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

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

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

2007-04: Bix Box
http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/digital/collection/scdpl/id/3876/rec/3169

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

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

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

(posted by Kathryn)

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Closed on Presidents Day

2005-02. DPLVolume 36, dplx263.

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

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

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A Valentine for Special Collections

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

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

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

Dorothea Westphal

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

Margaret Stamer

“Always think of your friend, Margaret Stamers.”

June Ott

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

Evelyn Houghton

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

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

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

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

(posted by Katie)

*More on this fascinating figure in a future post!

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Happy Retirement, Karen!

Another happy and sad moment for the Davenport Public Library and especially the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. Karen O’Connor is retiring today, February 2nd, 2024 after 24 years and eight months of dedicated service.

Karen started in Special Collections on June 1, 1999, just a few months before the official grand opening of the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center on November 26, 1999. One of her first assignments was to be head coordinator for the World War II and Korean War Oral History Project. Karen led a group of volunteers interviewing Quad-Citians who were affected during these wars on the battlefield and the homefront. 24 years later, many of those who were interviewed have since passed away, but their stories remain thanks to the tireless and dedicated work of Karen and project volunteers.

Karen was also involved as the committee head to create and produce the Novel Cuisine Cookbook in 2003. This committee gathered the history of the Davenport Public Library, locally famous recipes from restaurants, plus recipes from library staff to create a cookbook that was sold at the library. Proceeds benefited the Davenport Public Library.

Another large project that Karen organized and oversaw was the 2009 Priester Construction Company donation of hundreds of blueprints. Karen sorted, catalogued, and stayed on top of the dehumidifying process of each set of blueprints from 2009 through 2013. While the Special Collections staff all participated in the dehumidifying process, we have Karen to thank for keeping us organized in a room filled with stacks of stacks of blueprints!

This blog would go on for pages if we tried to list everything Karen did over 24 years. She oversaw collections processing, created Finding Aids for collections, kept our closed stacks organized (incredibly important in the archiving world), migrated our local databases search to its new site Special Collections Indexes, identified most likely thousands of photographs (when someone came in with a photo to date we always called on Karen’s expertise), answered thousands of genealogical and local history questions from patrons and newspaper staff, and she always remembered just where a book was located in our stacks simply by a description of the book or contents. We are so grateful she was willing to learn ProCite, ArchiveSpace, SharePoint (and its many versions), and other programs over the years. Karen also helped create many of our brochures, genealogy packets, genealogy classes, and programs for adults and children.

Karen has done it all and we want to thank her for all her work, leadership, and mentoring over the years. While we are sad to see her go, we know a new exciting life awaits Karen in retirement. Time with her family including a new grandbaby is a priority. We hope she can now enjoy gardening and crafts without worrying about getting ready for work the next day as well.

Thank you Karen for everything you have done to create the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center we have today. We will miss you.

(posted by Kathryn, Katie, Cristina, and Amy D.)

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Winter Works

We salute all those who are working outdoors this snowy, icy, rainy January of 2024!

Of the many projects undertaken by the Civil Works Administration in Scott County during the Great Depression, two of those directed by the Davenport Park Board were completed during times of wintry weather in 1933 and 1934. The following groups of photographs by H.E. Dissette document the snowy conditions under which local men labored in Duck Creek Park and Credit Island.

Grading, Duck Creek Park, Project #29/#209 (dpl2003-14b2f33a-e, volume 15)

George T. French, in the Illustrated Record of C.W.A Projects, Scott County, Iowa 1933-1934 (SC 352.7 Ill v.1) reports that this project employed about 200 men per day to haul and spread earth in an area that would become an athletic field. They also sloped the creek banks, and filled dry channels, and. French could not disguise his enthusiasm for the success of these latter improvements to Duck Creek:

“Where the creek was formerly overgrown with coarse brush, it is now to be decorated by expert landscape architects; where formerly there was continual danger of overflow, and constant erosion of the creek banks, there is now a smooth current, and ample assurance against overflow and wasteful tearing away of valuable land.”

French, p. 52a.

Credit Island Lake, Project #19/#30/#210 (dpl2003-14b2f34c, dpl2003-14b2f35a-c & f, volume 15)

The Credit Island Lake project also called for difficult manual labor, with the exception of the use of a tractor-drawn plow when the ground was frozen. The workers cut and removed ” dead or diseased, and therefore unsightly” trees and bushes; they dug six feet down into the ground and carried, by wheelbarrow, “…thousands of yards of earth to the banks of the prospective lake.” The result was, according to French, “an attractive and clean addition to the municipal playgrounds” (pages 53-54).

(posted by Katie)

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Winter Fashion: Mrs. Therese Krouse

Mrs. J. E. Krouse. DPL Volume 47 dplx426A.

We found this delightful image of Therese (Steffen) Krouse taken about 1910 that reminded us of winter. Taisy, as she was nicknamed, was married to John Edwin Krouse who was President of the Davenport Pearl Button Company.

Mrs. Krouse was in her mid-30s when this photo was taken at the Hostetler Studio in Davenport. Besides the fur draped over her shoulders, the most noticeable fashion piece is the bunch of grapes adorning her hat.

Born May 8, 1874 in Davenport, Therese died here on February 1, 1990. She outlived her husband by 39 years and had no children. She was survived by her nieces and nephews.

We can only imagine that the hat was not worn outside on very windy days!

(posted by Amy D.)

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Snowy Scenes of Davenport Past

As the second major storm of the second week of 2024 approaches, we invite you to enjoy these snowy scenes of Davenport past from somewhere safe indoors! Unless otherwise noted, the images below are from the Davenport Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection, #1986-01.

Washington Square Park, c.1900 (VM89-000923 v. 28, part of composite photograph)
Forest Park Sanitarium, c. 1927 (VM89-001257 v. 10)
Raymond G. Cundy Residence, 110 McClellan Blvd., c. 1930s (VM89-000473 v.27)
Ice Storm in Central [Vander Veer] Park, c. 1940s (VM89-001861 v. 196)
von der Heyde Residence, 1931 Virginia Ave., c. 1950s (Grover C. von der Heyde, #1992-01.0204)
East 2nd Street near Brady, c. 1950s (VM89-000953 v. 290)
Pine Hill Cemetery Prairie, 1972 (#2013-36PH03 v. 217)
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A Winter Library Visit: The Independent Baking Company

DPL Vol 239. VM89-02203. Children using the library at the Independent Baking Company. ca 1910s

We always enjoy looking at this picture taken in the mid-to-late 1910s at the Independent Baking Company at 2429 Rockingham Road. It is a winter scene with the librarian checking books in and out for children dressed against the cold weather. It is unfamiliar to us today that a library system would open small libraries in local businesses, but it was a wonderful way to connect people with books for many years in Davenport.

Starting in 1909, the Davenport Public Library created library stations. The goal was to allow people in different neighborhoods access to books. Work, travel costs, and time were factors in not using the downtown library. Sometimes, the large library building filled with books and people could be intimidating to those unfamiliar with it. The stations were intended to allow people access to books and other reading materials in familiar and convenient settings.

The first station was at 2046 (now 2048) 3rd Street in Lauffer’s Drug Store. A small section in the store contained library books that could be checked out when a librarian visited the site. The library station would usually be open to the public for two and a half hours once a week.

The first four stations contained reading materials for adult patrons. It wasn’t until 1913 when a new library station was opened in the former Friendly House building (314-316 E. 2nd Street) that children’s books were included. Stations began to be opened in local schools soon after with a focus solely on children’s materials.

On November 11, 1915, a new library station opened at the Independent Baking Company. It contained both adult and children’s reading materials. The station was open on Thursday afternoons for people living in the area while employees could check out books during their lunches. It was considered an important addition to the local community.

More library stations were added in local businesses and schools as needed. Not only could you check out and return books at the stations, but librarians could also issue library cards on-site. A great convenience! These stations continued in Davenport until 1958 when the Bookmobile was introduced.

Details we noticed about this picture include the set of scales and other science-oriented items on top of the bookcases. The librarian has her purse tucked behind her back while seated on the chair. Books wrapped in a book strap waiting to be checked in or out on the table. Books on the table include Five Little Peppers and Their Friends by Margaret Sidney, Eight Cousins by Louisa M. Alcott, and In Morgan’s Wake – A Book of the West Indies by A. Hyatt Verrill. Finally, the little girl standing next to the table with a most interesting warm winter hat on her head.

We hope you take a moment to explore this picture too.

(posted by Amy D.)

Resources:

  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, December 12, 1916. Pg. 18
  • The Daily Times, November 24, 1916. Pg. 16
  • The Davenport Democrat and Leader, November 24, 1916. Pg. 21
  • The Morning Democrat, December 1, 1954. Pg. 11

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Davenporters in the Domain

This coming Monday, January 1, 2024, we celebrate “Public Domain Day,” when copyright protections under U.S. law expire for books published in the year 1928. Works such as D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, W.E.B. Du Bois’ Dark Princess, A. A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner, and Wanda Gág’s Millions of Cats, among others, may be copied, shared, sampled, reinterpreted, expanded upon and otherwise adapted without the need to obtain permissions or pay fees.

Two books in our collection entering the public domain in the New Year do not appear on lists of notable works like the one above, but they are invaluable to understanding our local history and culture.

Our copies of Susan Glaspell’s novel Brook Evans (SC FIC GLA) and Charles Edward Russell’s non-fiction account A-Rafting on the Mississip’ (SC CLOSED STACKS 977.7 RUSSE) are shown below, each with their original 1928 copyright registration and 1955 copyright renewal from the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress’ Catalog of Copyright Entries.

Davenporter Glaspell needs little introduction; her literary reputation, especially as a dramatist, was secure by the time Brook Evans was written. Her fourth of nine novels, like many of her works, was set in a Midwestern farming community where idealistic characters rebelled against established social norms. In it, a child conceived out of wedlock (alongside a brook) grapples with her mother’s desire that she live her life by loving freely.

Charles Edward Russell was the son of abolitionist newspaperman Edward Russell, editor of the Davenport Gazette. He was known primarily as a muckraking journalist of the Progressive Era, a Pulitzer-prize winning biographer, and as one of the founders of the NAACP. In A-Rafting on the Mississip’ he turned his attention from national issues to steamboat pilots and the lumber industry they served in his native Mississippi River Valley.

(posted by Katie)

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Living Memory History: The Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery Christmas display

It started as a very small and simple display during December 1937. Just a manger near a waterfall and lights on two nearby trees. It became what was thought to be the nation’s largest Christmas display with thousands of families visiting by the carload in its peak years of the 1960s.

The idea of a Christmas display in Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery belonged to office manager and grounds supervisor, Raymond Groves. Groves had been hired by Memorial Park in 1933, just two years after the cemetery had been formed. By 1937, the cemetery had paved roads, an office building, lagoon with waterfalls, and a chime tower.  The park cemetery concept meant that no standing headstones were allowed which created the appearance of a vast open area. In the 1930s, the cemetery was surrounded by a mixture of farms, private residences, small businesses, and Pine Hill and Mt. Nebo cemeteries.

In a December 21, 1958 interview in The Morning Democrat, Groves reminisced that after the first year when no one complained, he just kept adding more lights to the trees around the lagoon. He thought what better place for a Christmas display than a cemetery.

The war years put an end to the lighting of the trees as no outdoor lights were allowed and later the materials used in string lights were needed for the war effort. It wasn’t until 1947 that string lights once again appeared in the cemetery’s trees and new flood lights lit the manger by the waterfall on the lagoon. String lights were added to the trees in Babyland (a special burial location for infants) and the main entrance to the cemetery. Christmas carols were also played from the chime tower at designated times in the evening.

The Democrat, November 8, 1942. Pg. 1

In 1948, a neon sign was placed on the chime tower that read “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men”. An estimated 200 blue lights were used in the trees surrounding the manger and lagoon. 1,000 lights were used in Babyland and to decorate the entrance. The Democrat and Leader newspaper reported on December 18, 1949 that over 900 cars had visited the display so far that year. A special policeman had been assigned at night to help direct traffic and Ray Groves was requesting people keep their car headlights on when viewing the display to help prevent accidents.

The Daily Times, December 13, 1949. Pg. 13

By 1950, a new manger scene was introduced along with 5,400 lights. The display now included four scenes starting with shepherds with their flock by a campfire, then a lone shepherd tending his flock, next three Wise Men on camels, and finally the manger scene which now included a neon star above it. Figures ranged from 12 to 15 feet in height. An estimated 20,000 cars were expected to drive through between December 17, 1950 and January 1, 1951. In the end, between 25,000 – 30,000 cars went through with an estimated 90,000 people viewing the display.

The Morning Democrat, December 16, 1951. Pg. 17

In 1957, the display opened December 18th and closed January 1, 1958. It reopened for one night on January 4th for the 5th annual camera night in which visitors could stop and take pictures of the displays. Otherwise photography was prohibited as it backed up the hundreds of cars that came through each night. There were fourteen displays in 1957 with 15,000 lights, the largest neon star in the Midwest measuring 10 feet across, and 17-foot high camels.

The Daily Times, December 19, 1957. Pg. 10

The display reached its height in attendance in the 1960s. It was so popular that airline pilots would route their flights at night over the cemetery so passengers could see the lights from above. The area around the cemetery was still not largely developed which allowed the lights to stand out in the winter darkness.

The Quad-City Times, December 21, 1968. Pg. 3

Every year, employees would start decorating with lights and putting up the displays in early November for a mid-December opening. By the 1970s, it took an estimated 1500 hours to set up and dismantle the display with the work spread among five cemetery workers. The display continued uninterrupted until 1973. That year an energy crisis across the nation turned off Christmas lights and kept displays packed away in many cities including Davenport. Thankfully, the display was able to return for 1974.

The Quad-City Times, November 27, 1973. Pg. 1

By December 1980, an estimated 17,000 bulbs helped light 12 scenes from the story of Christmas. Scenes in order from that year: the prophet writing at a desk, the angel and Mary, people traveling, Joseph and Mary traveling, the City of Bethlehem, the innkeeper and the inn, Shepherds and sheep, the angels and frightened shepherds, several angels with shepherds, the nativity and waterfall, the Wise Men, and the church. Additions that year were signs placed at each scene and a pamphlet with a brief description of each scene handed out to cars.

The Quad-City Times, December 16, 1977. Pg. 49

By 1998, only about 5,000 cars visited the display with an estimated 20,000 visitors. With numbers dropping, displays beginning to need extensive repair, and new holiday traditions such as Festival of Trees gaining popularity, Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery decided to end their Christmas tradition after 2001.

While the Davenport Memorial Park display no longer exists, its memory brings many who celebrate Christmas back to a time when families packed themselves into their cars to be amazed at the lights and displays of Christmas in a most solemn location.

Postcard c. 1960s or 1970s of Three Wise Men display – Davenport Memorial Park. Image courtesy of Amy D.

(posted by Amy D.)

Resources:

  • The Daily Times, December 23, 1947. Pg. 6
  • The Daily Times, December 20, 1948. Pg. 5
  • The Davenport Democrat, December 13, 1949. Pg. 13
  • The Daily Times, December 13, 1949. Pg. 21
  • The Davenport Democrat, December 18, 1949. Pg. 17
  • The Daily Times, December 8, 1950. Pg. 37
  • The Democrat and Leader, December 17, 1950. Pg. 21
  • The Democrat and Leader, December 28, 1950. Pg. 2
  • The Democrat and Leader, January 2, 1951. Pg. 23
  • The Morning Democrat, December 2, 1951. Pg. 2
  • The Morning Democrat, December 21, 1958. Pg. 41
  • The Quad-City Times, December 18, 1973. Pg. 3
  • The Quad-City Times, December 12, 1980. Pg. 43
  • The Quad-City Times, December 14, 1999. Pg. 33
  • The Quad-City Times, November 29, 2002. Pg. 4
  • The Quad-City Times, December 3, 2003. Pg. 2
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