The Davenport Conspiracy

Mid-September through mid-October marks Iowa Archaeology Month, the perfect occasion to tell the story of Davenport’s most notorious adventures in archaeology.

In January of 1877, the Reverend Jacob Gass, a Swiss-born minister serving the First Lutheran Church and aspiring antiquarian, uncovered two slate tablets in a burial mound on the Cook Farm in southwest Davenport. One depicted cremation and hunting scenes on each of two sides; the other appeared to be a calendar. The discovery excited members of the Davenport Academy of Sciences, who believed the tablets could support the theory that an ancient civilization of “Mound Builders” once existed on the North American continent. The Academy encouraged Gass, now among its members, to dig again. The following January, Mound 11 at the Cook Farm yielded a limestone tablet with a red-colored figure holding a bow and sitting astride a sun icon. Above the figure were two images of bird-shaped pipes.

Gass also acquired a pipe in the shape of an elephant for the Academy. A Louisa County farmer had turned it up in a field and used it to smoke. Gass later excavated a mound in the same area and a second “elephant pipe” resembling a woolly mammoth or a mastodon was discovered. Financially supported by wealthy attorney Charles Putnam, Gass continued hunting on the Academy’s behalf until he left Davenport for Postville, Iowa in 1883.

Troubles began in 1884 when the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology report, “Animal Carvings from Mounds of the Mississippi Valley” reached the Davenport Academy of Natural Sciences. Its author, Henry Henshaw, cast doubt on the authenticity of the various Mound Builder artifacts then on display at the Academy museum. Furious that the integrity of the Academy had been challenged, Charles Putnam penned “A Vindication of the Authenticity of the Elephant Pipes and Inscribed Tablets…” (1885) in response.

The details of the ensuing controversy are thoroughly explored by Marshall Bassford McKusick in The Davenport Conspiracy (1970) and the Davenport Conspiracy Revisited (1991). It included a public battle between Putnam and Washington scientists in the pages of the journals Science and the American Antiquarian, the expulsion of two members of the Academy whom Putnam and his supporters believed had conspired to tarnish the institution’s reputation, a study of the artifacts at the Davenport Museum by an expert in Hopewell culture, an account by Judge James Bollinger, an investigation into Academy files by Davenport Museum director Don Herold, and research by McKusick himself, the State Archaeologist of Iowa.

McKusick’s work revealed that the perpetrators of the hoax were likely a small group of Academy members playing a joke on Jacob Gass, who had irked some by bragging about his many finds (McKusick also suggests that the educated Eastern-born elites of the Academy disdained the recent immigrant and his mound-looting methods). This group had etched and planted the tablets in the mound at the Cook Farm, purposefully leaving the holes where nails would have attached the slate to the roof (allegedly on a local house of prositution) from which it was taken. When the fakes were taken for real, the group “tried to end the affair with an even more obvious fraud,” the limestone tablet in Mound 11, and was astonished that the artifacts collected there were again accepted as genuine. By that time the situation had escalated to the point where the pranksters felt a confession would not be believed. Indeed, the testimony of “whistleblowers” A.S. Pratt and Dr. Clarence Lindley was suppressed by the more powerful Putnam-led faction.

The two “elephant pipes” were definitively proven fraudulent in 1930 by Dr. Henry Shertrone, along with other platform pipes in the Davenport Museum’s collection (though many were also confirmed as genuine).

The Daily Times (Davenport, Iowa), August 11, 1930, page 2.

McKusick discovered the majority of the frauds originated with Edwin Gass, brother of Jacob, a participant in many of the excavations. He also assembled evidence that Jacob, Edwin, and Jacob’s brother-in-law, Alfred Blumer, were deeply involved in the antiquities trade and knowingly passed off fake artifacts to collectors, including (possibly) each other. And he brought to light testimony of the Academy’s janitor, John Graham, made copies of platform pipes and may have created the second elephant pipe; either he or Blumer are said to have “uncovered” it during the excavation of the mound.

Dig into the controversy’s primary sources here at the RSSC Center: Charles Putnam’s “Vindication…” (SC 570 Put) and the debates recorded in the Proceedings of the Davenport Academy of Science (SC 506 Dav). Take a look at the evidence in McKusick’s two books on the Davenport Conspiracy (SC 570 McK 1970 and 1991) and draw your own conclusions!

(posted by Katie)

*Unless otherwise noted, all images reproduced from The Davenport Conspiracy by Marshall McKusick (Iowa City, IA, 1970)

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Found in a Library Book: A Davenport Mayor Connection

We find curious artifacts in books from time to time. A couple of weeks ago when we were featuring our collegiate yearbooks we found two pen drawings by an Art Kroppach. Davenporters should be familiar with Mr. Kroppach. He was Davenport’s mayor for a decade from 1944 to 1954.

We made another interesting connection to this artifact in our collection. We have a portrait of Arthur that was painted in 1947 by Gay Tydeman who lived at 304 Union Arcade. This painting was submitted into the the artist competition at the Mississippi Valley Fair.

Because of these two beautiful sketches and our portrait of Art, we wanted to learn more about the life of Arthur Robert Kroppach. Arthur was born on September 22, 1921 to Robert Kroppach and Grace Darling in Burlington, Iowa. He attended elementary and high school in Burlington. He continued his education at the University of Iowa.

The pen drawings were found between pages 200 and 201 in “The Honor Roll” section. It was a partial list of alumni and students of who left the University of Iowa to enter the service. One of the students listed on page 201 was Arthur R. Kroppach.

Arthur received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa 1917. He registered for military service during World War I. His registration card is dated May 28, 1917 and lists him as a law student and single. He was discharged from military service on November 27, 1918 at Camp Zachary Taylor in Kentucky.

After the war, he earned his law degree in 1920 from the University of Iowa. During his time at the University of Iowa he was known for more than his studies, he was a renowned thespian. Here are some images of him on the Iowa stage.

On September 22, 1921, Arthur married Anne E. Thoman, the daughter of John Paul Thoman and Mary Gerot, from Iowa City. She was born on April 25, 1897 in Riverside, Iowa. They had two children, Suzanne (born in 1925) and James Robert (born in 1931).

According to the city directories, Arthur was residing at 513 Putnam Building in 1920. He lived and worked in Davenport. He lived in the 5th Ward of Davenport. Arthur was elected to be an alderman on Davenport’s City Council in 1934. He represented the 5th ward. After 2 years, he was elected alderman-at-large, a position he served in for 8 years.

On April 27, 1942, he signed his draft registration for World War II. He was aged 48 and working at the Iowa Mutual Insurance Company.

In 1944, Arthur was elected to be the mayor of Davenport. His political party was Republican. He would serve in this capacity for the next decade until Mayor Walter Beuse was elected in 1954. As mayor, Arthur established the follow notable accomplishments:

  • the Davenport Municipal Airport Commission at Mt. Joy
  • installed Davenport parking meters
  • improved the seawall and fill-in to make the levee usable throughout they year, and the construction of an extensive seawall West from Gaines for future development of industry and park purposes
  • provisioned that stop signs be made for crosswalks to control traffic with children walking to school which lead to crossing guards.

According to our recent blog, A Look at Davenport in 1950, we found Davenport mayor Arthur R. Kroppach (age 54) living at 418 West Central Park Avenue with his wife Ann (age 51), daughter Suzanne (age 24), and son James (age 18). Suzanne was the assistant society editor for The Daily Times newspaper.

Morning Democrat (Davenport, IA) Jan. 1, 1954, 1.

After his tenure as mayor, Mr. Kroppach was appointed the postmaster of Davenport by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 and served until 1968 when he retired.

He was still an active member in the Davenport community. He was known as an honest and civic oriented person. He died on May 18, 1980. He is buried at the Davenport Memorial Cemetery with his wife Anne.

Quad City Times (Davenport, IA) May 19, 1980, 1.


We hope that we will be able to share more of the artifacts we find in our books in the futures. This one had a unique Davenport connection!

(posted by Kathryn)

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In Memoriam: Queen Elizabeth II

As we learn of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, it brings to mind her long and full life of service as head of state to her country and causes one to reflect on her decades of dedication to duty. Up to date with current affairs, always moving and changing with the times, even on social media, 96 year-old Queen Elizabeth certainly upheld the pledge given on her 21st birthday in 1947:  I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

The Queen never visited the Quad Cities. The closest she got was Chicago in July 1959. Davenport’s mayor, Don Petrucelli and his wife were invited and happily attended the event.  In this blog post from the Chicago Public Library posted June 26, 2019,  we gain some detailed insight into the event.

After lunch at the Ambassador Hotel, the royal party toured the University of Chicago campus and Museum of Science and Industry. They took a quick look at the Art Institute of Chicago, then attended a reception at the Drake Hotel with Midwest governors and mayors. At just about 8 o’clock that evening, after a short delay to allow the Queen to receive an emergency dental filling, the royal procession was led by the Black Horse Troop of Chicago’s Medinah Temple to a dinner hosted by Mayor Daley at the Conrad Hilton Hotel.

Nearly a thousand people dined with the Queen at the Mayor’s dinner, including singer Etta Moten Barnett and Chicago Defender publisher and owner John H. Sengstacke. Several of the six courses offered that evening were named for the locks along the St. Lawrence Seaway including Fresh Strawberries Cote Sainte Catherine, Prime Chicago Filet Mignon St. Lambert and Double Consomme Iroquois.

Queen Elizabeth addressed the attendees that evening, sharing, “Ever since we landed this morning we have not ceased to be impressed by the massive dignity of your city…We shall carry with us…a memory of the generous hospitality of Chicago which will long warm our hearts.”

Daily Times     July 1, 1959

That sounds like Queen Elizabeth. Graciously saying she knew where Davenport was located – in the middle of the United States on the Mississippi River! The Chicago Film Archives posted a 26-minute newsreel of outtakes from that 14-hour Chicago visit at this link:

Silent and sound newsreel outtakes from Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Chicago on July 6, 1959. The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, were on a 15,000-mile, 45-day tour along the St. Lawrence Seaway visiting all Canadian provinces and four of the Great Lakes, including a 14-hour stop in Chicago. This was their only American stop and was the first visit of a reigning British monarch to the Windy City.

Always aware of duty, Elizabeth served during World War II. She joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army training as a mechanic.
Princess Elizabeth, as a 2nd Subaltern in the ATS, leans against a vehicle during training. Imperial War Museum, TR 2835.

She became Queen upon the death of her father, King George, in 1952. She served with dignity and grace for seven decades, raised  four children and navigated the changing culture and expectations of new generations. She withstood the losses of her father as a young woman, her mother, sister Margaret, her daughter-in-law Princess Diana and most recently her prince, Philip. She kept calm and carried on through numerous royal scandals and fifteen different prime ministers.

HRH Elizabeth II, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born April 21, 1926 in London has now died September 8, 2022 at her beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The press says she was surrounded by family. Perhaps her dear corgis were nearby as well. She is the only queen many have ever “known”.  Rest easy, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. You left a brilliant legacy during your whole life which turned out to be a long one, certainly devoted to the service of your family, your citizens, and your imperial family. Your honor, sense of duty, and indefatigable spirit will be remembered fondly by many.

The Queen is dead. Long live the King.

(posted by Karen)

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International Association of Machinists Biennial Convention of 1911

The 14th biennial convention of the International Association of Machinists took place right across the street from us at the Hotel Davenport. The convention lasted nearly 2 weeks, beginning on Monday, September 18th, and closing on September 29, 1911.

The first to arrive at Davenport on Sunday, September 10th were President James O’Connell of Washington, DC; secretary-treasurer George Preston of Washington, DC; Members of the executive committee: Hugh Doran of Chicago; E.L. Tucker of Washington; J.A. Reynolds of Cleveland; A.E. Ireland of Pittsburgh; and R.G. Cook of Seattle; Members of the law committee: Arch McGillivery of Birmingham; J.A. Taylor of Seattle; Thomas Buckley of Providence; and D.E. McCallum of Winnipeg.

William Baumbeck, chairman of the program committee, was in charge of arranging the entertainment for the delegates. An automobile tour of the tri-cities and a visit to the Arsenal were planned for Monday, September 18th. The local lodges hosted an event at Industrial Hall in Rock Island on Tuesday, September 19th. A banquet and concert by Petersen’s Band at Schuetzen Park were scheduled for Wednesday, September 20th. Lodge 548 hosted an event at the Moline Turner Lodge on Friday, September 22. Mississippi River excursions aboard the steamers Wenona and Columbia were scheduled for Sunday, September 24. A grand ball was given at the Coliseum on Tuesday, September 26th.

The 4 local unions hosting the festivities were No. 388 of Davenport, No. 81 Rock Island Arsenal lodge, No. 548 machinists working in shops in Rock Island and Moline, and No. 695 machinists working at the Silvis shops.

The executive committee arranged the handling of the convention. They heard appeals from decisions made by the board during the preceding 2 years and considered requests by various locals for endorsement of strikes.

The law committee met first to consider recommendations for amendments to the constitution by local chapters throughout the country. J.A. Taylor of Seattle, WA was elected chairman. The committee presented its report on Tuesday, September 19th.

Speakers at the opening of the convention, which took place at 10 am in the auditorium on the 6th floor of the hotel, included A.L. Urick, president of the Iowa State Federation of Labor, Congressman L.S. Pepper of Muscatine, B.W. Newton, president of the Tri-City Federation of Labor, and Davenport Mayor Alfred Mueller.

Delegates to the Women’s Auxiliary convention met jointly with the men for the opening ceremony, then moved to the new Kimball auditorium. Mrs. J.A. Kaps, secretary of the Toledo, OH branch of the women’s auxiliary to the I.A.M. gave a speech:

How man of you men have wives at home spending your hard-earned dollars for scab goods?

There is a great necessity that the wives and daughters of the machinists be organized so that they can learn something of trades unionism. At the present time the franchise is being exteded to women, but they are going to the polls with no adequate knowledge of the trade union movement.

Most people think our auxiliary is organized for social purposes, but that is the smallest part of our purpose. We are banded together not for charity’s sake but for purely business purposes. Whenever the women of the country, wives of laborers, are organized, there will be no more sweat shops, and there will be more hapier homes among the working people when the wife as well as the husband understands the principles of trade unionism.

Mrs. J.A. Kaps, secretary of the Toledo, OH branch of the women’s auxiliary to the I.A.M.

The delegates voted to elect members to the following committees:

  • Grievance Committee
  • Credentials Committee
  • Committee on committees
  • Special Committee on Federal Trades
  • Railway
  • Navy and Arsenal employees
  • Extension of Organization
  • Piece Work
  • Resolutions
  • Appeals and Grievances
  • Legislation
  • Officers Reports
  • Federated Trades

The union drafted several resolutions in opposition to the proposed “Taylor System” in government Navy yards and arsenals. $5,000 were appropriated for the campaign for the 8-Hour Law to be used in the coming year. A referendum was called to abolish the “district” system and centralize all the trades under the “federation” plan.

On the last day of the convention, the union authorized a strike of railway shopmen on the Illinois Central and Harriman lines. 40,000 workers including machinists, boilermakers, sheet metal workers, and pipemen were affected. They demanded the recognition of the federation of 5 allied trades, known as the “System federation.”

The souvenir program was distributed on opening day. The returns from advertising were expected to foot the entertainment bill for the convention. Below are scans of some of the pages.

(posted by Cristina)

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Heading Back to Campus: Collegiate Yearbooks

As college campuses revive with the activities of students moving into the dormitories, attending classes, and studying in every conceivable place, we wanted to share a resource for those searching for faculty, students, and other aspects of collegiate life over the years. One common type yearbook comes to mind when thinking of yearbooks, it is not the college yearbook.

This valuable resource should not be over looked because it has a wealth of information for historians, genealogists, and the curious observer! It helps one gain an understanding of the development of students as the pass from high school onto life on a college campus.

In the following college yearbooks, one will discover a place that is dedicated to educating not only to those who attended the classes, but also taught them. The Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center holds a number of yearbooks for colleges and universities in Davenport and surrounding areas.

St. Ambrose University- The Ambrosian & The Oaks

Turn the pages of this local Davenport university and step through time. We have yearbooks dating from 1941-1984 with some years missing. One may view the digitized St. Ambrose University by following the following link:

We found this neat map of the campus from 1984. Here is the digitized version:

Marycrest College

Marycrest College was another Davenport University, but unfortunately the school closed in 2002. Marycrest’s yearbook went by the name of the college and later Kaleidoscope. The yearbooks we have date from 1948-1978 with years missing. We hope we can house a complete collection one day.

Palmer College of Chiropractic- The Fountainhead Yearbook

We only have one Palmer College of Chiropractic yearbook in our collection. It dates from 1977-1978. If one was curious about this publications, one can visit the Palmer Archives and Special Collections or view the publications by following this link.

St. Luke’s School of Nursing- Hourglass

St. Luke’s Nursing Training School for Nurses was a well-known educational facility in Davenport. Many a young nurse maturated from its classes. We only have one yearbook book for the year 1964.

Coe College- The Acorn

Only two of this Cedar Rapids based college’s yearbooks are housed in the collection. They date from 1933-1934. Coe College has digitized its yearbooks here:

University of Iowa- The Hawkeye

To many of us in Iowa, Hawkeye means many things, but in this instance, we are referring to The Hawkeye the university’s yearbook. We house volumes dating from 1896-1986. The University of Iowa has the yearbook available for viewing here:

Iowa State University- The Bomb

We have The Bomb dating from 1920 to 1992. Iowa State University’s yearbooks are viewable here: and

Augustana College- The Rockety-I

The Rockety-I from across the Mississippi River in Rock Island houses history of Augustana College’s students. The yearbooks in our collection date from 1949-1968.

We hope you find these resources as useful as we do!

(posted by Kathryn)

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“Last Seen” and the Black Community in Davenport

A valuable resource for discovering more details about the families of Davenport’s post-Civil War Black community is Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery, an online database of advertisements “placed in newspapers across the United States (and beyond) by formerly enslaved people searching for family members and loved ones after emancipation.”

The “Last Seen” database allows searching by location; three advertisements were placed with return addresses in Davenport, Iowa. The earliest of these appeared in the Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA) on July 1, 1865. Mrs. Fannie Robinson was in search of her husband, Cayrel.

The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA), 1 July 1865

A search for Fannie and Cayrel Robinson in standard genealogical sources has yielded no results other than a card in the 1915 State Census of Iowa for Ottumwa. This Fannie Robinson is described as a Black woman, widowed, age 71, and born in Missouri:

Fannie Robinson in the 1915 State Census of Iowa for Ottumwa

However, the designated recipient of Fannie’s hoped-for information, P. C. Cooper, is much easier to find: He was one of the four founders of the African Methodist Episcopal congregation in Davenport.

Cooper appears in Root’s Davenport City Directory for 1867 as Peter:

The 1868-9 directory has him living at the same address, Griswold College, where he was also employed as a janitor.

Fannie may have requested that Peter Cooper place her advertisement, as he was a leader in the A.M.E Church and the Christian Recorder was its official newspaper. With its nation-wide circulation, the Recorder offered the best chance for separated members of Black families to find one another.

In March of the following year, the Christian Recorder published another advertisement with a Davenport return address. Lucinda Reynolds sought the whereabouts of her parents:

The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA), 31 Mar 1866

While we cannot know if Lucinda ever reunited with her parents, the advertisement in the “Last Seen” database reveals their names, the name of a slaveholder, and a location.

Is it possible that William and Matilda Reynolds were sold within Essex County, Virginia, and by 1870 worked among other Black families there as farm laborers? Did Lucinda have a younger brother, Joshua?

1870 US Census for Essex County, VA, showing members of the Rennolds family (1152)

And could their mother Matilda have been born in the Carolinas as a Jones?

Certificate of Death in Essex County, VA for Joshua B. Reynolds, 1916, showing his mother as Matilda Jones, born in “Carolina”

Just two months after placing the advertisement, Lucinda Reynolds’s marriage to a man named Henry Simons would be recorded in Scott County. The witness to the union was none other than Peter C. Cooper. As it turns out, Simons, like Cooper, was an original trustee of the A.M.E. congregation in Davenport.

Davenport Daily Gazette, 30 Nov 1865, page 4

In a third advertisment published in the Christian Recorder, Davenport resident Emma Ashe Pitts sought information about two children she had not seen in nearly 50 years:

The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia, PA), 10 Oct 1895

Sadly, Emma Pitts died in July of the following year, making it unlikely she received any response to her inquiry. And while we find no evidence of Mary Francis or Julius Ashe, we have been able to uncover some details about her own life. Her obituary, published in the Daily Times on 7 July 1896 indicates she was a member of the Third Baptist Church and that she was born in Norfolk, Virginia. The Mrs. Andrew Pitts who told the Davenport Weekly Times in May 1872 that “she had been a Methodist forty years, but had at last opened her eyes to the true church” after being baptized in the Mississippi River by Rev. Walker of the Third Baptist Church, was likely Emma. The 1885 State Census of Iowa confirms that Emma and Andrew lived together in Davenport, and that her birthplace was Virginia. Could this Andrew Pitts, born in Missouri about 1830 and described in the Davenport city directories of the 1890s as a “whitewasher,” have been the same Andrew Pitts who served in Company G of the 56th US Colored Infantry?

While the answers to these questions about Black families in Davenport may remain elusive, the “Last Seen” database opens more possible avenues of inquiry.

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A Century of Back to School

A new school year is upon us! Fresh pencils, new beginnings, stomach butterflies, and of course….


Here is a century of back-to-school fashion from 1900-2000 available from our local business establishments!

The 1900s

The 1910s

The 1920s

The 1930s

The 1940s

The 1950s

The 1960s

The 1970s

The 1980s

The 1990s

The 2000s

We hope all the students have a great 2022-2023 School Year!

(posted by Karen)

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In Memoriam: Rochelle Ann Murray

We were saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Davenport Public Library Children’s Librarian, Miss Rochelle Murray, who died on Sunday, July 31, 2022, at the age of 85.

Rochelle Ann Murray was born December 14, 1936, at Mercy Hospital in Davenport, Scott County, Iowa. She was the only child of Walter Raymond Murray, a truck driver for Mengel’s Meat Market, and Lila Bernice Kroeger, a private duty nurse. The family lived at 522 Cedar Street in the West End of Davenport.

Rochelle attended Hayes School, Frank L. Smart Jr. High School, and graduated from Davenport High School in 1955. She was in the French Club, Spanish Club, Girl’s Glee Club, Band, Student Council, and Semester Honor Roll. She graduated from Marycrest College in 1959 where she majored in Speech and minored in Library Science. She received her Master in Library Science degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1968, after taking Summer classes for 5 years.

Miss Murray started shelving books at the Davenport Public Library when she was 13 years old. She conducted her first puppet play entitled “Meet George and His Friends” on January 13, 1951, when she was just 14 years old. She worked as a Library Page until graduating from college, then was named Young People’s, Film, and Records Librarian in 1959, and was Director of Adult Services in 1964. She became the Children’s Librarian when Mrs. Vira Blankenburg retired in 1965.

She was a founding member of the Davenport Chapter of Kappa Gamma Pi, a national honor society for graduates of Catholic women’s colleges in 1959. Along with local author David R. Collins, she began the Mississippi Valley Children’s Literature Festival and the Midwest Writing Center in 1980. She had a radio program on WOC for 18 years and was the host of the TV show “Conversations with Rochelle,” which ran on the city’s public access TV station.

Miss Rochelle Murray retired from the Davenport Public Library on December 31, 2003. At her retirement party, the Library Board of Trustees named the Rochelle A. Murray Children’s Center in her honor. After retiring she continued to volunteer and organize literary programs and festivals for children and adults in the Quad Cities.

Rochelle’s genuine love for children and reading was evident to anyone who had the pleasure of meeting or working with her. We remember her fondly and will miss her dearly.

(posted by Cristina)

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Small Towns of Scott County: Read Beyond the Beaten Path

We’re over halfway done with our Summer Reading Program for 2022! If you are looking for other activities to check off your reading log, we have a couple options for you! The two activities are “Read a book with a location in its title” and “Read a book about the Quad City area”. It doesn’t mean you can’t use these books for other activities on the list either!

We selected a lineup of books with Scott County small town names in their titles. We encourage you to explore and learn about the communities that make up Scott County. They are rich in history and full of interesting characters.

Map of Scott County, Iowa, Dickerson Map Service, 1941.
2021-28: Scott County, Iowa Map by Dickerson Map Service.

This is a map produced by Dickerson Map Service 208 Nineteenth Street, Rock Island, Illinois, and sponsored by Joe Wagner Realty Co. Davenport, Iowa – H.F. Roggenkamp Farm Broker.

Blue Grass

This souvenir booklet celebrates the centennial of Blue Grass’s platting in 1853. First settlers arrived in 1836! It provides a history of the town, a list of early settlers, and photocopied images of the town, its buildings, and its people.

America’s Bicentennial in 1976 was a wellspring for reflecting and writing about one’s community history! In our collections, we have a number of similar titles like this one that covers the 140-year history of Blue Grass. This book contains histories of the town, township, and its people. It also includes expanded sections on transportation methods, lists of past leadership roles such as a list of mayors, notable firsts for the town, and information about social life and businesses. Another unique characteristic of this book is that it features advertisements from Blue Grass and the surrounding cities’ businesses and organizations.

Catherine Guy wrote this fascinating repository of facts, images, and stories for the sesquicentennial of Blue Grass. She spans the history of Blue Grass from prehistory to 2003! There is something to interest everyone in the book!


Buffalo, one of the river towns in Scott County, started as a land claim by Captain Benjamin W. Clark born in Virginia in 1797. In 1833, he and his family crossed the Mississippi River from Andalusia, Illinois to begin developing this inviting land. In May 1836, the town of Buffalo was platted and named after Buffalo, New York where Dr. Pillsbury a recent landowner was a former resident. This history of Buffalo by the resident, Reverend Ronald D. Larson, shows that every town no matter how small has a history worth telling.


A Written and Pictorial History of Dixon, Iowa, by Amy Flynn, 2004.
Call Number: SC 977.769 FLY

This history of Dixon was first written by Roger Dahms for the town’s centennial celebrations in 1954 and was continued and expanded by Amy Flynn for its sesquicentennial in 2004. Amy’s research included adding more historical photos of Dixon’s history. Roger’s history of Dixon gathers together family histories of early settlers, information about the early industry, education, and religious organizations as well as about their sports teams and boom years.


Durant Centennial, July 31 – August 1, 1954, by The Durant Centennial Committee, 1954. Call Number: SC 977.766 Dur

The town of Durant lies in three counties: Scott, Cedar, and Muscatine. At the time this history was published the authors state that it was a Cedar County community. This history covers the history of Durant from its platting in 1854 by Benjamin B. Brayton to 1954, a hundred years latter. It features a historical overview of the town and its peoples.


Eldridge, Iowa, 100 Years, 1871-1971 Centennial, 1971. Call Number: SC 917.7697 Eld

Jacob M. Eldridge arrived in Davenport in 1845. He worked as one of the first land agents and had dealing with railroad companies. Eldridge was surveyed in 1870 by Tom Murry and laid out by Jacob Eldridge. In 1871, Eldridge was established and was first know as Eldridge Junction. It was developed because the railroad passed through that area.

This history shares information about who the first settlers were, what they did for their livings, and how they socialized and created the community which is still thriving.

Le Claire

Dorothy Lage’s history of Le Claire is a valuable resource for anyone interested in this river town’s past. It shares Le Claire’s beginnings starting in 1833 with a planned townsite by Antoine Le Claire with the assistance of George Davenport, Enoch March, and John Reynolds. The town was not laid out officially until 1836. Nearby the village of Parkhurst was already being developed. It would later be incorporated into the city of Le Claire.

Dorothy writes about Le Claire’s charming and pastoral history including its river pilots, Buffalo Bill, and the Green Tree! She provides access to those topics and much more in this book!

Long Grove

This fourteen-page history is not short of information about the small town of Long Grove. Each page is overflowing with information about Long Grove. A particularly interesting story is about the James Brownlie house. It was constructed in 1830s from blocks of mud mixed with prairie grass also known as sod! It was a rare construction for this area. The building is still standing and can be visited by the public.

Eleanor shares the community’s involvement in Scott County’s growth in the late 1800s and early 1900s as well as national events such as the Civil War and the world wars.


The town of Maysville began as a communal established by six Schleswig-Holstein army officers who dreams of starting a cooperative farming venture. This was called Amity. After a few years, the communal was disbanded, and in 1851, Captain James May purchased land in Section 15 of Hickory Grove township. W. P. Campbell, a surveyor, platted the town of Maysville in August 1856.

Maysville grew and flourished similarly to other towns in Scott County. This area was full of valuable farmland which sustained and nourished a rich agrarian culture of 4H clubs and nature activities.

This history captures the town’s past and current history! It provides a number of intriguing images and stories about the area.

Pleasant Valley

A Study of the Onion Industry in Pleasant Valley, Iowa, by A. T. Erwin and W. L. Harter, 1925. Call Number: SC 635.25 Erw

This study of the onion industry which dominated the farming industry in Pleasant Valley was published in 1925. It surveyed its early history, the reasons why this land was chosen to grow onions, the effects of insects and diseases on onion crops, and a general overview of production associated with this crop.

This history is unlike the others in the list, because although it discusses the people who settled this area, it is focus on the industry that made the area well-known.


Dorothy Lage wrote this history of Princeton after her history of Le Claire, its neighboring river town. Princeton was first settled in 1836. The town grew as the area around it was settled and developed. Dorothy writes about the many stories and people associated with Princeton. She devotes most of the book to the late 1800s and early 1900s. She shares images of the town and its people as well as maps of the land.


Riverdale is a small community nestled between Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley. It was incorporated on December 27, 1950. Its incorporation was spurred by the City of Bettendorf’s plans to annex the land that make up Riverdale. With a blend of agriculture and industry, this community developed and grew.

This history covers the early days of this area and its development into the town of Riverdale.


Published in 1954 in celebration of Walcott’s Centennial anniversary, this book provides readers with a general overview of Walcott’s first 100 years. It features images of residents, building, and much more. Similar to other histories, it documents the town’s industrial growth and changes in transportation, communication and everyday life. The book offers lists of various business and important people in the community.

This history of Walcott spans only a few more than the one above, but it was commission to commemorate the United States’ Bicentennial in 1976. It contains similar information to the book above. It does differ by including poem submissions from residents as well as spotlights of prominent social organizations of the time.

Walcott: The Early Years, 1854-1954 is a pictorial history emphasizing images of its residents and their activities, its buildings, and its businesses.

We hope this inspires you to visit the towns that make up Scott County and learn about our area’s vibrant and interesting history.

(posted by Kathryn)

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Gordon-Van Tine Barns and Farm Buildings

Architectural historians have firmly placed the Gordon-Van Tine Company of Davenport, Iowa among the leaders of the mail-order “kit-house” business of the early 20th century. [1] [2] From the 19-teens through the Second World War, customers all over the United States could order a design from a Gordon-Van Tine catalog and receive the blueprints and specifications, pre-cut lumber, millwork, cabinetry, hardware, finishes, roofing, and other building materials necessary (and desired) to complete an entire home directly from the company, eliminating the “middle man.” The RSSC Center is fortunate to have several of these catalogs in its collection; they have been used to identify some of the estimated 1000+ Gordon-Van Tine “Ready-Cut” houses built in the Quad-Cities area and elsewhere. [2]

But did you know the Gordon-Van Tine Company also sold ready-made kit barns to its customers?

Yes! Barns and several other types of farm buildings, too.

Included in the final pages of the company’s very first catalog, the 1907 Book of Plans for Everybody, were 7 different barn designs as well as the “Inexpensive Barn,” and the “Residence Barn” pictured above. Plans for a hog house, cattle shed, chicken house, duck house, granary, corn crib, and an ice house were also on offer.

Gordon-Van Tine’s Building Materials catalogs also included products of interest to farmers. These metal items, batten and ventilators “especially for barns,” were available in the 1915 Architectural Details :

The 1918 Building Materials catalog included this advertisement for the Barn Equipment Booklet:

The earliest Gordon-Van Tine mail-order catalog devoted exclusively to farm buildings (we believe) was published in 1917. It touted the “carefully, painstakingly”-assembled Farm Building Department, headed by the “Barn Man,” Mr. Kirkpatrick.

As with the houses, the Gordon-Van Tine Company’s barns and farm buildings were designed to be easily built by the average person:

The company advertised extensively in the local newspapers, as well as farm journals and magazines:

The testimonials in the booklet Photographs and Letters: Some Gordon-Van Tine Barns and What Their Owners Think of Them (SC 728.92 GORDO VAN 1919? and online) told of just how successful the barn and farm building line had become for the company in a short period of time.

Kit-barn enthusiast Bob Kisken has photographed some of these still-standing Gordon-Van Tine models and matched them with those in the book:

We are grateful to him for donating copies of his photographs and research files to the RSSC Center (2017-26 and 2018-26)! There are more to view at the Iowa State University Special Collections.

Stop by to peruse our original copy of the Gordon-Van Tine 1923 Farm Buildings catalog (SC 728.92 Gor) to compare with the plans from earlier years and understand more about the development of the ready-cut system.

And please let us know if you spot any Gordon-Van Tine farm buildings in our area!

(posted by Katie)


[1] Hunter, Rebecca L. “Historical Architectural Research,”

[2] Wolicki, Dale Patrick. Gordon-Van Tine Company. Bay City, MI: D. Wolicki, c2002. (SC 728 Wo)

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