Spanning the Years: the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge

Preparations for the new 1-74 bridge across the Mississippi River have been making headlines in our area newspapers lately, so we thought it was time to take a look at the bridge that’s been connecting the two halves of the Quad-Cities for seventy-seven years.

Iowa-Illinois Bridge 1935Due primarily to financial considerations, the original 1,480-foot span of the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge (not including the anchorages) was owned and operated by the city of Davenport, even though was built three miles away, between Bettendorf, Iowa and Moline, Illinois.

The two-lane suspension bridge cost $1.46 million, with $330 thousand contributed by the Federal Public Works Administration.  It opened  November 18, 1935, and drivers were charged a toll—originally 15 cents—to cross.

The traffic over the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge increased steadily over the next decade, and it became clear that an additional span was needed.

Construction began on the second span in 1958.   Loop ramps were added on the Bettendorf end to the east of the original bridge and west of the new span.  In Moline,  land was cleared for the approach to the new span at 19th Street and 3rd—the old had ended at 20th and 3rd—and the traffic patterns of that part of the city were changed to accommodate the predicted increase in flow to and from the expanded bridge.

The total cost of the new span was a little under $6.2 million.  It opened on January 20, 1960, making the Memorial Bridge one of the few twin suspension bridges in the country at the time.

I-74 Bridge  cica 1965The bridge wasn’t made part of the 1-74 corridor until the mid-seventies, when the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation took over co-ownership and joint maintenance of the bridge.

We hope that the new bridge will serve our community, visitors, and passersby as well as the old one has!


For a detailed history of the first span and an extremely thorough examination of the construction of the second span, we invite our patrons to visit our Center and take a look at the final report to the Davenport Bridge Commission by the engineer firm of Modjeski and Masters.

This volume is in our catalog under the title,  Expansion and Improvement of the Iowa-Illinois Memorial Bridge (SC 917.7 Exp), and includes  photos, budget lines, traffic maps, and even road stress charts!




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A Gold Star – or Badge: The Davenport Police Department’s 175th Anniversary

We were excited to see an article in the January 16, 2014 Quad City Times about the Davenport Police Department’s 175th Anniversary. What a monumental occasion.

In celebration, current officers are sporting badges reminiscent of those worn by their predecessors in the late 1800s. What a wonderful idea!

It seems like a fun time to bump up an older blog we wrote about the mystery of who the first Marshal of Davenport was. We invite our readers to come in to Special Collections to explore our wonderful resources – and maybe solve a few more mysteries for us!

Maybe we could even call this a Thursday Throwback? Enjoy If At First You Don’t Know.




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Simple Beauty: The Wedding of Miss Blanche Boggess and Frank Edwin Gorman

Gorman Wedding

On January 10, 1912, Blanche Elizabeth Boggess married Frank Edwin Gorman in a ceremony at the Rock Island home of her parents, 926 Seventeenth Street.

Miss Boggess was an active member in the social circles of Rock Island, Illinois, while Mr. Gorman was a young Davenport businessman who co-owned the Gorman Bros. cigar company and Gorman & Sons, a successful printing business.

The Davenport Democrat allotted almost eight column inches to the event the following day, and included a detailed description of the bride’s wedding finery.  No photographs accompanied the article—that wasn’t often done in 1912.

Luckily, the couple had their photographs taken by the Hostetler Studios in Davenport:

Gorman-Boggess Bride

“The bride’s dress was of ivory white satin, made entrain, and trimmed with point lace.  Her long veil was held in place with Orange blossoms, and she also wore a bando and collar of pearls, while her flowers were lilies of the valley in a round bouquet.”

Gorman Bride Detail

Detail of the pearl bando and collar.

The flowers mentioned in the article are omitted from the photographs, which seems to indicate that they were not taken the day of the wedding.  In fact, as the bride and groom were not photographed together and their glass negatives were filed under different numbers, it may be possible that they visited the Hostetler Studios separately before the day of the ceremony, so the groom wouldn’t see the bride’s dress before the ceremony.

The Hostetler Studio does not appear to have taken any photographs taken of the rest of the bridal party—or not under the names of the bride or groom at least—but the Democrat offers a lovely description:

“The maid of honor [the bride’s cousin, Miss Helen Krell, of Rock Island] was dressed in pink chiffon cloth over pink satin, and she carried pink Killarney roses . . . the bridesmaids [The bride’s cousin Miss Lillian Boggess of San Francisco and Miss Ella Baumback of Rock Island] were in pink chiffon cloth over white satin and their flowers were arm bouquets of the pink roses, while the little ring bearer [the groom’s niece, Miss Rosemary Gorman], who carried the wedding ring in the heart of a rose, was all in white.”

The newspaper didn’t appear to care what the groom wore—traditionally, no one did except perhaps for the bride and her mother—but as the Hostetler Studio shows us, he cut quite the dapper figure.

Gorman Groom Standing

After the ceremony, a wedding supper was enjoyed by 125 guests, after which the bride and groom went on an extended wedding trip, intending to return and set up household in Walsh Flats on West 4th Street in Davenport—a very fashionable address for the newly wed.


(Posted by Sarah)


“The Gorman-Boggess Wedding, Rock Island.”  Davenport Democrat, 11Jan1912, p.8.

The Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive

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A New (Old) Look at the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home

For many of us, when the name Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home or Annie Wittenmyer Home is mentioned we think of the beautiful two-story red brick cottages that exist today on the site.


These were not the original buildings that the orphans arrived to in November 1865. The site had been home to Camp Roberts, later renamed Camp Kinsman, for Calvary units during the Civil War. Left behind after the war, the military barracks, hospital, kitchen, and miscellaneous buildings had been roughly updated for the needs of the children.

According to the Davenport Daily Gazette on November 16, 1865

“On the north side of the square is a row of six-one-storied houses each of which is divided into three departments: 32×20 for a sleeping room to accommodate about 30 children, 22×16 for a sitting and study room, 10×12 for the teacher’s room.” (Pg. 4)

As indicated, every cottage had one adult living with the children. Meals were taken in a large separate dining room, and the hospital reopened for sick children. Other buildings were also modified for the needs of the orphanage.

Until recently we had to use our imaginations to picture what the original Soldiers’ Home buildings looked like. We are excited that two stereoview cards dating from the late 1860s are now part of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

The images were taken and published by John G. Evans of Muscatine, Iowa and published as part of his Evans’ Western Views collection.

May we present Image 135 from the Evans’ collection. Labeled View at the Orphans’ Home, Davenport, Iowa.

evans stereograph-1

(posted by Amy D.)

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Our “Special” visitors for 2013

In 2013, genealogists and history researchers came from all over the country (and the world!) to the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, to use our wonderful resources.

They came from far away to fill in the blank branches of their Family Trees. They found copies of birth, marriage and death records of their Scott County, Iowa ancestors. They came to do research on the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, Colonel George Davenport and Bix Beiderbecke. They looked at newspaper articles on microfilm, online databases we subscribe to and our photograph collection. Their searches were made easier by the many indices that have been prepared by our volunteers from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society.

Last year we had visitors from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, California and Australia.

Our superlatives were: Fort Myers, Florida in the southeast; Seattle, Washington in the northwest; Greenland, New Hampshire in the northeast; and our furthest traveler, from the southwest, came all the from Australia!

Check out this map with all of our visitors for the year 2013, as recorded in our Guest Book. Pretty cool, huh?

View 2013 Special Collections Visitors in a larger map

We thank our guest for visiting us this past year. We hope to see you again soon! And if you came in to visit but did not sign our guest book, let us know in the comments, so we can add you to our map!

Are you planning to visit us this year? We look forward to helping you!

(posted by Cristina)

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A Very P.S.C. Christmas

Recently, as we were searching for an obituary in the Davenport Democrat  for December 17, 1922, we found an advertisement for the P.S.C Cafeteria at the “top of Brady Street Hill.”

17Dec1922 PSC Cafeteria

Naturally, we were curious.

With a little further searching, we confirmed that “P.S.C.” stood for Palmer School of Chiropractic, which did have a cafeteria that was popular with both students and residents.  Images from the Upper Mississippi Digital Image Archive show it to be large and clean, with clever sayings on the walls, like “Cast your bread upon the workers, and it will return  sandwiches” and “Eat, drink and be merry for each makes life worth while.”

It also made perfect sense that the Cafeteria  would be open on Christmas Day, as so many of their students had come from other areas—and in many cases other countries—and might not have had the opportunity or means to go home for the holidays.

And what was the homesick Palmer student—or anyone else who wanted a generously-portioned holiday meal without have to cook or dress to the nines for it—served for Christmas dinner between Noon and 2pm in 1922?

We found the answer on page 21 of the The Daily Times for December 20th:

20Dec1922 PSC Cafeteria

Sounds good to us—and a good value, too!

In fact, if a diner had opted for the roast goose with mashed potatoes, creamed onions, corn, and spinach, rolls, and coffee, with mince pie for dessert, the whole feast would’ve cost a single dollar. Even adding in ninety-one years of inflation, that’s only a little more than $13.50!

Yet another reason to ask Santa for a time machine this year!



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Library Holiday Closings!

The Davenport Public Library,
(and therefore our Special Collections Center)
will be closed

December 24th and 25th


December 31st and January 1st

Otherwise, we will be open our regular hours throughout the holiday season.

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Flowers in December: the wedding of Minnie Elliot and James Morgan Reimers

Our Hostetler Studio Photograph Collections, which we are in the process of adding to the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive, include negatives from many local weddings. When we can match these images with the wedding announcements in our local newspaper collections, we can see the “bigger picture” of the happy event!

Reimer wedding2

Miss Minnie Elliot, originally from Peoria, Illinois, moved to Davenport in 1908 to attend St. Luke’s Hospital Training School for Nurses.  While here, she met James Morgan Reimers, who was a vice-president of the Independent Baking Company, a director of the First National Bank, a member of the Scottish Rite Masons, a former commander of the Sons of Veterans, August Reimers Post (which had been named after his late father, Captain August Reimers) and, apparently, a fine baritone.

They were wed by the Very Reverend Marmaduke Hare in a small, intimate ceremony on December 16, 1912, at Trinity Cathedral.

The wedding announcement, published in the Davenport Democrat on December 7, 1912, describes the bride’s outfit in great detail:

Reimer wedding1The bride was dressed in white charmeuse , the dropped skirt—with overdress of deep Chantilly lace—falling away in a train: the bodice was in a surplice effect, draped with Chantilly lace, while yoke and sleeves were also of the lace, trimmed with pearl beading a white satin roses.

The bridesmaid, Miss Mabel Keane of Peoria, was similarly described, with a touch of color not found in the photograph:

Reimer wedding3The bridesmaid was in a gown of pink charmeuse, with trimmings of deep flouncing of Chantilly lace, in over-dress effect, the lace being used in finishing of bodice and sleeves.  She wore a white velvet picture hat trimmed with white plumes and carried a large bouquet of pink Killarney roses.

The wedding breakfast was served at the Hotel Davenport for thirty-one guests, including the best man, George White of Davenport, and the mother of the groom, who was resplendent in a “gown of changeable blue and black velvet with maltese lace” and diamonds.

The décor of the dining room was given a paragraph of its own, describing a bower of pink roses and white hyacinths, carnations and lilies of the valley—the new Mrs. Reimer might not have been a spring bride, but her flowers certainly made that a moot point!

The couple left by train on December 17 for their honeymoon, and were scheduled to be home in early January, when they were to take up residence at 4 Pasadena Flats (1230 Main Street).

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The Mystery of James T. Reeves, Confederate Prisoner


Our November post on the Rock Island Prison Barracks will tell you that on December 3, 1863, the first Confederate prisoners arrived by train to the Rock Island Prison Barracks. Many of these soldiers were captured in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, which were fought November 23 – 25, 1863.  Prisoners were incarcerated there until July of 1865.

The last remaining evidence of the Rock Island Prison Barracks sits not far from the current National Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal. Nearly 2,000 white headstones mark the graves of Confederate soldiers who never made it home from the war.  It is a quiet place surrounded by trees; maintained still, in honor of those who are buried there.

While writing our post last November, a question arose: Who was the first Confederate soldier to be buried in that cemetery?

It seemed a simple question, yet it turned out to be a complex mystery.

The existing Confederate Cemetery is actually the second cemetery used for Confederate burials. For the first two months the camp was open soldiers were buried south of the barracks. As the death toll rose and Small Pox spread through camp, the cemetery was moved to its current location.  The bodies of the deceased were relocated.

In 1908, the government placed the current headstones on the graves. Each headstone is engraved with a name, company, and number relating to when they died.

Grave #1 is marked as Jos. T. Reeves, Co. C., 34 Tenn. Reg., C.S.A.  But when we looked up the company muster roll for the 34th Tennessee Regiment to get more information, there was no Joseph T. Reeves or Joseph Reeves listed for Company C or in the entire 34th Tennessee Regiment.

Unfortunately, all of our resources in the library listed Grave #1 as that of Jos. T. Reeves of the 34th Tennessee, so we had to search farther afield

Our next step was to review the Unidentified Index of Prisoners’ Names and Barrack Numbers, found on Ancestry.Com,* for the Rock Island Prison Barracks. There is a James T. Reeves, on page 14318, who was the fifth prisoner recorded in the Re index section. He had been placed in Barracks #3.

The Record of Prisoners of War Who Have Died at Rock Island Barracks, Illinois had also been uploaded to Ancestry.Com. Located on page 14120 is James T. Reeves, Grave #1, buried south of Prison Barracks.

In this record, James T. Reeves is listed as a Private in the 34th Mississippi Infantry, Co. C. Captured in Chattanooga, Tennessee on November 24, 1863, he died of Pneumonia and Diarrhea on December 9, 1863—seven days after arriving on Rock Island.

In the chaos of those early days, as the camp was filling with thousands of men, could James T. Reeves information have been incorrectly put on a grave marker? The abbreviation for James is Jas. Joseph is abbreviated Jos. That could easily have been mistaken due to poor penmanship or a worn grave marker. It might also have been easy to put Tennessee as his regiment as there was a 34th Tennessee and he was captured in that state. Did the mistake happen in 1863 or 1908?  We may never know.

But what we needed was one more primary source, just to make sure.

We found it on Fold3.Com*. In the Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Mississippi, we found James T. Reves/Reeves (spelled both ways) who enlisted with the 34th Mississippi Infantry, Co. C. on September 17, 1863 in Oxford, Lafayette County, Mississippi.

As many of the service records were destroyed during the war, this was a terrific find. The Company Muster Roll indicates that Pvt. Reeves was captured on Lookout Mountain on November 24, 1863. He was transported by the Union to Louisville, Kentucky for a prisoner exchange. He arrived December 1, 1863 at the Military Prison in Louisville. The prisoner exchange did not take place. He was then sent immediately on to Rock Island where he arrived on December 3, 1863.

The second to last page on the Pvt. Reeves Confederate Muster Roll lists him as a having died December 9, 1863, of Diarrhea and Pneumonia at the Rock Island Barracks, Illinois.

So, who was James T. Reeves?

A search of the 1860 U.S. Census brings up six James Reeves in Mississippi. No age is given on his enlistment form, but only one of them lived in Lafayette County where James T. Reeves enlisted. All the others lived several hours away in different Mississippi counties.

The Lafayette County James Reeves was about 16 years old in 1860, and lived on a small rented farm with his father, mother, and several sisters. Too young to join the military in 1861,  he would have been of age by 1863. A search of the 1870 U.S. Census finds his sisters, but no trace of James, his father, or his mother.

Without further research, it is impossible to say if this is the James T. Reeves buried in the Confederate Cemetery on the Rock Island Arsenal. But it is a good lead that should be pursued.

What we did confirm is that a Private James T. Reeves from the 34th Mississippi Infantry, Co. C. is buried in grave # 1 of the Confederate Cemetery on Arsenal Island.

We also know that his military service was short:  He enlisted on September 17th, was captured on November 24th at Lookout Mountain, and died as a prisoner at Rock Island Barracks on December 9th, 1863.

Barely 12 weeks in all.

(posted by Amy D.)


*Ancestry.Com and Fold3.Com are available for use by Davenport Public Library card holder and card holders of the RiverShare system in the library.

Fold3 may be used from home through the Davenport Public Library website for Davenport Public Library card holders only. All that is needed is your library card number.

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Davenporters of Note: Julie Jensen McDonald

“I’ve set a lot of things in Iowa, and this is home.  I know it, and I think you should always try to write about what you know . . . And also, there are a certain set of values in Iowa that I think are useful to a writer like discipline, working hard, and being fairly open and unafraid of other people and other ideas.”

—Julie Jensen McDonald, Outstanding Iowa Women

Julie Jensen McDonald, author and journalist, was born on June 22, 1929, in Audubon County, Iowa, to Alfred and Myrtle Jensen.  She graduated from Harlan High School in 1947 and earned her journalism degree from the University of Iowa, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.  Her first writing job was the society editorship for the Rockford Morning Star and the Rockford Register – Republic.

But it certainly wouldn’t be her last.

She married Elliot R. ‘Jack” McDonald, Jr., a Davenport native, on May 6, 1952.  They moved to Washington, DC, and began a family.  And Julie Jensen McDonald began to write fiction, selling her first story for the princely sum of $6.50.  Her first novel, Amalie’s Story, was published in 1970.

The family moved to Davenport, and Mrs. McDonald soon became a correspondent for The Davenport Times-Democrat, just before the paper changed its name to The Quad-City Times.  She continued to write articles for local newspapers for almost fifty years, retiring from The Rock Island Argus in 2012.

During those years, she also wrote over thirty books—including historical fiction, biographies, cookbooks, local histories, and collections of personal essays—and several plays, some of which were produced by the Davenport Junior Theater and other local theater troupes.JensenMcDonald

Her work earned her several awards and an honorary degree from St. Ambrose University, where she offered lectures in fiction writing and journalism.  An avid supporter of her fellow writers, she taught at the University of Iowa Summer Writer’s Workshop, and provided seminars to elementary and high school students as part of a Writer-in-the-Schools residency program.  She volunteered at the Midwest Writing Center, and served as director for a time.

Mrs. McDonald’s community involvement didn’t stop at the literary:  she served as Chairperson of the Iowa Arts Council from 1969 to 1973, was a Trustee of the Davenport Art Museum and on the committee for the Figge Art Museum.  She also held memberships in the local chapter the PEO Sisterhood International, the Danish Sisterhood, the Scottish American Society of the Quad Cities, and Clan Donald USA.

Julie Jensen McDonald passed away on November 25, 2013, leaving behind a literary legacy that will be difficult to match.


Many of Mrs. McDonald’s books have been archived in our Special Collections Center, and the articles she wrote for the Davenport newspapers, as well as articles about her are included in our microfilm collections:

Pathways to the Present in 50 Iowa and Illinois Communities (SC 977.7 McD — there is also a circulating copy available)

High-Rise (SC 812.54 McD)

Nils Discovers America: Adventures with Erik (SC FIC McD)

Reaching: a novel (SC FIC McD)

Scandinavian Proverbs (SC 398.939 McD — there is also a circulating copy available)

The Watkins Man (SC FIC McD — there is also a circulating copy available)

Baby Black (SC FIC McD)

Chautauqua Summer (SC FIC McD)

Definitely Danish: Denmark and Danish Americans History, Culture, Recipes (SC 948.9 McD)

Ruth Buxton Sayre, first lady of the farm (SC 301.412 McD)

The Sailing Out (SC FIC MCD)

Young Rakes: a Novel (SC FIC McD)

Amalie’s Story (SC FIC McD)

The Ballad of Bishop Hill (SC FIC MCD — there is also a circulating copy available)

The Heather and The Rose (SC FIC McD — there is also a circulating copy available)

North of the Heart (SC FIC McD)

The Odyssey of a Museum: a short history of the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science 1867-1992 (SC 708.73 MCD — there is also a circulating copy available)

Petra: “on this rock I will build…” (SC FIC McD)

A Diary of Personal prayer (SC 242.8 McD)

Good Graces: table prayers (SC 242.8 McD)

Danish Proverbs (SC 398.93981 Dan)




Hanft, Ethel W.  Outstanding Iowa Women. [Muscatine, Iowa : River Bend Pub.], 1980.  (SC 301.412 Han)

“Julie McDonald.” Quad-City Times, 25Nov2013.

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