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)

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.

A Genealogical Mystery: The Beiderbecke Family

The Beiderbecke name has been made internationally famous due to the talent and success of jazz musician Bix Beiderbecke.

Locally, though, the Beiderbecke name has been well-known in the area since 1856 when Charles Beiderbecke, Bix’s grandfather, moved to Davenport from Germany, with a stop in Indianapolis along the way.

Charles Beiderbecke would find great business success in Davenport when he partnered with fellow German immigrant Frank Miller to form Beiderbecke and Miller Wholesale Grocers.

On April 21, 1860, Charles married Louise Piper and began a family.  And here lies a small genealogical mystery for those who have researched the Beiderbecke family:

What happened to three of the children born to Charles and Louise?

The 1900 U.S. Census asked women the number of children they had and how many of those children were living. Louise Beiderbecke, who was 59 years old at the time, reported that she had given birth to seven children, four of whom were still living when the Census was taken.

Those four living children were Carl T. born 1865, Ottilie born 1866, Bismark H.—the future father of a certain jazz musician—born 1868, and Lutie born 1870.

A look at Louise’s obituary in October 1922 also says that she bore seven children, four of whom survived her.

So when were the other three children born?  Iowa birth records were first recorded in 1880, so there are no records for any Beiderbecke children born prior to this date.  Our Scott County birth indexes report no children born to Louisa between 1880 and 1900.

Death records would be the logical place to try next, though if the children died prior to 1880, there would be no death records available, either.

On to cemetery records.

Through a search of Oakdale’s burial records, we know they were not buried in the family plot there.  And as the family was Presbyterian and not Catholic it seems likely they would not have been buried in a Catholic cemetery.

West Davenport Cemetery, later renamed Fairmount Cemetery, did not open until 1881. If the children died in infancy, presuming they were born before their brother Carl, they could not have been buried there. Still,  a just-in-case search found no evidence that the children were buried in Fairmount.

Which brought us to Davenport City Cemetery.

The Special Collections has copies of the City Cemetery Sexton record books and the Sexton Reports to City Council. These records are not complete for the early burial years and are also very hard to decipher at times.

However, through the dedication of a Special Collections volunteer, all the Sexton Reports to City Council that we have been able to locate were entered into the Genealogy and Local History section of the Davenport Public Library’s website. These reports are now searchable through the Free Local Databases page.

Using this resource, we found evidence that two of the three children are buried in City Cemetery.

Mina Beiderbecke was buried on September 21, 1863 in lot #257. She was aged 2 years and 6 months. Her birth date was probably around March 1861.

Mary Beiderbecke was buried on October 8, 1863 in lot #257. She was aged 2 months. Her birth date was around August 1863.

It’s interesting to note that Lot #257 was owned by a successful business man named Joseph Coe who had once lived in Davenport, but had moved to LeClaire by 1860.  Frank Miller’s daughter Emma is also buried in Lot #257. She was buried on April 20, 1863 at age 8 months and 20 days old.

Charles Beiderbecke would later buy lot #267. He buried his brother Fritz there when the young man passed unexpectedly from typhoid fever on December 24, 1867. The two lots are located near each other in the old section of the cemetery.

As for the third child, the mystery continues. As our collection of Sexton Records is not complete, it may be we just do not have the record for this child. There is also a possibility that we have been unable to read the name correctly due to poor penmanship and faded writing.

We may never know.  But the search continues!

(posted by Amy D.)

A Genealogist’s Walk: Oakdale Memorial Gardens

Favorite haunts of genealogists and local historians seem to be indoor locations a great deal of the time. We feel at home in local libraries and history centers pouring over books, faded documents, and microfilm until our eyes feel dry and crossed. There is another place we love to venture though; one that offers a breath of fresh air and the chance to stretch our legs. Yes, a visit to the local cemetery is just as exciting as the library or history center for us!

During a recent walk through Oakdale Memorial Gardens I spotted the resting places of several persons we have blogged about over the years. I photographed* a few of the individual or family headstones and have linked them back to the original blogs. My walk was also a reminder of all the stories we have left to tell as I found numerous monuments with names I recognized from local history.

Following are photos from the outing at Oakdale. Please click on the name to read the original blog.


From a recent blog, the Frahm family not only was famous for its local brewery, but also for their connection to the S. S. Schiller and the early deaths of many family members.

Colonel Augustus Wentz served with honor during the Civil War before being killed during the Battle of Belmont. An interesting fact is his wife Rebekah’s name is on the headstone under her remarried name. It appears she intended to be buried with Colonel Wentz, but never was. Currently her death date and location of burial are unknown to us.


Orphans from the Iowa Soldiers’ Orphans’ Home, later renamed the Annie Wittenmyer Home, were buried in a special section at Oakdale.

One of the great educator’s of Davenport and the state of Iowa, Phebe Sudlow is buried with her family at Oakdale. Please note that by chance we are publishing this blog on the 90th anniversary of her death. Another, “Well isn’t that interesting.” genealogy moment for us!

Finally, many members of the Beiderbecke family rest at Oakdale.

This includes famous Jazz musician Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke.  The items on his grave may have been left by fans.

These are only a few of the Oakdale connections to our blog. Oakdale Memorial Gardens is located at 2501 Eastern Avenue, Davenport. We hope to share more images of final resting places for our blog subjects again. In the meantime, may we suggest an outing to a nearby cemetery of your choice. You never know who you might find. From prominent citizens to lost family members every visit will be interesting.

(posted by Amy D.)

*Photographs taken by Amy Driskill for Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, Davenport Public Library.

Many Scores to Settle

Among our collections of genealogies and local histories, death records and newspaper abstracts hides a different kind of historical resource:  Musical scores.

In Special Collections, we have several catalogued scores, most of which have local connections, from Davenport by Alfred E. Petrow (1915) to piano arrangements for some of Bix Beiderbecke’s pieces.

The Davenport Centennial March, written by Herman Schmidt in 1936 and Albert Petersen’s the Mississippi Valley Fair Boosters March song (1924) were written for specific celebrations.   The Wild Rose of Iowa, by Erwin Swindell, and Bix’s Davenport Blues are sentimental commentary.  But they all use music to describe our area and our people during the time they were created.

Our uncatalogued ephemera files include many, many past and present Official Songs of Iowa, including Iowa, Beautiful Land by Horace Towner, who later, became the governor of Puerto Rico. 

Not all of our music was commercially published.  Kent Gannett  (1887-1967) taught vocal music at Davenport High School (now Central) from 1924 to his retirement  at the end of the 1952 school year.   He was an accomplished composer and musician and won awards for his work.

 Before his death, Mr. Gannett donated his compositions and arrangements—most of which were performed between 1940 and 1960—to the Davenport Public Library.  These scores run from original symphonies to whimsical pieces with names like At the Supermarket (With Squeaky Cart)

So, if you’re interested in not only seeing history, but hearing it, why not visit the library and look over our musical selections?  Our materials don’t circulate, but you could make a photocopy of Wheatland’s own Whizz Bang Orchestra’s Harmony Waltz, as first herd in 1920, for only ten cents a page.

That’s a small price to pay for a piece of our musical history!

Bix Lives Here

In the summer of 1971, a group of musicians made a pilgrimage to Oakdale Cemetery in Davenport, Iowa.  They planned to play a simple concert in homage to one of the pioneers of jazz, on the fortieth anniversary of his death.

Almost two thousand people showed up at the gravesite to listen.

The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival has only grown from there.

This will come as no surprise to those of us who know Bix and have heard recordings of  his compositions.   The man had a phenomenal musical memory and he used it to weave the unconventional patterns of modern classical composers—Debussy, Ravel, Holst, and Stravinsky—with his own free syncopational style.  

And how was he as a coronet player?  At a time when music was just starting to favor the soloist, Bix shone:*

The celebration kicks off tomorrow, with the 23rd annual Bix Porch Party at the Davenport Public Library on Main Street.  We’ll have hot dogs and hot music.  Bring your lawn chairs and your dancing shoes.

While you’re here, come on down to our Special Collections Center and say hello.  We’ll show you our collection of Bix Beiderbecke photographs—including one of Bix on a pony—and Memorial Jazz Festival posters.

Bix Lives!


*The singer isn’t half bad, either.

The Importance of Primary Resources

One of our readers, former Davenporter Brendan Wolfe, wrote to share an interesting story about the only known newspaper interview with Bix Beiderbecke, which was published in the Davenport Democrat on February 10, 1929.

Bix Beiderbecke is always interesting, at least to us—and certainly to Mr. Wolfe, who is writing a book on our favorite native jazz musician—but the interview itself is intriguing.  Not only because it’s the only one, but because it may have been plagiarized.

Mr. Wolfe has written a blog post of his own about this, and as we wouldn’t want to be accused of plagiarism ourselves, please read the original here.  We’ll wait.

We would like to point out that this sort of thing is precisely why primary resources are so important, and why it is essential for researchers to trace information to its origin point, as Mr. Wolfe is doing.  

 Things are not always what they seem, even in primary resources like early newspapers—some reporters, hoping to attract readers, may have (ahem)  ‘jazzed up’ their articles a tad.

We’d also like to thank Mr. Wolfe and invite all of our readers to share any fascinating historical stories of local interest—supported by primary sources, of course!

A Place to Tap Your Feet – The Col Ballroom

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times (how many of us heard that saying growing up?), the early Quad City Germans loved to sing and parade through town.  It wasn’t just local Germans truthfully.  When Davenport held special events it could be counted on that thousands of fellow Germans would arrive in town to help celebrate with them.  One such event was the Eighteenth National Saengerfest of the Sangerbund of the Northwest concert that was held in Davenport in July 1898.  This national concert and competition brought in a reported 100,000 fellow singers and supporters to the area.  What a party and potential future blog article!

Where to hold such a large event?  How about a Saengerfest Hall built with musical events, and acoustics, in mind? Built in 1898 the Saengerfest Hall located at 1029 – 1053West 4th Street was remodeled in 1906 and reopened as The Coliseum in 1907.  It held not only musical events and dances, but also the first auto shows in Davenport and boxing events attended by thousands of people.  This all ended on October 21, 1913 when the Coliseum burnt to the ground.

This wasn’t the end of the Coliseum though (otherwise this would be a very short blog). The Coliseum was rebuilt at 1012 West 4th Street (instead of wood as with the original structure, this time brick was used as a safety measure) across the road from the original site and reopened on October 27, 1914 with a long list of musical events from the Redpath-Vawter Series dedicating the beautiful new building. 3,000 people attended the event. 

Later renamed the Col Ballroom, this structure has been the site of many musical and social events through the years.  Bix Beiderbecke, Jimmy Hendrix, the Guy Lombardo Orchestra, and the Beach Boys have all played at the Col.  High school proms, weddings, political rallies, and war fundraisers have all been part of the building’s history too.  There even were 1920s Charleston dance contests at the Col along with dance marathons in the 1930s.  Don’t imagine these wonderful events are a thing of the past either.  In 1995 the Quad Cities Mexican American Organization took over the Col Ballroom and under their control the Col had a wonderful restoration in 2007 that reintroduced to a new generation original features of the building that had been hidden for years. Perfect to bring back memories while creating a unique place to create new ones.

Now a days the Col hosts bingo, wedding receptions, bands during Bix, a Mexican-American Debutant Ball (education and volunteering are highlighted for these debutantes), and the post-St. Patrick’s Society Grande Parade Bash with music and dancing  just to name a few events that keep the Col hopping.   Small bands still play their shows at the Col.  Kevin Costner and his band performed there just a few weeks ago for over 700 people!  What a wonderful place still making happy memories for those in the Quad Cities! We hope the QCMAO continues to keep this dance land dancing and making memories for years to come.

(Amy D.)

Ode to Oakdale

 One of the difficulties in locating death records in Iowa is that they did not exist prior to 1880.* This means that roughly fifty years worth of ancestors passed away in our state without leaving behind that vital (if you’ll pardon the pun) piece of genealogical evidence.

So how could you prove that your ancestor died in 1872?

Cemeteries can be a good alternate source of information.  Gravestone surveys might provide the full name of the deceased, and perhaps the year, at least, of death (and sometimes birth).  But Cemetery records, besides providing documentation, might offer more information than a weather-worn stone—at the very least, the exact date of burial, which could lead to a greatly narrowed date of death, or perhaps even an obituary.

And if your ancestor was lucky enough to have been buried in a certain cemetery in Davenport, Iowa,   you might even find more than that.

Oakdale Cemetery was established in 1856, and immediately began taking the burden off the overcrowded City Cemetery.  Noted burials there include Bix Beiderbecke,   artist Paul N. Norton, Phebe Sudlow, George L. Davenport **,  Alice French, and orphans from the Iowa Soldier’s Orphans’ Home .   In addition, two hundred and sixty-two of the 280 pioneer families of Scott County are buried there.

 For many Scott County residents, including 262 of the 280 original pioneer families, Oakdale was the place to take one’s eternal rest.

 Likewise, for many genealogists, Oakdale is the place to find information on those eternally resting Scott County residents who passed prior to 1880. 

 Oakdale’s interment records cover the basics—the date and place of burial and the name of the funeral home—but offer more:  the full date of death, the place of death, and even date of birth (if known).  And as if that wasn’t enough, they also provide a bonus:  the cause of death, information which is rarely included in early obituaries.

You won’t find the names of the deceased’s parents in these records, as you would with death records, but otherwise Oakdale can provide both genealogical documentation and a whole lot of information.

Our Center has Oakdale’s interment records, and accompanying indexes, from 1860 to 1960 on microfilm.  Both the running indexes*** and the records are clean, clear, and readable—it’s almost a joy to search for a name or interment number.

So if your Iowan ancestor died too early to leave behind a death record, cemetery records can be a good alternative resource.  And if your ancestors passed away in Scott County, come visit our Center or drop us a line—we’ll be glad to search our cemetery collections for them.

Maybe they’re waiting for you in Oakdale!


*Although marriages were documented from the beginning of each county, Iowa first began compiling both birth and death records in 1880. Compliance wasn’t enforced until later, however, so these early records might not  include every event.

** George L’oste Davenport was the first born son of Col. George Davenport and one of the men who helped greatly in the development of our city.

***Running indexes were added to as each record was filed.  They are therefore arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname, but are chronological within those groups.  In other words, if you look under the “B”s in Oakdale’s running index, you might find a Mr. Broom listed before a Mr. Balloon, if Mr. Broom was buried first.