Thanksgiving is fast approaching so we thought we would try to get in the holiday mood this week. For those individuals with a Davenport connection that may mean thinking about your annual Turkey Notes.
For those new to Davenport, or this blog, a Turkey Note is a three-or-four line poem where the first three lines start with the word “Turkey”. Traditionally, these little poems are handwritten and then rolled in tissue paper or colored paper that extends past the paper the poem is written on. The ends of the rolled Turkey Note are tied with yarn or ribbon. The edges of the tube are then frayed to create a festive atmosphere.
On Thanksgiving Day, the notes are frequently handed out before or during a meal.
When asked by those uninitiated to the tradition for an example, most Turkey Note writers will respond with a well-loved traditional Turkey Note:
Turkey Red, Turkey Blue, Turkey says, “I love you!”
Turkey Note traditionalists say that the second word in the first-and-second lines should be colors, but many Davenporters do not follow that theory:
Turkey Juicy, Turkey Dry, Turkey Says, “Please pass the pie!”
What might you write a Turkey Note about? Some might follow the positive Turkey Note approach and spread compliments and positive thoughts. Others tease about sports rivalries or long-standing family jokes. We’ve even heard rumors of Turkey Notes being used to ask a person out on a date or to propose to them. Turkey Note ideas are endless.
Where did this long standing tradition come from? The truth is no one remembers. We do know that its unique origins come from Davenport and Scott County, Iowa.
We located a two newspaper articles that help us narrow down the beginning of this festive tradition. The Davenport Democrat and Leader reporter Bob Feeney mentioned memories of the Turkey Note tradition from his childhood on page 25 of the November 23, 1939 edition. Born in 1901, this helps us learn the Turkey Note tradition would have existed in the early 1900’s. Mr. Feeney remembered Thanksgiving parties in school where Turkey Notes were passed out into decorated boxes much like Valentine cards in February.
In The Daily Times on November 22, 1940 (page 3), reporter Fred Bills asked Mrs. Harry Downer for memories of Turkey Notes. Born in 1875, the former Alice Rinaldo, had been educated in Davenport schools. She had no memories of Turkey Notes before she moved from the area in 1890, but when she moved back in 1900 she was introduced to the little poems.
The same Daily Times article also asked Miss Anna Mittelbuscher who taught in Davenport schools for 51 years before retiring in 1938. Miss Mittelbuscher did not know who invented the Turkey notes, but supported the idea it was a local school teacher who created them in a classroom.
Invented sometime between 1890 and 1900, these little poems soon became the center of Thanksgiving parties in the classroom and became a tradition on Thanksgiving Day in the children’s homes.
And finally, in a tradition of our own, a few Turkey Notes from our Davenport Public Library staff.
Turkey Baked, Turkey Ground, Turkey’s good all year round.
Turkey Up, Turkey Down, Turkey’s heading out of town!
The observance of Armistice Day began officially on May 13, 1938, through an act of legislation. The holiday was “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day'” (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a). It was to be celebrated on November 11th in honor of the ending of World War I by the signing of the armistice, or a temporary cessation of hostilities, that went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Under the 83rd Congress on June 1, 1954, Public Law 380 was passed changing the name of this holiday to Veterans Day to honor American veterans of all wars. This change was in part due to the United States having been through two more wars, World War II and the Korean War.
This year to celebrate the service of veterans, we have selected a collection of glass negative portraiture of Lieutenant Edward Rawson Guyer from our Hostetler Studio Collection. The glass negatives were created at the photography studio of J. B. Hostetler which was located on Brady Street.
Edward R. Guyer was born to Edward Hanes and Constance Kimball Guyer on March 21, 1891, in Rock Island, Illinois. He attended Rock Island Public Schools and Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithica, New York in 1915 with a mechanical engineering degree. During three of his college years, he played on Cornell’s football team. In his senior year, the team won the eastern collegiate championship.
Edward, or “Ted”, continued to participate in team athletics after he returned home. He played for the Rock Island Independents football team which was in its “formative years.” He was well known for his prowess on the football field, but he hung up his helmet at the end of the 1916 season.
He began his career as an apprentice at a refinery plant in York, Pennsylvania. He progressed in his career by taking positions at Deere & Company and the Moline Plow Company as an assistant mechanical engineer. Before the United States entry into World War I, he was working on building projects on the Rock Island Arsenal.
He was sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and then transferred to the French arsenals. The newspaper articles display the glimpses of news families would receive about the young men and women serving during World War I.
After his return, Edward married Marjorie Fish of Minnesota. The couple had three children, one son and two daughters Edward R Guyer, Jr. born December 12, 1918 in Minnesota passed away at the age of 6 due to bronchial pneumonia on December 9, 1925. Their daughters, Marjorie Rawson and Eden Constance, or “Edwine,” were born after the death of their son.
He became the superintendent of the Rock Island Stove Company. In 1927, he moved on to join the Cribben and Sexton Company in Chicago as their first vice president and director. He was an active member and leader in associations relating to this field.
Edward’s life was cut short by a tragic fell on a marble staircase when leaving a meeting at 10:30 in the evening with friends and business associates. “He pitched head first down five stairsteps and incurred a fracture of the skull” from which he never gained consciousness.
He was a well-respected man who still had close ties to their friends from and to the community of Rock Island.
To most residents in the apartment above the J. M. Glaspell Grocery
Store at 215 East 3rd Street life may have seemed happy and content.
Harry C. Watt was the head of that household. At age 31
years, Harry was a respected Civil War veteran and local cigar manufacturer. He
lived with his wife of seven years, Mary Ann age 24, and five-year-old daughter
Mary Ann’s younger sisters also lived with the Watt family. Louisa Filter, age 20, was a clerk in Petersen & Sons’ Dry Goods store. Amelia Filter, age 16, helped her oldest sister keep house.
An assistant in Harry’s cigar manufacturing business, John Schoening, also resided with them.
Mr. Watt had joined the 25th Regiment Iowa Infantry, Company G in 1862 at the age of 16 as a drummer boy. He remained in the unit through 1865. After the war, he moved to Davenport and became a respected cigar manufacturer and salesman. By 1879, he not only had his own small store, but also traveled around as a cigar salesman. He belonged to the Davenport Lodge 7 of Civil War Veterans and the International Order of Odd Fellows. Harry was, by all accounts, an upstanding citizen of Davenport.
Mary Ann, Louisa, and Amelia Filter were from Maquoketa, Jackson County, Iowa. Their father, Richard, still lived in Maquoketa with their stepmother and half-siblings. Their mother Elizabeth passing away in 1861. All three women were admired for their respectable character and ladylike demeanor.
As with most families, the Watts’ had had their share of sadness as well. In April 1876, Harry and Mary Ann’s three-day old son died. And in October 1878, near tragedy almost befell the family when Harry, who was cleaning his pistol in the kitchen in preparation for a sales trip, accidentally shot Mary Ann in the chest.
Doctors were called and they tried to remove the bullet, but were unable to find it. Though expected to die, Mary Ann went on to make a full recovery; even with the bullet still lodged within her chest.
In January 1879, Henry opened a new cigar business at 103 West Second Street. The local newspaper had kind words at its opening.
It was a typical evening when on April 4, 1879 the Watt and Filter family entertained in their apartment. Everything we know of the events of that evening and after comes from newspaper articles and the Coroner’s Inquest.
Mr. James Rhoades had been visiting the family that April evening. A friend of Harry’s, they had discussed upcoming elections and news events. Mary Ann, Louisa, and Amelia were all present that night as well. Mr. Rhoades reported to the inquest that everyone seemed in a fine mood when he left about 11:15 p.m.
After the departure of Mr. Rhoades, Harry had gone to stand outside. Being a cold, spring night Mary Ann called him to come in. When he delayed, Louisa volunteered to go get him. The two soon returned upstairs. Mary Ann scolded Harry for standing outside so long in the cold. He replied that all was well and he was only teasing she and Louisa by staying outside.
Harry and Mary Ann retired to their bedroom while Louisa went to the room she shared with Amelia.
Amelia changed quickly and got into bed as Louisa stood in front of the dresser. Amelia asked her sister if she was not coming to bed as well. Louisa responded that she would be there when she was ready. Amelia saw her sister take a drink from a glass and soon after Louisa collapsed on the floor.
Rushing to her sister, Amelia called for Mary Ann to come quickly as Amelia feared Louisa was dying.
Mary Ann ran from her bedroom to her sisters’ room. She found Amelia trying to wake Louisa who was breathing in a shallow manner and lying still. In a panic, Mary Ann called for Harry. He quickly entered the bedroom and leaned over Louisa. He turned, left the room, and shouted for his assistant John Schoening to go fetch a doctor. John quickly left the apartment and ran for Dr. W. D. Middleton.
Mary Ann left Amelia cradling their sister and returned to
her room for camphor*. When she entered her bedroom, Mary Ann found Harry
laying still upon the floor.
John Schoening and Dr. Middleton arrived soon after to find Amelia
cradling Louisa on the floor in their room as Mary Ann tried to awaken Harry on
the floor in their bedroom.
At first, no one could figure out what had caused two healthy adults to collapse so quickly. It wasn’t until Mary Ann found a small bottle near Harry that the truth became known. He had ingested poison as had Louisa.
Quickly, the apartment was filled with neighbors responding to the horrified screams of Amelia and Mary Ann. Two new doctors, Dr. Bawden and Dr. French, arrived as well.
Within minutes of the doctors’ arrivals, Harry Watt died. Louisa lingered a little longer before dying. Neither regained consciousness before passing.
The next morning, an investigation into the deaths of Harry Watt and Louisa Filter formally commenced. Perhaps The Davenport Democrat of April 5, 1879 describes the situation best:
Mary Ann was given the suicide note found on the body of Harry Watt. Once it was read, Mary Ann refused to allow an autopsy of either body. The inquest took place on April 5th. Mary Ann, Amelia, John Schoening, James Rhoades, the doctors, and neighbors were all called to testify.
Mrs. Watt refused to allow the suicide note to be made public and it was not copied into the inquest notes. It was said, besides the Coroner, that only two other people were shown the note and they were sworn to silence by Mary Ann Watt.
We searched the Coroner’s Inquest on microfilm at
Richardson-Sloane Special Collections and did find the inquest of Harry Watt,
but no written report on the inquest of Louisa Filter.
The inquest we did find brought to light that Harry Watt had purchased prussic acid (known also as hydrogen cyanide) along with ground cinnamon and hops from druggist Charles Harrison a week before the suicides. Mr. Harrison had warned Mr. Watt about the dangers of the prussic acid. Harry had responded that he was going to be very careful and he had read of a way to treat tobacco leaves with the ingredients to produce different colors on the leaves.
Throughout the inquest, those interviewed stated they never saw anything but familial kindness between the two. Harry was described as a kind husband and father who was a hard worker. Louisa, as a well-respected and congenial young lady who worked hard in her job and was a devoted sister. It wasn’t until the funeral that neighbors began to whisper that they had seen the pair in dark alleys or shadows talking in serious tones in recent weeks.
Richard Filter was summoned to Davenport from Maquoketa, but he did not take Louisa’s body back with him. Instead, Mary Ann Watt purchased half a lot at Oakdale Cemetery for her husband and sister to be buried. Newspapers reported on the rumor that Louisa was pregnant when she died and the assumption was Harry Watt was the father.
On April 6th, the funeral was held. Newspapers reported that three to four hundred persons stood on the street outside the building the Watt family lived in to observe the funeral; which was held in the apartment inside.
Many friends and strangers followed the burial procession to the cemetery. Harry Watt’s coffin was escorted by members of the International Order of Odd Fellows while Louisa Filter’s coffin was escorted by clerks from the Petersen & Sons’ Dry Goods Store.
The procession included the Great Western Band playing dirges. A few days before his death, Harry, a musician, had made a pact with a friend that when the first friend died, the other person would play at his funeral. His friend, being a member of the Great Western Band, fulfilled the promise by bringing the entire band to play the funeral.
At Oakdale Cemetery, Mary Ann Watt was reported to have fainted as her husband and sister were lowered into their graves on opposite ends of the half lot she had purchased for them.
One newspaper reporter asked a family member if they didn’t think releasing the suicide note might help end the gossip that had taken hold in Davenport relating to the joint deaths.
The family member responded, according to the newspaper, that the note was worse than anyone could imagine and it would never be talked of again.
That statement leaves a person to wonder about the accidental shooting in October 1878. Could it possibly have not been an accident after all? Without knowing when the romance between Harry and Louisa began it remains a mystery.
Eventually, the gossip died away. Mary Ann Watt never remarried. She raised her daughter and when she was older she moved in with Edna’s family.
Mary Ann Watt died at age 84 on November 15, 1938 in Davenport. Her obituary celebrated the well-respected long-time Davenport citizen who had been married to a Civil War veteran. Harry, the newspapers’ stated, had preceded her in death many years before. No mention of how he died or of Louisa.
Mary Ann was buried in Oakdale cemetery. She was placed between her sister and husband.
We are left to wonder if the bullet lodged in her chest had ever been removed and was it really an accident that had placed it there on that long-ago October day.
(posted by Amy D.)
*Mary Ann may have sought Camphor to use as a smelling salt due to its strong odor.
Microfilm: 977.769 Scott County, Iowa Clerk of Courts Coroner’s Reports – Unknown Man – Wichmann, Johannis
Institutions including the St. Ambrose University Archives, Palmer College of Chiropractic, the Putnam Museum and Science Center, the Colonel Davenport Historical Foundation, the Rock Island Arsenal Historical Society, the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center (Augustana College), the Butterworth Center and Deer-Wiman House, and more will be showcasing their collections and sharing stories of life in the region in years past. Enjoy talks on Bix Beiderbecke, the German heritage of the Quad Cities, and the challenges of managing records of the U.S. Army.
Visitors can even enter to win historical door prizes! See you there!
We came across an interesting query from The Daily Times this week.
We aren’t sure if this falls into the category of ghost hunting. Unfortunately, we do not know if the Davenport reader received any replies. So far no update to this request has been found. We won’t give up the hunt on our end to find out if the gentleman ever rented or purchased a local haunted house.
We are lucky to have a collection of items relating to local Hispanic history currently on loan and on display at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. The majority of the collection relates to the Cook’s Point neighborhood formerly located in Davenport’s west end. Items include newspaper clippings, a copy fo a report on housing and sanitary conditions at Cook’s Point, and a t-shirt worn and Cook’s Point reunions.
A straw hat, a sock, and a tin cup on the display help tell the history of workers of the onion fields in Bettendorf in the 1960s.
One of the display cases features a copy of a recipe published in the St. Alphonsus Chuch Cookbook in 1980, a medal from the Senior Olympics, a mug from LULAC Council #10, and newspaper clippings relating to the Terronez family.
Stop by to see this exhibit in person before Saturday, October 19th.
Scott County Farmer’s Institute was organized on February 13, 1896, in Eldridge, Iowa by a group of local men interested in supporting and disseminating “practical and Scientific knowledge pretaining [sic] to agriculture in all its various branches” to farmers in Scott County. The Institute was open to any farmer living in Scott County. In keeping with their constitution, the Institute planned at least one two-day institute each year where new farming knowledge and techniques were disseminated in the first months of the year, plus an annual meeting held on the first Saturday of October in Eldridge.
Farmer’s Institutes sprouted up across the agricultural belt to advocate, educate, and guide the efforts of the farmers.
We received this collection of Scott County Farmer’s Institute materials from the Scott County Library System. The collection dates from 1896-1957. It features meeting minutes, programs from their annual meetings, and accounting ledgers. We also have a few newspaper articles about their annual institute and other activities of the group. These materials demonstrate the importance of agricultural work in Scott County.
Throughout the years, the Institute offered many different opportunities to all Scott County residents who were interested in agriculture and its related branches. The topics consisted of dairy farming, stock farming, horses, poultry raising, and fruit and vegetable growing. But as the Institute progressed, the topics evolved to include discussing how to improve country schools and bee husbandry. Women and children were encouraged to take part in the educational and festivities at the institute and throughout the year. Women participated in contests in the culinary arts highlighting butter, bread, and cakes as well as crafts and fine arts such as embroidery and sewing. Children across the county participated in a spelling contest after being selected from the trials that were held in every township.
After many years of successful meetings and institutes, the Scott County Farmer’s Institute decided to dissolve in 1954. The Farmer’s Institute helped to shape the industry of agriculture, organizations like 4-H, and our state and county fairs. The legacy of this organization can be explored through these volumes.
We learn something new every day in Special Collections. This week’s fun discovery was the City of Davenport had a ship named after it in World War II and that ship inspired a local Pin-Up Girl contest here on the home front.
According to newspaper reports in July 1943, Davenport Mayor Ed Frick announced that a new navy ship would be named after our city. According to Frick, several local civic organizations, with the support of City Council, had written the Secretary of Navy asking a ship be named after Davenport.
The Navy listened and on December 8, 1943 the Mayor’s wife, Marea Frick, christened the ship the U.S.S. Davenport in the shipyard of the Leathem D. Smith Shipbuilding Co. in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Mayor Frick and a delegation from Davenport also attended the event. The city presented the ship with a gift of a combination radio and record player in the hopes it could be played over the ships’s communication system for all to enjoy.
The 303-foot frigate was expected to be used as an anti-submarine vessel assisting during ship convoys. It was finally ready for use by the Navy on June 1, 1944.
In August 1944, local newspapers announced the Retail Merchants Bureau of the Davenport Chamber of Commerce would be holding a Pin-Up Girl contest for Davenport ladies to be the official Pin-Up Girl of the U.S.S. Davenport.
Not only would the winner be the ship’s Pin-Up Girl, but she would also win the title of Miss Davenport and receive a $100 war bond.
The contest rules were very simple as listed below:
The photos would not be judged locally, but sent to the U.S.S. Davenport and judged by crewmen on the ship.
Throughout the contest, local newspapers would post the photos of women who were entering the competition.
By the deadline of September 14th, 43 unmarried women had entered the contest. The photos were sent on to be judged by the crewmen of the ship.
The Pin-Up Girl contest winner was announced on October 20, 1944. The crewmen selected Miss Dorothy Adams as their official U.S.S. Davenport Pin-Up Girl.
Miss Adams was a 21-year-old former Marycrest College student who lived with her parents at 1816 Middle Road. She was employed in the actuarial department of Modern Woodmen of American located across the Mississippi River in Rock Island, IL. Her brother, Allyn, was serving in the Navy overseas.
The crewmen on ship wrote to the Retail Merchants Bureau that they had appreciated the contest and asked for a large color photograph of Miss Adams to be sent to the them so it could be hung for the crewmen to see.
What ever happened to the U.S.S. Davenport or Dorothy Adams?
The frigate U.S.S. Davenport finished war time duties in 1945 and was quickly altered into a weather ship. By June 6, 1946 its service for the government was done and the ship was sold for scrap.
According to newspaper accounts, Dorothy Adams married Major George William Orr, a former Davenport resident, on July 27, 1946. After a candlelight wedding in the First Presbyterian Church in Davenport. The couple celebrated with friends and family in the Empire Room of the Hotel Blackhawk.
The couple planned to live near Selfridge Field, Michigan after the wedding where Major Orr was the Commander of a squadron connected to the 56th Fighter group with the Air Force.
We were excited to come across this wonderful piece of World War II home front history. And we hope Dorothy Adams Orr remained proud of being part of our local Davenport history.
(posted by Amy D.)
Wikipedia contributors. “USS Davenport (PF-69).” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 Oct. 2017. Web. 27 Sep. 2019.
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, July 8, 1943. Pg. 12
The Daily Times, December 10, 1943. Pg. 19, 20
The Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 29, 1944. Pg. 14
At 6:00 pm on Saturday, September 19, 1891, The Davenport Gas Company flipped a switch to turn electric lights on for the first time in the city of Davenport.
Perceptions of electric light varied amongst the Davenport citizens. Many marveled at the beauty it brought to the dusk sky. Some residents found that the lights illuminated the city as never before witnessed with gas lighting: “[T]he city had the appearance last night of being dotted with diamonds of the most brilliant hue.”  Some were chagrined by how the lights altered their favorite spots in the city. Although a minority of residents were not fond of the electric lighting, their criticisms were eclipsed by the rejoicing masses.
A controversy arose on this triumphant day for electricity. Residents who continued to pay for gas services from the Davenport Gas Company would be required to do so at increased rates although the quality would remain the same. Unfortunately, at that time, gas quality was deemed poor.
Regardless of this, “‘All Hail the power of Electricity'” was the overriding sentiment. Electricity brought more than mere illumination to the city: a company with aspirations to provide high quality light services with the plans of installing the “finest, best and most expensive machinery that could be had for the purposes” was also introduced. 
Electricity services were provided by the Davenport Gas and Electric Company for a number of years. Competing companies on both banks of the Mississippi River began to emerge. Across the river, the Moline and Watertown Railway Company and the Peoples Power Company of Rock Island served their residents. People interacted with electricity in more ways than lights, they also rode on streetcars.
In 1907, the Peoples Light Company usurped the Davenport Gas and Electric Company’s spot as the primary electric company in Davenport. The latter, located at Third and Farnum Streets, has been operating since 1855 when George L. Davenport started the Davenport Gas-Light and Coke Company, formerly known as Charles Herrick & Company.
The Peoples Light Company doubled its capital in March of 1895. The board of directors included A.W. Vander Veer, Jens Lorenzen, J.S. Wylie, A. Burdick, George T. Baker, George W. Cable, and James F. Lardner. At this time, their offices were temporarily located in the Masonic Temple until the completion of a new building. Charles W. Young was selected to become the manager of the company. He had a list of accolades recommending him for the job, such as a graduation certificate from Rose Polytechnic school in Terre Haute, Indiana, and work experience at the Missouri Electric Light and Power Company of St. Louis. 
While the companies from the period merged, the cities along this stretch of the Mississippi River benefited from the electric light they provided. Gas lighting was a thing of the past.
(posted by Kathryn and Cristina)
 “Electricity On,” Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), Sept. 21, 1891.
 “The New Lights,” Davenport Democrat, Sept. 20, 1891.
 “Peoples Light Company,” Davenport Democrat, Mar. 22, 1895.
On this Friday the 13th with a Harvest Moon expected in the evening, it is easy to think of superstitions. One we thought about earlier today was the superstition of taller buildings retaining or removing the number thirteen associated with a floor or room number.
Would it be bad luck to live or work on the thirteenth floor? We admit most of us rarely even look when we get on an elevator of a taller building to see if there is a thirteenth floor to visit.
Not many buildings in Davenport would have had to worry about the thirteenth floor debate as most downtown structures are just shy of reaching a thirteenth floor in height.
One exception is the Davenport Bank & Trust Building at 201-209 W. 3rd Street. It most definitely goes beyond thirteen floors.
With a little research we discovered that the original architects apparently had no thirteenth floor phobia.
In a 1957 Daily Times article highlighting the use of the thirteenth floor of the building it was seen as anything but a curse.
Originally designed as a penthouse with an outdoor patio, the thirteenth floor in 1957 housed a lounge for female bank employees who worked in the bookkeeping and proof departments located on the 12th floor. Female bank employees who worked on the first and second floors had a separate lounge on the second floor.
The women were allowed use of a living room, restroom and shower, kitchen stocked with food they could prepare, and the outdoor patio.
It certainly does not sound like a scary situation at all!
Maybe next time we ride up an elevator in a building with a thirteenth floor we will take a moment to stop and get out to look around. With any luck, we may find a penthouse lounge like the one that used to be in the Davenport Bank & Trust building.