $3,091.73 to building during Fiscal Year 1935.  An additional $597.45 was spent during Fiscal Year 1936 to finish the fountain project according to the 1935 – 1936 report.


Construction work on the stone fountain at Vander Veer Park. [ca. 1933]

Since its first day of operation 80 years ago the fountain has had its ups and downs in operation. There were long periods of closure as worn out parts and finances stopped the beautiful night shows.

The fountain was once again restored and came alight in the summer of 2004. It remains a popular spot on hot summer days and (hopefully) cool evenings to visit.

If you haven’t been by recently, maybe stop by this summer to take a break, enjoy the beauty, and be part of a special 80-year-old tradition.


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Brown Bag Lunch Presentation: Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator

Author William M. Miller will be at the Davenport Main Library on Thursday, June 4th at noon for a presentation on local pioneer aviator Eugene Ely.

Bring your own lunch from home or pick up a boxed lunch from any of the nearby Downtown Davenport restaurants.

Check out this blog post about Eugene Ely published in November 2010 in honor of National Aviation Month.

For fans of local history, aviation history, biographies, daredevils and stunts!


(posted by Cristina)

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