In Memoriam: Mike Weir

Charles Michael “Mike” Weir was born December 8, 1947 in Ottumwa to Gerald and Catherine Roberts Weir. He was a 1966 graduate of Ottumwa High School. He married Janice Downing on December 31, 1970.

Mike Weir was hired on January 29, 1983 to be the Davenport Public Library’s Bookmobile Attendant and Driver. He first drove the retro 1973 Gerstenslager Transit (City Bus) Style bookmobile until it was retired in 1986.

Bookmobile #2 1973-1986

The Davenport Public Library’s next mobile library was the Moroney bookmobile Model BF260 which ran from July 1986 through December 2003.

Bookmobile #3 1986-2003

Both of these iconic library bookmobiles and their drivers/attendants were well known and cherished around the City of Davenport.

After The Library decided retire their bookmobile services, Mike stayed on and became a Senior Clerk in the Customer Service Department on July 1, 2004. He primarily worked at the Annie Wittenmyer Branch until it was closed in 2005, and then he worked at the Fairmount Library when it opened in 2006.

He retired in January 2013 after 30 years of working at the Davenport Public Library.

It is with sorrow, that our treasured bookmobile driver passed away on April 14, 2024 at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. We wish his family, his colleagues past and present, and any patrons who knew him well during this time.

Please enjoy these photos of Mike from his time spent at The Library!

(posted by Kathryn and Cristina)

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A Quiet Spring Wedding in April

One of our favorite types of materials in our collections are photographs, particularly portraiture. We have a number of collections that feature these types of photographs. One such collection is the Free Studio of Photography Collection which contains photographs taken by the Hostetler and Free Studios.

The portrait we would like to highlight is labeled “Miss Elna Johnson”. It was taken by J.B. Hostetler around 1918. This young lady is wearing a light colored dress with a dark fabric accenting her waist and the bottom part of her skirt. The dress also is embellished with dark colored embroidered details on the top, bottom, and the cuff. She looks stylish with the additions of a dark hat, pearls, and a tasseled purse.

As part of the digitization project, the staff of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center researched each image with assistance of the handwritten notes by the photography studio. In some cases, we are unable to find information on the individual(s) in the images because they were visiting from outside the area, they were in the Quad-Cities for a brief time, or the name on the envelope didn’t provide us enough information to make a connection with the people in the photos.

Happily, we were able to learn more about “Miss Elna” and her life. Based on information in the Iowa Births and Christenings Index, Elna Pauline Johnson was born October 28, 1897 in Sheridan Township, Scott County, IA to William J. and Matilda (Hofmeister) Johnson. The record was amended in 1943, so it is difficult to read the handwritten changes. She grew up in northern Scott County around Eldridge.

On December 17, 1901, a letter to Santa was printed in The Daily Times for Elna Johnson sharing her Christmas wishes.

According the Federal Censuses, Elna and her family moved from Sheridan Township to Davenport around 1910. It lists William as a carpenter for all three census, and in the 1920 Census, it states his employer as the “Arsenal.”

An interesting article was found published on October 25, 1913. It states that Elna had a farewell party thrown for her by Edna Pahl because her family was going to move to Arkansas. But conversely, in an article published on October 19, 1913, the Bodfer’s Club had a farewell for Elna Johnson who was going to be leaving soon on an extended trip with her parents through the southwest. From the research we have done, we believe they never moved to Arkansas and there may have been some confusion amongst her friends about her long trip.

Elna attended Davenport’s public’s schools as well as far off schools on the East coast. She graduated from Taylor School in 1912. She received her high school degree from Davenport High School in 1918. Based on information published in The Daily Times on September 24, 1918, Miss Elna Johnson she continued her education by attending the Mt. Ida School Seminary for Girls in Boston, Massachusetts from the fall of 1918- early summer of 1919. The school is a young ladies’ finishing school. She graduated in June 1919. She also received a visit from her roommate at Mt. Ida who was from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

After her graduation Mt. Ida Seminary, she moved back to Davenport to live with her parents. She also began to actively participate in social events and organizations like she used to before she left for school. Over the years, she was a member of the following: Delta Kappa Epsilion, Bodfer’s Club (Bodfer’s school), Lend-A-Hand Club, St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church’s Gleaner’s (Kleaner’s) society.

In between Elna graduating from high school and going of to Boston, she was courted by a young Mr. Walter E. Drummond of Davenport. The announced their engagement in July 1918.

“Johnson-Drummond Engagement Announced.” The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), Jul. 20,1918, page 6.

101 years ago Elna Pauline Johnson married Walter Ewart Drummond on April 12, 1923 in Davenport. They had a quite wedding with 25 attendees at St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church now known as St. John’s United Methodist Church.

Walter and Elna had one child, Kent Gorham Drummond. He was born on August 31, 1925. They lived in Davenport according to the United States Federal Census. They did appear to move for Walter’s job at certain points of their lives together.

Walter passed away on June 17, 1943 in Galesburg at the aged of 46. We could find no record of Elna remarrying. Based on information in her obituary published in the Times-Democrat on December 29, 1967, Mrs. Walter Drummond died at the home of her son in Findlay, Ohio. Both Elna and Walter are buried at Pine Hill Cemetery.


“Miss Brunquell Gives Graduation Party.” The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), Jan. 27, 1912, page 6.*MTYyMjMxMzI2LjE3MTI5NDQzNDQ.

(posted by Kathryn)

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The Mysterious Airship of April 1897

The first mysterious sightings were reported in a Sioux City, Iowa newspaper article on February 3, 1897. Something was seen floating in the night sky by local citizens near Hastings, Nebraska. The object was described as lingering about 800 feet off the ground with a bright light that beamed in the darkness. Then it circled around in the sky before disappearing into the horizon as quickly as it had appeared.

Sioux City Journal (Sioux City, Iowa), February 3, 1897. Pg. 3

For the next three months, sightings of an airship in the night sky were reported in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and Michigan. Residents of Davenport responded to the news with both amusement and fear. Would the mysterious airship visit them? They began to search the night sky for strange lights.

According to newspaper accounts, the airship would usually appear in the night sky between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. Some people noted it disappeared from the sky around midnight while others saw it until almost 5:00 a.m. Sometimes it left and then returned while others saw it briefly only once. As sightings became more frequent, news of the object would be telegraphed to surrounding towns to see which direction the object flew throughout the night.

The first thing most people noted was the large white light that would shine from the front of the airship while two smaller lights were seen on the body. At first, people might think they were seeing stars in the sky, but soon realized the unusual movement of the lights were not stars or a planet. It was noted that the lights faded in brightness as the object flew, but became brighter when the object stopped and hovered over an area.

The white front light was described as larger than the headlight on a train. There is some discrepancy with one of the colors of the two smaller lights. The majority of accounts mentioned one smaller light being red in color. The other smaller light was observed to be white by some witnesses while others thought it might be light green in color. The two smaller lights were each estimated to be the size of a human hand.

The shape of the airship was described as an upside-down schooner or cigar-shaped with a smaller basket or canoe-shaped object attached. There were two wings or fan-like projections attached to the main body as well. Newspapers reported the airship was about 30 feet in length according to witnesses. A modern 90-passenger school bus is about 35 to 40 feet in comparison.

The airship was spotted above rural farms, small towns, and cities alike. This meant on any given night you might have a handful of witnesses to hundreds of people viewing the flying mystery. There were those in the newspaper columns who doubted a mysterious airship was traveling over midwestern states. The Davenport Democrat poked fun at the stories in early April 1897 as most sightings had been in the western part of Iowa along with Nebraska and Kansas. They joked that sea serpents were falling out of favor and those who were seeing a flying airship might need to stop their alcohol consumption or seek medical help.

The Davenport Democrat, April 4, 1897. Pg. 2

By April 8, 1897, The Davenport Democrat reported that the airship had been seen in Belle Plaine, Iowa. Belle Plaine is a little over 100 miles from Davenport and near the larger city of Cedar Rapids. The witness descriptions were of an airship that appeared in the southwest horizon about 9:00 p.m. Rising and falling in the sky under complete control it circled the area. As the airship was soon reported in Cedar Rapids and Burlington, the Davenport newspapers reported on the growing fear of the “Flying Dutchman” as it was nicknamed.

Davenport Morning Star, April 9, 1897. Pg. 1

It seemed everyone had an opinion on the flying object. Some thought it was a star that seemed to move in the night sky. Others were certain it was a flying airship. The remaining people thought it was a great hoax, hysteria, or people drinking too much at night. Soon there were those looking to make copycat airships in the night sky as a prank. They began to fly balloons or kites with lights attached as soon as darkness set in. Most pranksters were eventually found out as their creations never had the height or size of the mystery airship.

The Davenport Democrat reported on April 10, 1897 that the flying aircraft was seen in Rock Island, Illinois (our neighbor across the Mississippi River). It was thought to be about a half mile off the ground and had a noise similar to an electric motor. The witnesses were Rock Island police officers. The Democrat took full opportunity to poke fun at the situation.

The Davenport Democrat, April 10, 1897. Pg. 1

The Daily Times reported on April 12, 1897 that a secretary for the Trans-Mississippi Exposition (to be held in Omaha, Nebraska in 1898) received a letter with an Omaha postmark from an A. C. Clinton stating that he was behind the flying airship and he wanted a large enough space to display his ship at the exposition. He would arrive at their offices on April 17th to meet on the subject. The question seemed to be if the letter was authentic or another airship-inspired prank.

The Davenport Democrat reported on April 13th that several hundred people may have witnessed the mysterious flying object over Davenport after 8:00 p.m. the night before. Reporters said it was hard to see as there was a break in a cloud-filled sky as a thunderstorm was approaching. The light from the front of the ship was described as pure white in color that seemed to flare up and glow as it traveled through the sky. It slowly flew away towards the horizon then stopped briefly while the light flared again, then it disappeared into the gathering storm clouds. The newspaper reporter did write that it could not have been a star seen that night, but what it actually might have been was unknown. The Daily Leader in Davenport asked again if people were drinking alcohol before seeing the flying airship.

The Davenport Democrat, April 13, 1897. Pg. 1

Reports in rural Scott County, Moline, and Rock Island that night were more detailed. A witness in Scott County said the object appeared to be cigar-shaped. In Moline, it was first spotted after 7:00 p.m. As in Davenport, the bright front light was the first thing noticed. Some said it had a funnel-shape to it. Most agreed it stayed moving in the sky at a rapid pass for about an hour. In Rock Island, passengers getting off arriving passenger trains reported they had watched the object in the sky as they approached the station. The Rock Island Argus did report that clouds blocked some of the view. Most witnesses on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River agreed the object seemed to move quickly, was in the area for about 40 minutes, and the most noticeable thing about the experience was the bright front light. They could still see the light even when the clouds began to gather. What was it? No one was sure, except most agreed it was not a star or a planet.

The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), April 13, 1897. Pg. 1

Then the newspapers picked up a surprising story out of Kalamazoo, Michigan from April 14, 1897. Residents near Pavilion, Michigan reported an airship exploded in the sky in the early hours of April 13 into April 14, 1897. A couple who reported the incident were tending a sick horse late into the night. They described the bright front light, smaller lights on the side, and propellers. The object moved at a rapid speed then it disappeared the same time they heard an explosion or thunder. The next morning a nearby farmer found a large metal coil on his property. Another local resident found a propeller-like piece on his farm. Another resident had been shingling a barn the day before. The next morning, he and two other men returned to finish the job and found the roof covered with small pieces of metal. Sadly, it appeared to be the end of the mysterious airship.

Muscatine News-Tribune (Muscatine, Iowa), April 15, 1897. Pg. 3

Then the announcement from Waterloo on April 16, 1897 that the airship had been found in that city! The forty-foot airship was found tucked away on the circus grounds behind the cheese factory and with it was the builder, Professor Jourgensen, along with his log book of his adventures flying over multiple states. Thousands flocked to see the airship and the news was reported from coast-to-coast in newspapers. The great airship mystery was solved!

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). April 17, 1897. Pg. 6

But, some took note that the materials used to build the craft were extremely heavy. Under questioning, the story soon fell apart. This was probably the most elaborate airship hoax created. Several business men in town designed and crafted the airship from $60 worth of materials, wrote the log book, and paid a man named Feathers from another town to be Professor Jourgensen. The stunt made Waterloo briefly famous.

All eyes returned to the night sky, but with no results. The mysterious flying airship had vanished. A. C. Clinton never appeared for his appointment in Omaha on April 17th to meet with the Trans-Mississippi Exposition board. Was that letter real or a hoax? Had there ever been an airship over the midwestern states that Spring of 1897? Was it a planet, star, or comet? Was there an A. C. Clinton who died when his airship exploded over Pavilion, Michigan? Was it mass hysteria, or as Davenport newspapers liked to promote, too many people staying up late drinking? Or was it a UFO that exploded over Michigan or simply returned from wherever it came from.

The Davenport Democrat, April 29, 1897. Pg. 2

We will let you ponder the answer as you search the night sky.

(posted by Amy D.)  


  • Sioux City Journal, February 3, 1897. Pg. 3
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 4, 1897. Pg. 2
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 8, 1897. Pg. 4
  • The Davenport Morning Star, April 9, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Daily Times, April 9, 1897. Pg. 2
  • The Davenport Morning Star, April 10, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 10, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Daily Times, April 12, 1897. Pg. 3
  • The Davenport Morning Star, April 13, 1897. Pg. 7
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 13, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Dispatch (Moline, Illinois), April 13, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois). April 13, 1897. Pg. 3
  • The Daily Leader, April 13, 1897. Pg. 2
  • The Davenport Morning Star, April 13, 1897. Pg. 7
  • The Muscatine News-Tribune (Muscatine, Iowa), April 15, 1897. Pg. 3
  • The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), April 17, 1897. Pg. 6
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 19, 1897. Pg. 1
  • The Courier (Waterloo, Iowa), April 21, 1897. Pg. 12
  • The Davenport Democrat, April 29, 1897. Pg. 2
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Dr. Jennie McCowen’s “Women In Iowa” (1884)

What better way to celebrate both Women’s History Month and Iowa History Month than to highlight an historic essay about Iowa women written by a woman of Davenport, Iowa for a journal of Iowa history?

“Women of Iowa” appeared in the October 1884 issue of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Annals of Iowa. [1] The author, Dr. Jennie McCowen (sometimes McCowan), was one of the first women graduates of the State University of Iowa’s School of Medicine (1876), the founder of the Working Woman’s Lend-a-Hand Club in Davenport (1886), and a practicing physician with offices at 106 West 4th Street. [2]

McCowen examined 1880 federal census data to bring to light the 80,000 [2] Iowa women “…at work at various gainful occupations.” (98) She found those engaged on many levels in a wide range of business enterprises, from mining company trustees and bankers to millners and grocers; a growing number of saleswomen, bookkeepers, cashiers, and clerical workers in both businesses and government agencies; plus a prison matron and a reform school director. Women insurance agents, librarians, writers, publishers, visual artists and art instructors, sculptors, potters, china painters, and scientific illustrators were also enumerated, along with school teachers and administrators, university and college professors. Women profiting from their patented inventions (for a thermometer, an egg beater, a griddle greaser, a door screen attachment, a photograph album, and an ironing board) were also mentioned. In her own field of medicine, McCowen counted women doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and a few “lady dentists.” Among the “…pursuits popularly supposed to be monopolized by men…” there were Iowa women who made products such as brick, tile, brooms, tools, machine shop products, mattresses, buggy tops, paints, saddles, surgical appliances, windmills, tents, agricultural implements, and washing machines. (99)

McCowen was quick to point out that women were underrepresented in the statistics she reported. A “large number of women working in conjunction with husband, father or other male relative are not reported as workers for wages,” she said. (100) On the 26 midwives recorded in the census, she remarked that “… it is believed that this latter figure falls far short of the actual number.” (108) There were also women who found “supplementary employment,” such as the “raising of poultry, the keeping of bees, and the raising of silkworms” (99) to consider. She believed that the gathering of labor statistics about women should be improved, and toward that end, she led the Association of American Women in persuading the Labor Bureau of Iowa to include “such queries as would show adequately the relations of women to labor” to their questionnaires. (102) [4]

That women’s performance in certain occupations was superior to men’s was another point ventured: Presumably anectdotal evidence told her that shorthand secretaries wrote more neatly, cashiers counted more quickly and accurately, and bookkeepers arrived at their figures with greater care. Women county school superintendents were preferred by “the testimony of those teaching under them.” (101) Indeed, the reason Iowa ranked so highly among U.S. states in the field of education, she concluded, was because the institutions were “largely in the hands of women.” (103) And the promise that women would improve the workforce in the future could be seen in the number of academic prizes won by female students in Iowa. Finally, she noted that Unitarian Universalist and Christian women ministers in Iowa found greater success with rebuilding “peculiarly trying parishes” than had the men before them. (109)

McCowen took it as a given that women wanted to work outside the home. To her, it was “inevitable” they would “…seek some outside occupation by which they might not only support themselves but also provide for…those depending upon them,” as products made in factories replaced those women had traditionally labored to create in a domestic setting. She was confident Iowa women felt that “…whatever is right for them to attempt is possible for them to accomplish…” (98)

Iowa women’s unpaid work was also highlighted in the article. McCowen praised the “various benevolent and philanthropic enterprises,” run soley by women in the state, such as sewing schools for “neglected girls,” projects of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and social reform efforts of fraternal societies’ auxiliaries. Those who served as religious leaders, participated in foreign and domestic missions, advanced the cause of women’s suffrage, practiced as naturalists and healers, and formed societies for the study of literature, history, art, and other subjects were also worthy of her note, as were the women educators and medical workers who volunteered time to their professional societies.

To trumpet the acheivements of Iowa women, McCowen turned to local examples: A “young lady of Davenport is doing most valuable original work in tracing the life history of the insects of the State, rearing and sketching the larvae in all stages,” a “young lady of Princeton has prepared the illustrations for a new work on zoology by one of the professors of the State University,” and a “lady of Muscatine whose specialty is entomology…has written a number of papers upon this subject, which have been read before the State Horticultural Society and printed in its reports.” (105-6) [5] Mary L. D. Putnam’s election to the presidency of the Davenport Academy of Science in 1879 was a great source of pride, as was the number of women members active in the organization, Davenport women’s support of the Clarissa Cook Home for Aged and Friendless Women (“built and maintained in comfort by the legacy of a lady”), and her own service as Iowa vice-president of the Association for the Advancement of Women, state director of the National Association for the Protection of the Insane and the Prevention of Insanity, and president of the Scott County Medical Society.

We salute you, Dr. Jennie McCowen, for lifting up Iowa (and Davenport, Iowa) women!

(posted by Katie)


[1] McCowen, Jennie. “Women In Iowa” Annals of Iowa, 3rd Series, Vol. III (October 1884), pages 97-113. In The Freedom of the Streets: Work, Citizenship, and Sexuality in a Gilded Age City (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005), page 44, historian Sharon E. Wood indicates that McCowen’s strong “interest in changing the debate on women’s employment” inspired her to “seek out a wider audience” for the research she had originally completed for the Association for the Advancement of Women by submitting the report to the Iowa Commision for the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial in New Orleans.

The essay “Women in Iowa” had its origins in McCowen’s 1884 report for the AAW’s Committee of Reforms. As the newly-minted vice-president of the Iowa chapter that year, she answered the required questions about taxes and property ownership, but was also motivated to investigate the prior years’ topic of women’s employment in Iowa in more detail. Wood says Her “interest in changing the debate on women’s employment” and on the agenda of the AAW that “embraced paid employment as a source of personal and social virtue.” [Wood, 36]she submitted the report to the Iowa Commision for the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial in New Orleans and from there it got the attention of the Annals? [Wood, 43-44]

[2] McCowen’s many additional accomplishments are detailed in her obituaries in the 28 July 1924 editions of the Davenport Democrat and Leader and the Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa).

[3] I could not determine how McCowen arrived at this final figure, but the names of the occupations held by Iowa women in 1880 are found in the reports 1880 Census: Volume 1. Statistics of the Population of the United States and 1880 Census: Volume 2. Report on the Manufactures of the United States.

[4] Wood, Freedom of the Streets, page 45.

[5] Please let us know if you have any information about who these “ladies” might be!

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Come Tarry A While: Special Collections on Display at All Three Locations!

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections staff members designed four displays highlighting materials from its collection. Displays are scheduled to be at each library location throughout the year on a quarterly rotation.

Each of the displays discussed below will be at that particular library location from now until June 1st. After June 1st, the displays will be moved to a new library location. If you missed the display at a specific library location, you can visit another location to see the display.

All the displays include a case of materials from our collections as well as two posters featuring more content about that topic!

Davenport Public Library at Eastern
Library History

Our display at the Davenport Public Library at Eastern showcases materials and artifacts from The Library’s history including decorative porcelain featuring the Carnegie Library, a copy of the Carnegie Library’s dedication, and library promotional items. One of our favorites is a selection of library cards offered to our patrons over the years!

The posters showcase each of our library locations including wheeled libraries and our illustrious history of library directors.

Learn more about The Library’s history on our website page, A Brief History of Davenport Public Library.

Davenport Public Library at Fairmount
Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive

Davenport Public Library at Fairmount highlights one of our most treasured and used resources, the Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive. UMVDIA is a consortium of 13 institutions digital collections from the Quad Cities region ranging from Muscatine, Iowa to Galesburg, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa to Bishop Hill, Illinois. Historical and cultural institutions from these communities have digitally preserved their collections to share on this online platform for the last 22 years!

Our display features materials we have digitized and have added to this resource as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how we digitize our materials.

Davenport Public Library at Main
Huebinger’s Printing History

The display at our Davenport Public Library at Main location features the works of Melchoir Huebinger. Melchoir Huebinger was an German immigrant to Davenport in the 1880s. He was a surveyor and cartographer as well as a publisher of many maps and atlas of Davenport and Iowa. He also owned a photography studio in Davenport which documented its residents and community through the art of photography. To learn more about Mr. Huebinger and his works, Katie Reinhardt, our Special Collections Librarian, presented a program called Opening the Box: The Maps and Atlases of Melchoir Huebinger.

The German American Heritage Center and Museum is hosting a Kaffee und Kuchen program about this fascinating man on March 24th.

Davenport Public Library’s Special Collections
Local Businesses in Special Collections

Our final display is located in our very own, Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center featuring collections relating to Davenport’s local businesses. It includes flyers, instructional booklets, and catalogs of the various businesses’ wares. While it is in Special Collection, a special artifact will be showcased: Victor Animatograph Cine 16 mm camera.

Another resource to explore local business is our research guide about the Newcomb Loom Company.

Come tarry a while at each of our library locations and learn more about our community’s rich history through the collections of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

(posted by Kathryn)

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Total Eclipse of the Sun: March 7, 1970

April 8, 2024 will be an exciting day in the Quad Cities as we are expecting the first solar eclipse in our area in 54 years. We are expected to get an 83.70% view of the full eclipse at 1:58 p.m. that day.

The last time a full solar eclipse was visible in the Quad Cities was March 7, 1970. Winter was lingering that year, but the weather was predicted to be in our favor with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-40s. A nice break from the colder temperatures and snow that had lingered on. With an early Easter (March 29th), there was most likely hope of warmer weather soon.

While most people likely hoped for clear weather to see the eclipse outside, there was another way to see it live. The March 7th eclipse was the first one to be broadcast live on national television. Not only was it to be live, but CBS news broadcast the event in color! As most television shows were still in black and white, this was an exciting event. It was even encouraged to watch it on television over watching in person to protect your eyes from sun damage.

Slightly less than half of U.S. households had color televisions in 1970. If you wanted to buy one from Long’s TV Sales and Service at 2139 W. 3rd Street in Davenport you might be able to find a sale on new color sets. A 14″ screen portable color television was on sale for $257 ($2,042.87 using an inflation calculator for 2024) while a large 23″ screen color television was going for $458.88 ($3,647.59 using the same calculator).

The Times-Democrat newspaper. March 6, 1970. Pg. 7

The Times-Democrat Newspaper was full of eclipse details leading up to the event. One main concern, as previously mentioned, was damage to eyes from looking directly at the sun. Besides watching it on television, other suggestions were to visit the John Deere Planetarium at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois or making homemade devices to enjoy the eclipse while protecting your eyes. The eclipse was to start at 11:10 a.m. with full coverage lasting three minutes starting at 12:25 p.m. The event would end at 1:37 p.m. according to the newspaper.

The Times-Democrat. March 5, 1970. Pg. 32.

The weather held out with relatively clear skies and those who ventured out marveled to newspaper reporters about the experience in the March 8th Tines-Democrat edition. About 275 people did visit the planetarium and were able to view the eclipse. Many were surprised that due to the Quad-Cities location, the eclipse did not cause the area to darken as they expected. Dr. Melbert Peterson, from Augustana, said that at least 75% coverage was needed to have darkness fall while locally the area only saw 70% coverage.

The Times-Democrat. March 51970. Pg. 2

While the solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 was the last eclipse in our area for the twentieth century; we have blogged before about the last eclipse in the Quad Cities from the nineteenth century which took place on August 7, 1869. This blog, found here, features not only a solar eclipse, but the appearance of a mysterious wild boy as well!

We are all looking forward to the April 8, 2024. The Davenport Public Library will be hosting an Eclipse Watch Party at our Eastern branch from 12:30 – 3:30. All branches of the library will also be handing out solar eclipse glasses at the customer service desks. Glasses started being handed out on March 1st and are while supplies last so get yours today! For more information on the party or glasses, please click here.

As for the eclipse of March 7, 1970, the Quad Cities was soon covered in cold temperatures and snow when a late-winter storm hit the area on March 9th. It really was a lucky break in the weather that allowed the eclipse to be viewed. The interest in outer space was not disappearing from local headlines though. There was already great interest mounting for Apollo 13’s return to the moon scheduled only 35 days later on April 11, 1970.

(posted by Amy D.)

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Albert Nuckols: Two Views

We close out Black History Month 2024 with a comparison of two images of Davenporter Albert Nuckols (d. 1889). The first, dating from 1868 to 1870, conveys the Reconstruction hope for the participation of newly-enfranchised African Americans into United States politics and society. [1] The second [2], from 1922, is typical of the negative stereotypes of black people that became more and more pervasive in our visual culture as the Jim Crow era descended and white supremacist ideology strengthened. [3]

(posted by Katie)

[1] Ambrotype image by photographer Isaac A. Wetherby reproduced on page 187 of Leslie A. Schwalm’s Emancipation’s Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009). The original is in the Isaac A. Wetherby Collection, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.

[2] Purcell, W. L. Them Was the Good Old Days in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa (Davenport, Iowa: Purcell Printing Company, 1922), page 147.

[3] As argued by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (New York: Penguin Press, 2019).

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UMVDIA Spotlight: Wolverine Orchestra in the Gennett Recording Studios, Richmond, Indiana

On February 18, 1924, eight men of the Wolverine Orchestra gathered together to record their music in Richmond, Indiana at Gennett Records. This Midwestern recording studio was founded by Starr Piano Company in 1917. It was active from 1917 to 1948. It recorded a wide breadth of music and audio and has “The Gennett Walk of Fame” to honor its most important artists.

The studio was 125 feet long and 30 feet wide. From the photograph, it is a cozy place to play music.

2007-04: Bix Box

Bandmates of the Wolverine Orchestra featured in the photograph above are: Bix Beiderbecke (Cornet), Jimmy Hartwell (Clarinet), Robert Gillette (Banjo), Victor Moore (Drums), Albert Gandee (Trombone), George Johnson (Saxophone), Wilford Leibrook (Tuba), and Richard Voynow (Piano). We were able to identify the players with the assistance of the book, Bix: The Leon Bix Beiderbecke Story by Philip R. and Linda K. Evans.

In the following months, advertisements like these appeared in the Richmond newspapers promoting the latest recordings cut in the studios. “Jazz Me Blues (Fox Trot)” played by the Wolverine Orchestra is highlighted.

Join us on Saturday, March 9th from 1:30-2:30 PM at the Davenport Public Library at Eastern in Meeting Room A and B to explore Bix Beiderbecke’s history with Gennett Records through a conversation with Dr. Charlie B. Dahan and Bob Jacobsen. Follow this link to learn more about this event celebrating Bix’s Birthday Weekend!

(posted by Kathryn)

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Closed on Presidents Day

2005-02. DPLVolume 36, dplx263.

Sadly, no one we know has planned a “Martha Washington Party” as was held in February 1900 by Mrs. William Henry (Minnie) Wiese. We do hope your Presidents Day is a wonderful day. We look forward to seeing everyone when we reopen on Tuesday, February 20th!

If you do decide to party like the Wiese family and their friends, we would love pictures!

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A Valentine for Special Collections

Love it! A timely Valentine’s Day surprise arrived this week at the RSSC Center, just as we were puzzling over our blog post about the holiday. It was a box of Valentine’s cards belonging to a Davenport girl! Frances Helen Whalen received these sweet notes from friends and classmates at the Taylor Elementary School in the mid-1920s:

Luckily for family history researchers, the senders signed their full names (many of them have dates, or were dated later by the recipient). Among them are Frances Baker, Miriam Posner, Pauline Ragan, Alice Ramm, and Helen Strohkarck. These girls would have been about 10 or 11 years old, in 5th or 6th grade, in 1926-1927.

Frances Whalen’s autograph book also came to us with this delightful donation. It covers about the same period as the valentines, so we could pair the cards with the entries in the book for a few of the girls. Bonus photos in the first two!

Dorothea Westphal

“When you are married/and your hubby is cross/just pick up your broom/and say I’m boss.”

Margaret Stamer

“Always think of your friend, Margaret Stamers.”

June Ott

“When you get married/and live by the lake/remember and send me a piece of your wedding cake.”

Evelyn Houghton

“I wish you peace/I wish you joy/I wish you first a baby boy/and when his hair begins to curl/I wish you then a baby girl.”

With the exception of Mary Stamer’s simple message, the girls’ autographs are largely about marriage and motherhood. Bernard Haim was the single boy whose name appeared among Frances’ valentines (one was the same as Evelyn Houghton’s above; the other is below). His contribution to the autograph book was short but sweet: a forwarding address.

So Bernard was not to remain Frances Whalen’s valentine in later years. When she married Joseph Hardi in 1949, the ceremony took place just 3 days after Valentine’s Day!

We thank you, Frances Whalen Hardi,* from the bottom of our hearts, for saving your Valentine’s Day cards for others to enjoy in the future.

(posted by Katie)

*More on this fascinating figure in a future post!

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