In Memoriam: Patricia Till

We are saddened to hear of the passing of long-time Davenport Public Library employee Pat Till. Ms. Till died Friday, January 10, 2020 at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport.

Patricia Emily Till was born July 22, 1949 in Davenport to Charles C. and Jane (Griffin) Miller. She married Pvt. Richard Thomas Till in 1966. Their son, Richard, was born later that year. Patricia went back to school and graduated from Davenport Central Central High School in 1968.

Pat began working at the Davenport Public Library on August 16, 1973. She spent most of her 41 years working as a clerk in the Children’s Department with Miss Rochelle Murray. She retired from the Customer Service department in September 2014. After retiring she would often stop by and visit with her best friend and fellow retired library employee Sandy.

Pat loved working with kids, and we often hear people say they have fond childhood memories of her. She always greeted them with a smile. The staff and patrons of the Davenport Public Library will miss her dearly.

Share your memories of Pat in the comments.

This slide show includes photographs of Pat from our Library Archives.

(posted by Cristina)

Posted in Library | Tagged , | 9 Comments

“Pershing Day,” January 6, 1920

Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 6, 1920, p. 1

One hundred years ago, the turn of the new year brought great excitement to the citizens of the Quad-Cities. The occasion was a visit from General John J. Pershing, commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces and hero of the Great War.  At 9:15AM on the morning of January 6th, 1920, he stepped from his railroad car onto the station platform at 5th and Main Streets in Davenport and into a full day of activities, mostly speech-making and glad-handing in addition his official inspection of the Rock Island Arsenal.

As soon as the October 28th telegram announcing Pershing was planning a tour of the war industries in the midwest, the mayors of Rock Island and Davenport each leapt at the chance to host the General during his visit. Harry Schriver of Rock Island was miffed that Lee Dougherty’s telegram arrived before his own letter of invitation, but Pershing himself quickly put an end to the competition between the cities by requesting that all four in the region work together to receive him.

Planning for the joint reception began in earnest as Pershing confirmed his visit would take place after the first of January. The committee included Schriver, Dougherty, Mayor C.P. Skinner of Moline, as well as representatives from the Davenport Commercial Club, the Greater Davenport Committee, the Rock Island Club, the Rock Island Chamber of Commerce, and the City of East Moline.

By all accounts, Pershing’s visit was an unqualified success. Enthusiasm was high: police had to keep the block-deep throng from crowding the train platform as the General posed for photographs with the reception committee, greeted the 20 men in the American Legion attachment, and listened to the celebrated Ottumwa military band play the “General Pershing March.”

Daily Times, January 6, 1920, p. 1.

Davenport schools were closed until 10:00am so children could join the thousands of people on the flag-lined streets cheering on the Pershing procession. Boys “…clung to [the automobile’s] sides, climbed upon the guards, and ran along beside the machine…”, slowing it down, but the General delighted in their liveliness. B.J. Palmer had one of his students block the car in the middle of Brady Street so the doctor could jump on the running board and shake the commander’s hand. Rain and cold deterred none, including Pershing: “If these good people can stand out in the weather,” he said, “I can ride in an open car…” He stopped on Pershing Avenue to salute and thank the people of Davenport for naming the former Rock Island Street in his honor.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 7, 1920.

After his first inspection of the Arsenal, including a 17-gun salute, General Pershing’s automobile tour continued down 5th Street in Moline and 7th Street in Rock Island to the thousands of Illinois-side “hurrah’s” on the way to Augustana College. The speech he delivered to 2000 people in the gymnasium praised the local spirit during the war:  “No section of this country has shown greater patriotism and loyalty than these cities. None have gone over the top in the Liberty Loan drives, the Red Cross drives, and other war work activities with greater enthusiasm than you.” He shook hands with everyone in the audience, paying special attention to war veterans and youngsters, before heading to a 1:00PM luncheon hosted by the area Rotary Clubs at the Masonic Temple in Rock Island. There he fended off questions about a run for president and enjoyed the company of his fellow Rotarians.

Rock Island Argus, January 7, 1920, p. 5

General Pershing’s afternoon visit to the Arsenal included speeches warning against the danger of “anarchy” and the “red flag of revolution,” as well as praise for the patriotism of the workers and former military men now employed there. The tour of inspection complete, Pershing took refreshment at an afternoon tea hosted by the wife of Arsenal commander Col. Harry B. Jordan.

The evening’s highlight was an address delivered by Pershing at the banquet hall at the Hotel Blackhawk. In order to improve the nation’s military preparedness, he promoted a training program for young men as an “extension of education,” to include instruction in the English language for “foreigners.” He echoed toastmaster Joe Lane’s introductory speech decrying “those red demons, Bolshevism and Communism” by urging the people of the United States to  “…not sit idly by and permit the growth of these dangerous ideas.” Despite the seriousness of the speakers’ words, the occasion itself was a merry one: The crowds pushing into the lobby and onto the balconies cheered as the Ottumwa military band struck up the popular tune “Johnny’s In Town” upon Pershing’s entrance.

Later, Harry F. Evans, post commander of the Davenport American Legion*, welcomed Pershing to the Coliseum, where more than 2500 ex-servicemen from posts around the region greeted him with an impromptu salute. His speech was short, again emphasizing preparedness in the light of the “unrest that is sweeping over the land,” but the General took the time to shake every man’s hand — and also every woman’s. Apparently he had remarked upon the beauty of the local ladies at numerous times during the day.

Departing the Davenport station at 10:00PM that night, General Pershing was released from his long day as a “prisoner of gratitude” as Mayor Dougherty had put it. And the people of the Quad-Cities had not lost their enthusiasm for celebrating “Pershing Day:” another large crowd had gathered on the platform to bid the beloved leader farewell.

(posted by Katie)

Compiled from the January 6 and 7, 1920 issues of the Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), the Davenport Democrat and Leader, and the Rock Island Argus (Rock Island, Illinois).

*The members of American Legion Post #26, Davenport, Iowa, organized the Scott County World War I Bonus Applications that are now in the RSSC Center’s collections (Acc.# 2012-25, Don Southwood Collection). The Center also holds the records of the Post #26 Women’s Auxiliary (Acc.# 2004-07). Other WWI records we have include the Scott County Army Enlistment and Discharge Papers and the World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 for Iowa on microfilm.


Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Exhibit: The 1920s

For our first exhibit of the year, we are taking a look back at life in Davenport a century ago. What kinds of books were children and grown-ups checking out from the library? What were the people attending the symphony listening to? What did new construction houses look like? Where were the predominantly African-American neighborhoods located? Stop by the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center at the Davenport Public Library during the month of January 2020 to see these items in person!

(posted by Cristina)

Posted in Genealogy, Library, Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Birthday, Judge John Forrest Dillon

John Forrest Dillon was born in Washington County, New York on December 25, 1831. His family moved to Davenport in 1838 when he was 7 years old. He attended Father Pelamourgues’ school at St. Anthony’s Church until the age of 16. At the age of 17, he studied medicine under Egbert S. Barrows, MD and graduated from Keokuk Medical College at the age of 21. After a few months in the practice, he figured out that medicine was not his calling and began to read law books.

In 1852 he was licensed as an attorney in Scott County and was quickly elected to be a prosecuting attorney for Scott County. In 1858 at the age of 27, he was elected judge of the 7th Judicial District of Iowa and published “A Digest of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Iowa.” At that time he was the only judge for Scott, Clinton, Muscatine, and Jackson counties. In 1863 he was elected judge of the Iowa Supreme Court. He was re-elected in 1869 as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court but that same year he was appointed circuit judge of the United States for the 8th Judicial Circuit. In 1872 he published “Municipal Corporations and started the “Central Law Journal.”

In 1879 he resigned as U.S. circuit judge and moved to New York City to become the professor of equity jurisprudence of the law department of Columbia College. In 1891 and 1892 he lectured on municipal law at Yale. He was named president of the American Bar Association in 1892. He worked as general counsel for the Missouri Pacific Railway and Western Union Telegraph Co. and earned a fortune reviewing corporation matters.

Judge Dillon came back to Davenport on May 11, 1904, to deliver the address at the dedication of our Free Public Library.

… In this strenuous age, in this age of materialism, in this age of commercialism in which the pursuit of wealth is the most dominant feature, in this day of unprecendeted colossal combinations of capital in corporate form and of combinations of employers and of counter-combinations of labor, each monopolistc, each manifesting distrust or fear of the other, but with a possibility of a union of theses great forces – then what? – in this new era of territorial and consequent commercial expansion and world-wide international relations, and when as a result men become so absorbed in business that they forget or neglect their duties as citizens – when we have, moreover, the pressing and unsoved problem of educating millions of people formerly in bondage who are and must remain in our midst – in these situations so novel and so grave there is more need than ever before for the exercise of the best intelligence and of the highest sense and truest measure of justice. For at the last in our public policies everything good, everything true, everything beneficent, everything permanent rests upon the people’s collective sense of justice and right…

Address delivered at the dedication of the Free Public Library by John F. Dillon. Davenport, Iowa: May 11, 1904
Left: Portrait of Mrs Dillon, from a photograph taken at Saratoga, 1889. Right: Portrait of her husband, John F. Dillon, from a photograph taken by Prince, New York, 1899.

John Forrest Dillon married Anna Price, daughter of Iowa congressman the Hon. Hiram Price, on November 10, 1853 in Davenport. Their home called “Leafland” was located in what is now Fejervary Park. Mrs. Dillon and their daughter, Anna Dillon Oliver, died tragically in the sinking of the French steamer La Touraine on July 4, 1898. Judge Dillon erected a monument for his wife at Oakdale Cemetery and was buried beside her after his death at the age of 83 on May 5, 1914.

Portrait of Anna Price Dillon, from a photograph taken at Paris by Emile Tourtin, 1876. Restored by Audrey Brown Art Studio.

In 2012 a descendant of Judge & Mrs. Dillon donated these beautiful portraits to us. This year we were able to pay for restoration and reframing of the portrait of Mrs. Anna Price Dillon. In 2020 we hope to raise enough money to restore and reframe the portrait of Judge Dillon. Subscribe to our eNewsletter for more information on our fundraising efforts.

Portrait of Judge John F. Dillon in need of restoration. Donated by Elizabeth Dillon Wheeler in 2012.

(Posted by Cristina)

Sources:

  • “Judge John Forrest Dillon, one-time supreme court justice of Iowa, is dead in New York City.” The Daily Times, Tuesday, May 5, 1914.
  • History of Scott County, Iowa. (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1882): 344-346.
  • Address delivered at the dedication of the Free Public Library by John F. Dillon. Davenport, Iowa: May 11, 1904.
  • Dillon, John F. Anna Price Dillon: Memoir and Memorials. New York: 1900.
Posted in Library, Local History | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year’s Eve 1919: Welcoming in a “Dry” 1920

New Year’s Eve 1919 in Davenport, Iowa was a “dry” one. Iowa passed a state prohibition law on January 1, 1916 (one of three states) that included making the production or sale of alcohol in the state illegal. Alcohol was allowed in private homes as long as it was purchased by one individual and not a group. Homeowners were also not allowed to pour drinks for their guests or stand at a bar-like structure in their home when a drink was poured.

One of the problems with stocking your home with hard-to-come-by alcohol was the occasional robbery by those who might be looking for spirited refreshments to celebrate the holiday season. Colonel G. Watson French suffered this fate, as did a few others in the area.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, January 1, 1920. Pg. 3.

Iowa was soon to be joined by every state in the nation, for on January 16, 1920, the entire United States would become “dry” under the 18th Amendment.

But on December 31, 1919 many Davenport residents could still travel across the river into Illinois for some “wet” refreshments.

What might one do if you chose to stay in Davenport to celebrate New Year’s Eve 1919? There were several options.

For those looking for a more reflective evening, many churches held evening services or church socials.

Local theaters showed the latest popular movies featuring the greatest stars of the day, such as Douglas Fairbanks in “When the Clouds Roll By,” Dorothy Phillips in “The Right to Happiness,” and Wyndham Standing with Lucy Colton in “The Miracle of Love.”

If you desired live theater, you were in luck: Vaudeville acts filled local establishments such as the Columbia Theater. You could reserve your seats to see Ben Linn the singing humorist, Manning & Hall that Klever Komedy Kouple, and on New Year’s Day, Will J. Ward and his Five Symphony Girls. With only two shows on New Year’s Eve it was recommended to make reservations early.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 28, 1919. Pg. 10.

And there were many choices for dancing all night to a live orchestra or band! The popular Coliseum Ball Room was open for dancing from the afternoon until 3:00 a.m. Crowds of 2000 plus people were common at this establishment.

Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 30, 1919. Pg. 10.

The Commercial Club not only had dancing, but a Vaudeville show and late dinner for those who made reservations. The private Outing Club held a banquet and dancing for members. The Turner Society held its annual Sylvester Ball at Central Turner Hall with two orchestras in two halls playing for dancers from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

The Daily Times, December 27, 1919. Pg. 8.

The Haynes’ Dancing School was only open until 1:00 a.m., but a five-piece orchestra would provide wonderful music for those interested. You could also sign up for dance classes if you felt you must keep up with the latest dance styles.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 30, 1919. Pg. 14.

For those who preferred a quiet night in, but did not have access to professionally-made alcohol (perhaps stolen as in the case of Colonel French?), there were other drink options , too. Home brews and stills were not uncommon in Iowa since prohibition had taken effect in 1916. One just had to be careful when sharing the instructions, ingredients, or final product.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 30, 1919. Pg. 12.

There was even a “dry” substitute for beer you could buy from the Rock Island Brewing Company.

The Daily Times, December 27, 1919. Pg. 5.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader reported some interesting facts right before New Year’s Eve on how the citizens of Davenport were fairing under the “dry” laws:

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 28, 1919. Pg. 18.

If you preferred a sweeter drink on your night in, advertisements suggested you might purchase some Green River soda. Like prohibition, this drink was created in Iowa (Davenport) in 1916.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 26, 1919. Pg. 2.

If January 1, 1920 found you still in the mood to celebrate, there were many options for dining out. Dempsey’s Cafe provided a holiday meal for only $1.00; there was also the Cafeteria at the Y.W.C.A.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 31, 1919. Pg. 15.

On the higher end, the Hotel Black Hawk presented a special menu at $2.00 per plate. You certainly might find something to tempt your interest and fit your budget.

The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 30, 1919. Pg. 10.

The 1910’s were filled with incredible events we still remember today, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Spanish Influenza, the First World War, and Prohibition in Iowa. One can only imagine what Davenporters were thinking at the turn of the New Year: National Prohibition was only days away, the local community was still adjusting to the return of soldiers from overseas, and the many issues that remained following the Great War had yet to be settled.

(posted by Amy D.)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Your Own Words: Oral History Project

Share your stories with us! The In Your Own Words: Oral History Project seeks to involve all individuals willing to tell their own stories as well as the community’s history.

This oral history project will focus on specific and relevant historical events – past and present – and gather individual’s stories on life in the Quad Cities.

In our first few sessions, we will focus on gathering oral histories about the experiences and memories of the Mississippi Valley Fair, the Iowa Caucuses, and the Flood of 2019.

To share your story, simply register or show up at the recording sessions. Library staff members will be available to record your oral history. The audio recording will be housed in the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center and will be available for research. If you have photographs and other personal items that document what you will discuss during the interview, please bring them with you!

If you have any questions or would like to register, please contact specialcollections@davenportlibrary.com or call 563-326-7902.

Dates: Monday, December 16, 2019 // Thursday, January 23, 2020 // Wednesday, January 29, 2020 // Thursday, February 13, 2020 // Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Time: 3:00pm – 6:00pm
Location: Main Street – Large Meeting Room & Small Meeting Room

Posted in Local History | Leave a comment

A Little Poinsettia Magic: Vander Veer Park Style

In advance of Poinsettia Day next week (December 12th), we thought we would share some Poinsettia exhibit pictures from the old Conservatory at Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport.

The Conservatory featured in these images was built in 1897 and torn down in 1954 due to age and structural issues. The current Conservatory at Vander Veer opened in November 1955.

The first winter flower exhibit was in 1901 after an expansion to the Conservatory allowed for more display room. A Chrysanthemum exhibit opened in November and while a Cyclamen exhibit was planned for December according to The Davenport Democrat, November 12, 1901, on page 1.

Poinsettias did not become the focus of the December exhibit until 1934 when over 500 Poinsettia were displayed in the Conservatory for the first time according to The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 19, 1934, on page 4. Previously the largest number had been 75 Poinsettia displayed in 1933 while other winter flowers, such as Cyclamen, Persian violets, and begonias, were the main exhibit as in years past.

The ability to increase the number of Poinsettia was based on continued improvements to the greenhouses at Vander Veer including better heating and lighting to help the fragile plants thrive. And they certainly did thrive!

We hope you enjoy taking a look back at these amazing exhibits.

Our first image is a hand-painted/retouched photograph in the old Vander Veer Conservatory showing red, white, and pink Poinsettia.

Loretta Clayton Collection – 2003-43. Image B-20.

A water wheel was a central part of the old Conservatory’s exhibits based on photographs in our collection. One can only imagine the number of Poinsettia and other flowers in this Conservatory.

Poinsettia Display – Vol 203 dpl1992-010468.

The photo below is similar to the image above, but this display included a small bridge. Note the Santa image along with the Christmas lights near the glass roof. Christmas lights were also put up outside of the Conservatory.

Poinsettia Display c. 1951 – Vol 204 dpl1992-011015.

A close up of the poinsettia and greens used in the display. The small bridge in the left of the photo connects it to image 011015.

Poinsettia Display c. 1915 – Vol 204 dpl1992 – 011014.

Another close-up image of the different flowers and greens used to create the displays.

Poinsettia Display – Vol 204 dpl1992-011140.

If you enjoyed this glimpse into the past we have wonderful news. Vander Veer Conservatory and Park currently has their magical winter display open to the public.

This festive event is still going strong over one hundred years later with even more beautiful plants and amazing lights to thrill anyone on these dark, cold winter nights.

(posted by Amy D.)

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

20 Years of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center

The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center celebrates 20 years since its dedication on November 26, 1999. It was a culmination of years of effort and dedication come to fruition, ensuring Loren Ted and Alice (Richardson) Sloane’s dream of a “premiere genealogy and local history collection” came true. Partnering with the Davenport Public Library’s Special Collections Center, in existence since 1982, the Sloane’s generously donated their research collection, time, and financial resources to create the beautiful space located in the lower level of the Library now known as the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

Between the extensive Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society and Library acquisitions, a larger staff was required, jumping from three individuals to five. A half-time Archivist devoted to the City of Davenport’s records also came aboard a few years later. Over the years, the Center’s staffing changed as people left to pursue other opportunities and new people were hired to support the Center’s mission.

Twenty years of growth has occurred thanks to generous donors, the establishment of an endowment fund, a foundation, a number of grants, and a lot of hardworking volunteers and staff. One foundation bolstering our mission is the Lorraine Duncan Foundation which was established to support the preservation of and access to local historic records.

Today the Center can proudly boast of helping researchers from all over the world, assisting the City of Davenport personnel, and providing reference and resource material to Quad Citizens of all ages as they explore the wide variety of primary and secondary sources available within the Center’s always expanding collection.

In addition, programming and outreach activities provided the community an opportunity to learn about the accomplishments and services of the Center and what it has in its collections.  One notable community event was the first Quad Cities Archives Crawl that promoted local history and cultural organizations.  The activities, the people, and space all experienced alterations and reconfigurations to better serve the public.

On November 18, 2019, we celebrated our 20th Anniversary with a delightful open house showcasing remarks from the Library Board of Trustees President, the Library Director, the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society President, and a recitation of “The Tally Ho Coach!” by Dale Haake, the current Poet Laureate of the Quad Cities.  We displayed hands-on exhibits on local history, genealogy and City Archives collections as well as examples of how we preserve and conserve materials, and materials belonging to the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society held at the Special Collections Center.

We featured the portrait restoration of Anna Price Dillon completed by Audrey Brown, an art conservator. Next to this excellent restoration, we highlighted a future project of restoring Mrs. Dillon’s husband, Judge John Dillon. The Dillons were a local family were members of many organizations in the city. After the restoration is completed both portraits will be hung in the Special Collections Center.

Additionally, we have seen a number of other large scale conservation projects completed at the Center. The conservation of the 1857 Map of the City of Davenport and its Suburbs, Scott County Iowa, created by James T. Hogane and H. Lambach, was completed in July 2012 as well as the stabilization and conservation of the historical Donatello Frieze donated to the Carnegie Library.

The Center received an impromptu reconfiguration which allowed for more effective use of the space for using our archives and manuscript collections and the chance to highlight some lesser known collections.

We engaged the community with numerous programs, exhibits, and social media posts. We had our first ever summer genealogy night which was a great success. We had local historians speak on Colonel Davenport and Charles A. Ficke, we learned how to create beautiful book arts, and we visited historical and cultural organizations. We had several exhibits that expanded our knowledge on the history of the book, the history of the local chapter of the NAACP, space exploration, and the history of Cook’s Point.

As we reflect on the years past, we are reminded that a new year is awaiting us full of possibilities. We are working toward providing more tools and opportunities to access and learn about the materials we collect and preserve that document our community.

Here are some photos from Celebration of the Center: 20th Anniversary Open House of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center.

(posted by the Staff of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center)

Posted in Local History | Leave a comment

The Sauk and Fox of the Mississippi Valley

The following publications, many of which are available at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center, represent differing views of the native peoples who inhabited this region in the early 19th century. With the exception of Black Hawk’s Autobiography (originally published in 1833), all were written from an outside perspective. They are listed according to original publication date:

Blair, Emma Helen, ed.  The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley and Region of the Great Lakes as Described by … Morrell Marston, American Army officer; and Thomas Forsyth, United States agent at Fort Armstrong … Cleveland, Ohio: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1911. SC 970.1 BLA

Atwater, Caleb. Remarks Made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien, Thence to Washington City, in 1829. Columbus, OH: N. Whiting, 1831.

Atwater, Caleb. Writings of Caleb Atwater. Columbus, OH: Published by the author, printed by Scott and Wright, 1833.

Autobiography of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk, dictated by himself … Oquawka Ill.: J.B. Patterson, 1882. SC 970.1 BLA

Fulton, Alexander R. The Red Men of Iowa: Being a History of the Various Aboriginal Tribes whose Homes Were in Iowa … Des Moines: Mills & Company, 1882. SC 970.1 Ful

Hauberg, John Henry. Indian Trails Centering at Black Hawk’s Village. Springfield, Ill., 1921.

Stocking, Amer Mills. The Saukie Indians and Their Great Chiefs Black Hawk and Keokuk. (In verse) Rock Island, Ill.: The Vaile Company, 1926. SC 970.1 Sto

Christensen, Thomas Peter. The Iowa Indians: a Brief History. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Laurance Press Co., 1954. SC 970.1 Chr

Hagan, William Thomas. The Sac and Fox Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989, c1958. SC 970.00497 HAG

Posted in Local History | Leave a comment

Turkey Notes: The 2019 additions

Please type the words Turkey Notes into the search bar on the right to find past Turkey note blogs.

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!

Turkey feels worried,
Turkey feels dread,
Turkey says,
“Eat Impossible Whoppers instead.” 

Turkey Takeout,
Turkey Cook,
Turkey says,
“Come to the library and check out our new books!”

Turkey Pebble,
Turkey Clay,
Turkey says,
“Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!”

posted by Amy D.

Posted in Local History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment